3D printing can revolutionize product design is increasingly being accepted. The technology is potent to revolutionize the manufacture and design of products across a vast range of fields, including 3D printed dental products, customized consumer products, and bone and medical implants.
On the downside, 3D printing creates a large volume of expensive and unsustainable waste and is time-intensive, thus, making it difficult for the adoption of the technology on a large scale.
For example, for custom objects using 3D printer, especially unusually shaped ones, the technology needs to support printed stands to balance the object. This is because 3D printing involves layer-by-layer creation of the object that helps maintain its integrity. However, after printing, the supports need to be removed manually, which requires hand finishing that can result in surface roughness or shape inaccuracies. Moreover, the materials used to make the supports often cannot be reused, hence discarded, which contributes to the escalating problem of 3D printed waste material.
To address this, in a maiden attempt, researchers at the Viterbi Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, USC have fabricated a low-cost reusable support method. The effort carried out is to reduce the need for 3D printers for wasteful supports, thus, improving the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of 3D printing to a great extent.
Meanwhile, traditional 3D printing used Fused Deposition Modeling technique, which involves layer-by-layer printing directly on a static metal surface. Conversely, the new prototype of 3D printing uses a programmable, dynamically-controlled surface fabricated of moveable metal pins to replace the printed supports. In this arrangement, as the pins rise, the printer progressively constructs the product. The testing of the prototype revealed to have saved nearly 35% material to pint object, explained the lead researcher.