Experimental 3D printer offers a smart way to avoid waste

One of the unique challenges of 3D printing is that models with structures suspended in the air, such as a teapot spout, also need temporary structures to support the soft extruded plastic until it hardens. This can lead to a lot of material waste, as these supports are only disposed of afterwards. A new prototype of a 3D printer with segmented bottom that could rise to create temporary supports radically reduce Plastic garbage.

A 3D printer that uses additive extrusion techniques (where a model is created by laying it down one layer at a time) usually has a sturdy, level print bed on which the model can slowly build up over time. The bed is made of a smooth material so the plastic 3D model can be easily separated once it’s completed, but that’s about as complex as it gets.

The flatter the surface of the bed, the better the 3D printing results. However, this also requires the creation of additional support structures, which not only then have to be carefully removed so as not to damage the surface of the model. however, it cannot be reused for other purposes either. Plastic filaments are cheap, but 3D printing is also increasingly being used in the medical field to restore tissues and organs, and the biomaterials used to make it can be expensive – starting at $ 1,000 for just a small bottle.

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It’s a problem that researchers in the field have tried to solve using a variety of methods, including using 3D printers complex five-axis pressure armsand even print models in a vat of viscous gel This is thick enough to temporarily support a model while it is being built. Researcher at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in California have come up with a completely different approach. Their prototype printer was inspired in part by pin art toys, which allow 3D replicas of hands or faces to be created through a grid of metal pins that can move freely up and down at different heights. Instead of pens, the bed of the 3D printer consists of a grid of tiny squares that can move up and down independently of each other to provide additional support when creating a complex 3D model. Your work on the printer was recently completed in the Additive Manufacturing magazine.

Earlier prototypes of the team’s upgraded 3D printer bed used a separate electric motor to lift each section. At $ 10 each plus the cost of control boards, the result was a 3D printer that cost way north of $ 10,000. With many 3D printers now only costing a few hundred dollars, this approach was prohibitively expensive. The researchers therefore redesigned the prototype so that the entire system is now powered by a single motor.

The design of the 3D printer does not eliminate the need for support structures, but the developers estimate that the prototype can save about 35% of the materials normally used to create a complex model. But it’s not just about material and cost savings. Printing these additional support structures also increases the time it takes to 3D print, and the researchers believe the ascending bed could cut printing times by almost 40% on average. While 3D printers are slowly moving from producing 3D jewelry to building whole housesThese improvements in efficiency and material usage will be critical to improving the viability of 3D printing for large-scale manufacturing.

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