Large-scale 3D printers for additive manufacturing: design considerations and challenges
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Since the advent of 3D printing in the mid-1980s, additive manufacturing has grown steadily and found numerous applications across all types of industries. More recently, the industry has seen a spur of growth as the terms of the original patents expired and new companies entered the market. While there exist several different methods of additive manufacturing, polymer-based material extrusion 3D printing (also known as fused filament fabrication) has become one of the most widely used ones due to its lower cost, ease of use, and versatility. While development has greatly expanded the material availability and improved the quality of prints, material extrusion 3D printers have often faced a challenge in physical scaling. There are inherent design hurdles to the extrusion process when the print starts to grow larger. This paper aims to study the market landscape of extrusion-based 3D printing technology for polymer-based material as well as challenges faced in upscaling this technology for industrial applications. A prototype large-scale material extrusion 3D printer has been designed, constructed, and then tested to gain experimental data on large-scale 3D printing using thermoplastic polymers as a printing material. Results of testing and experimentation verified certain key design elements and how they can improve large-scale 3D printing. Testing also revealed how large diameter nozzles for the hot end introduce challenges not seen in small-scale 3D printers. This paper also seeks to consolidate available information pertaining to large-scale 3D printing into one comprehensive document.
Keywords3D printing Additive manufacturing Material extrusion Rapid prototyping Large-format additive manufacturing
The authors acknowledge the technical support received from Automotive Center of Excellence (ACE) at Ontario Tech University.
The authors received financial support from the Robotics, Automation, and Controls grant from the National Research Council-Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), the Firefly grant via Ontario Tech University Brilliant Entrepreneurship program, and our private investor, Mr. Yuri Perez.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
This is to declare that this paper is the result of a capstone project funded through Ontario Tech University Brilliant Entrepreneurship and NRC-IRAP. The fund was given to Opifex Inc. as a start-up company established by the following students: Jesika Shah, Tim Clarke, Maciej Lacki, Scott Kozutsky, and Yuri Perez, and the project was supervised by Dr. Ali Hosseini.
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