Mechanical Engineering Faculty Research


Development of a Mobile Fused Deposition Modeling System with Enhanced Manufacturing Flexibility

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Publication Date

Spring 3-2011


Development of a flexible and mobile fused deposition modeling (FDM) system from an existing FDM system to enable deposition of material on virtually any surface without being confined to a build chamber is described. Flexibility of the system was demonstrated by depositing ABS on different surfaces, and simple pull tests were performed to determine bonding strength between the deposited materials. To develop the flexible FDM system, a Stratasys FDM 3000 machine was used and modified by reversing the z stage and attaching the x–y table controlling the FDM head to the bottom of the z stage. In this new configuration, the z stage transports the x–y table vertically, and the x–y table controls the x–y motion of the FDM dispensing head, which is exposed at the bottom of the machine. The mean of the absolute value of the difference between 49 part dimensions (based on 20 part features) measured on a modified Grimm test part (n = 5) was ∼0.44 mm for parts fabricated using the developed flexible FDM system, while a mean of ∼0.11 mm was measured using parts produced by the commercial system (n = 5). The dimensional accuracy of the flexible system was comparable but expectedly larger than the commercial system, due to the configuration of the flexible FDM system with the x–y table attached at the bottom of the z stage. There are many possible design improvements particularly focused on reducing deflections in the mechanical components that can be explored and implemented to improve the overall dimensional accuracy of the flexible system, but these investigations are left for future research. Instead, manufacturing flexibility of this new configuration was demonstrated by successfully building a cylinder on flat and 3D cupped surfaces, including building a horizontally oriented cylinder on a wall by orienting the FDM system in the horizontal position. Pull tests were performed and showed that bonding strength for the cylinders built on flat surfaces compared favorably to a glued part (3.06 ± 1.38 MPa for the specimens manufactured with the flexible FDM system compared with 2.00 ± 1.06 MPa for the glued specimens). Additional flexibility was demonstrated by printing directly on a complex curved surface, thus illustrating the possibilities for using AM (a traditional 2D layer-stacking processing technique) in conformal printing applications. It is concluded that this new machine can provide enormous flexibility in freeform manufacturing with applications in part repair, 3D conformal adhesive dispensing, and a number of applications where the removal of the size constraints imposed by the build chamber enables one to deposit new arbitrary features directly on existing parts.

Publication Title

Journal of Materials Processing Technology





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