large format 3d printing picks up speed

the egg heads at MIT have done it again

Now that large part 3D printing has really begun to make a noteworthy splash on the market in general, some of the brightest minds around are contributing to its engineering development. It has proven itself to be effective and as such it´s garnering a lot of attention, which is sure to be welcomed news for business people that have been seeing the writing on the wall and therefore see the sense in investing and shifting their business practices to be in step with this technology in the hopes of being fortunate enough to take full advantage of what addictive manufacturing has to offer the world at large.


One figure leading the charge is associate professor John Hart who is the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity as well as the Mechanosynthesis Group that conducts studies that determine benchmark rates for 3D printing big parts. As a career technological engineer expert he has been drawn to the idea of making a 3D printer that can produce parts, not a matter of hours, but rather minutes. As he explains the reasoning for his efforts, ¨If I can get a prototype part, maybe a bracket or a gear, in 5 to 10 minutes rather than an hour, or a bigger part over my lunch break rather than the next day, I can engineer, build, and test faster. If I’m a repair technician and I could have a large format 3D printer in shop, I could 3-D-print a repair part on-demand,¨ meaning that by streamlining the process professionals in a plethora of fields could save on not only all kinds of costs, but on valuable time they need since, as he states, commercial desktop extrusion systems for large format 3D printing so far have been ¨really slow.¨


Along with the research team he has been leading for a number of years now he has been working to make this desire come true. As they went about analyzing the workings of large part 3D printing systems they turned their focus towards the printer pinch-wheel mechanism that is typically used on a large number of both professional and conventional large scale 3D printing units. Although it does yield reliable degree of accurate resolution for the vast majority of machines on the market it is simply inefficient for getting a job done quickly and leaves much to be desired as it.offers a work speed of about only about 15 cubic centimeters on the hour when laying out .2 millimeters of thickness. With the support of a grant that was given to them by the Lockheed Martin Corporation as well as considerable governmental and MIT support, this last of which has has maintained a trend of propelling research that improves upon existing 3D design systems in order to raise the stakes of sophistication.


Instead of pinch wheel gears, which have been proving to be fairly inefficient because of way that they require the use of wheels in a track cartridge to extrude filament at a measured rate, the team completely revamped the print head by developing a heated laser polymer liquified that is added to it. This addition works quite well as it is manipulated by a servo-driven gantry, or small crane, system that works in direct coordination with the head to achieve a ¨high extrusion force, rapid filament heating, and fat gantry motion.¨

Their efforts have led to their latest announcement, what they have dubbed Fast Fused Filament Fabrication, or FastFFF that they claim is able to produce printed objects at its mean speed at a rate that´s 7 times faster than most large part 3D printers that are commercially available today, however, when it is sped up to its maximum capacities it can even double that speed. To get an idea of what that means just imagine a printer that´s capable of manufacturing at a volumetric build rate of 127 centimeters cubed an hour. This new technology owes its speed to a better printhead as well as a more efficient gantry for overall movement. If you take the time to see it on Youtube, you´ll appreciate what all this ends up being. Seeing it in action is quite the treat and reminds one of science fiction movies where robots are mass produced.







It could make production a pretty snappy process for many. The sheer variety of potential implications that are involved with this level of advancement in procedural acceleration is mind boggling and may be seen as very welcomed throughout the business world. Like the camera was destined to become more and more compact, so too was large scale 3d printing sure to encourage innovation from the highest technological institutions in the land. There’s no mistake about it, 3d printing of large parts is going to play a significant role in how things are made, especially when the desire is to make customizable goods. There are many things, such as electronics, that require a particularly large amount of detail and have a considerable demand eagerly waiting for them. Especially when one takes a moment to think of how in modern society people are generally quite obsessed with having the latest gizmo, those companies that can keep up with all sorts of different and unforeseen trends are the ones that are bound to succeed and surpass their competitors.


Of course there are concerns about what repercussions excelling additive manufacturing may incur, which may be feared by some as drastic scenarios as whole sectors of the economy could very well greatly diminished in terms of manufacture employment. It´s not crazy to consider as leaps and bounds are made in the this arena. The truth of the matter is that as a society we strive to progress and we rely quite heavily on the ingenuity of scientists and engineers to pave the way.


Because of the size of this particular machine, it isn´t intended to be used by simple hobbyists any time soon, but it was developed with the goal of keeping costs down to a minimum. One thing is for sure, if it is brought to market you can bet that over time costs will begin to lower so that FASTFFF will be within reach of the layperson at some point. There is even talk about exploring ways to adapt this system to the manufacture of composite materials and the high-temperature thermoplastic products, such as PEEK, that will widen the horizons for its implementation.


It’s pretty thought-provoking to keep in mind that this leap forward is just because of a few engineers that are weighing in to lend their expertise in the hopes of pushing additive manufacturing to where it belongs. The role that it will play on the large scheme of things is hard to pin down, but there could be a shift in work ethics and the general approach we take towards manufacturing as well as the prior steps of design. When we’re free to try out going down paths without the over abundant fear of committing the benefits are sure to be obvious, for example a growth of variability. We think of manufacturing as something that happens in far flung places like China, but this perception could change considerably.


Going over these ideas is interesting to contemplate, especially if you have concrete ideas of how different industries could incorporate them, be they ones that already exist or ones that have yet to be founded. Who knows, this kind of technological advancement could serve to thin the ever present line between what we want to have and who is actually able to make it a reality. We may be coming upon a new dawn of customizable birthday gifts, creative interior decor production at an involved personal level or even interchangeable auto accessories to reflect what our vision of the road is and the way we want to represented before others in public.

Keep reading: more articles about 3D scanning

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