Researchers at University College London’s Bartlett School of Architecture recently revealed a new manufacturing method. This new design implementation process shows how structures can originate from single continuous, strands of plastic. The method has less to do with hardware than with the researcher’s software. Whereas most software use a layer by layer deposition method, this one treats everything as one connected workflow.
Using this technology, the researchers printed a voxel chair with a design derived from Vernor Panton’s Panton chair. The chair curves in an S-shape making the whole design has a very complex geometry. Naturally, this made it a good test for the strength and accuracy of the print. The original chair was made from a solid polystyrene structure, whereas this voxel chair is made from a 2.36-kilometre line of plastic with hollow spaces inside its structure. As compared to the original, the voxel chair has a web-like structure.
In this method, the robot arm extrudes the plastic into the air where it quickly cools off. It does this continuously to produce a number of voxels that constitute the structure of the chair. While we do not know whether the chair will be commercially available, the researcher are planning on releasing the software to the wider public.
Benefits of the Method
The method allows for very intricate designs using small units of complex structure to form a functional object. As a result, it could open up doors into newer, stronger structures for objects. Aside from that, this method also allows for large objects to be lighter and more cost-effective. This is because of how many hollow areas are present in the design.
The researchers have also noted that it has potential uses within the field of meta-materials. Since meta-materials require subtle, micro-scale patterns indented into the structure of the material itself, this method can help fulfil that need. The researchers developed the software with the intention of giving designers more control over the minutiae of the 3D printing process.
SCARA and Other Similar Methods
Robot arms used to extrude printed objects are gaining quite some prominence with the additive manufacturing field. One such model that comes to mind is SCARA. These systems originated as pick and drop assembly robots in assembly lines but engineers have repurposed them for 3D printing as well.
Robotic arms like these have a 3-Axis movement that gives the a range of motion many traditional extruders do not have. Another advantage of the arm is that square build spaces do not constrain its motion. Due to these factors, robotic arms can follow more complex commands when it comes to certain structures.