SYSTEM, METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR 3D PRINTING
1. A three-dimensional printer comprising:
- a print head, said print head configured over an operational area;
a plurality of nozzles attached to and underside of said print head, a material extruded from said nozzles employed to form an object; and
a processor, said processor configured to control the position of said print head over said operational area during the formation of said object, and configured to control the respective nozzles and the flow of said material therethrough,wherein at least two of said nozzles, each independently controlled by and at the command of said processor, extrude material together in the formation of said object,wherein said at least two of said nozzles together extrude material over separate areas of said operational area,wherein the number of said plurality of nozzles on said print head is within the range of about 10-0,000.
The present invention is directed to three-dimensional printing techniques, methodologies, systems and apparatus to facilitate increased print speed. Through the use of multiple nozzles on a print head printing line by line, more material is deposited. By including nozzles sufficient for a line dimensional (or portion) of a page or planar element of an object design, the material deposition for an entire plane or layer is done line by line in one pass of the print head. Likewise, through the inclusion of multiple lasers, beams or energy sources more material can be cured, such as all along a contour line, instead of point by point.
- 1. A three-dimensional printer comprising:
a print head, said print head configured over an operational area; a plurality of nozzles attached to and underside of said print head, a material extruded from said nozzles employed to form an object; and a processor, said processor configured to control the position of said print head over said operational area during the formation of said object, and configured to control the respective nozzles and the flow of said material therethrough, wherein at least two of said nozzles, each independently controlled by and at the command of said processor, extrude material together in the formation of said object, wherein said at least two of said nozzles together extrude material over separate areas of said operational area, wherein the number of said plurality of nozzles on said print head is within the range of about 10-0,000.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
- 13. A print head for a three-dimensional printer comprising:
a body; and a plurality of nozzles attached to said body, a material extruded therefrom employed to form an object; said print head configured, at the command of a processor, to position over an operational area and to extrude material from at least two of said nozzles together to form said object, wherein said processor is configured to control the respective nozzles and the flow of said material therethrough, wherein said at least two of said nozzles extrude material together over separate areas of said operational area, and wherein the number of said plurality of nozzles on said body is within the range of about 10-10,000.
- View Dependent Claims (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22)
- 23. A methodology for creating an object from a three-dimensional printer comprising:
moving a print head over an operational area during the construction of an object, said print head having a plurality of nozzles attached thereto; controlling, by a processor, said plurality of nozzles, said processor configured to control the position of said print head over said operational area during the formation of said object, and configured to control the respective nozzles and the respective flow of material extruded therethrough; and extruding said material from at least two of said plurality of nozzles together during a pass of said print head over said operational area, said material extruded therefrom employed to form said object, wherein at least two of said plurality of nozzles extrude material together over separate areas of said operational area, wherein the number of said plurality of nozzles on said print head is within the range of about 10-10,000.
- 24. A methodology for creating an object from a three-dimensional printer comprising:
depositing a curable material for an object onto an operational area by at least one nozzle; moving at least two energy beams, during a pass, over said operational area; controlling, by a processor, said at least two energy beams, said processor configured to control the depositing of said curable material onto said operational area, and configured to control the position and intensity of said beams of energy over and onto said curable material on said operational area during the formation of said object; and curing said curable material within said operational area, said curable material being cured, after said movement in said pass, in at least two separate positions within said operational area, wherein said at least two energy beams are directed over separate areas of said operational area, and wherein the number of said energy beams under processor control is within the range of about 10-10,000.
The present invention is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/672,296, filed Mar. 30, 2015, now U.S. Pat. No. 10,343,349, entitled “SYSTEM, METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR 3D PRINTER EXTRUSION,” which is a non-provisional of and claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/972,355, filed Mar. 30, 2014, now expired, also entitled “SYSTEM, METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR 3D PRINTER EXTRUSION,” the subject matters of which are incorporated by reference herein.
The explosive growth of three-dimensional printing has created a new paradigm of manufacturing for everyone. As the price of extrusion and other devices go lower, more and more people partake of the phenomenon with no end in sight, initiating a new age of manufacturing. Eventually these devices will be in every home and the creation or re-creation of three-dimensional objects will become as commonplace as Xerox copying.
Various conventional techniques of three-dimensional printing use a single head, for example, an extrusion head which deposits material as a point source onto a planar surface or a laser head that moves a laser point by point to cure or harden material. Typically, current 3D printing machines take many hours or perhaps days to deposit or process the materials necessary to instantiate a design, such as from a computer-aided design (CAD) or other program or code.
With further advances in this technology, the need arises for even more ways to improve the throughput and efficiencies of these revolutionary devices. Indeed, many new approaches and paradigms are still needed for this technology to make the leap from revolutionary to customary for a home, and the instant invention is such a paradigm.
There is, therefore, a need for devices, systems and methodologies to better the processes for three-dimensional printing techniques, e.g., increase the speed of additive creation and the speed of laser sintering, and better satisfy the growing needs of a populace eager to engage this new technology.
The present invention is directed to techniques, systems, devices and methods to facilitate the increase in extrusion, deposition and/or sintering speed in three-dimensional printing, such as in fused filament fabrication, laser sintering or other methodologies. Through the use of multiple nozzles on a print head, more material is deposited. By including nozzles sufficient for a side of a page or planar element of an object design, the material deposition for an entire plane or layer is done in one pass of the print head. Likewise, through the employment of multiple lasers, energy sources and/or beam splitters, more material can be processed, such as by laser sintering.
While the specification concludes with claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter that is regarded as forming the present invention, it is believed that the invention will be better understood from the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying DRAWINGS, where like reference numerals designate like structural and other elements, in which:
The following detailed description is presented to enable any person skilled in the art to make and use the invention. For purposes of explanation, specific nomenclature is set forth to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. However, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that these specific details are not required to practice the invention. Descriptions of specific applications are provided only as representative examples. Various modifications to the preferred embodiments will be readily apparent to one skilled in the art, and the general principles defined herein may be applied to other embodiments and applications without departing from the scope of the invention. The present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiments shown, but is to be accorded the widest possible scope consistent with the principles and features disclosed herein.
As discussed, various techniques for three-dimensional printing have been developing for a few decades. For example, stereolithographic methodologies have been known since about 1984, and involve the accretion of layers by adding cured photopolymers, which are usually cured by ultraviolet light. Lasers and other energy sources are employed to cure or harden the object in situ, i.e., within a container or vat of uncured or liquid material, which serves as a support for the cured material constituting the object, enabling more complicated structure formation.
Another technique involves sintering or melting, which is usually used in metalworking. Prior to these techniques, metalworking involved casting, fabrication, stamping and machining, such as on a lathe or other subtractive process. Through these three-dimensional printing techniques, rapid prototyping or on-demand manufacturing have been made easier, where currently sophisticated parts manufacture have become possible, driving a transformation in the job market for metal workers. Indeed, the rise of desktop manufacturing and rapid manufacturing, successor industries, are becoming increasingly prominent.
It should, of course, be understood that a major use of the technology set forth in the instant invention is directed to the use of additive manufacturing techniques involving deposition layering, including various chemical deposition with light energy hardening, molten material deposition, powders with heat and glue deposited, and more. Nonetheless, the multiple throughput aspects of the instant invention are applicable in each of the various three-dimensional printing techniques, and each will be described in more detail hereinbelow.
As mentioned hereinabove, each of these three-dimensional printing techniques represents a paradigm shift from the subtractive removal process of most current manufacturing technologies, such as machining, where material is removed to form or craft an article. The new techniques, collectively termed additive manufacturing, are transforming the entire manufacturing process, with limitations boundless to human imagination.
However, as with any technological revolution, certain bottlenecks exist to hinder the growth of these additive techniques, such as in the fused deposition modeling (FDM) or method of 3D printing, also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF), where printing speed is limited by the speed at which the construction or building material can be extruded from the nozzle. As discussed, current additive manufacturing techniques employ a single nozzle in a print head, with the print head moving point by point and line by line across a page or plane of CAD models, then on to the next page or plane, where the print head moves point by point, depositing a bead of melted material, and line by line and so on. Naturally, this point-by-point and line-by-line process is quite slow, even with robust machinery to rapidly move the print head and other components to each X, Y coordinate on a build platform, surface or other framework. Accordingly, ways to increase the speed of printing are necessary to better facilitate the employment of three-dimensional printing.
With reference now to
As shown in the embodiment of
As discussed, the print head 100 should be of sufficient length to cover the area of the platform on which the object is to be constructed in one pass, e.g., across the Y dimension, as described further in connection with
It should be understood that the deposition from each respective nozzle would be separately controlled by a computer, as shown and described in
With reference now to
With reference to
With reference now to
The print head 200 mechanism is affixed to a framework, described in more detail in connection with
It should be understood that the increase in printing speed resulting from the solutions set forth in the present invention is proportional to the number of nozzles 110/210 in the print head 200. It should further be understood that the illustrations of the print heads 100/101/102/200 in the instant Specification are merely representative of the actual number of nozzles 110/210 that may be employed in the configurations of the present invention, as discussed in more detail hereinbelow. With increases in miniaturization, the actual number of nozzles 110/210 could be quite large, and vary greatly with the desired granularity or degree of fineness required in the production or the reproduction of an object 230.
With reference now to
It should be understood that the computer user has a program that is representative of the shape of the desired component or object to be constructed layer by layer, by whatever technique described in the instant invention. Conventional CAD programs require the commands or code for a model to be in a particular format, e.g., .STL or .OBJ, before printing. In initializing the code, there is a “fixup” stage where the code is analyzed to ascertain whether surfaces connect properly, and can thus be printed; otherwise, the fixup is done. In other words, the topography of the structure or object is determined, the respective lines, planes, and curves needed for that shape calculated, and the approach for digitalization ascertained.
At this point, the code is processed by a slicer, which, as its name suggests, slices the digital model into a series of thin layers, and produces so-called G-code tailored to a particular type of three-dimensional printer, such as FDM printers. The various code, commands and data are stored in a memory, generally designated by the reference numeral 344. The software generally includes a viewer program, such that the entire three-dimensional printing process can be observed, whereby the particular approach taken can be evaluated, e.g., FDM may not be the best way to reproduce the object because of the topography, e.g., overhanging structures, where another approach or technique, such as stereolithography, may be better suited. Alternatively, the angle or aspect in depositing the material can facilitate the entire process, i.e., digitizing or slicing the object at an oblique or acute angle may render a particular deposition approach tractable, more feasible, quicker, cheaper, stronger, or other measure. Through analysis on the aforesaid viewer, such as displayed on a display 346 of the computer 340, fabrication pathways to produce the part or object can be ascertained and honed in advance, and a particular or optimal pathway or steps determined, pursuant to a particular printing technique, material used, aspect angle and other considerations.
In the embodiment shown in
Although the extrusion head 320 shown in
In a particular pass, a so-called build material may be deposited. In this embodiment, the build material may be composed of a number of different polymers or thermoplastics, including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC), polylactic acid (PLA), high density polyethylene (HDPE), PC/ABS, polyphenylsulfone
(PPSU) and high impact polystyrene (HIPS). It should, of course, be understood that alternative polymers or thermoplastics may also be deployed in practicing the principles of the present invention.
As illustrated in this embodiment, the polymer may be in the form of a filament, generally designated by the reference numeral 336, which may be fed from a hopper, generally designated by the reference numeral 337. The filament 336 feeds through the extrusion head 320, and is melted or liquefied for deposition through the respective nozzles 310, e.g., made ready for the deposition, after which the deposited material cools and bonds to the substrate and hardens, leaving a new layer, and, in turn, becoming the substrate for a next layer thereupon. As some techniques employ a support material for some fabrications that may be delicate or unbalanced in the process, e.g., overhanging or other delicate structures, a support material line, generally designated by the reference numeral 338, is shown which provides material for support, such as from another hopper, generally designated by the reference numeral 339. It should be understood that additional hoppers may be present, holding the same building material, but having a different consistency, such as for finer or coarser construction, other building materials, or other stabilizing or support materials.
As discussed, it should also be understood that a number of three-dimensional printing techniques can employ principles of the present invention, such as binder jetting techniques; directed energy disposition techniques, such as electron beam direct manufacturing, ion fusion formation, and laser powder forming; light photo-polymerization techniques, such as digital light processing and stereolithography; material extrusion techniques, such as fused deposition modeling described hereinabove; material jetting techniques; powder bed fusion techniques, such as direct metal laser sintering, electron beam melting, selective heat sintering, selective laser melting and selective laser sintering; and sheet lamination techniques, such as laminated object manufacturing and ultrasonic additive manufacturing. The principles of the present invention thus enable the leveraging of existing techniques to increase the throughput for each of the various three-dimensional printing methodologies described herein.
It should also be understood that the granularity or size of the nozzles 110/210/310 is dependent on a variety of factors and the techniques employed. For exemplary purposes, such as in the aforesaid fused deposition modeling, the three-dimensional or 3D dots are around or about 50 to 100 μm in diameter. For other technologies, it should be understood that the nozzle size can be about 15-25 μm, 20-40 μm or other measures, which will in time, of course, be reduced as this technology matures to about 5-10 μm. Thus, presently-desirable ranges for the nozzles are about 5-10 μm, about 15-25 μm, about 20-40 μm, about 40-60 μm, about 50-100 μm, and combinations thereof, e.g., where the head 120/220/320 handles multiple materials.
For fused deposition modeling, such as thus illustrated and depicted herein, if about 100 μm is used, for example, this can provide an estimate of the number of nozzles 110/210/310 for the respective head 120/220/320. Taking 10 cm as a conservative estimate of the width of the active or operative area of the build platform 332, i.e., a plane or layer dimension as discussed, a conservative estimate the number of nozzles 110/210/310 in the print head 120/220/320 is at least a thousand (which is a number quite larger than the representative number of nozzles 110/210/310 shown in
It should be understood that one practicing the principles of the present invention may employ the nozzles 110/210/310 in a variety of alternate configurations, e.g., three or more rows, interlaced rows, curved nozzle heads, etc. It should also be understood that the line-by-line deposition technique set forth herein can also be employed in further alternate configurations, such as where the print heads 120/220/320 cover a fraction of the plane or layer or X direction in question in each pass, with the position of the print head 120/220/320 adjusted or offset for multiple runs or passes across a given plane or layer, e.g., across the Y dimension on the build platform. For example, with a print head 120/220/320 one half the size of the planar dimension for the operative area, e.g., the Y axis, extending across the top of the platform 332, two runs across the Y dimension (which in the examples shown extends along the aforesaid surface of platform 332 into the drawing sheet) would be needed to cover that plane. If one third, then three runs, and so on. Such multiple passes instead of the preferred single pass, may also allow for finer material depositions, such as in an alternate embodiment of the present invention, where various discrete heads may be interchanged, e.g., pursuant to computer control to best effectuate a fabrication. In any event, the divisor herein would nonetheless be a smaller number than the total number of lines crossed by current conventional techniques in their point-by-point runs.
As discussed, it should be understood that an additive device, or other device pursuant to the present invention, could be in kit form and could include a variety of print heads 120/220/320, in a variety of configurations that could be interchanged for particular usages, as is understood in the art. For example, a coarse head count granularity can be employed in object form sections that do not require precision, and print heads 120/220/320 with finely spaced nozzles 110/210/310 could be swapped in for the object portions requiring precision. In this fashion, the needed object can be created in a fraction of the time compared to present day three-dimensional printing systems.
As discussed, the print head 120/220/320 could also include nozzles varying in fineness, materials, amounts and other measures, e.g., with the embodiment shown and described in connection with
Similar to the aforementioned improvements in the processing speed due to increased print head capacity, throughput for other three-dimensional printing techniques, such as selective laser melting (SLM), selective laser sintering (SLS), direct metal laser sintering (SMLS) (and other lasering techniques), along with stereolithography can also be increased by the addition of more lasers, laser beams or other energy dispersal means operable on a treatment surface or volume. Even though lasers operate at light speed, the mechanisms employed to maneuver the lasers and guide them do not. Just as with the aforesaid additive processes, the choreography of multiple lasers or multiple discrete beams across a plane of material, e.g., uncured material, would increase the speed of the three-dimensional printing process for these types of three-dimensional fabrication processes.
With reference now to
As discussed in connection with
As shown in
As also shown in
As discussed, the embodiment shown in
Also, as with
Through the use of multiple beams, multiple lasers and/or multiple energy sources, a plurality of points are treated simultaneously or substantially simultaneously. For example, under computer control, a number of discrete beams may be trained across various points along a contour line of a surface form, instead of one beam hopping point to point along that contour line. Unlike the more static or coordinate system-based methodology of the aforementioned deposition techniques, the sheer rapidity and versatility of beam splitting and optics makes the usage of dozens, hundreds or thousands of discrete simultaneous or substantially simultaneous beams possible. It should thus be understood that although only two such beams, generally designated by the reference numeral 439, are shown in
It should, of course, be understood that alternate energy sources are also contemplated. For example, the source 460 could be an ultraviolet wavelength, X-ray or other energy source, and the energies passing through the energy dispersal head 420 disperse that energy in a wider fashion than the rather rigid point by point prior art technique, such as a line-by-line approach or with enough optics, handling the entire plane of material available for treatment quickly, effectively operating as a digital mask work. Of course, the energy dispersal head 420 may vary the energies so dispersed on a beam-by-beam basis, enabling complicated curing or other treatments. It should be understood that the computer 440 preferably handles the entire treatment once the user has ascertained the best approach, i.e., the treatment is automatic and the beams crisscross or traverse the plane of the treatment area to form the object therein along multiple fronts.
It should be understood that the principles of the present invention have a wide use across many three-dimensional printing applications, as befits the disruptive nature of this technology. Clothes and other apparel, footwear, eye glasses and numerous other personal use-type applications employ the techniques of the present invention, and can benefit thereby. The principles of the present invention are, of course, open to numerous commercial applications as well.
The automobile and machinery parts industries, for example, have been radically transformed as a result of this technology, with virtually all parts of cars and other mechanical equipment being so produced. Indeed, virtually all tools and most equipment in everyday life can be replicated using three-dimensional printing applications. Also, for all parts and components, the techniques of the instant invention are fully capable of preparing a mold or form for a part, such as where that mold can be employed to cast the part in metal or other material instead of directly fabricating the part. For example, the creation of a time-consuming mold can be left to the printer, and the later casting from that mold can be duplicated many times and much faster using another technology. The instant invention is, therefore, capable of leveraging existing techniques and technologies in countless ways.
In addition to the terrestrial building construction industries, the three-dimensional printing techniques of the present invention would also have use on the Moon or Mars using and re-using the local materials Likewise, the techniques of the instant invention would have applicability in space material fabrications, albeit due to the lack of gravity the techniques would be adapted thereto.
The improved techniques of the present invention can also be employed in the medical, medical device and biological arenas, where the medium is far different but the methodologies the same. For example, in connection with
Similarly, the present invention can be employed in the food industry to construct new and unique foods, such as a cakes and confections, as well as more substantive food, where the source materials would, of course, radically differ from those in the techniques described more fully herein. For example, using a fabrication machine such as the device 330/430, along with hoppers and extrusion-type heads 200, biological and food products can be manufactured, and through the improvements of the instant invention, those products can be produced faster than any prior art technique.
With the growth of this industry, three-dimensional printing represents the next sea change in the industrial world. Akin to the commercial and societal transformations in the wake of the steam engine, a multitude of applications of this new technology will revolutionize the way we all live. The instant invention is an approach to making significant improvements on this new paradigm, making the extraordinary advantages of the three-dimensional printing movement even more palpable to everyone.
Preferred systems, configurations, methods and apparatus for practicing the present invention have been described. It will be understood and readily apparent to the skilled artisan that many changes and modifications may be made to the above-described embodiments without departing from the spirit and the scope of the present invention.
The foregoing is illustrative only and that other embodiments of the integrated processes and apparatus may be employed without departing from the true scope of the invention defined in the following claims.