Over the past few years Taiwan has been steadily working to create a reputation as an island of 3D printing innovators, and it looks like they can add another achievement to that. For the Taiwanese non-profit Industrial Technology Research Institute (or ITRI) has just unveiled their very own 3D metal printer at the ITRI Southern Region Campus. Designed with an eye on the fledging 3D printing jewelry industry, it their AM100/AM250 3D Metal Printer is the first metal 3D printed designed and manufactured in Taiwan.
The event, complete with showgirls wearing 3D printed jewelry made with this machine, was one with a very positive atmosphere that will doubtlessly create some high expectations. The Center’s Director of Additive Manufacturing and Laser Application department, Horng Ji-Bin, praised the machine’s capacity and speed, even stating that jewelry can be twice as quickly with this machine than with traditional manufacturing methods. He also stated that designers will doubtlessly enjoy the many advantages that 3D printing brings to design process, which includes a simplifying design and manufacturing and breaking down various barriers associated with traditional manufacturing.
There was plenty of 3D printed jewelry to see during the unveiling.
Indeed, Horng Ji-Bin was very positive about the potential of 3D printing, employing an analogy in which 3D designs are the queen and the technology is the king of manufacturing. ‘When it’s the king plus the queen, the product will be the prince or princess. ITRI Southern Region Campus aims at providing the total solution for all the jewelry companies and designers to do its low-volume production,’ he said.
The AM100/AM250 3D Metal Printer is the result of a collaboration with various industrial partners, including Tongtai Machine & Tool Co., S-Tech Co. and Chia Yi Steel Co., who will largely focus on manufacturing the actual product and the 3D printing materials.
The 3D printer itself also seems to look good when compared with other existing metal 3D printers. Featuring a printing build space of 100mm (L) x 100mm (W) x 100mm (H), it can work with a number of materials, including stainless-steel, titanium alloy, and cobalt-chromium alloy. Meanwhile, Binder Jetting (BJ), Sheet Lamination, and Directed Energy Deposition (DED) techniques have been incorporated into the machine. The price tag, finally, is around NT$1 billion dollars (or approximately $325,000 in US dollars) – almost 50% of the price of comparable machines on the international market.
The ITRI has said the machine is also very suitable for medical, cultural and other high-end industries, but of course their own focus is on jewelry. While obviously not being able to 3D print gold or silver, they advise users to post process metal prints (ie. polishing and grinding), followed by a treatment with electroplating to coat the objects in metal. While that would traditionally take a few days, using the 3D printer will enable you to complete an object in just a day.