Freeform 3D Printing: toward a Sustainable Approach to Additive Manufacturing

Neri Oxman, Jared Laucks, Markus Kayser, Elizabeth Tsai, Michal Firstenberg


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.

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