Rutgers University engineers have developed a new method for 3D printing large and complex parts at a fraction of the cost of current methods. The new method, known as Multiplexed Fused Filament Fabrication – MF3 technology, is expected to revolutionise the 3D printing industry. Their findings were published in the journal Additive Manufacturing.
According to Jeremy Cleeman, a graduate student researcher at the Rutgers School of Engineering and the lead author of the study, “We have more tests to run to understand the strength and geometric potential of the parts we can make, but as long as those elements are there, we believe this could be a game changer for the industry.”
Multiplexed Fused Filament Fabrication – MF3 Technology
The new technology can be classified under the material extrusion category of the 3D printing technologies. It was developed to overcome the challenges encountered in conventional Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printing and hence the name.
Known as Multiplexed Fused Filament Fabrication (MF3), the new method, prints individual or multiple parts at the same time using a single gantry, the sliding structure on a 3D printer. The researchers were able to increase printing resolution and size while also significantly decreasing printing time by programming their prototype to move in efficient patterns and depositing molten material with a series of small nozzles rather than a single large nozzle, as is common in conventional printing.
Cleeman added, “MF3 will change how thermo-plastic printing is done.” He also mentioned that his team has applied for a U.S. patent for their technology.
The 3D printing industry has struggled with the throughput-resolution tradeoff, which refers to the speed at which 3D printers deposit material versus the resolution of the finished product. Larger-diameter nozzles are faster than smaller ones, but they produce more ridges and contours that must be smoothed out later, increasing post-production costs significantly.
Smaller nozzles, on the other hand, deposit material with greater resolution, but current methods using conventional software are too slow to be cost effective.
Rutgers researchers also developed slicer software that optimised gantry arm movement and determined when the nozzles should be turned on and off to maximise efficiency. According to the researchers, MF3’s new “toolpath strategy” allows them to “concurrently print multiple, geometrically distinct, non-contiguous parts of varying sizes” on a single printer.
Furthermore, because the nozzles can be turned on and off independently, an MF3 printer has built-in resiliency, reducing the likelihood of costly downtime. In a conventional printer, for example, if a nozzle fails, the printing process must be stopped. In MF3 printing, another nozzle on the same arm can take over the work of a malfunctioning nozzle.
As 3D printing becomes more popular in manufacturing, particularly for prototyping new products, resolving the throughput-resolution trade-off is critical, and MF3 can play a significant role in this effort.
Cleeman concluded by saying, “Known as Multiplexed Fused Filament Fabrication, the MF3 technology could be a game changer for the 3D-printing industry.”
Rajiv Malhotra, Alex Bogut, Brijesh Mangrolia, Adeline Ripberger, Qingze Zou, and a researcher from the University of Louisville all contributed to the study.
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