New Filament Tech Can Build Multi-Material Items By 3D Printers

Ordinarily, when using an off shelf 3D printer, it’s quite difficult to print one object that comes with multiple materials. An experimental new system could make it easier, though by utilizing a programmable filament.

Most consumer grade 3D printers create objects via a process referred to as fused deposition modelling. This involves loading-them up with a spool of polymer filament, which they subsequently heat to the freezing point, then extrude-out of their print nozzle. By this way, they build items up, one horizontal layer at a time.

If you like to 3D-print an object that comes with multiple sorts of polymer (such as ones of various colours), you always need to swap the varied polymer filament spools in & out of the printer, as it’s printing the various parts of the object.

This can conceivably get fiddly. If you were printing a vase with differently coloured vertical stripes down the edges, as an example, you’d need to swap between filaments on every printed-layer. That’s where the programmable filament system comes-in.

It starts by analyzing the pc model of the thing to be printed, determining which parts of that item are going to be printed out of which polymers & in what order. It then utilizes the prevailing 3D printer to make a customized filament spool, different sections of which are made up of various polymers.

That spool is printed as a flat horizontal-spiral. To start, all sections that require to be made from the first sort of polymer are printed with gaps between them, where the opposite polymer will go. Then, the one or more other polymers are deposited into those gaps with the joints between the various sections of filament being spliced together.

While the process still require the user to manually swap within the different source spools, this only has got to be done one-time for every sort of polymer getting used.

Once the resulting multi-polymer composite spool is loaded into the printer, the object are often printed in one go. At the points in the build process where changes between polymer types got to occur, the extruded “programmed” filament will change accordingly.

The system is being developed via a collaboration between scientists at Meiji University (Japan), Osaka University & Texas A&M University.

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