How can you 3D print metal at home? As extremely high temperatures are needed for metal 3D printing, you can’t use a regular FDM 3D printer.
Simply put, there’s no way you’re gonna 3D print pure metal at home in this decade. Dedicated metal 3D printers for the home probably won’t be around until at least 2020. However, as nanotechnology evolves, we might see a substantial growth in new applications. Like conductive 3D printable silver that can be ink-jetted using a system very similar to the 2D printer you have at home. Even mixing different materials, like plastics and metals into the same object, will be possible.
Metal 3D Printing Materials for the Home
Even if you can’t 3D print metal objects at home, you can still resort to plastic filament with added metal powders. ColorFabb, ProtoPasta or TreeD Filaments offer interesting composite metal-PLA filaments. These are filaments that contain a significant percentage of metal powders but provide enough plastic to be printed at low temperature (200 to 300 degree Celsius) with just about any 3D printer. At the same time, they contain enough metal to have the look, feel and weight of a metallic object. The iron-based filaments even form rust in certain conditions.
In composition, metal 3D printer filament is typically 50 percent metal powder. Meanwhile, Dutch 3D printer filament company Formfutura claims they have ramped up the ratio to 85 percent metal powder and 15 percent PLA. These metal 3D printer filaments are called MetalFil Ancient Bronze and MetalFil Classic Copper. You can even print them at “moderate” temperatures of 190 to 200 degree Celsius.
Unique metallic finish and appearance
Ideal for jewelry, statues, home hardware, or replica artifacts
Low flexibility, depending on structural design
Not considered food safe
General print temperature range is 195°C – 220°C
Very little shrinkage during cooling
Heated bed not required
Printing difficulty is high, requiring fine-tuning of nozzle temperature, flow rate, and post-processing
Given that metal 3D printing is usually more difficult, you may want to upgrade your 3D printer nozzle, especially if you are using a beginner machine. Metal 3D printer filament tends to wear nozzles quickly. Durable printer hotends (E3D’s V6 Hotend, for example), which are themselves made from metal, are able to withstand high temperatures and can be mounted on most 3D printers. Just be prepared to replace them more often, as metal 3D printer filament can be very abrasive.
Also, you should be aware you’ll probably need a proper finishing process (brushing, sand grinding, greasing, waxing or coating) of your metal 3D printing creation to make it really “shine”.