3D printer cuts metal | Hackaday
Every now and then we’ll see a 3D printer that can print an entire concrete house or print an entire metal rocket. But generally, for our needs of budget hobbyists, most of our 3D printers will print small plastic parts. If you have patience and a little salt water, take a look at this 3D printer which has been modified to cut parts from any type of metal, built by [Morlock] who transformed a printer into a 5-axis CNC machine.
Of course, this modification is not 3D printing metal. It converts the CNC capabilities of a 3D printer into a machining tool using electrochemical machining (ECM). This process removes metal from a part by running an electrode over the metal in the presence of salt water to corrode the metal quickly. This is a remarkably precise way to cut metal without the need for expensive or heavy machining tools that use parts that can easily be 3D printed or are otherwise easy to obtain. By using the axes of the 3D printer and modifying the print bed to resist salt water, metal parts up to 3mm can be cut regardless of the type of metal used. [Morlock] also added two additional axes to the cutting tool, allowing it to make cuts in metal at odd angles.
Using a 3D printer to perform CNC machining like this is a great way to get the performance of a machine tool without having to hire one. Sure, it takes a big modification to a 3D printer, but it doesn’t need the strength and stiffness you would otherwise need for a standard CNC machine in order to extract parts from it with acceptable tolerances. If you are interested in priming one like this using more traditional means, we recently introduced a CNC machine that can be made from common materials and assembled for minimal cost.
Thanks to [Zane] for the tip!