Mar 21, 2017 | By Benedict

MakerBot has introduced Minfill, a new Print Mode for its 3D printers that determines the absolute minimum amount of support needed for the inside of a 3D print. MakerBot says Minfill typically prints 30% faster using 30% less filament.

Of all the 3D printing parameters you’re likely to fiddle with on your 3D printer, infill can be the most beguiling. For starters, you can’t see its effect on a finished print, because it’s on the inside. But more importantly, it’s actually very difficult to estimate just how dense a print needs to be. Common sense would tell you that basic, visual prototypes would require low infill, while end-use parts designed to undergo constant stress will require a much higher level of infill. However, that’s far from the end of the matter.

Something that was bugging the team at MakerBot was the fact that infill, the patterned support structure within a 3D print, is always printed evenly throughout a print. This makes it easy for the printer to know what it’s doing, but it’s not always very helpful. Why? Well, think about prints that have certain areas which will require lots of support, but some that will maintain their integrity with little or no infill at all. In these cases, you are generally required to reach a compromise between the two areas, or print the whole object with a high level of infill. This will ensure a strong print, but you’re simply wasting filament in those areas that didn’t require infill in the first place.

MakerBot’s new ‘Minfill’ Print Mode looks to solve this problem once and for all, and it does so by dynamically distributing infill throughout a print. The ingenious tool, which was introduced over the weekend as a firmware upgrade for existing customers, will analyze the structure of a 3D model to determine which areas require what level of infill, before adding the bare minimum required to support the structure. “It decides on the shape, placement, and density of the infill, only printing in areas that require structural support, like roofs and certain types of walls,” explained MakerBot’s Stan Spring.

The advantages of the new Minfill Print Mode are obvious: faster printing, and less filament eaten up. MakerBot says that the tool typically makes prints go 30% faster using 30% less filament, but has witnessed prints going up to 80% faster on particularly large models. The benefits of this feature, to novice and advanced users alike, could therefore be huge. And MakerBot claims it is the only solution of this sort that doesn’t require users to make manual adjustments to their printing software.

New York-based MakerBot also points out that, since infill can be minimized throughout the entire printed object, the biggest material and time savings can be had on bigger objects. “Since Minfill uses the minimum infill possible, its value lies in printing models with a larger internal volume,” Spring said. “Smaller models will most likely print faster with Minfill; however, the greater the internal volume of a print, the more time and filament you can save.”

MakerBot has tested out the Minfill Print Mode on a number of prints, seeing how the stats compare against its own ‘Balanced’ Print Mode, which uses 10% diamond infill. For a 5” x 5” x 16” tower speaker, the Minfill print took just 36 hours, compared to the 81 hours needed in Balanced mode. The dynamic new setting therefore effected a 56% improvement in printing speed while using 57% less 3D printing material.

When reading about MakerBot’s new Minfill Print Mode, I couldn’t help but think of a similar feature put out by Prusa last week. Prusa has developed a Smooth Variable Layer Height mode, which allows users to dynamically adjust layer height throughout a print by manually selecting certain areas which require a higher resolution than others. Both Makerbot and Prusa’s new features suggest that 3D printing can become a much more adaptable, efficient, and appealing fabrication process.

“At MakerBot, listening to our customers is essential to releasing effective products and solutions,” Spring adds. “Through this new Print Mode, we are proud to release another industry-leading breakthrough that elevates 3D printing.”



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Anonymous coward wrote at 3/22/2017 3:10:47 AM:

I wonder whom they stole this idea from this time?

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