Michigan Tech creates 3-D printer

Imagine being able to create several household items using a 3-D printer.

This idea is close becoming a reality thanks to the bright minds at Michigan Tech.

“What our group has done hear at Michigan Tech is radically pushed the cost of 3-D printers down. So commercial 3-D printers that could do plastic used to cost $20,000.  Now with the Open Source project, that cost has come under $1,000 and the ones we are building with our students cost under $500,” Materials Science and Engineering Associate Professor Dr. Joshua Pearce said.

These kinds of printers can be built by anyone.  MTU students can learn how to make their very own in as little as one semester.

So how does it work exactly?

“The basic idea is you’re laying down a very thin layer of material, under a millimeter, in a two–dimensional pattern. Then moving the head or the stage a fraction of a millimeter and repeating a pattern. What you see happening behind me is basically two-dimensional printing that just keeps building upon itself,” Dr. Pearce said.

Metal 3-D printing has also become prominent at the Department of Material Science and Engineering.

Early results have shown that gears with any design can be made with these printers.

Assistant Professor Paul Sanders said when he heard about 3-D printing with plastic, he questioned if it could be done with metal.

“This is essentially welding but it’s different because instead of joining two big pieces of metal, we’re making everything out of the weld wire itself,” he said.

It’s completely customizable with websites that feature many different things a 3-D printer can create.

Dr. Pearce says he hopes that real soon, they can be in every household in the country.

“We’re looking at making more complex materials. Composites, electrically conductive materials, materials that are stretchable. Basically, every single product will eventually be able to be manufactured via 3D printing and we’re kind of pushing the boundaries on that,” he said.

The concept may be hard to grasp for some but this idea clearly looks like a game–changer.