AI Helps 3D Printing
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Saturday, 15 February 2020

PrintFixer is a new AI-based tool that can get a 3D print right in fewer attempts. Put another way, you don't have to be an expert any more because AI can do the job for you.

I have to admit that I came late to the 3D printer party. Until recently I relied on the kindness of others to realize my designs. I did the 3D modelling, but I always thought that that was the "difficult" part - until I decided that it was time to acquire my own 3D printer. Then the fun started. Even though I was only printing in "easy" materials - PLA and some ABS - there was a steep learning curve. What I quickly discovered was that parts that were supposed to interlock, like screw threads, tended not to and the exact result depended on the material, head temperature, bed temperature and the direction of the wind - no really, cold drafts were a problem! It seemed that I had been relying on the expertise of others to get my prints done.

I am learning and yes it is fun juggling a set of parameters, but I do have to throw away a few prints before I get it right. Now a team of researchers from the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California is promising to spoil my fun by giving me an AI expert that can improve the accuracy of printing by 50%. The idea seems to be that, using a physics-based model of the layers, a neural network can learn to predict how the finished part will turn out and adjust the model to make the output more like the shape actually desired.

printfixer

So with a copy of PrintFixer, 3D printing will lose some of the fun, but I should also throw away far fewer prints. In addition, the software can show the expected tolerances and if they aren't good enough for you then you can opt to see how a more accurate printer might do. The software can be trained on a new printer with the help of some samples. It will also work with different materials, including metal and other professional materials.

It seems that the teams plan to make the software available to makers as well as professionals and the idea is that it should be possible to build up a database of how different printers work. At the moment, however, the software isn't open source - I can't wait to try it out.

I'm not going to quote the paper because it is behind an IEEE paywall, something that the society should be ashamed of.

More Information

Making 3-D Printing Smarter With Machine Learning

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 February 2020 )