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Quantum Speed

Some where along the timeline of growth, all 3D printing became a speed race where fast print time became more a goal than print quality. “Faster is better!” became the battle cry.

Additive manufacturing is an inherently slow process. the thinner the layers and narrower the lines (no lines in MSLA) the more time is required to put them in place.

Fine print quality requires thin layers and lines.

The search for speed is a good thing, moving from early designs where the hardware was quite slow. But once fast hardware became available, new limits were discovered.

The first new limits are the laws of mass and inertia. Isaac Newton told us about them long ago. Those laws haven’t changed. Moving, changing direction, and stoping anything with mass (even in zero gravity) has predictable effects. There are limitations to understand and consider in design and ultimate speeds.

Smaller and lighter for the moving parts and heavy and massive for the supporting structure are the general design rules. That’s not going to change.

Except perhaps at the quantum level, of course.

Moving light beams (photons) as in SLA and MSLA resin printing is the fastest process available as far as tangible layer creation. But then add the machine mechanical layer space movements.

But there is a separate set of limitations. It’s with the materials used. Resins and plastic filaments have speed (time) constraints totally separate from Newtons’ mechanical laws of motion.

Resins have exposure and cure time requirements. More layers, finer quality, more time. We all know this. It’s obvious. More is more.

Filaments also have limits to how hot they need to be to flow. How fast they can flow at temperature (viscosity). Pressure required to create flow. Bonding temperature to previous layers. Etc.

Because the material has mass and is forced to flow, there is also a bit fluid dynamics involved. The FDM (FFF, etc) extrusion process is quite abusive to the material and flow control.

Today, we can build hardware that can move faster than the speed the material can be properly deposited or exposed.

Print speeds are shortened most by using the fastest non-printing movements. Getting to the next print position in the shortest amount of time without creating “ringing” vibrations from sudden acceleration and rapid stops. (Hello! Newton…)

The truth is, if hardware speed limitations could be totally removed, the process must still respect the speed requirements of the material bonding and curing..

I am amazed at the printing speeds claimed and obtainable from todays new hardware. Claimed speeds often exceed material physical printing limitations. We are pushing achievable boundaries.

The best total print time reduction is to reduce layers with less finished quality. Or… Use slicing and gcode that takes best advantage of hardware speed for non-printing moves while totally respecting material “change of state” bonding requirements.

The speed limit is mostly in the hands of the firmware OS of the machine and the software features of the slicer and gcode generator.

High speed is not “better” if quality suffers. Meaning the best quality prints are seldom the fastest. Best speed is a convenience for the human requirements of time management. Machines just do what we make them do. Time is irrelevant to inanimate machines unless we make it relevant.

Good to best prints in the least amount of time is a human measurement of quality because we humans are time aware and assign importance to its management.

Oh yeah, at the quantum level, linear time doesn’t exist. It’s why things can be in two places at the same time.

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