In recent years, additive manufacturing (AM) technology has escaped from the confines of industry to land in the consumer space. 3D printing, as it is known, is now a rapidly growing technology, but little thorough study has been done on part quality. This thesis aims to fill that gap.
Preliminary work by QMI Solutions, a manufacturing consultancy, noted that two desktop 3D printers, the Cube and the Up!, produced parts of very different quality. This was despite them both implementing the same additive manufacturing technology (Fused Deposit Modeling) and having very similar hardware setups.
This thesis quantifies those differences, analyses the reasons behind them, and draws conclusions as to best-practices for design. In particular, the key parameters of surface roughness and form, aesthetic form, flexural strength, and impact strength are examined. These were chosen based on existing literature as well as survey data from user studies. Analysis was performed using three major test pieces which were designed to test the four key parameters. These pieces were modified from those used in previous studies, as well as in ASTM standards, in order to account for system limitations.
The major differentiator in print quality is found to be the build strategy employed by two printers. This decision, made in software, encompasses choices as to material usage, fill volume, fill pattern, and amount of support material used. This report discusses the impact of each of those choices, and concludes that the superior strategy of the UP! is the key reason for its better build quality.