Exploring New 3D Printing Materials and Increased Speeds via In-Process Monitoring


ETH Zurich fine tunes deposition rates [Source: YouTube]

Engineers from MIT and ETH Zurich use computer vision to help adjust material deposition rates in real time.

Curing time is the Achilles’ heel of multimaterial 3D printing. Typically, a multimaterial 3D printer uses thousands of nozzles to deposit resins which are then smoothed with a scraper or roller before being cured with ultraviolet (UV) light. As a result, this process is constrained by how quickly the resins cure, limiting the types of materials that can be 3D printed.

Now, engineers from MIT, ETH Zurich and the start-up Inkbit have developed a new system that uses computer vision to monitor the printing process and adjust deposition rates to ensure material consistency across each layer of a build. Because the system replaces the need for smoothing or scraping, it can work with materials that cure more slowly than the acrylates most commonly used in 3D printing. These include thiol-based materials, which cure more slowly than acrylates but are also more elastic, more stable over a wider range of temperatures and don’t degrade as quickly when exposed to sunlight.

According to researchers, the new system of 3D printing is about 660 times faster than comparable production-grade systems. This is possible due to automatic adjustments which eliminate the need to slow down or pause for curing times.

This innovative system involves four high-frame-rate cameras and two lasers that consistently scan the print surface. Information obtained from this scans is transformed into a high-resolution depth map by the computer vision system. This depth map is then compared to the CAD model of the part being printed to adjust the deposition rate.

Robert Katzschmann, assistant professor of Robotics at ETH Zurich, states that “The printer can geometrically craft almost anything you want using multiple materials. There’s hardly any limit to what you can send to the printer, and what you receive is truly functional and durable”.

Indeed, using this approach has allowed the team to 3D print complex robotic devices that blend both soft and rigid materials. This includes robotic grippers modeled on a human hand complete with artificial bones, ligaments and tendons.

“Our key insight here was to develop a machine-vision system and completely active feedback loop,” explained Wojciech Matusik, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. “This is almost like endowing a printer with a set of eyes and a brain, where the eyes observe what is being printed, and then the brain of the machine directs it as to what should be printed next.”

Read the rest of this story at ENGINEERING.com

Original source


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