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FastFFF: Just Add Lasers

New MIT Technology Makes 3D Printers 10 Times Faster

Picture of Anne Freier
by Anne Freier
Nov 29, 2017

3D printing has just been given a speed boost thanks to a team of MIT researchers who have developed a 3D printer that is ten times faster than consumer models at creating builds.

Such high throughput printing and additive manufacturing processes can lower costs and scale processes in the future.

Developed by a team of engineers at MIT, the desktop-scale extrusion additive manufacturing system provides a much larger build rate than other commercial systems.

The team says that processes which traditionally take around an hour to print can be finished within just minutes using the ‘FastFFF’ system.

FFF stands for fused filament fabrication technology and as the name suggests, the system is a faster version thereof. It is basically the same as FDM which is used across most 3D printers to deposit melted plastic layers – but with some technological twists.

How To Speed Up a Printer

The team found that faster extrusion additive manufacturing can be achieved using a novel high-throughput print head.

The FastFFF system combines a nut-feed extruder, laser-heated polymer liquefier, and parallel gantry to speed up the extrusion forces as well as the filament heating process and gantry motion.

The revised printhead includes a screw mechanism that can feed the filaments at much faster speeds, which results in an overall faster process. In addition, a laser has been fitted closer to this mechanism in order to speed up the melting of the plastics.

Overall, the high-speed solution does offer the possibility of testing new methodologies in additive modeling as well as business models. In addition, the team recognizes that the technology could potentially be adapted to deal with higher temperature thermoplastics and greater extrusion force composite materials. If you want to drill deeper, here’s the link to the research.

John Hart, Associate Professor at MIT, would not be opposed to the technology reaching the market via licensing the technology or starting a distribution opportunity. However, the path the team will take is not yet certain.

FastFFF would certainly be an improvement for companies currently employing desktop 3D printers by offering drastically reduced printing speeds. Indeed, being able to create handheld objects in under 10 minutes would seriously impact prototyping.

As for the cost of the system, things aren’t fully worked out just yet. The prototype cost $15,000 with the laser and servo motors being the costliest. According to the paper, the authors would propose a modification of the system to feature a heated enclosure to become more competitive for commercial use.

(Source: Techcrunch)

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