One of the principal advantages of 3D printing is that it can be used to manufacture parts that cannot be made using any other technique giving the designer great freedom and permitting them to produce highly optimized parts. A typical example would be a strut optimized for minimum weight while maintaining adequate strength for the application.
Despite this advantage, one of the factors holding back the adoption of 3D printing in manufacturing, is speed. The output of today's 3D printers (across all technologies) is much slower than that of other manufacturing processes such as CNC milling, injection molding or forging. As a result, the cost to manufacture 3D printed parts is prohibitive and often outweighs any benefit from the optimized part (there are some exceptions, such as dental and hearing aid industries, where 3D printers have replaced manual labor and thus led to significant cost savings). If the speed of 3D printing increases, then it can be transformed into a viable manufacturing technique and open up a host of opportunities.
In this Instructable, we're going to look at how to increase the speed of a Digital Light Processing Stereolithography (DLP SLA) 3D printer, specifically the Autodesk Ember 3D Printer. The techniques that we describe here apply to the whole class of DLP SLA printers and can be replicated on many different systems.
The Ember printer is open which means it can be easily used to explore the limits of DLP SLA 3D printing. Through optimization of the printer settings, software, and material (without hardware modifications) it is possible to increase the standard print speed of Ember from 18mm/hour to 440mm/hour an increase by a factor of 24 for a particular class of geometries.
So why is this important and why as a software company is Autodesk conducting this research?
- By only tweaking a few things in the machine settings, software and material you can print high speed on a system that's readily available.
- We want to continue advancing the state of additive manufacturing and we expect the best advances in manufacturing processes to come from approaches that combine hardware, materials, and software.
This research is the first step towards realising high speed 3D printing in a production environment.There are unique design rules that apply for high-speed DLP SLA that are beyond the capabilities of the current generation of design software. By researching in this field, our goal is to drive the additive manufacturing industry forward by developing a connected ecosystem that can provide designers and manufacturers the software they need unlock this class of technology.
We also want to demonstrate the power of an open approach to technology. If Ember were a closed system, then researchers would be unable to explore the limits of additive manufacturing. With Ember, we have created a powerful research platform that gives scientists, engineers and designers the opportunity to explore the future of additive manufacturing.
If this sounds interesting, read step 1 to learn about the science behind Ember. If you're already familiar with how DLP SLA works skip ahead to step 2 to learn how to configure Ember for high speed.