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I Forge Iron

The future of blacksmithing

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I own a small hobby 3d printer, I got it because when I first heard of them, I thought my livelyhood as a welder was in jeapordy. While they definatly have the potential to revolutionize making things, especially if they continue to make them cheaper and cheaper. I have no fear of them completely killing blacksmithing, or even replacing the arc welder. They will just be another very effective tool that will require many craftsmen to also learn CAD along with the trades they choose to pursue. The big hope among many in the 3d printer community is that they will one day be able to print every single thing they want with a few clicks and thus be able to shortcut the learning process of how to work any given material. That may hold true for the most basic items, however craftsmen who still pursue mastery in the materials they choose will continue to have a huge advantage in both product design and execution.

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We have been told for 40 years that robots would take away our jobs "tomorrow". Well,as Little Orphan Annie says, tomorrow is always a day away. That is why it is known as the 'Promise of Tomorrow', and not the ironclad guarantee.


In the meantime, can I interest you in some Cold Fusion stock? Nuclear power plants making electricity "too cheap to meter"? 150 year lifespan due to nanotech implants? No, how about a cure for the common cold? 100mpg hydrogen powered cars with ceramic engines that last 1 million miles? Anyone? 

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3d printers have a place in the future of forging


Forging is an extremely efficient process in the right dies, even by hand if you have the setup.


but it takes time to develop the process and the tooling, even for a small shop its an investment of time and money to make simple setup's

a day is a day no matter which way you spend it.


I have heard the cost of dies can be 30-40% of the cost of production of many products, obviously depends on what your making and the tolerances required.


Sure they can model them on computers and try to come up with the right solution every time, but people make mistakes.


I have seen them make dies in the plastic industry and the stamping industry and they have removable pieces so they can be corrected because they never work right off the bat.


I don't know if you can do that with forging probley not in all cases because of the massive force and heat exerted but I am not a expert.


Being able to print exactly what the die will forge would be as close as you could get, could help you find problems before they happen. 


there isn't many other ways of creating these shapes many of them couldn't be forged by hand easily, they could be carved but it takes someone very precise to make highly complex objects.


Personally, I think if there is a chance to try something new that works for me, I am going to do it.


Some people will always hate the new things that come along, but if it didn't work it would just disappear, you cant control everything but don't pass up the new things because you don't understand them.

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I have seen people go to outrageous lengths to use their machine tools to do a task that is extremely trivial with a forge.


Back pre websites when it was rec.crafts.metalworking they had a discussion on making corkscrews that was positively humourous as they discussed ways to make them with lathes and milling machines when the "answer" was to heat a piece of steel wire and wrap it around a mandrel and *done* before you even had the piece indicated in your lathe.


What they lacked was the "smithing" tool in their mental tool kit.  Same thing with smiths and forge welding---some go to any length to avoid forge welding, some it's a "trivial" task that speeds things up amazingly.


Being the person that has that "extra" tool in your tool kit can make you much more efficient for certain tasks (and less efficient if you refuse to use other tools that may be more suited for a task...)


An example:  a wood turner asked me for some special bent tool holders for interior form work, (he was using carbide lathe inserts for his cutting edges!).  I told him to stop by the smithy and when he did I stuck a couple of pieces of stock in the forge and then gave him the welding gloves and told him I would take it out and stick the hot end in the post vise and he was to grab the cold end and bend it to suit himself.  First one he overshot amazed by the plasticity of the hot steel and I told him to grab it and bend it back....no problem...Second one went even easier as he knew what to expect.  next weekend he bought an anvil from me and set up his own forge...


Anyway what would be the time and difficulty of setting up and 3D printing out these one-off curved tool holders?  What would be the turn around time if the customer decided it needed to be slightly different 3 or 4 times?  Which would be the correct tool for "rapid prototyping" of these items?

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