Development of low cost inkjet 3D printing for the automotive industry : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a degree of Master of Engineering in Mechatronics, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
The aim of this project is to develop a low cost, powder based 3D printer that utilises inkjet printing technology. The 3D printer uses a standard drop-on-demand inkjet print head to deposit a binder onto the powder bed one layer at a time to build the desired object.
Existing commercial 3D printers that use inkjet technology are large and expensive. They do not allow much control to adjust printing parameters, meaning it is difficult to conduct research with different materials and binders. Due to these factors it is not viable to use one for research purposes.
The automotive industry uses 3D printing technology heavily throughout the prototyping process, some manufacturers have even started using the technology to produce functional parts for production vehicles. Ford Motor Company helped develop 3D printing technology and brought it to the automotive industry while multiple university’s in America were researching the technology.
Based off an open source design, the printer developed in this project has been customised to allow full control over printing parameters. The body of the printer is laser cut from acrylic. All mechanical components are off the shelf items wherever possible to keep costs down and allow the print area to be easily scaled. Binder is deposited with an HP C6602A print head which is filled with regular black printer ink. The ink is deposited onto a bed of 3D Systems VisiJet PXL Core powder. Custom made parts manufactured in house allow for the print head to be easily changed to whatever is needed. The print head used is refillable and can therefore be filled with custom binders.
With the 3D printer developed in house, all aspects can easily be adjusted. Having full control over printing parameters will allow research to be conducted to develop new 3D printable powders and binders, or to improve the printing quality of existing powders and binders.
The 3D printer has also been developed so that it is easy to adapt to other features to increase its capabilities. With the addition of a UV light source, UV curable binders could be researched; or with the addition of a laser, powder sintering could be researched.