University of Michigan develops technology that doubles speed of 3D printing

Molong Duon and Deokkyun Yoon, both mechanical engineering PhD students, and Chinedum Okwudire, associate professor in mechanical engineering, have developed what they call "filtered b-spline" algorithms to speed up consumer 3-D printers without sacrificing quality. Desktop 3-D printers often use light and flexible parts to save costs and stay affordable, but this allows for unwanted flexing and vibrations when the movement of the printhead is accelerated. These vibrations can offset the printhead, and because the printer uses a stepper motor, it won't know there is a problem and will keep printing, resulting in an incredibly deformed final product. The Michigan Engineering researchers developed algorithms that take into account the dynamics of the printer and refine the movement of the printhead and platform to mitigate vibration errors. Photo: Evan Dougherty/Assistant Multimedia Editor - University of Michigan - College of Engineering (Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering)

ANN ARBOR – A new software invented at the University of Michigan that speeds up 3D printing has hit the market.

Developed by spinoff company Ulendo, the product was recently launched at the RAPID + TCT Conference -- North America’s largest conference for additive manufacturing.

3D printing has long been limited by its slow process, and U-M associate professor of mechanical engineering and founder of Ulendo, Chinedum Okwudire, said his software is changing the 3D printing landscape.

“If you want to reduce vibration in a moving object, most times you can do that by slowing down,” Okwudire said in a statement. “But as 3D printing is already very slow, that solution creates another problem. Our solution allows you to print fast without sacrificing quality.”

He added that the faster speed wouldn’t necessarily mean a larger consumption of energy, which would allow for a potential cost reduction per printed part.

The Ulendo-developed software is called FBS, short for Filtered B Splines -- a mathematical function the U-M team used to translate the printer’s commands and vibrations.

“Say you want a 3D printer to travel straight, but due to vibration, the motion travels upward,” Okwudire said in a statement. “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 began to design software in 2011 that could override machine vibrations. In 2017, a graduate student from Okwudire’s mechanical engineering lab implemented FBS on a 3D printer.

Ulendo was established via U-M’s Innovation Partnerships, and the university has a financial interest in the company.

It got off the ground with a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation and an MTRAC grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“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,” Ulendo CEO Brenda Jones said in a statement.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.