3D printing is commonly used for rapid prototyping; allowing designers to generate components within a short timeframe. However, current 3D printing techniques, including Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), are inherently time-consuming, especially when fabricating thin and tall shapes as it prints objects layer-by-layer and voxel-by-voxel using a 2.5D strategy. As a result, the design iteration can be slow; down to a once or twice per day. In terms of material, the filament can only be printed on existing print material or the base plate rather than in empty space, so extra disposable support structures are often required, which wastes time and material significantly. These drawbacks of traditional 3D printing motivate us to develop an approach that can print shapes directly in the air, such as wireframe printing.
Wireframes, which are edges of objects that can present the shapes of them, can be printed as low-fidelity previews of designs. This approach allows faster prototyping so that it gives designers more opportunities to improve their work. In addition, wireframe structures have been used by architects, sculptors and artists in their designs. Various wireframe artworks ranging from structural buildings to interior decorations are often encountered in daily life.
However, current wireframe printing has two common issues: wires printed horizontally are sagging due to the gravity and have limited ability to print complex structures due to the limitation of their algorithms and the low degree of freedom (DOF) of printers or the difficulties to avoid collisions of robotic arms.
The aim of this research is to design a 3D printing system with off-the-self robotic arms and repurposed FDM 3D printing systems, including an extrusion motor, a print head and a 3D printer controlling board. In addition, this project is also aimed at using two robotic arms to improve the printing quality of wireframes. One arm holds the print head to draw wires, another rotates the print bed to ensure any wire is printed vertically to the ground to reduce the effect of gravity. By doing this, potential sagging problems may be eliminated.