MIT has taken traditional additive manufacturing methods, given them a tweak and a boost, and produced a resulting product that works up to ten times faster than current commercial technologies. The concept and application of additive manufacturing has been appealing for some time now, but the primary drawback of 3D printing is the significant time it takes to produce even the smallest of items. Objects no larger than the tip of your pinky could take an hour or more to print using commercial additive manufacturing tools, a significant reason why the process has not been adopted widely at the consumer level.
However, MIT’s Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity may have shattered the previous conception that additive manufacturing has to be a time-consuming process. By identifying and improving three factors which tend to slow the sequence of additive manufacturing, Anastasios John Hart, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, was able to hone in on improvements that would accelerate the process.
According to New Atlas, Hart and former graduate student Jamison Go identified ‘the speed at which the print head can be moved, the force which pushes the print head through the nozzle, and the rate the material can be melted to make it flow’ as the factors which needed to be improved in order to speed the additive printing process.
By adding a laser which melts plastic filament more rapidly and re-designing key features of the print head, they have produced a printer that functions up to ten times more quickly than commercial competitors. Dubbed “FastFFF”, for ‘fast fused filament fabrication’, there are still some kinks to be worked out. Specifically, the speed at which the parts are printing has meant that, in some cases, the previous layers aren’t allowed enough time to significantly cool and harden, creating occasional distortion. That said, the team remains confident that this issue can and will be fixed, planning to proceed with further improvement of the FastFFF, whichever production route they choose to pursue.
We’re not sure of the path it will take yet. We may start our own company that will make or sell these faster desktop printers or work with an existing 3D printer company to license the technology into their current machines – Hart told TechCrunch.