The automation of additive manufacturing (AM) is limited and usually still requires human labor workflows, including the fundamental step of removing the finished object from the printer platform. NASA Ames Research Center has developed a novel method to increase automation of AM by embedding additional instructions into the manufacturing toolpath to create manufacturing tools in-situ, such as linear springs on the printer platform, and to instruct movement of the printer parts to autonomously move the finished object off the platform. The technology eliminates the need for humans in the loop for high-throughput applications. Testing can also be integrated into the manufacturing toolpath.

The method includes embedding into the manufacturing instructions methods to fabricate directly onto the build platform an actuator tool, such as a linear spring. (Image: NASA)

The technology is a method to increase AM automation through augmentation of the Fused Filament Fabrication process. It can significantly increase the speed of 3D printing by automating the removal of printed components from the build platform without the need for additional hardware, which increases printing throughput.

The method can also be leveraged to perform automated object testing and characterization, design space exploration, and to provide the general ability to embed dynamic variables into the manufacturing instructions.

The method includes embedding into the manufacturing instructions methods to fabricate directly onto the build platform an actuator tool, such as a linear spring. The deposition head can be leveraged as a robotic manipulator of the actuator tool to bend, cock, and release the linear spring to strike the target manufactured object and move it off the build platform of the machine they were manufactured on. The ability for an object to “fly off of the machine that made it” essentially enables automated clearing of the processed build volume. Not only additive manufacturing, but also other types of Computer-Numerically-Controlled (CNC) manufacturing, can benefit from the disclosed embodiments.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact NASA’s Licensing Concierge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call at 202-358-7432 to initiate licensing discussions. For more information, visit here .



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This article first appeared in the June, 2022 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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