3D printing in its current guise is kinda cool, but also limited by its use of plastic — there's only so many combs you can print before you get bored. An affordable 3D printer that uses metal would be a major step up in practicality, which is exactly what this team is hoping to achieve by mating a MIG welder to a conventional 3D printer.

The team from Delft is following in the footsteps of researchers from Michigan Tech, who last year also created a 3D printer that used a welder. That project, however, laid down sheets of steel, which were then combined with the welder. Delft's approach is different: it feeds a small spool of wire to the welder, which is then laid down layer by layer to create an object, exactly like in the plastic Prusia i3 it's based on.

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At this stage, though, performance isn't really close to plastic printers: the 3D welder feeds wire at a rate of 300mm/minute, compared to the 10,000mm/minute you can expect from a decent 3D printer. Still, with the open-source nature of the project, and the relatively low cost, this is promising attempt to make metal 3D printing affordable. [3D Print]