Optimised 3D Printed Structures: developing a six-axis robotic spatial printing system
Spatial printing is a form of additive manufacturing where material, typically thermoplastic, is extruded directly into a three-dimensional structure; unlike layer-based additive manufacturing which builds objects from two-dimensional slices. Spatial printing presents designers with a greatly improved level of control over material deposition, in comparison to layer-based FDM printing. The amount of material extruded dictates both the production time and cost of an object, encouraging designers to use materials conservatively. This also means that spatial printing has the potential to produce optimised structures. When combined with modern digital manufacturing methods, topological optimisation can produce strong and lightweight volumetric structures. This research explores ways in which form optimisation tools can be used to generate spatially printed structures through a design science methodology. Firstly, literature, precedents and optimisation and analysis software are reviewed, in order to identify opportunities for development. Next, Extrusion experiments are performed in order to determine the optimum temperature, print velocity and flow rate to be used throughout the thesis. Four conceptual systems are then produced which test different analysis and optimisation methods. From these concepts, one system is selected and developed through a continuous improvement process. The final version of the algorithm is applied in an application based experiment, an optimised chair design is generated from a number of theoretical loads and supports. The systems created in Optimised 3D Printed Structures begin to question the role of future designers in an increasingly computationally driven world.