Liquid metal 3D printer the first of its kind at RIT

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) - A development that might revolutionize 3D printing is now at RIT. It involves liquid metal.

It is part of a partnership between a startup out of buffalo and a group of local engineers. That startup is Vader Systems that started in their basement in Buffalo four years ago by a father and son.

Anything from car parts, to body parts, this machine has endless possibilities. "It can print virtually any shape that you want," said Denis Cormier, Ph.D. Professor Kate Gleason College of Engineering. "And you eliminate the mold and the complexity and the cost." Cormier runs the 3D printing center 'AMPrint Center' at RIT and received this liquid metal 3D printer from Vader Systems out of Buffalo. This machine was the first model ever created by Vader systems.

"We are working closely with them to help bring this to market for making metal parts," said Cormier. It came to RIT in June and the group plans on exploring with aluminum, steel, and even titanium. "There are very strong and lightweight metals that cannot be processed other ways."

Some practical applications can be found in aerospace engineering. "You can make really really lightweight parts that helps aerospace with fuel reductions and CO2 emissions," said Cormier.  

In the example at RIT, an aluminum spool is fed through a yellow tube and eventually heated up to over a thousand degrees and printed out. Liquid metal is shot out at 400 drops per second, layer by layer, and has pushed students' understanding of 3D printing.

"This takes us one step ahead," said PhD engineering student Khushbu Zope. She was one of the first to get hands on with the new machine and says it has been difficult to work from scratch. "It was challenging, because it's not written anywhere. We have to learn it by experience, and we have to keep watching every step to capture every single detail to understand it more precisely."

This technology has made a process that can take weeks and put it into one that can take hours, even minutes. Other applications for this project could benefit bioengineering, or metal bone implants that might eventually be printed to a body's exact specifications.

 

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