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No More Stair Stepping

Nonplanar 3D Printing Gives Curvy Top Layers

Picture of Hanna Watkin
by Hanna Watkin
Aug 28, 2019
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Researchers from the University of Hamburg are developing a Slic3r modification that improves print surface quality using Nonplanar layers. Printing in three dimensions simultaneously it results in smooth surfaces with no stair-stepping effect.

A new approach to fused filament fabrication (FFF) slicing has been proposed by researchers from the University of Hamburg’s Department of Informatics. The work began in 2018 with a Master thesis.

The researcher’s method combines both nonplanar and planar layers to remove the “stair-stepping effect” on 3D printed surfaces. The resulting prints are stronger, of higher quality and provide smoother 3D printed object surfaces.

To do this, the researchers developed a slicing algorithm which detects which parts should be printed as nonplanar layers. They explain: “With this approach, the printable areas are detected automatically and checked for possible collisions while printing… The modified Slic3r then generates a nonplanar toolpath on top of the regular layers.”

Then, a regular planar structure is printed below the nonplanar surfaces. The method the researchers have developed is based on the open source Slic3r model slicing tool. Although it’s not something that anyone can do right now, it is likely that we’ll see something similar implemented into slicers of the future. Check out the video below:

Get Involved

Although the video was only uploaded to YouTube one week ago, it has already been viewed over 150,000 times to the surprise of the research team.

In a comment, a member of the team explains that the video is linked to a scientific conference paper which isn’t released yet and puts the huge number of views down to “YouTube algorithm magic.”

As a result, the software is currently only a proof of concept state with “more bugs than features”. However, the researchers do ask that anyone who wants to help should look at the code on GitHub and contribute by reporting bugs there.

The open-source implementation can be used on all common three-axis 3D printers. The researchers explain that they compare surface quality, slicing, and printing times with traditional planar slicing.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen experimentation with nonplanar 3D printing. As early as 2016 tinkerers have toyed with Slic3r to yield nonplanar prints, letting this groovy #(or rather, wavy) distortion run through the center of prints, add spectacular surface patterns and, generally, achieve results close to the that of the study detailed above.

Source: University of Hamburg

License: The text of "Nonplanar 3D Printing Gives Curvy Top Layers" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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