Design Engineering

University of Michigan team creates algorithm to speed up 3D printing


Additive Manufacturing algorithm University of Michigan

The algorithm allows printers to deliver high-quality results at speeds up to two times faster than those in common use with no added hardware costs.

Molong Duon and Deokkyun Yoon, both mechanical engineering PhD students, and Chinedum Okwudire, associate professor in mechanical engineering, examine the effectiveness of their new, faster 3D printing algorithm. Image credit: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering

Researchers are constantly looking for new ways to improve 3D printing quality and innovation.

One of the challenges to this technology is it tends to be a somewhat slow process. However, a team at the University of Michigan has created a software algorithm to speed up the process.

The algorithm allows printers to deliver high-quality results at speeds up to two times faster than those in common use — and the benefit, there is no added hardware costs.

Current 3D printers emit vibrations as they work. A printer’s movable parts, particularly in lightweight desktop models, cause vibrations that reduce the quality of the item being produced. And the faster the machine moves, the more vibrations are created.


“Armed with knowledge of the printer’s dynamic behavior, the program anticipates when the printer may vibrate excessively and adjusts its motions accordingly,” said Chinedum Okwudire, associate professor of mechanical engineering who directs U-M’s Smart and Sustainable Automation Research Lab.

The machines are operated slowly to ensure details can be reproduced accurately, which may be one of the reasons why the technology has not been accepted by a wider audience.

Okwudire cited statements made last year by one 3D printing company executive about the issues holding the industry back.

algorithm university of michigan

On the bottom, excess vibrations from the 3-D printer caused the printhead to offset multiple times. On the top, the new U-M algorithm was applied to the printer, enabling a successful, fast print. Both U.S. Capitol replicas were printed on a HICTOP Prusa i3 3-D printer at ~2X speed. Image credit: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering

“We’re just waiting for the next evolution of the technology,” Simon Shen, CEO of XYZPrinting, told TechCrunch last year. “If they can do it much faster, more precise and easier, that will bring more people to 3D printers. Not waiting for four to six hours for a print, but 40 to 60 minutes.”

In explaining how his algorithm works, he uses the example of someone trying to deliver a speech in a large hall. At first the person shouts in order to reach the entire audience. When a magaphone is introduced, the speaker may still continue to shout, overamplifying their voice. Adjusting to a normal volume will produce the right clarity.

“Our software is like that person who realizes their voice is going to be overly amplified,” Okwudire said. “It acts preemptively because it knows that the behavior of the printer is going to be ahead of time.

Okwudire hopes that the algorithm can be applied to the firmware — the software that runs on the printer itself. That way, it will be integrated with the printers, regardless of the size.

The software can also be used on a variety of industrial-grade machines that suffer from similar limitations due to vibrations.

The study was recently published in Mechatronics.



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