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Kiln Printer

 
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3D printing promises to revolutionise the manufacturing industry, according to some. However it has certain practical obstacles to overcome.

For instance, it is tricky to construct an assembly consisting of multiple unconnected parts which must be free to move with respect to each other; 3D printing and casting both struggle with this, for closely related reasons.

Here's a hybrid scheme which may be able to produce assemblies which other methods cannot.

Step 1:

A robotic print head lays down material in a grid of voxels.

Each voxel contains a mixture of different materials. Most importantly, it either contains, or does not contain, a material which melts at or below the target firing temperature, to be reached in stage 2. Equally importantly, every voxel must contain _something_; it is not acceptable for the voxels overhead to be left unsupported at any stage. The 'scaffolding' material will be removed in step 3.

The result of this stage is basically a lump of slightly damp sand, albeit sand with considerable invisible internal structure.

Step 2:

The lump is fired in a kiln. The sinterable regions within fuse into the desired target material. The non-sinterable regions do not sinter, as the astute reader may have already guessed.

Step 3:

The non-sinterable material is removed. For simple parts this might just consist of spraying them with water; for more complex parts it may be worth choosing a solvent which can dissolve it, and arranging for internal channels so that the solvent can be pumped through the interior.

Wrongfellow, Feb 11 2018

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       Hmm. I'm pretty sure that there are already 3D printers that use a dissolvable or meltable scaffold material.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 11 2018
  

       Yeah. All of the individual steps described (in particular, use of support material, and sintering) are already widely used variations on 3d printing.
The combination may not, but if so I suggest that is because it's not convenient or practical enough, not because noone has ever thought to do it that way. My guess would be that particles of the support substrate would tend to get trapped at the object surface, and that's a deal-breaker for many applications.
Loris, Feb 12 2018
  
      
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