The world of 3D printing is fairly well divided. You have the upper echelon of amazing machines that can print using materials such as bronze, aluminum, and steel. They cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands. Then you have the lower echelon, where the home users are fusing layers of plastic together for a few hundred or thousand dollars. To this point, the ability to purchase a printer that can use metal for your home for less than the cost of your home has largely been a dream.
Now there is actually a printer you can buy (soon) for $1,000 that can print in metal. The Mini Metal Maker is in the middle of an Indiegogo campaign that looks very promising.
The printer itself uses a paste extruder, just like the one you would use for icing or chocolate. Instead of icing, it extrudes a metal clay that can be tossed in a kiln. The result is completely usable as a metal object.
As you can see in the video above, the device is fully functional as a proof of concept. Not only is it exciting to think about printing your own functional metal pieces, but the prospect of being able to lay traces into other materials is also very exciting. This example of printing a functional motor is perfect, and I wouldn't be surprised if that were the item everyone printed the day they received the printer that will exist two generations down the line from this one -- just like everyone prints Yoda and an octopus with their RepRap.
We can all agree that the parts we see here aren't perfect. They aren't even on par with a more typical RepRap-style 3D printer. However, this is a very big and very positive step toward being able to print metal at home. These parts are light years ahead of what we saw when home 3D printers were in their infancy. I'm excited to see how this plays out.
— Caleb Kraft, Chief Community Editor, EE Times