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3D-printing robot creates freestanding metal structures


February 21, 2014

Joris Laarman has created a metal 3D printing robot

Joris Laarman has created a metal 3D printing robot

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Although the world of 3D printing is hurtling through milestones at the moment, to a large extent the technology still remains in its infancy. If you thought it was all Etsy jewellery and plastic toys, though, think again. Joris Laarman has created a free-standing 3D printing robot that creates beautiful metal sculptures with the graceful brush strokes of an artist.

You may remember Laarman. We featured him last year, when his studio collaborated on building the Mataerial 3D printer (or MX3D-Resin, depending on where you look), which uses quick-setting material to create free-flowing structures on almost any surface. Not content with making robots into resin sculptors, Laarman has upped the stakes.

The Mx3D-Metal robot is part printer, part welder. It can sculpt remarkable, gravity-defying designs using a variety of metals, including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, bronze and copper, without the need for any other means of support. "By adding small amounts of molten metal at a time, we are able to print lines in mid air," explains Laarman on his website.

Printing with metal in this way sounds like something of an art form in itself. Different pieces of software are required to work together in order to drive the robotics, printing and welding combination. Furthermore, different types of 3D lines, like straight, curved or spiral, require different settings in order to be produced.

"3D printing like this is still unexplored territory and leads to a new form language that is not bound by additive layers," says Laarman. "Lines can be printed that intersect in order to create a self-supporting structure. This method makes it possible to create 3D objects on any given working surface independent of its inclination and smoothness in almost any size and shape."

Ultimately, Laarman wants to create an interface that is simple enough for anyone to use, and that can print directly from computer aided design (CAD) software.

The MX3D-Metal will be on display at the Friedman Benda gallery in New York from May 1st to June 7th.

Watch the video below to see the the printer in action.

Source: Joris Laarman

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds. All articles by Stu Robarts

I hope this chap knows about arc-eye. He needs to be more careful. From the look of things this is not a very accurate deposition of material, so the final appearance will not be very wonderful.

In the example shown, it would be almost as easy to use steel rods, bent to the requisite shapes. The problem with 3-D printing is that the more accuracy you require, the slower the printing process. One of the best uses is in mould making for prototypes or production runs, where there is a significant saving in time and cost.

I have seen a large-scale building machine which squirts out wiggly lines of concrete. One could imagine a robot squirting out mortar, And then another robot laying down a line of bricks. This has gone off-subject and is obviously not 3-D printing.


Could it print a boat?


This technology is very useful in places like Williston, North Dakota, where a housing shortage has led to rents higher than in New York or LA. There would still need to be an infrastructure (water and sewer, gas and electric, waste management) to support 3-D housing, though.

Ernest Roberts
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