3D printing continues to amaze us with regular developments happening in start ups and bigger organizations. In this Tech Tuesday episode, Tom and Tracy Hazzard explain the process of 3D printing with pellets. They talk about WASP’s designs, specifically their 3D printed chair. Using pellets instead of filaments is a great alternative. However, it still presents some disadvantages. Tom and Tracy then discuss the pros and cons with using pellets for 3D printing.
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3D Printing with Pellets
It is Tech Tuesday and we got a different one today about 3D printing with pellets. Yes, it came from a listener. We got a suggestion from Corey Smith. He just wrote in and he sent us a link. We went to it and looked to see if we like it. It’s actually super cool. It’s really something that we like quite a bit. It’s very relevant to 3D printing. It’s actually a company that has 3D printed with FFF process, full scale working office chairs where the entire seat and back are made in a single 3D print. But that’s not where the innovation stops, it’s not the really cool part of all this.
There’s this cool thing happening in this chair design from 3D printing with pellets by WASP. They created a design that they print the chair on its sides. Let’s say one whole side of chairs there are. They’re printing basically on that – an L shape – layer by layer. A little L-shape is over this simplistic thing. There are a lot of beautiful curves to this. There are a lot of inner pockets going on in this structure which I really want to sit on this chair. I would like to see how some of that have shocks absorbing qualities or how the comfort feels.
They put some beautiful contour into this chair including this back support. I think it all has a really cool look because of the way it has printed and the directionality is striated. Good things are going on for it has nice textures in it. But as a designer of a chair, it’s really cool. It’s one aspect that I really admire.
The other thing is for the technical perspective. This is printed on a modified version of what really is a delta machine, one of those types of 3D printers. A delta 3D printer operates on 3 vertical posts to a perfect triangle formation instead of an extruder moving, on strict X, Y, and Z axis. You’ve got arms coming down at angles to the extruder from each of the three vertical pillars there. Just by moving them up and down, it moves the extruder left and right and back and forth. Everywhere it needs to go, circular and other ways, they also raise it layer by layer. It’s a different thing to your typical Cartesian FFF 3D printer.
Using pellets instead of filament
This one’s been modified to use plastic pellets instead of filament, so they are 3D printing with pellets. It has a cone-shape in it while the pellets go in. It goes down towards the extruder on it, funnels them down that way. There’s a picture of it with the pellets being channelled in all of that. I really want you to take a look at it. When you get a chance and see the little color pellet, it’s mostly filler. Most of natural plastic, more of ratio, as I remember it the color ratio, they mixed plastics, they’re making filament. It’s just something like fifty to one of colorant to a filler color. I don’t really like the word “filler”. It’s resin – natural to color.
It doesn’t take a whole lot of colorant. I was amazed with the kind of ratios that actually what it gets melted and mix that actually produces a consistent color. I think it’s not completely mixed, that’s why I am seeing that little striation kind of style to it but I’m sure it’s going to keep improving as it goes through. It might need some kind of little mixing going on but it’s just also because they have a nozzle with the scale-able type diameter so it can go anywhere between 4mm-10mm. That’s another thing in that. That’s a speed issue so that they can really build this large-scaled item fast.
It’s really beautiful. I can imagine they had a lot of challenges as they came up with the system. I have seen one of these pellet delta printers before. As I remember it was last August with the 3D Print Show. Somebody there had a demonstration of a very large format of the printer they used pellets. We took a picture of it, so somewhere I have a picture of me standing next to this gigantic vase. It’s as tall as I am because I’m 5’2″.
Think about the one thing that filament does that helps 3D printing processes. It’s like this big long wire of plastic. In order to stop the float at certain points, you retract it. You pull it back. That action sucks up whatever liquid plastics are in the nozzle, but stops its flow. In 3D printing with pellets, you can’t do that.
I wonder if that limited capabilities of this printer or somehow they may have built in and I didn’t see anywhere on their website information about this. It didn’t really mention it, but do they have a valve that shuts off the flow at times? Or its it this particular design a a very consistent flowing thing? There may not be any places that they retract or would need to retract the plastic.
Wasn’t it last week or the week before we were talking about that great machine of multiple heads and everything. We were talking about wouldn’t it be cool if they can use pellets. I wonder if they can be modified to use that. Two weeks ago, were talking about Project Escher from Autodesk. In this kind of method, if they can be put together by funnels, that would be awesome if they could. You just have this big thing, and the pellet material really gives them the ability to where you wouldn’t have to change out filament and it will go longer.
Problems of 3D Printing with Pellets
It should but I don’t know. I guess one of the biggest problems of 3D printing with pellets is you are carrying all those pellets. Here, you’ve got that cone shaped hopper we were talking about, with a real volume of resin and colorant pellets there. You’re carrying a lot of that weight around, I think the delta printer certainly of the scale made here with the WASP pellet printer, can handle that and is a little more uniquely designed to do that than the typical Cartesian printer. I don’t know if it would work that well.
I’m not sure. I do think it’s possible, but I don’t know. That’s why I love the idea. I like the flexibility of pellets because of the way that you can shift colors so easily. I just like the idea of that better. I think 3D printing with pellets makes sense for large scale products, you just have a lot of product to print in a short period of time. I mean, that requires a lot of material.
That’s part of why there is a 10mm nozzle, the same thing that you see in some of these things we see in the news a lot lately about the cement or stucco extruding 3D printers. They’ve got really large nozzles that are extruding huge materials at once for speed.
You have some quality things that you’re sacrificing for that in terms of the appearance or the lines between each layer are much more noticeable than more materials. That’s true in these chairs as well. But I think the scale of the chair being so large really makes some of the fine details less important. I really want to try these ones. I’d love to see these ones and sit in one. How possible that could be?
It’s another good advancement. I get to see more furniture scale parts being made. Those are big parts. They really are probably not very practical from a cost perspective at the stage but, I still think really cool and really interesting ideas are going on there. It’s definitely not going to be as cost-effective as an injection molded chairs, at the same time, you can achieve a lot of different structures. I mean, you could not mold that design. Maybe you can try to extrude it? But that might not work very well.
It’s very cool. It’s just that these kinds of chairs, typically, the main reasons why they are not made in this is so that you don’t ship it like that; so that you can collapse them and make them ready to assemble. That’s why you do that because you don’t have the ability to do that here with these chairs that are 3D printing with pellets, so you have a big cube that you’re shipping. That is kind of impractical at that stand point.
There are so many things I want to know. 3D Printing, Local Manufacturing: I hope the future of design of products is not limited by being able to pack it in the smallest box possible to ship half way around the world. That is a really sad constraint. It’s what ideas are all about.
Thanks again for suggesting that Corey. We really appreciated it. If you have any ideas for things we should talk about in profile, we would really greatly appreciate it. Leave us a comment below! We really do enjoy tweeting with you listeners so please keep it up. We’re doing a lot of it lately. We just want to keep getting some more. We’re looking forward hearing from you soon.
- Delta WASP Pellet 3D printing
- 3D Prinitng Outside the Build Plate – Project Escher
- Concrete 3D printer
- Stucco 3D printer
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