3D Printing

How will 3D printing industry step up its game

3D printing definitely has its own market and with time, people are more and more willing to invest in a printer so they can print anything at home like a regular 2D printer. Also, there are some good competitive prices out there and nowadays buying one is more accessible and cheaper than some years ago.

3D printers were really impressive since their beginning, but not everything was perfect, and 3D printed pieces had a lot of improvements in order to function well and deliver reasonable printing parts. In the present, prints have a lot to improve when it comes to quality, but the truth is that the most inconvenient issues are printing timings and that is because they are way too prolonged and some prints could even take more than 24 hours to be ready so obviously this has been one thing to keep in mind before you even consider to print something.

3D printing sample at APPPEXPO 2018 in Shanghai, FLAAR-REPORTS archive

3D printers normally start to print from the bottom of the object and they start adding a layer at a time as they prin. When objects are irregular at the top or any other area needs it, the printer and the software add support material to these parts and it can easily be removed and thrown away after the print is ready. Creating this support material makes a print to take much more time than having the printer print just the piece itself. So it is more costly and time-consuming, especially for metal or any other material besides plastic.

Luckily for us, two researchers at Penn State have created a new system that reduces the amount of support material needed on each print by having a system with five axes instead of just having the typical x, y, and z.

3D printing sample at APPPEXPO 2018 in Shanghai, FLAAR-REPORTS archive

Xinyi Xiaoa and Sanjay Joshi proposed in a paper called “Process planning for five-acid support free additive manufacturing,” using a 3D printing with a movable build plate or extrusion arm to create objects in 3D space as they are printed, therefore making each surface flat while it is been extruded.

Screenshot courtesy of Penn State University

“Using a five-axis deposition machine has the potential to build structures without the need for supports,” the researchers wrote. “However, there is a lack of automated process planning software to support the full use of five-axis machines. [We introduce] an automated method that allows reorienting the part during the build using a five-axis machine.”

The main idea is that this process could cut objects into separate pieces that must be printed on a different axis, so prints won't need support material and therefore can be produced faster. For example, in the image below the software cuts the rabbit into 4 pieces dividing it into different axis.

Screenshot courtesy of Pennsylvania State University

On the other hand, if you print the rabbit on a regular 3D printer, it probably would be completely covered by support material and some parts would have difficulty being removed entirely.

Screenshot courtesy of Instructables In-House Art

“Large metal components, using traditional additive manufacturing, can take days and waste lots of materials by using support structures,” said the creators. “Additive manufacturing is very powerful, and it can make a lot of things due to its flexibility; however, it also has its disadvantages. There is still more work to do.”

Right now there aren’t many 5-axis printers available in the market and definitely not for home printers, but imagine having to say goodbye forever to the annoying process of removing support material… I bet many people would be pleased.

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