Wednesday, May 31, 2017

7A-11 Metalworking with Field's Metal

Our group's goal was to make a foundry to cast and recast Field's metal cheaply and without danger. Field's metal is a metal that melts at 144 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about the same temperature of hot coffee or water. What makes it special is that, unlike most metals with a low melting point, it does not contain lead. This makes it safe to have around. Our group made some casts out of Sugru, a substance that turns into rubber. We placed a 3D printed robot into the Sugru, and let the mold sit overnight. It turned into rubber, and we had a mold. 

   We made the actual foundry out of wood and PVC. The plan was to use a wooden block instead of PVC for the swivel to hold the glass vial, but the wood was the wrong size and we didn't have a drill that could go all the way through. Luckily, we improvised and realized that a PVC pipe can serve basically the same purpose. There was an alcohol lamp, a swiveling glass vial to hold and melt the metal, and a stand to place the molds and to cast the metal. Then, we put it all together, and there was only one thing that we were still waiting for: the Field's metal.

At the Maker Faire
   On the day of the Maker Faire, our Field's metal still had not arrived. We spent the Maker Faire explaining our machine and what it was supposed to do, then silently cursing Amazon. Still, the Maker Faire was a learning experience, as it proved that life is unpredictable, and it is neccesary to have a "plan B." The next Tuesday, our metal finally arrived.
Trust the Process
Our (sort of) finished product

  At first period on Tuesday, we put the metal in the vial and began to cast it. Suddenly, the glass vial exploded! Luckily, the metal was already drying, but it was still a rude awakening. So, we got a Heat-proof Pyrex test tube, and we began to cast the metal. That time, it worked fine, but, again, another lesson about how quickly plans can go awry.
   This project really showed how improvisation and thinking on your feet can salvage a project that doesn't exactly go according to plan.

Group members: Owen, Avi, Andreas, and Arman

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