A new 3D printing process has been created by researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey

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Engineers at RutgersNew Jersey State University, have created a way to 3D print large and complex parts at what they say is a fraction of the cost of current methods.

The new approach, called Multiplexed Fused Filament Fabrication (MF3), uses a single gantry, the sliding structure of a 3D printer, to print single or multiple parts simultaneously. The team programmed the prototype to move in efficient patterns, using a series of small nozzles rather than a single large nozzle.

The large single nozzle is more conventional in 3D printing, by using small nozzles to deposit molten material instead, the researchers were able to increase print resolution and size as well as significantly reduce print time.

“We have more testing to do to understand the strength and geometric potential of the parts we can make, but as long as those things are there, we think it could be a game-changer for the industry,” said Jeremy Cleeman, a graduate student. researcher at Rutgers School of Engineering and the lead author of the study.

Larger diameter nozzles are faster than smaller ones, but generate more ridges and contours that need to be smoothed out later, leading to significant post-production costs. Smaller nozzles deposit material with greater resolution, but current methods with conventional software are too slow to be cost effective.

The software used is a key element of MF3 innovation. Rutgers researchers wrote slicer software that optimized gantry arm movement and determined when nozzles should be turned on and off to achieve the greatest efficiency. In the study published by the researchers, they say that the new strategy, which the team coined the “toolpath strategy”, can “simultaneously print multiple geometrically distinct, non-contiguous parts of varying sizes”, using a single printer.

One of the advantages reported by Cleeman is that the hardware used in MF3 can be bought off the shelf and does not need to be customized, which facilitates potential adoption. When using conventional methods, the entire process must be interrupted if the nozzle fails. In MF3 printing, the work of a faulty nozzle can be taken over by another nozzle on the same arm.

The article detailing the new method and the researchers’ findings can be found here.


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