Grants/A Fundamental Engineering Study Designed to Increase the Utilization of Open-Source 3D Printing
Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.
This project is an engineering study designed to improve the functionality of open-source 3D printers by standardizing their operating parameters. The polymer media used by 3D printers is a complex and processing-sensitive material that can easily frustrate the operator and produce poor quality products when used improperly. This work will utilize concepts of polymer science, extruder design and advanced characterization techniques to identify the best operating parameters for a variety of print materials in order to produce high quality prints, a positive user experience, and information necessary to develop new print media.
Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).
The knowledge gained through this work will be presented in a wiki-style website that shares the results of the engineering study while providing a clear and concise explanation of how individual operators can use the information to improve the quality of their prints. The website will include important polymer processing parameters such as melting temperature, glass transition temperature, optimum flow rates, optimum pressure drop, etc. for a variety of printable materials. Additionally, this wiki will explain these important polymer science and polymer processing concepts to interested non-scientists. The results of this study will also be submitted for publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal.
Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?
This work targets the open-source 3D printing community and other DIY communities that make use of 3D printing such as design, rapid prototyping, art, home manufacturing, etc. The major benefit of this work will be replacing the "tribal knowledge" and guess and check methods typically used by operators with documented, accurate, repeatable and proven information.br />
I am currently a Ph.D. track student studying Polymer Science and Engineering. I also operate a MakerBot open-source 3D printer and communicate with other members of the operator community. I have an extensive knowledge of polymer physics, rheology and extruder design that the typical operator simply does not have. Additionally, I have easy access to and am an expert in the operation of the advanced instrumentation required to accurately determine the processing parameters that yield the best final product and easiest operation. Finally, this work is very similar to prior work I have done to identify the optimum processing parameters for epoxy resins used in high performance composite materials.
How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?
This is a results-driven project with two goals – improvement of open-source 3D printing and the adoption of these improvements by the larger community. The impact of the first goal will be measured in the lab. The impact of the second goal will be measured through communication and collaboration. Successful execution of the project will be marked by positive feedback from the community and, even better, new innovation in the use of open-source 3D printers.
How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?
The number of people to benefit from this project is far larger than the number required to carry out the project. I will serve as the project leader while soliciting involvement from other open source 3D printer operators in the form of shared suggestions and experiences. Their involvement will be sought and sustained by regular postings on existing web forums frequented by open source 3D printer operators.
Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".
Advancements in open-source 3D printing enable other communities. This work will contribute scientific content that, in addition to improving 3D printer operation, will also serve as a foundation for the development of new print materials and new printer applications. This project will also make an educational contribution by providing simple explanations of the physical concepts behind polymer extrusion. Finally, by simplifying the initial set up and operation of open-source 3D printers, this work will make 3D printing more accessible to artists, designers, teachers and others who make important cultural contributions.
Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?
This work will utilize advanced rheological and mechanical instrumentation to determine the best operating parameters as well as measure improvements in part performance. Instrumentation used by this project includes:
ARES Rheometer – Rheometers are used to study how changes in temperature and shear force affect polymer behavior. Every type of polymer has different rheological characteristics. Open source 3D printer operators can easily control the shear force and temperature of the material flowing through the extruder barrel. Optimizing these parameters is critical to obtaining good prints as well as reducing the amount of waste plastic and energy consumption. Rheological testing will also help mitigate the effect of die swell (a phenomenon where the polymer expands to a size larger than diameter of the die after extrusion causing unexpected deformation of the finished product). Rheological testing will also ease the adoption of compostable print materials which tend to be more sensitive to processing conditions in addition to other novel print media. (The Wikipedia entry on rheology provides additional information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rheology)
Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) – DSCs are used to precisely determine the temperatures at which the physical properties of polymers change. Knowing the exact melting temperature is important to ensure that the polymer is sufficiently heated by the extruder barrel. DSC will also be used to detect the glass transition temperature while cooling – the temperature at which the polymer changes from a “rubbery” state to a solid state. This information is important to ensure each deposited layer has sufficient time to heat and adhere to the layer below it but not enough time to significantly deform. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differential_scanning_calorimetry)
Thermogravimetric Analyzer (TGA) with inline FT-IR – TGAs are used to understand how polymers degrade and to investigate the composition of blended materials. TGAs with inline FT-IR are capable of detecting the degradation products. TGA analysis will give the exact temperature needed to burn out an extruder while inline FT-IR will detect harmful or carcinogenic degradation products that operators should be aware of. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermogravimetric_analysis ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FT-IR)
Mechanical Testing – Mechanical testing is the best way to measure the physical performance of a material. Mechanical testing will be used to quantify the impact of changes in processing parameters. Additionally, variables such as the orientation of deposited filament in successive layers has a marked affect on part performance. Mechanical testing will be used to determine what orientations give the best desired physical properties.
Tools used by this project:
Cupcake CNC from MakerBot Industries - The Cupcake CNC is probably the most user-friendly and accessible open source 3D printer. Test specimens will be printed with a Cupcake CNC.
MK4 Plastruder – This is the extruder that currently ships with the Cupcake CNC and this type of extruder finds common use in many open source 3D printing setups. Parameters defined for the MK4 Plastruder can be easily adapted for use in any small extruder.
Syringe-type Material Depositor – Syringe-type deposition devices are capable of laying down non-solid materials such as pastes or uncured resin systems. Syringe-type deposition devices allow for the use of a wide variety of print materials with unique physical properties such as flexible silicones, epoxies filled with conductive materials or reinforcing nanoparticles, UV curing resins such as thiol-enes or even biological items. Understanding the appropriate processing parameters is absolutely critical for the successful operation of these devices.
Technical Expertise I bring:
I am currently an upper-level Ph.D. track student in Polymer Science and Engineering. I have completed multiple advanced courses in polymer physics, materials analysis and extruder design. Additionally, the work proposed here is similar to another study I have performed regarding the optimization of processing parameters for high performance thermosetting epoxy resins. I have ready access to the instrumentation required to carry out this study and use it frequently in my daily work. Finally, I have completed business planning and technology transfer courses and have organized a legal entity (CS Composite Materials) to handle the licensing of my research with the full support of my university and my research advisor.
I currently have possession or access to the minimum required technical needs. Funds from this grant will be used to purchase test materials, rent time on the instruments and pay for the disposables required for their operation.
What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?
This is a technical engineering project that will yield technical engineering results which may be intimidating to some operators. For this project to be successfully executed the end results must be presented in an easily comprehensible and useful way. The goal of this project is to not produce a dull list of numbers meant to be followed blindly but rather to produce a dynamic knowledge base that is accessible to operators with a wide variety of skill sets and is adaptable to future advances in printer design and extrusion technology. This will be done by openly communicating with people in the open source 3D printing community and addressing questions as they arise.
How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?
This project has been designed to be fully completed with the budget provided. Continuing expenses will likely include web hosting fees and other minor expenses that I am willing to pay out of pocket.
How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?
Both this work and its impact are scalable. This project will identify standard protocols for testing future innovations in printing materials giving individual operators the knowledge and tools required to expand usable print media.
The impact of this project is also scalable. Improving the utility of open source 3D printers will enable advancements in fields that use 3D printing. Improving the mechanical properties of the final product will allow rapid prototypers to build stronger, more useful parts. Better control of material deposition and the reduction of unintended deformation will allow artists and designers to create more intricate works. Finding common themes in the parameters required to successfully extrude diverse materials will allow electrical engineers to print novel circuit boards or biologists to print unique agar plates for cell growth, bone cements, or pastes consisting of living cells among many other interesting options.
What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?
Guidance on licensing the results of this work would be very much appreciated.
Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)
Currently, communication is through web forums and direct email.