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May 23, 2022
Software invented by University of Michigan (U-M) researchers could double 3D printing speeds without adversely affecting printing accuracy. Spinoff company Ulendo presented the technology at last week’s Rapid + TCT event in Detroit.
Accelerating 3D-printing speed typically causes vibrations that affect the quality of the finished part. The software, designed for printers that operate with a printhead that moves back and forth mechanically, essentially tricks the 3D printer into compensating for real-word vibrations.
Ulendo’s software is called FBS, which stands for Filtered B Splines. The technical name refers to the mathematical function that Chinedum Okwudire, associate professor of mechanical engineering and founder of Ulendo, and his team used to translate the machine commands from the ideal expectation to commands that would compensate for vibration in the 3D printer. "Say you want a 3D printer to travel straight, but due to vibration, the motion travels upward. The FBS algorithm tricks the machine by telling it to follow a path downward, and when it tries to follow that path, it travels straight," Okwudire said. "Our solution allows you to print fast without sacrificing quality."
Machine vibration has been a focus for Okwudire for many years, starting when he was working in industry and wrestled with a high-precision milling machine. His team wasn’t successful at stiffening the machine to prevent vibrations, so they were forced to slow it down.
After joining U-M as a professor in 2011, Okwudire followed his muse and designed software that could overcome machine vibrations. In 2017, a mechanical engineering graduate student from Okwudire's lab implemented the software on a 3D printer. When the research was highlighted in a YouTube video, thought leaders took notice, and Ulendo was born.
"Members of the 3D printing industry have the same jaw-dropping reaction I had when I first heard about how this technology results in a printer operating at two times the speed and 10 times the acceleration," said Ulendo CEO Brenda Jones.
Okwudire and his team intend to expand the algorithm to other kinds of machines, including robots, machine tools, and more types of 3D printers. At RAPID + TCT, he also presented his lab's latest technology, SmartScan. The software intelligently moves a laser beam around to prevent warping caused by heat buildup in parts printed via powder bed fusion.
Ulendo was established through Innovation Partnerships at U-M. Much of the commercial development was funded through a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation.
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