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MIT Researchers Speed Up 3D Printing 10 Times

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MIT Researchers Speed Up 3D Printing 10 Times

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a desktop 3D printer that they say is up to 10 times faster than those currently commercially available.

Anastasios John Hart, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of MIT’s Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity and the Mechanosynthesis Group, partnered with Jamison Go, a former graduate researcher in Hart’s lab, identified in a previous paper three issues that slow down printer performance.

The first hurdle was the mechanism feeding printer filament to the printing nozzle. Most printers use a pinch-wheel design, or two wheels that turn together to pinch the filament between them and pull it toward the head. The problem with this design is that, when the process is sped up, the wheels lose traction and slip against the filament instead of pulling it.

To move filament faster, the team replaced the pinch wheels with a screw design inside the printhead that turns and pulls a textured strand of filament through as it does so.

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“Using this screw mechanism, we have a lot more contact area with the threaded texture on the filament,” Hart said in a prepared statement. “Therefore we can get a much higher driving force, easily 10 times greater force.”

Another factor limiting printing speed is how fast the filament can be heated. Most commercial desktop printers heat the nozzle on the printhead to in turn heat and melt the filament through conduction.

Hart and Go used a laser that can be quickly turned on and off to control the amount of heat applied to the filament, and thus, how much is melted.

The third problem the team had to overcome was the speed at which the printhead can move. To meet this challenge, the pair designed “an H-shaped frame powered by two motors, connected to a motion stage that holds the printhead,” according to an MIT News release. “The gantry was designed and programmed to move nimbly between multiple positions and planes. In this way, the entire printhead was able to move fast enough to keep up with the extruding plastic’s faster feeds.”

Hart said the speed at which 3D printers operate is a main factor keeping them from wider use.

“If I can get a prototype part, maybe a bracket or a gear, in five to 10 minutes rather than an hour, or a bigger part over my lunch break rather than the next day, I can engineer, build and test faster,” said Hart, in an MIT news release. “If I’m a repair technician and I could have a fast 3D printer in my vehicle, I could 3D-print a repair part on-demand after I figure out what’s broken. I don’t have to go to a warehouse and take it out of inventory.”

In the future, the team plans to speed the process up even more through active cooling of the object being printed and mathematical optimization of the path the printhead takes as it works. They also hope to work with new print materials.

“We’re interested in applying this technique to more advanced materials, like high strength polymers, composite materials. We are also working on larger-scale 3D printing, not just printing desktop-scale objects but bigger structures for tooling, or even furniture,” Hart said in a prepared statement. “The capability to print fast opens the door to many exciting opportunities.”

Hart and Go published their most recent work in Additive Manufacturing. The paper is available at sciencedirect.com.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

San Diego researchers cut operation times by 25% with 3D printed hip models

Aug 3, 2017 | By Benedict

Bioengineers from the University of California San Diego and physicians from Rady Children’s Hospital are using 3D printed models to improve surgeries for slipped capital femoral epiphysis, the most common hip disorder found in children ages 9 to 16. Use of models cut surgery time by about 25%.

3D printed hip models helped San Diego surgeons cut operation times by around 25 percent

We see 3D printed medical models so frequently these days, it can be easy to accept their existence without questioning them.

But have you ever wondered just how useful such models can be—in numerical terms? While it makes total sense that a 3D printed model could improve a surgeon’s performance by allowing him or her to practice, sometimes it’s hard to gauge just how much improvement there really is.

That’s what makes a recent study at the University of California San Diego and San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital so important.

In the study, researchers created 3D printed models of patient hip joints, to allow surgeons to practice their procedure before doing the real thing.

But they also used a control group, letting a few surgeons perform the procedure without a 3D printed aid to see exactly how much difference the 3D printed models were making.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics.

In the study, Dr. Vidyadhar Upasani, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Rady Children’s and UC San Diego and the paper’s senior author, operated on 10 young patients with slipped capital femoral epiphysis, a common hip disorder that affects about 11 in 100,000 children in the United States every year.

Five of Upasani’s operations were assisted with 3D printed hip models; five were not. Two other surgeons also operated on different groups of five patients, without using 3D printed models.

Excitingly, the results of the study showed 3D printing in a positive light. In the group where Upasani used 3D printed models, surgeries were 38-45 minutes shorter compared with the two control groups.

Student Jason Caffrey helped develop the 3D printed models

And according to the study’s researchers, these time savings would translate into at least $2,700 in savings per surgery.

Given that the kind of 3D printer required for the models would only cost around $2,200, such equipment clearly represents a solid investment—so much so, in fact, that Rady Children’s orthopedics department has already acquired its own.

“Being able to practice on these 3D models is crucial,” Upasani concluded. “It’s now hard to plan surgeries without them.â€�

To make the 3D printed models, two UC San Diego students, Jason Caffrey and Lillia Cherkasskiy, teamed up with Upasani, bioengineering professor Robert Sah, and their colleagues. They took CT scans of each patient’s pelvis, and used this data to make a computerized model of the bone and growth plate for 3D printing.

Printing took between four and 10 hours for each 3D printed hip model.

When completed, the 3D printed models allowed Upasani to visualize in 3D how the growth plate of each patient was deformed. This allowed him to familiarize himself with the patient’s physiology without using radiation-giving X-rays.

Although this study only focused on one kind of procedure, the speed improvement of 25 percent will be music to the ears of medical 3D printing specialists, and may encourage more hospitals to adopt additive technology.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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