3D printing technologies are separated from each other along many lines. Technologies can vary according to materials used or method of printing. However, another way of classifying 3D printers is according to the number of axes they utilize. This is slowly becoming somewhat of a growing industrywide trend. Accordingly, companies are jumping on board this avenue of Research and Development.
As a result, we are seeing more and more printers touting the benefits of an increased range of motion. This week, we saw the release of the Tongtai AMH-350, a 5-axis printer. Previously, we covered a couple of Swiss students who had built their own 6-axis 3D printer. It is plausible that additional axes will be the new technological arms race.
It’s also easy to see why companies are accelerating along this particular path.
Advantages of Additional Axes
- Multiple axes allow for more complex designs.
The additional mobility allows for the printer to capture odd curvatures with accuracy. Additionally, this opens up new possibilities for printing on non-flat surfaces. It could be applied to complex motherboards and PCBs or towards printing computer parts that can curve around surfaces.
So in fact you could say it also means a step closer to printing fully functional electrical equipment.
- They can also print faster and with less material.
Due to the nature of the axial movement of the printers, there is little to no need for support structures. This depends on the printer in question, of course. Generally, the printers will be far better at working with minimum support thanks to the tilting bed. Less support means less printing, thus faster, and of course less material.
- Better quality on overhangs.
Similarly, the tilting bed also allows for stronger and better looking overhangs. However, it is important to note that the extra axes will print in such a way that the term overhang becomes irrelevant. Technically, the printer could be printing in a singular flow of motion, so overhang may not be the right word to use.
The biggest obstacle of adding axes is the complexity of the software. This could rack up R&D time and costs. The software is still in the theoretical and early developmental stage.