Professors Jamison Go and John Hart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Professors Jamison Go and John Hart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Mechanosynthesis Group have developed new hardware that enables fast fused filament fabrication (FastFFF).

See the video below of it in action.

A video of the fast desktop scale extrusion 3D Printing.

Speed-limiting factors to FDM/FFF 3D printing technology:

Desktop 3D printers are fantastic at creating high-quality complex parts (such as my own Fuji or Tiley) on demand, but are notoriously slow. Most can only print one object at a time, one layer at a time, with the speed of print exponentially proportionate to quality desired.

There also remain many speed-limiting factors to FDM/FFF 3D printing, for example:

  1. the amount of force that can be applied to the filament as it’s pushed through the nozzle.
  2. how quickly heat can be transferred to the filament to melt it.
  3. the filament of choice's melting point.
  4. how fast the printhead can move around the build area.
  5. the rate that the material solidifies after extruded in order to support the next layer.

What did they do differently?

Go and Hart have developed methods to tackle three of the speed limiting factors and combined them with an existing standard method of cooling the filament by blowing it with air.

Conventional filament feeding is done by running it between a drive gear and an idler; tension is placed on the drive gear, which has little teeth that bite into the filament and push it down as the gear turns. Too much tension and the drive gear eats into the filament and builds up with plastic before eventually losing grip. Too little tension results in slippage and gaps in extrusion.

Go and Hart decided to take a different route and added a thread to the filament feeding it through a threaded nut; which means that when the nut is turned the filament moves. They also added anti-twist rollers to prevent the filament from rotating as the nut turns. This method of extrusion is not only faster but also much more precise than the typical drive gear setup.

Diagram and image of the new gear technology

They also ingeniously tacked filament heating using lasers and a quartz chamber lined with gold reflectors. As the filament goes through the chamber the laser preheats the filament before it goes through the heating block.

Finally, Go and Hart designed a servo-driven parallel gantry system that rapidly and accurately moves the printhead around with little backlash, mitigating the shake or ripple movement that most desktop 3D printers exhibit when printing too fast.

Images of parts 3D printed using the MIT Techniology

How does the technology compare?

The new printer is dramatically faster than the competition (including a $100,000 commercial 3D printer) with results seven to ten times faster (rate of up to 127 cubic cm per hour).

The quality of the prints could be better and would likely be improved by tuning the retraction and pathing settings, but considering the speed it's still very good.

Who knows, maybe one day these developments will be part of the revolution of decentralised manufacturing and manufacturing on demand, check out my designs for Fuji (Ceramic 3D Printing) and Tiley (Stereolithography) for examples. 

Adapted from 3ders.org

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