We’re all too familiar with the post-processing step of 3D printing, which involves removing supports and lamenting the waste of plastic on yet another dwindling roll of filament. If the material is expensive NinjaFlex or exotic bio-printers, the printing support is downright painful. A group at USC has developed a novel method that can significantly reduce the amount of 3D printing by lifting parts of the bed over time. We wonder why a simpler version isn’t created on a regular basis.
In the USC version, the bed has a bundle of square flat metal pieces, each with a metal tube underneath. The length of the pipe determines the possible height of this square. Before printing, the bed is prepared by inserting the tubes of the appropriate length into the correct squares. During the printing process, a single motor pushes a platform up and based on the height of the pen, that part of the bed will rise accordingly and then stop at the correct height.
This is a significant saving over an array of linear motors or servos to control each square at the expense of preparing the pens for each print.
But we wonder; Since CURA and other slicing software have the ability to stop on height, what if the slicing software could allow the placement of spacer blocks of known size? The user would have a variety of reusable spacer blocks and position them in the software and the slicer would build the substrate starting on the block. It could print a rectangle on the base plane to make it easier to place the blocks correctly while printing, and pause at the correct heights for the user to insert the blocks. Much less substrate was used at the end of the print.
In situations where you want to leave your printout unattended, or when the cost of materials is low enough not to justify the hassle, it might not be worth doing. Another problem could be heating this platform. However, since only carrier material is printed on it, a certain amount of curling does not play a major role. What do you think?