4 Aug '21
Engineers at Moscow-based MPEI University (aka Moscow Power Engineering Institute) have showcased a prototype 3D printer for making large objects. The new device can print as big a part as a user wishes. The technology may benefit such strategic sectors as aerospace, automotive, shipbuilding, and wind energy.
With conventional 3D printers, a part is manufactured inside the device, which limits the size of an object to be printed. The bigger a part a user needs, the larger a printer he should use.
In the new MPEI-driven Roboprint project, components are printed outside the master printer, a solution that brings no limitations at all and is reported to be able to print a part that is ten or hundred times bigger than the printer.
The MPEI team has developed a multi-flow printing technology with a swarm of printing robots at the core. Special radio navigation sensors are placed on moving platforms to coordinate the action of all swarm elements. The master printer is a wheeled platform with the printing part of the system on it. Guided by sensor-generated coordinates, the master platform moves where something must be printed. The printing surface where a part is made is located above the printer, so the printer’s head nozzle faces upwards.
A part is printed from the top down; when a certain number of layers have been deposited, the printing surface moves up and the printer continues work.
The sensors control the positioning of the printer continuously, using innovative four-axis head kinematics, to make sure printing goes on precisely where required.
To make big parts, the entire swarm operates in synch. Such parts are made by printing separate sections, with an individual robotic printer responsible for a specific section. Each printer is self-contained and has enough spare filaments to print and electrical energy to work on.