Cornell researchers give the makers of 3D objects an option of making necessary changes to the objects as they are being printed. Their new interactive prototyping system “prints what is being designed as the designer is designing it; the designer can pause anywhere in the process to test, measure and, if necessary, make changes that will be added to the physical model still in the printer.”
By creating a “low-fidelity sketch” of what the finished product will look like and allowing the designer to redraw it as it develops, the researchers said, “We believe that this approach has the potential to improve the overall quality of the design process.”
3-D printing offers a great tool to designers who are looking to prototype products to get a physical copy of a design. However, making changes to the current prototype means designers have to wait for the current version to finish printing, then change the design and print the whole thing again from scratch, perhaps many times.
The new system, dubbed “On-the-Fly Print System”, is an improved version of an innovative “WirePrint” printer developed in a collaboration between Guimbretière’s lab and the Hasso Platner Institute in Potsdam, Germany. The new system improves upon the current printer by using a modified “WirePrint” which allows it to create a wire frame skeleton of the object instead of printing the entire solid object at once.
Another modification to the printer is adding two more degrees of movement: yaw and pitch. This gives it 5 degrees of freedom and therefore allows for much more complex models to be printed.
If someone wants to remove something that’s already been printed, there is also a cutter to remove those parts of the model. The printer’s nozzle can rotate to any side of an object to add surface. This extended nozzle makes it possible to reach ahead of the wire frame handle of an object and change it from within. The most important part is a detachable base of the system which lets the designer remove an object for testing and measurement and then replace it so that printing can commence, the researchers said.
A CAD software plug-in helps the designer to work on the design while altering the object while its printing. The plug-in designs the wire frame version of the object and sends instructions to the printer, allowing for interruptions. Printing can continue while the designer can make changes to the CAD file, and will resume when that work is done, incorporating the changes into the print.
Researchers demonstrated this by using a model of a toy airplane to fit into a Lego airport set as an example. The CAD program was used to add the wings to the printable area. When the wing finished printing, it was again removed to check on the design and then put back in the printer. Then the designer moved on to design the cockpit while the second wing was being printed. This process was continued till the whole plane was printed.
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