3D Printing Laboratory3D Printing Laboratory

3D Printing Laboratory

Multi-scale 3D Printing Infrastructure Laboratory

With the support of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, has established a large scale 3D printing facility capable of the additive manufacturing of structures made from a variety of materials including sulfur-based concrete, a non-aqueous material developed at NU and being used to explore habitat construction using indigenous materials on Mars.

Concrete 3D Printer

Commissioned in November 2018, a 280 sq. ft. enclosure providing atmospheric isolation was outfitted with an ABB Robotics IRB 6700 series, 7th generation, high payload, high performance industrial robot. The robot has a large working range of 2.85 meters, high wrist torque, and high production capacity. Coupled with 6-axes of rotation, this allows for a large range of configurations and seamless transition between points in space. The robot has been adapted with a variable temperature melt extruder to produce sulfur-based concretes for both Earth and Mars constructions. Due to the open nature of the extruder, the robot is also capable of printing with various other temperature-dependent composites. To allow the greatest freedom of programming and research, the robot has been set up for control via both ABB Robot Studio tooling software, as is standard in manufacturing industry, and RoboDK software, which allows Python interfacing and a high degree of functional freedom.

Cement 3D Printer

Northwestern's cement 3D printer provides a unique research opportunity into rheological behavior of printed cementitious pastes. The printer utilizes a modified CNC machine frame to act as the gantry, and pressurizes the paste using a Liberty Process Equipment progressive cavity pump and high torque stepper motor. The printer is controlled via mirco controllers and Repetier-Host, a highly flexible open software package. It was developed by the Mechanical Engineering Department and donated to the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department.

Plastics 3D Printer

The Multi-Scale 3D Printing Infrastructure Laboratory also hosts an Anet A6 plastics 3D printer for developing mockups and equipment parts. The printer is capable of printing with Polylactic Acid (PLA), Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS), and several other plastic filaments.

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