Fused deposition modelling – 3D printing to you and I – may be the most fun and efficient way to turn on-screen designs into physical objects, but it’s not always the fastest. Even the smallest models take an hour or so on desktop printers, and for anything over a few centimetres tall with even moderate complexity, print times can get in to double digits quite quickly.

Tackling this problem in South Africa is Randburg-based 3D printer manufacturer RoboBeast. The firm has introduced a couple of modifications to its highly robust range of printers which it believes can accelerate print times by a factor of five.

The first is fairly straightforward and well known in the 3D print community: simply use a wider nozzle size to spew hot plastic out faster. Typically, the wider the nozzle and the faster the print head moves, the lower quality the final model is. But thanks to the overall stability of RoboBeast creator Richard van As and his team have mitigated the quality loss.

(Right) the red skull took a fraction of the time to print when compared to the brown one (left). Can you tell the difference?
(Right) the red skull took a fraction of the time to print when compared to the brown one (left). Can you tell the difference?

The brown model above was made with a RoboBeast printer using a fairly standard 0.3 millimetre extruder head. van As designs his own all-metal extruders.

Then in the red corner is another RoboBeast printer with a much larger 0.9 millimetre extruder head, almost double the maximum diameter usually recommended.

The end result is apparent: the brown print took ten hours to finish, while the red one took only one hour and 56 minutes. With an extruder that is three times bigger, the print took less than a fifth of the time to print and while some detail is lost, it’s still a useable model.

This, says van As, will be critical to building larger printers that can print ever bigger models without having to leave them running for days.

Then in the red corner is another RoboBeast printer with a very special modification. A much larger 0.9 millimetre extruder head is printing the same design, but is doing it much faster. Unlike any other 3D printer we’ve personally seen, the individual layers of the print are thick enough to see as they’re added to the print.

 

A more unique innovation involves the way the heatbed is warmed up prior to use. Typically, this is done by flowing electricity through a PCB to warm up a plastic or metal print bed. van As, however, has begun working with halogen light bulbs in place of a heating element.

van As says that these heatbeds get up to operating temperature quickly, and with a more even distribution of heat. Again, it’s particularly pertinent when working with larger 3D printers where traditional printbeds don’t scale well.

While a regular heatbed takes five to six minutes to heat up, the halogen variant takes only 60 to 90 seconds.

This new feature isn’t a standard on all RoboBeast printers (yet), but they can be special-ordered, or, if you already own one, you can bring it in for an upgrade.

RoboBeast-Halogen