Multi-Material 3D Printing

Project Members: Evan Malone, Dan Cohen

A Technology for Inventing Technologies...

Solid-Freeform Fabrication (SFF) – also known as Rapid Prototyping (RP) – technology allows 3D-printing of arbitrarily shaped structures, directly from computer-aided design (CAD) data.  SFF has traditionally been used to produce only passive mechanical parts.  We are developing compact, automatic SFF systems, or fabbers which can build almost any kind of object – not merely passive mechanical parts, but complete devices, ready to use right out of the machine. 

     With our research systems, we have demonstrated freeform fabrication of:

·        Thermoplastic and elastomer structures and flexures

·        Conductive wiring embedded in structural materials

·        Elastomer strain gages

·        Complete zinc-air batteries

·        “Artificial muscle” actuators

·        Electromechanical relays

·        Polymer transistors

·        Inductors and electromagnets

·        Living replacement cartilage structures based on medical imaging data

And Democratizing Innovation At Home...

     The true potential of this technology is more than the new space of products and engineering solutions it opens up. A consumer-oriented fabber, coupled with the networked educational and technical resources already available today, empowers individuals with much of the innovative facility that would otherwise require an entire R&D laboratory.  This could potentially lead to economic innovations such as neo-cottage industry manufacturing, an “eBay of designs” where individuals can market unique product designs as digital instructions and material recipes for others to execute on their own fabbers, and millions of people inventing technology rather than merely consuming it. To accelerate the transfer of this technology from the laboratory and into personal fabbers, we have developed the Fab@Home project and the Fab@Home Model 1 personal desktop fabricator kit.  The Fab@Home project includes a user-editable “wiki” website which provides open-source, free software, parts lists, designs, and assembly and operational instructions for a simple open-architecture, desktop fabber simple enough for anyone with simple hobbyist tools and skills to build for themselves, but which essentially all of the capabilities of our research fabber. The open source nature of Fab@Home allows anyone to explore new materials, modify the software and hardware, for personal or commercial purposes, and we believe this approach will most rapidly advance the technology and realize the vision of powerful personal fabbers. Since the launch of the project in November of 2006, the Fab@Home website has had more than 500,000 unique visitors, Fab@Home Model 1 kits and fully assembled machines are available retail, and more than 100 individuals in more than a dozen countries have their own Model 1 fabber. The Fab@Home Project is a Popular Mechanics 2007 Innovation Award winner, and a Model 1 has been added to the permanent collection of the London Science Museum.

Publications

Journal Articles

Book Chapters

Conference Proceedings

Patents

  • Lipson, H., Bonassar, L., Cohen, D., Malone, E., (2005) MODULAR FABRICATION SYSTEMS AND METHODS, pending.