Freeform 3D Printing: toward a Sustainable Approach to Additive Manufacturing
2013 Oxman, N., Laucks, J., Kayser, M., Tsai, E., and Firstenberg, M., Green Design, Materials and Manufacturing Processes published by Taylor & Francis , ISBN: 978-1-138-00046-9
Most additive manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing, utilize support materials in the fabrication process. Beyond the technical challenges of support removal, these materials are wasteful – increasing fabrication and processing time while impacting quality. This paper presents “Freeform Printing”, a novel design approach for 3D printing without additional auxiliary structures. A 6-axis KUKA robotic arm is repurposed as a 3D printing platform onto which custom-designed thermoplastic extruders are attached. We demonstrate freeform extrusion using a round nozzle attached to an active air-cooling unit, which solidifies the material upon extrusion. In addition, we present a method for printing geometrically complex structures using a multi-strand extrusion nozzle. The experiments presented in this paper, combined with their evaluation and analysis, provide proof-of-concept for Freeform Printing without support materials. They represent a sustainable approach to additive manufacturing and digital fabrication at large, and point towards new possi-ble directions in sustainable manufacturing.