Precious metal clay?

Hey folks–

I’m wondering if you can laser etch precious metal clay after it has dried but before it is fired? PMC is a mixture of fine particles of precious (and some non-precious) metals and a water-soluble organic binder, which burns out during the firing process to leave just the metal. I can see lots of jewelry applications if it can be done.



I was also interested in this idea, and looked around online to see if anyone had done it.
The only reference I was able to find was a old forum post that said this person had tried and failed.
Since I don’t (yet) have a laser to play with this is frustrating. :smile:

I still intend to try it, and I had an additional idea which involves using the laser to selectively fire the clay, allowing you to make surface textures and then mush the rest of the clay back from the fired areas.

This idea had crossed my mind also. But I had my doubts about it working, I thought the metal content would be too high. Looking at the article linked by jkopel, that appears to be correct.

However the testing described was performed in 2005, apparently. There have been new formulations of metal clay since then, maybe that would make a difference. There’s a new formulation of silver metal clay being produced in the US under the name MetalMagic that is 25% binder instead of the ~10-12% in other formulations. That may make a difference. Also there are the flex clays, which don’t dry completely. I believe most of those contain glycerin. This might also make a difference.

I don’t have any of the MetalMagic clay at the moment, but I do have some PMC Flex. I plan to do some testing once… Well, we all know how that sentence ends. :smile:

Yeah, I saw that reference right after I posted the question. They do make the point that you can use the laser to make a mold (out of Delrin maybe?) then mold the clay. With a lower level of detail, I would assume.

Your idea about selective firing is awesome! Be sure to post your test results! I’m assuming just about everybody will get their GF before me since I’m late to the game.

I think/hope mold making is going to be the “killer app” for those of us interested in jewelry making. Assuming Dan and crew get the gray scale depth engraving figured out I can see lots of really cool silicone molds for wax in my future. PMC would probably work best in something harder like delrin, but I have been thinking about how to do matching 2 piece molds so you could inject the PMC (or anything else for that matter).

There are lots of good articles on PMC work on the ganoksin website, like:

@johnawerner I would guess that post firing the percentage of binder in the material may not make much of a difference. The final result should still be sintered metal, and at that point a 40-45 watt laser just won’t cut it. (pun intended)

1 Like

I agree completely, I wouldn’t expect a 45 watt laser to have any effect post-firing, or the ratio of binder to metal to make any difference at that point. I just thought it might make a difference in etching before firing, assuming a laser of that power can etch the binder.

I also agree about mold making. When I first found out about metal clays, I had the idea of making molds with my 3D printer.