When you think about digitally fabricating metal, you probably picture steel powder or something unusual like Alumide, which is nylon laced with aluminum dust. But now Shapeways has added a simultaneously new and old-school flavor to their mix: Brass.
They're offering the stuff in three finishes: Gold-Plated, for when bling is the thing; Polished, which has a slightly more-subdued-than-gold yellowish tint; and Raw, for that classy, rustic look. While Shapeways will actually have your Gold-Plated and Polished finishes hand-rubbed for smoothness, the Raw will be left alone, providing a rough-surfaced matte finish for those looking to create antique effects.
Unsurprisingly, this stuff doesn't come out of the machine in one go:
[Our] Brass models are fabricated using a complex five-step process. First, the model is printed in wax using a specialized high-resolution 3D Printer. It is then put in a container where liquid plaster is poured in around it. Once the plaster sets, the wax is melted out in a furnace, and the remaining plaster becomes the mold. Molten brass is poured into this mold and set to harden. The plaster is broken away, revealing your new product. Raw Brass is briefly tumbled. Polished and Gold Plated Brass are carefully cleaned and hand polished. Gold Plated Brass goes through a final electroplating process for an outside coat of 22k gold. Please be aware that polishing and plating can wear down or fill in very fine details and edges.
Thanks to this tip from 3Ders.org, would-be brass orderers can enter the code "oc3mv" on Shapeways' site to get a 10% discount on the Polished and Raw stuff. But hurry—the offer expires at 9pm (EST) on October 2nd.