There's no denying that 3D printers are amazing. The progress made over the last few years in the field has been nothing short of phenomenal. That being said, there's still much progress to be made, especially in how 3D printers actually, well, print.
At the University of Southern California, Professor Yong Chen and students Xuan Song and Yayue Pan have created what they call a 6-axis 3D printer. It bucks the standard 3D printer model of an extruder confined to the X, Y and Z axes that can only print in layers. Instead, this 3D printer can print in multiple directions and doesn't even have to conform to layer-based modeling.
Here's the official description by the team:
Most additive manufacturing processes are layer-based with only three-dimensional motions in the X, Y and Z axes. However, there are drawbacks associated with such limited motions, e.g. non-conformal material properties, stair-stepping effect, and limitations on building around inserts. Such drawbacks limit the applications of additive manufacturing in many areas. To enable 6-axis motions between a tool and a work piece, we investigated a Stewart mechanism and developed a low-cost prototype system for multi-directional additive manufacturing including the Fused Deposition Modeling and CNC accumulation processes. The technical challenges in our development are the hardware design, coordinate transformation, platform constraint checking, movement simulation, tool path generation, and part fabrication. Several test cases are also presented to illustrate the capability of multi-directional additive manufacturing processes.
This is merely a prototype for now, but I can definitely see something like this taking off in the near future. People are always looking for unconventional 3D printing methods, like the 3Doodler, and this new 6-axis 3D printer does just that.[h/t: 3ders] [Image: Yong Chen/YouTube]