The Virtual Foundry recently won a patent for its proprietary process for extruding metal, glass or ceramic powder with a thermoplastic binder into continuous filament suitable for use in fused filament 3D printers. Once an object is printed using this hybrid material, it is sintered to remove the plastic binder. This process produces an object of consistently high purity – up to 98% of the base material.
The Virtual Foundry’s plastic-infused metal, ceramic and glass filaments have the potential to revolutionize metal additive manufacturing, because they enable objects to be 3D printed on inexpensive FDM equipment. This breakthrough has been made possible by continuing advancements in powdered metallurgy and sintering practices.
“Together, our hybrid filaments, FDM printers and sintering ovens represent a new, more affordable, open-source platform for metal additive manufacturing,” explains Bradley Woods, founder of The Virtual Foundry. “We believe they will have an impact on every category of manufacturing, from aerospace and medical to general foundry and tooling applications,” he adds.
The Virtual Foundry’s patented approach enables manufacturers to significantly cut product development times. It’s now possible to create functional metal prototype parts in a few days, compared to several weeks to machine a part using subtractive manufacturing.
This breakthrough also significantly lowers the barrier to entry for manufacturers who want to begin experimenting with metal additive manufacturing.
“At the turn of the 20th century, Henry Ford’s assembly line approach revolutionized manufacturing and reduced the cost of new automobiles by an order of magnitude. We believe our platform will have a similar impact on the field of metal additive manufacturing,” Woods predicts.
You can read the patent here: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2018/0193912.html