3D printing is revolutionizing product design and manufacturing in many areas: from custom-made parts for consumer products to 3D-printed dental products and life-saving bone and medical implants.However, the process also creates a lot of expensive and unsustainable waste and takes a long time, which makes it difficult to implement 3D printing on a large scale.
Each time a 3D printer produces a custom object, especially one with a special shape, it also requires print support, a print holder that helps maintain the integrity of its shape by balancing the object as the printer creates it layer by layer.However, these supports have to be removed manually after printing, which needs to be done by hand and can lead to inaccurate shape or surface roughness.The materials used to make the scaffolds often cannot be reused, so they are thrown away, leading to a growing 3D printing waste problem.
A new dynamic control base for 3D printing (left) will reduce the need for printing support (center), reducing waste and saving time.
For the first time, researchers at the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California at Viterbi have created a low-cost, reusable support method to reduce these wasteful 3D printer printing supports, greatly improving the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of 3D printing.
The research, led by Yong Chen, a professor of industrial and systems engineering, and Yang Xu, a PhD student, has been published in Additive Manufacturing.
Traditional 3D printing uses melt deposition modeling (FDM) technology to print layers directly on static metal surfaces.Instead of printing brackets, the new prototype uses a programmable, dynamically controlled surface made of movable metal needles.As the printer builds the product step by step, the pins rise.Chen said tests of the new prototype showed it could save about 35 percent of printing materials.
I work with biomedical doctors who use biomaterials for 3D printing to build tissues or organs, Chen said, and many of the materials they use are very expensive — we’re talking about small bottles that cost $500 to $1,000 per bottle.
For a standard FDM printer, the material cost is around $50 per kilogram, but for bio-printing, it’s more like $50 per gram.So if we can save 30 percent on the materials used to print these support materials, that’s a huge cost savings for 3D printing for biomedical purposes.
In addition to the environmental and cost impact of material waste, the traditional 3D printing process using scaffolds is also time-consuming, Chen said.
When you’re 3D printing complex shapes, half the time is building the parts you need and the other half is building the support.In this system, we don’t have to build support.As a result, we saved about 40 percent in terms of printing time.
Similar prototypes developed in the past relied on a single motor to support each mechanical bracket, resulting in high energy consumption and a much more expensive product, making it uneconomical for 3D printers, Chen said.
So, if you have 100 moving pins that cost about $10 per motor, then the whole thing is $1,000, plus 25 control panels to control 100 different motors.The whole thing will cost more than $10,000.
The team’s new prototype uses a single motor to drive each support to move the platform.The platform raises multiple sets of metal pins simultaneously, which is a cost-effective solution.According to the product design, the program’s software tells users that they need to add a series of metal tubes to the bottom of the platform.The position of these tubes will determine which pins will be raised to the specified height to best support the 3D printed product while also generating the least loss of print support.At the end of this process, the pins can be easily removed without damaging the product.
Chen said the system can also be easily adapted to mass manufacturing, such as the automotive, aerospace and yacht industries.
FDM printers are already being made for large car and ship fuselages and consumer goods such as furniture.As you can imagine, they take a really long time to build, we’re talking all day.So if you can cut that in half, your production time can go down to half a day.There are many benefits to this 3D printing using our method.
The team also recently applied for a patent for the new technology, Chen said.The study was co-authored by Ziqi Wang, a visiting student at the EPFL School of Computer and Communication Sciences in Switzerland, and Siyu Gong, from Viterbi.
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Post time: Apr-08-2021