Apr 5, 2017 | By Tess

As desktop FDM 3D printers become increasingly accessible in terms of cost and user experience, one aspect of the technology has remained somewhat prohibitive (or, at the very least, frustrating): printing speed. Fortunately, however, a joint team of researchers from Binghamton University, the State University of New York, and MIT have pinpointed some existing obstructions in 3D printers that can be addressed to make the entire 3D printing process much faster.

Z Corp 3-D Printer-Spectrum 2 at Binghamton University

(Image: Binghamton University)

The research paper, entitled “Rate Limits of Additive Manufacturing by Fused Filament Fabrication and Guidelines for High-Throughput System Design,” was recently published in the online journal Additive Manufacturing and addresses how FDM/FFF 3D printing technology has the potential to be sped up significantly.

The researchers, led by one Professor John Hart from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity at MIT, have identified a number of elements that are currently built into most FDM 3D printers which ultimately hinder how fast the machine can operate.

As they explain, most commercial desktop and professional 3D printers are capable of printing objects at a rate of about 10-20 cubic cm an hour at a 0.2 mm layer height, a speed which is determined largely by a pinch-wheel mechanism that feeds the filament into the 3D printer. The pinch-wheel is apparently limited in terms of the force it can exert, which is about 60 newtons, and its feed rate, about nine millimeters per second, both of which allow the printer to properly melt the 3D printing material.

Scott Schiffres, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at Binghamton, commented on the research: “We found that the rate at which a polymer melts is limiting in many implementations. The pressure required to push the polymer through the nozzle is a sharp function of temperature. If the core is not hot enough, the printer will not be able to squeeze the polymer through the nozzle.”

FDM 3D printing

Though not much has been divulged about how this limitation will be overcome by the research team, even the fact that it has been identified is promising. As Schiffres added: “The work has implications for how to scale up additive manufacturing and the trade-off between higher-resolution printing and speed. We hope it will inspire future work to investigate pre-heating of the polymer, and printing with multiple extruders.”

The research paper, which was co-authored by MIT graduate students Jamison Go and Adam Stevens, received funding and support from the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the Department of Defense, the MIT International Design Centre (IDC), and MIT MakerWorks.

For anyone who has begrudgingly stayed up all night to keep an eye on an important print, this discovery from the 3D printing research world is nothing but good news.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Joe D wrote at 4/7/2017 4:35:24 PM:

I see that the Volcano head also generally needs to print thicker layers to really show its speed. But, thinner layers are where the incresed print speed is really needed. I suppose another approach is to use a multi-inlet single-outlet type of head, similar to some of the color print heads that accept multiple color filament. This approach has been used for large format printers for decades. The idea is that you can choose to install color print heads (typically CMYK), or multiple black ink heads. The all-black option increases print speed around 4x the color option. In the 3D printer world, a print head that accepts 4 filaments as input, that is output through one nozzle, could extrude at 4x the rate of a single filament.

Norm wrote at 4/5/2017 8:52:53 PM:

Volcano heads have pretty much eliminated the melt speed problem. CoreXY mechanism helps with carriage inertia. IMHO the real problem is layer adhesion strength drops dramatically as speed increases.

Folatt wrote at 4/5/2017 1:57:59 PM:

How much faster is a whole lot faster? Two half a lots faster?

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