June 26, 2014

Everyone's now aware of 3D printing. There are literally hundreds of desktop 3D printers emerging on the market, but most of them have very small build volume which limits the type of parts that can be printed. Makerbot has recently filed a patent (US20140074274 A1) which is titled " 3D Printing of large objects", where the Makerbot team seems to have found a method how to build a model of an object larger than the build volume of a 3D printer.

The printer will include a camera and a processor so the printer may be configured for augmented operation using data acquired from the camera. A variety of parameters may be usefully adjusted during a fabrication process, for example temperature of the working volume, temperature of a build platform, extrusion temperature, extrusion rate, viscosity of build material, movement speed of the extruder, layer height, etc. These data will be stored in a local memory or a remote storage device.

1. First of all, when a model and a build volume are identified, an object model may be processed to create a number of sub-objects that can be fit into the build volume of the 3D printer. The slicing engine may separate the object model into sub-object models, and more generally, the printer may perform the partitioning of the object model.

If you have more than one 3D printer, the system will also able to associate the sub-objects with particular three-dimensional printers according to printer capabilities, e.g., with larger parts going to higher-speed printers or with more complex or detailed parts going to higher-resolution printers.

2. The system will add assembly features to each sub-object model. For example, assembly features can include "holes on complementary sub-object surfaces, hole/pin combinations on complementary surfaces, protrusions, mating or inter-locking structures, rough or textured surfaces at corresponding locations between sub-objects, to facilitate the use of externally-supplied glue etc."

Another feature would be, "asymmetrical arrangement of convex protrusions on one sub-object and corresponding concave protrusions on the corresponding sub-object, which collectively only mate when the sub-objects are uniquely oriented with respect to each other," according to the patent filing.

3. It is also possible to connect sub-objects using standardized pieces fabricated using some other technique and materials:

"For example, the holes may be shaped and sized for wooden dowels, standard sized metal pins, custom made die case connectors, or any other suitable connectors. In some implementations, the connectors are manufactured from a build material different from the sub-object build material, such that the fabricated connectors melt at a lower temperature than the sub-objects. Using such connectors, an assembled physical instance of the object may be heated in order to liquefy or partially liquefy connectors to induce bonding to the sub-objects and the creation of a more permanent assembled object."

This patent was filed in Sep 6, 2013, with the description of "a model of an object larger than the build volume of a three ­dimensional printer is processed to separate the model into a number of suitably­sized sub­objects, and then features are automatically added to facilitate constructions of the objects into an assembled physical model of the object."

The patent has not yet been approved, and there is no prove yet that the approach works practically. We could expect Makerbot to eventually develop a 3D printer in the future that includes all these features above to make 3D printing more functional and efficient.

Source: Google Patents

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

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IndyIndustrial3der wrote at 6/28/2014 12:24:52 AM:

Sheesh. I just did what the above describes to a model today. I OFTEN print things much bigger that the printer. My model today will take 12 fairly full prints (this is going to take a while...) that all have to be assembled after, to look like one part. And that's planned for a Fortus 900, not a small scale machine. I use custom macros in my 3D software, and can use features in Materialise software to do this fairly efficiently. Makerbot wouldn't need to patent this, if they actually embraced the open-sourced nature of their market. I sincerely hope it's rejected, and that Ultimaker has it out first (and better, easier to use, and still open source).

michaelc wrote at 6/26/2014 10:24:16 PM:

So they are trying to patent the jigsaw puzzle?

ThatGuy wrote at 6/26/2014 7:22:51 PM:

Sooo, they are patenting a pin and register system? Duh? Let Lego squash their nuts. If I were the opposing consul, I'd just sit at the plantiffs table and building things with Lego during Bre's presentation. Doesn't SLIC3R have split function in it already? Printing parts smaller than the total build and pasting them together- that's a patentable idea? If I were LEGO, I'f take a dumptruck full of LEGO Blocks and dump them on Bre's doorstep. Also, I'd ban them from calling on LEGO to sell machines. Here's is the big picture. Printers are the 'bitch' in the additive manufacturing chain. The real keys are the design step and the materials. These printer companies know this and are doing anything they can to get out of the hardware business and take the high ground. Printers are dumb machines that do what they are told. What they are told to do and how materials are brought together are the real key.

JJ wrote at 6/26/2014 6:01:08 PM:

The only part of this that might be original enough to patent is the algorithm - and algorithms aren't supposed to be patentable! The Supreme Court (although not, unfortunately, the patent court) has been pretty clear that you can't patent using software to do something that can be done without it, and this is an obvious and long-used strategy for making better use of 3D printers.

Chooch wrote at 6/26/2014 5:07:54 PM:

I think specifically, they are trying to patent the software aspect of breaking down an object and tolerancing for print. I do this manually all the time with dove tail like features to create seamless large 3d prints. I agree though the verbage is so vague that it almost sounds like I would violate there patent if I even did it manually.

Fuck Bre Pettis wrote at 6/26/2014 3:15:36 PM:

Bre Pettis has built a fortune on other peoples' work. I cannot think of a single original thing he has contributed to 3D printing. This parasite continuously tries to stall innovation by claiming that he invented this or that and has an exclusive right to use it. What a fraud. This guy is the worst thing that has happened to 3D printing. He is totally without integrity. The technology is quickly blowing past his under-performing and comically over-priced MakerBot and now they are flailing desperately because they have nothing new to offer. I hope Stratasys is starting to realize how bad they got scammed by that hipster twat.

Dave wrote at 6/26/2014 2:26:12 PM:

I have done the manual version of this with my printer, a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic by designing my prints to have holes in one piece and "pins" on the other to secure it all together, with or without glue. Their patent is on the "process" of automatically determining an object will not fit and making the assembly points automatically. This would all be software-side... and software patents especially bug me at this point. Hopefully this patent will not be granted but with how screwed up our patent system is they will probably get it and lots of money will be wasted getting rid of it.

Bri wrote at 6/26/2014 2:17:00 PM:

Yeah, so they are trying to patent splitting a large model up into smaller components that can later be assembled. This is how idiotic the patent system is right now. If they want to patent their algorithm on how specifically to do this, that's fine, but this is simply absurd. Not surprised though as they are now patenting Thingiverse users' creations.

Spook wrote at 6/26/2014 12:19:01 PM:

they are patenting Lego

Captain haddock wrote at 6/26/2014 12:05:59 PM:

Lol how the fuck can they approve these kind of patents at the patent office. Makerbot is just trying to get these abstract patents and the patent office seems to be all oke with it, as long as someone just pays them. 3D Printing robot arms already exist (printing bigger then themselves) and printing lego/puzzles is also been done for long time. Just another example of corruption of the patent system and companies who think its smart to fit themselves into a traditional business model.

Sebastián wrote at 6/26/2014 5:09:32 AM:

Ok.. this is shit , it has been done before therefore there is prior art... they are basicly patenting 3d printed puzzles... you have droped low makerbot... :c

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