3d printers

Rutgers engineers solve the trade-off between resolution and time for FDM 3D printers

FDM 3D printers have to deal with the trade-off between throughput and resolution. High resolution prints require a finer nozzle, through which less material can pass, increasing print times. Increase the nozzle size and you get faster prints, while sacrificing resolution. Neither sacrifice is easy: time is money, and the post-production steps required to smooth out raw prints also cost money.

A team of research engineers at Rutgers believe they have solved this dilemma inexpensively.

“The new approach, called Multiplexed Manufacture of Fused Filaments (MF3), uses a single gantry, the sliding structure of a 3D printer, to print individual or multiple parts simultaneously. By programming their prototype to move in efficient patterns and using a series of small nozzles rather than a single large nozzle, as is often the case in conventional printing to deposit molten material, researchers were able to increase print resolution and size as well as significantly reduce print time.”

The hardware needed to assemble an MF3 system exists and can be purchased commercially. The real innovation of the Rutgers team lies in the software, which cuts the object to be printed into layers, distributes these layers between the nozzles and determines the toolpath. This allows a single printer “to simultaneously print multiple, geometrically distinct, non-contiguous parts of different sizes”. Some examples:

“MF3 will change the way thermoplastic printing is done,” says Jeremy Clemangraduate student researcher at Rutgers School of Engineering.

You can read more details about the system in the team’s research paper, “Scalable, Flexible, and Resilient Parallelization of Fused Filament Manufacturing: Breaking Endemic Compromises in Material Extrusion Additive Manufacturing.”