Hello from the virtual foundry headquarters (for real)

Hi everyone,

So I did something not-so-sane and sent an email to Brad and Tricia at the virtual foundry asking if I could come and learn about the company, making filament, etc. Incredibly, they agreed, and 6-8 hours of driving to Stoughton, Wisconsin later, I’m here!


I’m here to answer any questions people might have about what it’s like here, besides “cool” and “the place where they make the metal filament”. No super trade secrets (at least partially because they’re still secret to me), but for instance, “what do they do with all the copper scraps”?

It goes in here to be recycled:

Or, what can happen to steel when it cools too fast?

It pops!

Anyway, this was my first day, and I’ll be here for three more. Going to make steel filament tomorrow!

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Looks good, that is one long drive, but I am sure it will be worth it. Would love to see what you can glean about the whole infiltration process.

Very cool :+1:
Keep the vids coming

Ditto to this on infiltration, I have some ideas and am waiting for my metal powder to arrive from ebay, but more insights before I blindly start would be great :grin:

Wish I could say we did experiments on infiltration! I can pester the big man some more to answer the questions, but I myself don’t have any more insights yet on that.

Got to see some of the secret filament machines running today. The final process is really cool but I unfortunately don’t have any video of that. I do have this one of Brad showing off some fresh 316 L, though:

And a couple of shots of plastic-type goop extruding out of a different nozzle-type thing::

This is plastic filled with glass, and if all goes well it will be available as filament in the store soon! It is incredibly strong and light, maybe having something to do with why the filament sticks so well to glass beds.

We are also trying to make thermite filament. You heard that right. The key word, though, is trying — so if you don’t hear from me again it either kept failing or it worked really too well.

Well, still here!

I have some footage of me absolutely failing to spool the filament, shrink wrap it, etc. Billy makes it look easy, then you try it…

How about a short video instead of the glass from yesterday being ground into pellets, instead?

Tomorrow — last day — last step. Turning it into filament.

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Last day! Produced this massive copper piece for some kind of… tractor competition?

It’s supposed to be a trophy. You can thank TinkerCAD for its gorgeous, “cubes and cylinders” level of construction. It’s also definitely not my best print, but in my defense I use a different printer and this is about 10 times bigger than any other metal part I’ve made!

Last (for the glass filament making process), here’s a little video of the final product being made… almost:

It’s ‘almost’ because this is just stuff that’s being collected for recycling. The actual size-controlled-spooling-up-process is again not something I have a video of. Thankfully, that also means there’s no permanent record of me yelling for help when things ran a bit too fast for me to keep up.

This glass-filled filament is pretty incredible. Fresh off the line, it’s stronger and more pliable than regular PLA. Not something you’d expect for something that’s less dense and, you know, filled with glass.

And that’s it in terms of the filament-making. All that’s left is a tearful goodbye and to graciously accept some gifts :slight_smile: They’re going to start selling cheese in the store soon, you know!

That, and to kick back and enjoy some chicken at the weekly music festival that Tricia founded years ago.

I’m really going to miss this place. There’s the lab, the team, the totally unique product being made… but there’s also just the city of Stoughton itself. I wasn’t expecting that. The people are friendly, there’s a fascinating Nordic history, and pretty much everywhere you turn there’s some kind of gorgeous body of water.

So thank you, Tricia, and Brad, for being such gracious hosts! For everything I’ve just mentioned, but absolutely, positively, most of all,

for introducing me to Kwik Trips.

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Ahron, what a great write-up!
And you’re welcome for the Kwik Trip intro!
For anyone outside Wisconsin, Kwik Trip is a beloved convenience store chain in Wisconsin. How can a convenience store become beloved, you ask? Come visit a Kwik Trip and find out!
We enjoyed having you visit Ahron, it was a great experience.