Japanese Lab Builds 5-Axis 3D Printer

A Japanese lab is investing some time in the possibilities of a 5-axis 3D printer. They show it printing using five axis as well as doing finish machining on a printed part. We’ve covered parts of why this is the right direction to go for 3D printing in another post.

It looks like they have modified an existing industrial machining center for use with a 3D printing nozzle. This feels like cheating, but it’s the right way to go if you want to start playing with the code early. The machines are intensely accurate and precise. After all, building a five axis machine is a well known science, 3D printing with one opens a whole new field of research.

There isn’t too much to show in the video, other than it’s possible and people are doing it. The Five-axis 3D printing and machining is uninteresting, we have been able to machine plastic for a long time.

However, they show one blue part in which the central axis of the part was printed vertically, but revolute splines along its outer perimeter were printed normal to the surface of the already printed 3D part. Which is certainly not commonly done. Video after the break.

21 thoughts on “Japanese Lab Builds 5-Axis 3D Printer

    1. I think exactly the same. Nothing new under the sun. 5 axis 3D printer is not new.
      So using a industrial 5 axis milling machine and retrofit for 3D printing… well…

      (But probably a lot of work to do on control and algorithm etc. So interesting for research and development purpose)

  1. That must be quite an AI Lab. Any people doing maintenance or running power lines so the Lab can do it’s work? Or is it all done by their leader, the Inanimate Carbon Rod?

    1. I think I see what you mean. You’re meaning the CAM packages to create the toolpaths. 5 axis inverse kinematics motion is non-trivial but no harder than delta calculations.

      I’ve seen the toolpathing done sorta open source (CNC Toolkit plus 3DS MAX/GMAX) but this would take a different approach. The initial programming stages would have to involve non-flat build planes and printing multiple parts in sequence, with the lower parts being the build platform for the higher parts. We’ve seen arbitrary build plates already from university students (can’t find article), so this manual setup should work fine.

      I think the intelligence to determine that dividing line in a single STL solid is going to be the difficult part. Then making sure you’re not trying to build upside down or inside previous parts. I can see moving from slicing monolithic STLs to slicing hierarchical STEP files being beneficial here.

      1. Looking more from a hobby level.

        The base hardware really isn’t even all that different. I mean when you boil it down it’s just an extra pair of motor controllers and two more motors. Maybe some additional limit switches. The micro controller running the whole thing was never really doing any of the heavy lifting, probably has the spare power and GPIO so getting it to address two more motors likely isn’t going to take much doing.

        The software is where things get expensive and fast. When I was looking into a CNC I started looking into CAM suites and the prices on those where all over the place. Pocket NC had also just been making the news/blog rounds so I also looked into some suites that where able to do four and 5Axis tool pathing. let me tell you, ya know you’re getting into expensive territory when the sites stop listing prices and instead want you to contact a sales rep for a quote.

        Of course that was about the time a stray cat with a giant infected eyeball who later became a very expensive one eyed housecat, decided to bless our porch with a box full of kittens. Which promptly put a halt to my delving into CAM suites :P

      1. Part of 3d printing is the convenience of: “once you have the design you can print a copy with the push of a button”. The alternative is to spend time with wood or metal, a lathe, drills, sandpaper and other tools to make a new copy of something you’ve designed.
        So any post-processing that happens “at the push of a button” in the machine is very convenient.

    1. Japan has very odd cultural rules surrounding sexuality, and ever the 3d printed bust in the video was missing the model’s nipples due to the “decency” laws. However, they hold Kanamara Matsuri or the Japanese penis festival where larger stone phallus are proudly worshipped in public. don’t google it…. ;-)

      1. My brain hurts now. Can’t laugh out loud, don’t want to wake the neighbors!
        Also Tanuki. Different cultures I guess but sometimes the dissonance feels like one giant inside joke.

  2. Can’t wait to see how the slicer software would decide automatically how to use all 5 axis to actually make an optimal tool path to maximize print speed, structural integrity and surface finish.
    My guess would be that you need a lot more human interaction and some interface to tell the slicing-algorythm what to do in order to benefit from more than 3 axis in a 3D printer.

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