Consumer 3D Printing - Here's What Needs to Happen

The hype that developed around 3D printing, created shoes almost impossible to fill. As 3D printing word was spreading and the additive manufacturing process became a buzzword in every household, the process simply was too early in its development to be able to keep up.

Though it is true that 3D printing has taken off, there is of course a lot of room to grow. In order for that growth to happen, there are many improvements that would have to take place. The systems and process must continue to optimize. Below is a break down of what those improvements should look like for each segment of 3D printing, the 3D printer itself, enclosures and air quality, filament, and files.

3D Printers

“Reliable: 3D printers need to become more reliable. Reliability has improved significantly, but is still very low. Prints fail often due to many reasons, some not understood by the user. Consumers are used to devices working all the time, not something that is works as haphazardly.

Repeatable: 3D printers need to become more repeatable. The differences between the same part made on the same printer with the same settings need to narrow. The differences of different printers printing the same files also need to narrow.

Well-Made: 3D printers need to become more well made. Manufacturing is improving, but, with 3D printing, misplaced or incorrectly torqued components, for example, can lead to differences in the printer. Misplacement or lack of calibration for sensors, for example, lead to incorrect reading of temperatures.”

Enclosures/Air Quality

“Temperature Control: 3D printers need to be enclosed and heated so that the temperature is properly managed, as is heat bleed. This has been partially a patent issue, but only if you know what temperature your bed, chamber, and nozzle are could you even begin to coherently extrude anything. External well-calibrated temperature sensors need to measure accurate nozzle temperatures. Nozzle temperatures are often off by 10% in different examples of the same printer model. This means that you can’t exchange settings or that two people can’t work together solving a problem.

Air Filters: 3D printers need to be enclosed with HEPA and carbon filters. TPU, ABS and other materials on the desktop can be problematic. But, generally for many materials, low-cost and dangerous additives and colorants may have adverse affects, as well. We need to grow up, people, and realize we can’t release plastic fumes into schools under any conditions.

Air Flow: Air flow needs to also be well managed. Flows from air conditioning systems or laminar flows across the bed regularly distort prints.”

Filament

“Moisture: We need to keep filament dry and free from contact with the air. So, either we have to develop drying solutions, storage solutions, or better cartridges that keep the filament moisture-free at all times.

Standard Sizing: Filaments need to be the right size. A lot of low-cost filament brands do not have control over their filament diameter or roundness. To not clog the machine (and to rip off consumers) they undersize their filament. This means that your settings will drift off based on undersized filament and you’ll get a wrong idea of settings when the right filament comes along. Paradoxically this means that you may believe that the correct filament is the tricky one.

Shape: Filament needs to be rounder as to not clog Bowden tubes. Filament ovality is problematic with many vendors and leads to clogs and inconsistent extrusion.”

Grab the full article and the entire list of improvements here.