Development of an Automated Multiple Material Stereolithography Machine
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An automated Multiple Material Stereolithography (MMSL) machine was developed by integrating components of a 3D Systems 250/50 stereolithography (SL) machine in a separate stand-alone system and adapting them to function with additional components required for MMSL operation. We previously reported retrofitting a 250/50 SL machine with multiple vats to accommodate multiple material fabrication for building a wide variety of multi-material models (Wicker et al., 2004). In the MMSL retrofit, spatial constraints limited the multiple vats located circumferentially on a vertical rotating vat carousel to cross-sectional areas of approximately 4.5-inches by 4.5-inches. The limited build size of the retrofitted 250/50 motivated the full development of a new system with multiple material build capabilities comparable to the build envelope of the original 250/50 machine. The new MMSL machine required fabrication of a large system frame, incorporating various 250/50 components and software, and adding a variety of new components and software. By using many existing components and software, the previous engineering development of 3D Systems could be directly applied to this new technology. Components that were transferred from an existing 250/50 to the MMSL machine included the complete optical system (including the optics plate with laser, mirrors, beam expander, scanning mirrors, and focusing lens), the rim assembly (including the laser beam profilers), the associated controllers (computer system, scanning mirror controller, power supply-vat controller) and the wiring harness. In addition to the new frame, the MMSL machine required the development of a new rotating vat carousel system, platform assembly, multi-pump filling/leveling system, and a custom LabVIEW® control system to provide automated control over the MMSL process. The overall operation of the MMSL system was managed using the LabVIEW® program, which also included controlling a new vat leveling system and new linear and rotational stages, while the 3D Systems software (Buildstation 4.0) was retained for controlling the laser scanning process. As a demonstration of MMSL technology, simple multi material parts were fabricated with vertically and horizontally oriented interfaces. The fully functional MMSL system offers enormous potential for fabricating a wide variety of multiple material functional devices.