The Virtual Foundry, LLC, Stoughton, Wisconsin, USA, a manufacturer of metal and ceramic filaments for Additive Manufacturing systems, has 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 Fabrication (FFF) Additive Manufacturing.
The company’s plastic-infused metal, ceramic and glass filaments enable these materials to be used to additively manufacture parts on inexpensive FFF equipment. The development of these filaments was reportedly made possible by continuing advancements in Powder Metallurgy and sintering practices.
The company produces and sells a range of metal filaments, including:
- The Filamet range of filaments:
- Aluminium 6061
- High carbon iron
- Stainless steel 17-4
- Stainless steel 316L
- Titanium 64-5
- The lead-free high-density Rapid 3DShield Tungsten filament
The Virtual Foundry states that its patented approach enables manufacturers to significantly cut product development times and create functional metal prototype parts in a few days, compared to the several weeks required to machine parts using subtractive manufacturing. The ability to use comparatively affordable FFF equipment also lowers the barrier to entry for manufacturers who want to begin experimenting with metal AM, but do not want to invest in an expensive metal Additive Manufacturing machine.
“Together, our hybrid filaments, FDM printers and sintering ovens represent a new, more affordable, open-source platform for metal Additive Manufacturing,” stated 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.”