One of the great things about 3D printers is their ability to make a single part all at once. Separating a part into multiple pieces is usually done to split up objects that are too big to fit on the 3D printer’s print bed. But [Peter] at Markforged (manufacturers of high-end 3D printers) has a video explaining another reason: multi-part prints can benefit from improved strength.
The idea is this: filament-based 3D printers generally create parts that are strongest along their X-Y axis (relative to their manufacture) and weakest in the Z direction. [Peter] proposes splitting a part into pieces with this in mind. Not because the part is inconveniently large or has tricky geometry, but so the individual pieces can be printed in orientations that provide the best mechanical strength.
This is demonstrated with the simple part shown here. The usual way to print this part would be flat on a print bed, but by splitting the parts into two and printing each in their optimal orientation, the combined part withstands nearly twice as much force before failing.
[Peter]’s examples use Markforged’s own filaments, but gives advice on more common polymers as well and the same principles apply. This idea is one worth keeping in mind the next time one is seeking to optimize strength. because of how simple it is.
What is an FDM filament coloring’s purpose but to be an aesthetic choice? As it turns out, the additives that create these changes in coloring and transparency also affect the base properties of the polymer, whether it’s PLA, PETG, or another material. This is where a recent video by [CNC Kitchen] is rather illustrative, using a collection of colored PLA filaments from a single filament manufacturer.
[CNC Kitchen] ran a range of tests including tensile strength, ductility, layer adhesion, impact resistance, and annealing performance. The results showed no clear overall winner between plain PLA polymer and any specific color. Perhaps most fascinating was just how much these color additives change the material’s response to annealing. Baking the PLA at 100°C for 30 minutes generally improves material properties, but also can cause warping and shrinking. The effective warping and shrinking differed wildly between the filament.
The general conclusion would seem to be that the natural polymer isn’t necessarily the optimal choice, but that you should test and pick the filament from a specific manufacturer to fit your project’s needs.
To quantify what can ordinarily be a somewhat subjective process, there’s probably no one better than woodworker and hacker [Matthias Wandel], equipped as he is with his DIY strength-tester. Using its stepper-driven power to blast apart glued lap joints, [Matthias] measured the yield point of the various adhesives using a strain gauge connected to a Raspberry Pi.
His first round of tests had some interesting results, including the usually vaunted construction adhesive ending up in a distant last place. Also performing poorly, at least relative to its reputation and the mess it can cause, was the polyurethane-based Gorilla Glue. A surprise standout in overall strength was hot glue, although that seemed to have a sort of plastic yield mode. Ever the careful empiricist, [Matthias] repeated his tests using hardwoods, with remarkably different results; it seems that glues really perform better with denser wood. He also repeated a few tests to make sure every adhesive got a fair shake. Check out the video below for the final results.
It’s always good to see experiments like this that put what we often take for granted to the test. [John] over at the Project Farm channel on YouTube does this kind of stuff too, and even did a head-to-head test of epoxy adhesives.
3D printers are an excellent tool to have on hand, largely because they can print other tools and parts rapidly without needing to have them machined or custom-ordered. 3D printers have dropped in price as well, so it’s possible to have a fairly capable machine in your own home for only a few hundred dollars. With that being said, there are some limitations to their function but some of them can be mitigated by placing the printer head on a robot arm rather than on a traditional fixed frame.
The experimental 3D printer at the University of Nottingham adds a six-axis robotic arm to their printer head, which allows for a few interesting enhancements. Since the printer head can print in any direction, it allows material to be laid down in ways which enhance the strength of the material by ensuring the printed surface is always correctly positioned with respect to new material from the printer head. Compared to traditional 3D printers which can only print on a single plane, this method also allows for carbon fiber-reinforced prints since the printer head can follow non-planar paths.
Resin 3D printers have a significant advantage over filament printers in that they are able to print smaller parts with more fine detail. The main downside is that the resin parts aren’t typically as strong or durable as their filament counterparts. For this reason they’re often used more for small models than for working parts, but [Breaking Taps] wanted to try and improve on the strength of these builds buy adding metal to them through electroplating.
Both copper and nickel coatings are used for these test setups, each with different effects to the resin prints. The nickel adds a dramatic amount of stiffness and the copper seems to increase the amount of strain that the resin part can tolerate — although [Breaking Taps] discusses some issues with this result.
While the results of electroplating resin are encouraging, he notes that it is a cumbersome process. It’s a multi-step ordeal to paint the resin with a special paint which helps the metal to adhere, and then electroplate it. It’s also difficult to ensure an even coating of metal on more complex prints than on the simpler samples he uses in this video.
After everything is said and done, however, if a working part needs to be smaller than a filament printer can produce or needs finer detail, this is a pretty handy way of adding more strength or stiffness to these parts. There’s still some investigating to be done, though, as electroplated filament prints are difficult to test with his setup, but it does show promise. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to print with this amount of precision using metal directly rather than coating plastic with it.
The strength of object printed on filament-based 3D printers varies by the plastic used, the G-code used by the printer, the percent infill, and even the temperature the plastic was extruded at. Everything, it seems, has an effect on the strength of 3D printed parts, but does the color of filament have an effect on the stress and strain a plastic part it can withstand? [Joshua M. Pearce] set out to answer that question in one of his most recent papers.
The methods section of the paper is about what you would expect for someone investigating the strength of parts printed on a RepRap. A Lulzbot TAZ 4 was used, along with natural, white, black, silver, and blue 3mm PLA filament. All parts were printed at 190°C with a 60°C heated bed.
The printed parts demonstrated yet again that a RepRap can produce parts that are at least equal in material strength to those produced by a proprietary 3D printer. But what about a difference in the strength among different colors? While there wasn’t a significant variation in the Young’s modulus of parts printed in different colors, there was a significant variation of the crystallization of differently colored printed parts, with white PLA producing the largest percent crystallinity, followed by blue, grey, black, and finally natural PLA. This crystallinity of a printed part can affect the tensile properties of a printed part, but [Pearce] found the extrusion temperature also has a large effect on the percentage of crystallinity.
If you can get over how creepy spiders can be there’s a lot to learn from them. One of nature’s master-builders, they have long been studied for how they produce such strong silk. What we hadn’t realized is that it’s not strictly cylindrical in nature. The spider silk exhibits intermittent expansions to the diameter of the — for lack of a better word — extrusion. This project uses biomimickry to replicate the strength of that design.
The print head is actually four extruders in one. In the clip after the break you can see the black center filament’s rigidity is augmented with three white filaments positioned around it radially. The use of this knowledge? That’s for you to decide. As with some of the most satisfying engineering concepts, this is presented as an art installation. As if the rhythmic movements of that print head weren’t enough, they mounted it on a KUKA and plopped the entire thing down in the center of a room for all to see.
The demo isn’t the only awesome bit. You’ll want to click the link at the top to see the exploded-parts diagram porn found half-way down the page. All is beautiful!