Bill Struve’s New Invention: 3-D MetalCreator

Bill at Metal Clay Mojo 2015Every once in a while, if we are lucky, we meet someone who is truly a giving person. Someone who doesn’t expect something in return. Most of us know people who will look for the “what’s in it for me” before they give, such as: a tax receipt, their name listed on a donor page or carved onto a corner stone. But then there are those who quietly give. In the artistic community, artists are often preyed upon to “give” and “donate”. But in this case a scientist and an artist are giving to artists! Bill and Lacey Ann Struve are well known in the metal clay community. They have invented and produced several base metal clays under their company Metal Adventures and now they have a new invention to share with the artistic community.

Hollace (Lacey) Ann Struve - Wilmington, NC (adult-size mask)Lacey Ann introduced Bill to silver metal clay in 2006. Then he started to puzzle over how to make other metal clays, it wasn’t because he needed a job or wanted to make money. He really enjoys tackling projects like this. Over the years, the Struve’s have invested more time and money into their research and testing than they could ever recover in sales of BronzClay or CopprClay. But that’s not why they do what they do.

Several years ago 3-D printing caught Bill’s attention. After research and testing he came up with syringes of metal clay for 3-D printers. Then he wanted a way that people without all of the specialized printing and computer equipment could use the paste by hand. The paste is too thick to push out by hand, so it needed a machine to do this. “I started with machines available for solder paste dispensing in the electronics industry. These were too complex and expensive. The machine needed to be simple and inexpensive. Also, syringes used clinically are too weak to hold the pressure, so heavy wall cartridges were used.” After two years of experiments and tests, the Sturve’s have their 3-D MetalCreator ready for market! When the Kickstarter fundraiser is over, the clay extruder tool will be available online through Cool Tools.

0b488c82f60cd8d316bf3dd7a1b94d62_originalThe 3-D MetalCreator consists of 4 parts: a small CO2 tank, a regulator, a foot valve that starts and stops the flow of metal clay from the cartridge. And there are exchangeable tips–the size and amount of clay extruded can be changed. Bill explains in his video that the cartridge uses “pressure from the CO2 tank to easily extrude metal paste allowing the maker to gracefully design with both hands.”  From the samples that his beta testers made, it is clear that metal clay artists will no longer be straining to extrude paste clay as we have for the past 12 years! Oh the time we wasted trying to soften the syringe type clay, and adding huge metal washers to the tube to try and make it easier to use. All I ended up with were shaky lines of metal clay–not “graceful” at all. In fact I gave up a long time ago on the syringe type clay. Carpel tunnel in both wrists would not stand for that type of pressure. But now I’m drooling over this new tool and I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

Giraffe model, and 3 fired pieces ready to be joinedThis tool is one of the most interesting things to come along for metal clay artists, since metal clay! I am sure other artists will be intrigued by this metal clay extruder too. Imagine what an illustrator could create with bronze clay and this tool! Or what a prop or costume department could invent for theater? ~Oh Zentanglers!!! This would be a very cool tool to doodle and zentangle with. And I bet that artists who create miniatures would also love this tool. The 3-D MetalCreator and the pending syringes of silver could set the cloisonne enamel world on edge!  Oh the possibilities!!

Joy Funnell - Hastings, United KingdomWhat’s next for the Struve’s? This fall you can look for the BRONZpaste3D cartridges working in David Hartkop’s Mini Metal Maker. “The Mini Metal Maker and Flow 3D printers can use the BRONZpaste3D cartridges. Other 3D printers that use our cartridges are in development.” Not one to rest when a project is complete, Bill is already working on an attachment for the cartridge that dries the clay soon after it comes out of the tip. “It will be possible to draw vertically by using the attachment.” I wonder what other inventions he has tucked away in his shop?

Here is a link to their kickstarter project.
Online group for sharing and discussing the 3-D Metal Creator.

Images: 1) Bill and some samples of what he made using the 3-D MetalCreator, 2) Adult size mask by Lacey Ann Struve, 3)The 3-D MetalCreator, 4) Bill’s giraffe in process, 5) a miniature by Joy Funnell.

 

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