The Journey of Valcun in Developing Aluminum Wire 3D Printing: An Insight into Minerva Project


Valcun’s Minerva metal filament 3D printer [Source: Fabbaloo]

We caught up with Valcun, the creators of a remarkable 3D printer that utilizes aluminum wire.

This startup company was only established a few years ago. In 2022, we observed print examples demonstrating that they were able to 3D print aluminum in a method very much akin to traditional FFF 3D printing: employing filament and an extruder.

At first, when I heard about this approach, I was doubtful: when aluminum is heated sufficiently, it turns into a liquid. I visualized an extruder spasmodically dripping molten aluminum, resulting in a puddle rather than a solid usable component.

They were confident that they could accomplish precisely this. They have learned to regulate the temperature in such a way that the aluminium wire is softened to the right extent, then quickly hardens with appropriate cooling.

I had the opportunity to see their machine in person for the first time at this year’s Formnext. Their spools were, in fact, made entirely of aluminium wire, as can be seen above.

The machine, known as Minerva, is expected to be officially released by the end of the year. They have teamed up with a contract manufacturer to produce the machine, with the goal of commercialization and expansion. However, they mentioned that they have already sold some machines at Formnext to people intrigued by the concept of 3D printing with aluminium.

They say they will have capacity to produce around 20 machines per year, and after doing so they will revise the machine design and produce “Gen 2”.

Source: Fabbaloo

However, at this point they are focusing mostly on firming up the customer market. This is an issue facing any company developing a new style of 3D printer: who is the customer? They’re trying to narrow down the possible applications, and one they’ve seen interest in is the printing of heat exchangers.

Valcun is, for the moment, focusing on universities as their initial market, something many other 3D print manufacturers have done. Valcun told us it’s a bit too early for production use, but I got the impression that would be something for the future.

Minerva currently demonstrates applicability of the Valcun process, not only with aluminum but with other metals as well. The possibility of this implementation has been suggested, potentially with the aid of new university collaborations.

Currently, Valcun appears to be flourishing. There has been noticeable advancement in their workings over the last couple of years, setting them up for a step towards commercial production.

An intriguing question that arises from this is – which sector will reap the maximum advantage from their metal filament printing system?

Check out Valcun for more information.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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