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Democratization of Metal 3D Printing

The advent of 3D printing has transformed manufacturing, enabling engineers and artists to create intricate designs with ease. This transformative technology, which has thus far been  confined to plastic materials, is on the cusp of a new era. This project is taking the initial steps  towards making 3D printing with metal materials more accessible and widespread. Plastic 3D  printing has become widely accessible across education and industrial institutions, due to significant investment in reducing the technology’s processing complexity and costs. A distinguishing feature of plastic printing is its capability to effortlessly detach finished parts from the build plate, underscoring its accessibility. In stark contrast, metal 3D printing, a game-changer in aerospace and automotive industries,remains relatively exclusive due to high cost and technical complexities. Unlike its plastic counterpart, metal  3D printing requires are strong and permanent bond between the printed part and build plate. This process constraint requires secondary equipment to separate the part from the build plate without causing any damage. Through fundamental research conducted at the VT DREAMS Lab, innovative processing techniques have been developed that reduce the complexity and volatility inherent in metal 3D printing. One of the key advantages offered by these novel processing techniques is the ability to easily remove parts, mirroring the convenience enjoyed with plastic parts. The need for secondary equipment is removed, thus reducing the overall cost of the metal 3D  printing process. This project also exploressimplified software solutionsto materialize conceptual ideas into actual parts. VT DREAMS Lab has also developed in-house software proficient in  converting 2D drawings into precise toolpath strategies to fabricate these designs in 3D. This  approach fosters a new wave of accessibility by removing the need for complex CAD modeling  software with a steep learning curve. This allows any individual and any industry to transform a simple 2D sketch into a metal 3D part, thus paving way for the democratization of metal 3D  printing.