WirePrint is a Physical ‘Print Preview’ for 3D Printers

3D printers may be old news to most of us, but that’s not stopping creative individuals from finding new ways to improve on the technology. Your average consumer budget 3D printer uses an extrusion technology, whereby plastic is melted and extruded onto a platform. The printer draws a single two-dimensional image of the print and then moves up layer by layer. It’s an effective and inexpensive method for turning a computer design into a physical object. Unfortunately, it’s also very slow.

That’s why Hasso Plattner Institute and Cornell University teamed up to develop WirePrint. WirePrint can slice your three-dimensional model into a wire frame version that is capable of being printed on an extrusion printer. You won’t end up with a strong final product, but WirePrint will help you get a feel for the overall size and shape of your print. The best part is it will do it in a fraction of the time it would take to print the actual object.

This is a similar idea to reducing the amount of fill that your print has, only WirePrint takes it a step further. The software tells your printer to extrude plastic in vertical lines, then pauses for just enough time for it to cool and harden in that vertical position. The result is much cleaner than if this same wire frame model were printed layer by layer. It also requires less overall movement of the print head and is therefore faster.

The best part about this project is that it’s a software hack. This means that it can likely be used on any 3D printers that use extrusion technology. Check out a video of the process below to see how it works.

24 thoughts on “WirePrint is a Physical ‘Print Preview’ for 3D Printers

  1. It looks like you’d need a slightly pointy nozzle for it to not collide with its own work. I wonder if that’s software adjustable?

    Those prints looked pretty elegant though, I like it.

    1. These models are very cool on their own, and could be useful as they are. I’m thinking they could be skinned with tissue paper and dope like old school model airplanes. As long as the dope doesn’t melt the ABS, of course.

    2. Better yet you could print the wireframe, wrap it in carbon or glass fibre, then spray it down with a mix of ABS and acetone. That way you’d be making an FRP part which would be way stronger than a regular print, but can utilize the recycled crunched up wireframes that didn’t work out.

  2. Seem pretty useless in the proposed use, you waste 50% more material, many objects only shave of half the time, and you can’t judge the output based on a wireframe version really, in cases where things might be wrong in the final output you can’t tell from a wireframe version.

    But as an artistic alternative it’s nice to have though.

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