‘On-the-fly’ 3-D printing system prints what you design, as you design it

June 1, 2016

This wire frame prototype of a toy aircraft was printed in just 10 minutes, including testing for correct fit, and modified during printing to create the cockpit. The file was updated in the process, and could be used to print a finished model. (credit: Cornell University)

Cornell researchers have developed an interactive prototyping system that prints a wire frame of your design as you design it. You can pause anywhere in the process to test or measure and make needed changes, which will be added to the physical model still in the printer.

In conventional 3-D printing, a nozzle scans across a stage depositing drops of plastic, rising slightly after each pass to build an object in a series of layers. With the On-the-Fly-Print system, the nozzle instead extrudes a rope of quick-hardening plastic to create a wire frame that represents the surface of the solid object described in a computer-aided design (CAD) file and allows the designer to make refinements while printing is in progress.

Wireframe test models printed with On-The-Fly Print system (credit: Cornell University)

The printer’s stage can be rotated to present any face of the model facing up; so an airplane fuselage, for example, can be turned on its side to add a wing. There is also a cutter to remove parts of the model, say, to give the airplane a cockpit, and the nozzle can reach through the wire mesh to make changes inside. The system also adds yaw and pitch for five degrees of freedom.

The researchers described the On-the-Fly-Print system in a paper presented at the 2016 ACM Conference for Human Computer Interaction. The work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation and by Autodesk Corp.

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