A Faster 3D Printer May Be On The Horizon

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3D Printing is a growing and revolutionary field that is growing rapidly.  Organizations use 3D printing for things like prototyping, marketing samples or even to produce products.  However, there is one major factor preventing it from working its way into the daily operations of an organization. The fact that its slow.  Most standard desktop 3D printers take over an hour to build just a small object. For 3D printing to grow in commercial or educational environments, a faster design may be necessary. 

With a new design from a group of MIT engineers, faster 3D printing speeds may be right around the corner.  This new design is a real game changer, as it would print 3D objects up to 10 times faster than devices that are commercially available now. This new design could print complete objects in just minutes, as opposed to hours.

In developing the new design for the 3D printer, Anastasios John Hart, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT determined there were 3 factors that limited the speed of desktop 3D printers:

  • The speed a printhead can be moved
  • The force pushing the printing material through the nozzle
  • The rate the material can be melted to make it flow

"Given our understanding of what limits those three variables, we asked how do we design a new printer ourselves that can improve all three in one system," says Hart. "And now we've built it, and it works quite well."

The “FastFFF” or Fast Fused Filament Fabrication system, has redesigned mechanisms in and around the printhead.  The printer also has an added laser to melt the filament faster as it passes through the nozzle. The result? 3D Printing speeds up to 10 times faster than current printing speeds.

Given the great achievement, there is still one detail the team of engineers at MIT still have to figure out.  By accomplishing speeds ten times fast than their 3D printing counterparts, they developed another problem with time.  The current design does not give each layer of plastic time to completely firm up before the next later was printed – leading to distorted or softened productions.

"We found that when you finish one layer and go back to begin the next layer, the previous layer is still a little too hot," says Hart. "So we have to cool the part actively as it prints, to retain the shape of the part so it doesn't get distorted or soften."

The team of engineers is optimistic that they’ll be able to figure out this problem – and when they do, this would be a huge development for the 3D printing industry.  Imagine repair technicians having the ability to 3D print prosthetics on-demand in minutes, or businesses having the ability to print a product in-person and on-demand for a customer?  With 95% of companies who use 3D Printers saying it gives them a competitive advantage in their strategies, this new 3D printing design could be a huge for the 3D-Printing industry.

(Sources: MIT via Eurekalert, Forbes)