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On the bottom, vibrations from the 3-D printer caused the printhead to offset multiple times. On the top, the new U-M algorithm was applied to the printer, enabling a successful print. Both U.S. Capitol replicas were printed on a HICTOP Prusa i3 3-D printer at ~2X speed. (Credit: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering)

A major drawback to 3D printing — the slow pace of the work — could be alleviated through a software algorithm developed at the University of Michigan. The algorithm allows printers to deliver high-quality results at speeds up to two times faster than those in common use, with no added hardware costs.

One of the challenges for today’s 3D printers lies in vibrations caused as they work. A printer’s movable parts, particularly in lightweight desktop models, cause vibrations that reduce the quality of the item being produced. And the faster the machine moves, the more vibrations are created.

To ensure details are reproduced accurately, the machines are operated slowly. And the pace of 3-D printing is one of the factors that has prevented the technology finding a broader audience. In explaining how his algorithm works, researchers use the example of someone trying to deliver a speech in a large hall. To reach ears in the farthest rows, that speaker will have to shout.

Should someone produce a megaphone, and the speaker still continues to shout, their voice will be overly amplified and cause the audience to squirm. Using the megaphone in a normal voice, however, produces the right clarity and volume.

The software can also be used on a variety of industrial-grade machines which suffer from similar limitations due to vibrations.

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