Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Engineering (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Advisor 1

Joshua M. Pearce

Committee Member 1

Timothy C Havens

Committee Member 2

John L Irwin

Committee Member 3

Chee-Wooi Ten


Low-cost and open-source gas metal arc welding (GMAW)-based 3-D printing has been demonstrated yet the electrical design and software was not developed enough to enable wide-spread adoption. This thesis provides three novel technical improvements based on the application of mechatronic and software theory that when combined demonstrate the ability for distributed digital manufacturing at the small and medium enterprise scale of steel and aluminum parts. First, low cost metal inert gas welders contain no power monitoring needed to tune GMAW 3-D printers. To obtain this data about power and energy usage during the printing, an integrated monitoring system was developed to measure current (I) and voltage (V) in real-time. The new design of this monitoring system integrates an open source microcontroller and free and open source software on the open-source metal 3-D printer to record the data. Second, the primary obstacle to the diffusion of this technology was that existing slicing software, which determines the toolpath of the printhead was optimized for polymer 3-D printing and inappropriate for printed parts made from metal due to their mechanical strength. Previous prints were accomplished by manually designing the toolpath, which was not practical for real use by an extended userbase. To overcome the problem, the free and open-source slicing software, CuraEngine, was forked to MOSTMetalCura, which supports the needs of GMAW-based metal 3-D printing. The optimized setting for wire feed rate is calculated by the new slicer based on printing speed, bead width, layer height, and material diameter. Previous studies have shown that GMAW-based metal 3-D printing is capable of fabricating parts with good layer adhesion and porosity. However, this preliminary work lacked demonstrations of real-world applications. Finally, in this work, the practical applications of open-source GMAW-based metal 3-D printing are well demonstrated for both developing world and developed world applications including: 1) fixing an existing part by adding on a 3-D metal feature, 2) creating a product using the substrate as part of the component, 3) 3-D printing useful objects in high resolution, 4) near net shape objects and 5) making an integrated product using a combination of steel and polymer 3-D printing. The results prove that low-cost and open-source GMAW-based metal 3-D printing is ready for distributed manufacturing by SMEs and adequate for a wide range of applications.

CuraEngine-data-flow.png (708 kB)
CuraEngine Data Flow as png format

CuraEngine-data-flow.svg (8018 kB)
CuraEngine Data Flow as svg format (324 kB)
MOSTMetalCura source code