While most of the common printers may fabricate a few Lego-sized bricks in one hour, the new model can print it just few minutes.
MIT engineers have developed a new desktop 3D printer that can perform up to 10 times faster that the conventional counterparts. While most of the common printers may fabricate a few Lego-sized bricks in one hour, the new model can print it just few minutes.
The key to the nimble design lies in the printer’s compact printhead, which consists of two new speed-enhancing components: a screw mechanism that feeds polymer material through a nozzle at high force; and a laser, built into the printhead, that rapidly heats and melts the material, making it to flow faster through the nozzle.
The team also displayed the new designed by printing several detailed, handheld 3D objects, including small eyeglass frames, a bevel gear, and a miniature replica of the MIT dome — each, built from scratch within few minutes.
Anastasios John Hart, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, believes the new printer demonstrate the potential for 3D printing to become a more viable production technique.
“If I can get a prototype part, maybe a bracket or a gear, in five to 10 minutes rather than an hour, or a bigger part over my lunch break rather than the next day, I can engineer, build, and test faster,” says Hart.
The researchers initially printed several complex parts using the new printer, each produced within five to 10 minutes, compared with an hour for conventional printers. However, they had to face some glitches in their speedier design. The extruded plastic is fed through the nozzle at such high forces and temperatures that a printed layer can still be slightly molten by the time the printer is extruding a second layer.
Researchers are currently taking on the same design challenge, in combination with the mathematics by which the path of the printhead can be optimised. The team will also explore new materials to feed through the nozzle.
“We’re interested in applying this technique to more advanced materials, like high strength polymers, composite materials. We are also working on larger-scale 3-D printing, not just printing desktop-scale objects but bigger structures for tooling, or even furniture,” Hart says. “The capability to print fast opens the door to many exciting opportunities.”