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Article
Paste Extruder—Hardware Add-On for Desktop
3D Printers
Catalin Gheorghe Amza * ID
, Aurelian Zapciu and Diana Popescu
Faculty of Engineering and Management of Technological Systems, University Politehnica of Bucharest,
Bucuresti 060042, Romania; aurelianzapciu@yahoo.com (A.Z.); dian_popescu@yahoo.com (D.P.)
* Correspondence: acata1@camis.pub.ro or amza_catalin@yahoo.com; Tel.: +40-74-450-0803

Received: 10 July 2017; Accepted: 6 August 2017; Published: 8 August 2017

Abstract: This paper presents the design, development and testing of a paste/clay extrusion device
intended to be used as a drop-in replacement for the conventional thermoplastic extruder of a desktop
filament-based 3D printer. A plastic cylinder loaded with gel, paste or clay material is placed into
the device. Feedstock is pressed through an extrusion nozzle by a piston driven by an electrically
actuated drive-screw and nut mechanism. The device allows the build material to heat up to 80 ◦ C.
Forced air cooling is used to assist the cooling or hardening process of the freshly-printed material
during fabrication. The feedstock container, nozzle, and material-loading process are all suitable
for use in a sterile environment. The device is designed for seamless integration with existing 3D
printing firmware and slicing software. After designing the device, a prototype was produced and
installed on a 3D printer. Silicone and acrylic polymers, as well as dental gel, were used to fabricate
3D printed sample objects.

Keywords: additive manufacturing; 3D printing; paste extrusion; fused deposition modeling

1. Introduction
Additive manufacturing (AM) is a continuously developing industry. The manufacturing
technology, which consists in fabricating objects layer-by-layer (i.e., in an additive manner), has
seen big progress in terms of developing new processes and consolidating existing ones, improving
equipment performances, and enlarging the range of build materials [1]. Previously used mostly
for building prototypes and visual models, the AM technology that uses plastic polymers and metal
powders today has matured, and is also used for manufacturing functional parts [2]. As 3D printing
has gained a foothold in several fields such as aerospace and automotive, more and more industries
are now searching for ways to exploit the advantages of AM processes. These ways include developing
new materials for use with ‘traditional’ AM processes, as well as developing technology and devices
that use existing materials such as the paste-like materials of interest in our research, in an AM process.
In regards to the latter, advances have been made in 3D printing materials that had been previously
restricted to conventional manufacturing processes, such as scaffolds for tissue engineering [3], cell
cultures [4], live tissue [5], food [6], medical implants [7], ceramics [8], cements [9], and composites [10]
with the use of specially designed paste extruders. It is therefore important that AM equipment keeps
up with these new developments.
After reviewing the existing devices available, the authors have identified two main constructive
designs for paste and clay extrusion devices. The first constructive design is a piston-type extruder,
similar to a syringe, electrically or pneumatically actuated [11]. For the type of this device that uses
an electric motor, the rotation is transformed into linear translation using a drive-screw and nut
mechanism, or a pinion-rack mechanism. Open source devices made with 3D printed parts are also
available. The Universal Paste Extruder by RichRap [12] uses a drive belt mechanism to drive the

Technologies 2017, 5, 50; doi:10.3390/technologies5030050 www.mdpi.com/journal/technologies


Technologies 2017, 5, 50 2 of 13

Technologies
piston 2017, 5, 50feedstock through a nozzle. The limitations of this design relate to several 2aspects.
that presses of 12

Due to the reduced amount of feedstock the extruder tube can hold, and because of the inability
Due to the reduced amount of feedstock the extruder tube can hold, and because of the inability to
to feed more material during fabrication, the productivity of this extruder is limited to fabricating
feed more material during fabrication, the productivity of this extruder is limited to fabricating small-
small-volume objects. The use of linear motion to drive the piston often leads to design choices
volume objects. The use of linear motion to drive the piston often leads to design choices involving
involving linear guides,
linear guides, which add which add weight,
weight, raise theraise theof
center center of gravity
gravity of the extrusion
of the extrusion device,device,
and affectand the
affect
thedynamic
dynamic capabilities
capabilities of the
of the 3D printer.
3D printer. Also,Also, in of
in case case of using
using pneumatically
pneumatically actuated actuated
pistons or pistons
other or
other mechanisms such as the belt drive integrated in the Universal Paste
mechanisms such as the belt drive integrated in the Universal Paste Extruder, the feedstock retraction Extruder, the feedstock
retraction
functionfunction
cannot be cannot be usedfabrication.
used during during fabrication. Thisisfunction
This function specific tois specific to the
the material materialprocess,
extrusion extrusion
process, and improves
and improves the qualitythe of
quality of 3Dobjects
3D printed printedbyobjects
allowing bytheallowing
extruderthe to extruder to retract
retract a small volume a small
of
volume of feedstock before repositioning the extruder head, which insures
feedstock before repositioning the extruder head, which insures that no material will leak onto the that no material will leak
onto the
part part during
during fabrication.
fabrication.
TheThe second
second constructive
constructive design
design usesuses an electrically
an electrically actuated
actuated auger auger
screwscrew
to pushto material
push materialthrough
thethrough
nozzle the [13].nozzle [13]. Pressurized
Pressurized feedstockfeedstock
is storedisinstored in a separate
a separate container container
and fedand fed extruder.
to the to the
extruder.
While While this
this design allowsdesign
for allows for theoffeeding
the feeding materialof material
during the during the fabrication
fabrication process, process,
and thus andenables
thus
theenables the fabrication
fabrication of largeofobjects,
large objects, this feature
this feature alsoalso requires
requires additionaldrive
additional drive and
andcontrol
control elements
elements
(electrical motors, pressure sensors, compressors, pneumatic valves, etc.). Consequently,
(electrical motors, pressure sensors, compressors, pneumatic valves, etc.). Consequently, it increases it increases
thethe complexityofofthe
complexity theAMAM machine,
machine, and
and makes
makesititdifficult
difficultforfor
the paste
the pasteextruder
extruderto beto provided
be provided as a as
system that can be a drop-in replacement for a typical thermoplastic
a system that can be a drop-in replacement for a typical thermoplastic extruder used in material extruder used in material
extrusion applications.
extrusion applications.
Another aspect identified during literature analysis is that the existing solutions are either
Another aspect identified during literature analysis is that the existing solutions are either lacking,
lacking, or require a difficult process for implementing features that allow the fine-tuning of various
or require a difficult process for implementing features that allow the fine-tuning of various extrusion
extrusion parameters, such as the speed of extrusion, and control of the volume of deposited material.
parameters, such as the speed of extrusion, and control of the volume of deposited material. For certain
For certain materials, such as air-drying clays, it is important that the drying process happens at a
materials, such as air-drying clays, it is important that the drying process happens at a specific pace.
specific pace.
Syringe-based
Syringe-basedpaste pasteextruders
extruderstypically
typically use large nozzle
use large nozzlediameters
diametersand andlayer
layer heights
heights to to fabricate
fabricate
objects.
objects. This can have a negative impact on the level of detail that can be fabricated, as well as as
This can have a negative impact on the level of detail that can be fabricated, as well on on
surface finish. Figure 1 shows three-dimensional representations of differences
surface finish. Figure 1 shows three-dimensional representations of differences produced by slicing produced by slicing
a 20 mm
a 20 mm diameter
diameterspheresphere(Figure
(Figure1a)
1a)at
at0.8
0.8 mm
mm (Figure
(Figure 1b)1b) and
and 0.25
0.25mm mmlayer
layerheights
heights(Figure
(Figure 1c).
1c).

(a) (b) (c)


Figure 1. The influence of layer height on additive manufacturing (AM) surface finish (a) Ideal
Figure 1. The influence of layer height on additive manufacturing (AM) surface finish (a) Ideal sphere
sphere (b) Sphere sliced at 0.8 mm layer height, typical of commercial paste extruders (c) Sphere
(b) Sphere sliced at 0.8 mm layer height, typical of commercial paste extruders (c) Sphere sliced at
sliced at 0.25 mm layer height.
0.25 mm layer height.
In this context, the authors designed and developed a paste extrusion device (Figure 2) that can
In this some
eliminate context, the
of the authors designed
limitations and developed
of the aforementioned a paste
solutions and extrusion
can be useddevice (Figurepaste-
with various 2) that
can eliminate
like some
materials. Withofsuch
the limitations
an add-ons ofto the
the aforementioned
existing material solutions and can be
extrusion printers, oneused with various
can control the
paste-like materials. With such an add-ons to the existing material extrusion printers,
flow (speed, volume) of material to accommodate certain needs for the extruded feedstock. one can control
the flow (speed, volume) of material to accommodate certain needs for the extruded feedstock.
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Figure
Figure 2. 2. Isometricviews
Isometric viewsofofthe
thedeveloped
developed paste
paste extruder
extruderfor
formaterial
materialextrusion
extrusion3D
3Dprinters.
printers.

2. Towards an Improved 3D Printer Extruder Design


2. Towards an Improved 3D Printer Extruder Design
2.1. Design Considerations
2.1. Design Considerations
In order to develop a device that can replace the thermoplastic material extruder on a typical
In order to develop a device that can replace the thermoplastic material extruder on a typical desktop
desktop material extrusion 3D printer, there are several design aspects that must be taken into
material extrusion 3D printer, there are several design aspects that must be taken into consideration.
consideration.
The first aspect relates to the electromechanical components of a thermoplastic filament extruder.
The first aspect relates to the electromechanical components of a thermoplastic filament
Most desktop
extruder. Mostmaterial
desktop extrusion
material printers
extrusion useprinters
stepper use
motors to grab
stepper andto
motors push
grabfeedstock
and pushinto a heated
feedstock
nozzle
into a[14]. Thenozzle
heated nozzle[14].is heated using
The nozzle is aheated
ceramic heating
using cartridge,
a ceramic heatingand the temperature
cartridge, is controlled
and the temperature
using a thermistor, thermocouple or a temperature sensor. This means
is controlled using a thermistor, thermocouple or a temperature sensor. This means that the that the printer has theprinter
required
electronics to control all these components, which include the stepper motor drivers,
has the required electronics to control all these components, which include the stepper motor drivers, Analog-to-Digital
Converters (ADCs) for
Analog-to-Digital temperature
Converters (ADCs)control, voltage regulators,
for temperature control, and relays
voltage for switching
regulators, the heating
and relays for
elements
switchingon the
andheating
off. elements on and off.
Another
Another aspect
aspect is the size
is the of the
size 3D3D
of the printer. TheThe
printer. dimensions
dimensions of the extruder
of the carriage,
extruder carriage,andandthe the
mass
allowed on the axis
mass allowed thataxis
on the holds the
that extruder,
holds constrain
the extruder, the maximum
constrain dimensions
the maximum of the paste
dimensions of theextruder.
paste
extruder.
Another important fact is that the biggest 3D printer manufacturers develop their own proprietary
software,Another important
which does fact for
not allow is the
thatset-up
the biggest 3D printer needed
of the parameters manufacturers develop
for a different typetheir own
of extruder
proprietary software, which does not allow for the set-up of the parameters
than the one specific to the machine. Therefore, the only possibility to circumvent this problem is to needed for a different
usetype of extruder
open-source than theand
firmware onesoftware.
specific to the machine. Therefore, the only possibility to circumvent
this problem is to use open-source
The material extrusion desktop firmware and software.
3D printer on which the paste extruder was added-on is
The material extrusion desktop 3D
a Cartesian-style printer, equipped with a dual extruder printer on which the paste
(Figure 3). Theextruder was
printer hasadded-on
a closed isbuild
a
Cartesian-style printer, equipped with a dual extruder (Figure 3). The printer has a closed build
chamber and a build platform that can heat up to 110 ◦ C. As for electronics, the printer comprises all
chamber and a build platform that can heat up to 110 °C. As for electronics, the printer comprises all
the components that the paste extruder requires in order to function. These include two low-current
the components that the paste extruder requires in order to function. These include two low-current
stepper motor drivers, and two ADCs, which allow temperature control using thermistors. The 3D
stepper motor drivers, and two ADCs, which allow temperature control using thermistors. The 3D
printer runs on open-source firmware Sailfish 3.4 (www.sailfishfirmware.com), during tests.
printer runs on open-source firmware Sailfish 3.4 (www.sailfishfirmware.com), during tests.
Certain applications for paste-like materials, especially in the medical and food industries, require
Certain applications for paste-like materials, especially in the medical and food industries,
therequire
use of the
sterile
useinstruments. In order to
of sterile instruments. In fulfill
order this demand,
to fulfill the pastethe
this demand, extruder design uses
paste extruder designstandard
uses
single-use
standard60 mL syringe
single-use 60 mLtubes to hold
syringe tubesthe feedstock,
to hold theand can be easily
feedstock, and can adapted to accommodate
be easily adapted to
different tube sizes.
accommodate different tube sizes.
Material
Material extrusion
extrusionAM AMisisan an“additive
“additive manufacturing
manufacturing processprocessininwhich
whichmaterial
materialis is selectively
selectively
dispensed
dispensed through
througha anozzle
nozzleorororifice”
orifice”[15].
[15]. For
For increased adaptabilityand
increased adaptability andease
easeofofuse,
use, a Luer
a Luer lock
lock
system [16] and blunt tip needles were used for the nozzle. Several dimensional variants are available
for the blunt tip needle diameter (Figure 4).
Technologies 2017, 5, 50 4 of 12
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Technologies 2017, 5, 50 4 of 12
system [16]
Technologies 2017,and
5, 50blunt tip needles were used for the nozzle. Several dimensional variants are available
system [16] and blunt tip needles were used for the nozzle. Several dimensional variants are available
4 of 13
for
for the
the blunt
system tip
tip needle
[16] and
blunt blunt diameter
needletip needles(Figure
diameter 4).
were used
(Figure 4). for the nozzle. Several dimensional variants are available
for the blunt tip needle diameter (Figure 4).

Figure 3.
Figure3. QidiTech
3. QidiTech Avatar
QidiTech Avatar IV
IV dual
Avatar IV dual extrusion
extrusion system.
system.
Figure dual extrusion system.
Figure 3. QidiTech Avatar IV dual extrusion system.

Figure
Figure 4. Various
4.Various
Figure4. nozzle
Variousnozzle dimensions,
dimensions, from
nozzle dimensions, from 0.15
0.15 mm
mmto
mm to1.54
to 1.54mm.
1.54 mm.
mm.
Figure 4. Various nozzle dimensions, from 0.15 mm to 1.54 mm.
The feedstock
feedstockisis
Thefeedstock pushed
ispushed through
pushedthrough
through the the nozzle
nozzle using
the nozzle using aaa piston
piston actuated
actuated by
by aa drive-screw and nut
The
mechanism. The stepper motor is fixed in position,
using
and no
piston
linear
actuated
guides are
adrive-screw
byneeded,
drive-screw
as the
and
and
nut
nut
nut
was
The
mechanism. feedstock
The is
stepperpushed
motor through
is fixed the
in nozzle
position,using
and a
no piston
linear actuated
guides by
are a drive-screw
needed, as the and
nut nut
was
mechanism.
pre-tensionedThe stepper
against themotor
drive is fixed in position, and no linear guides are needed, as the nut was
mechanism. The
pre-tensioned stepper
against drive screw
themotor is fixed
screw (Figure
(Figure 5),
5), and
in position, the
andand
thenoinner rubber
linear
inner seal
guides
rubber prevents
are
seal needed,the
prevents as drive
the screw
the nut
drive was
screw
pre-tensioned
from spinning.
pre-tensioned against
The the
pitch drive
of the screw
drive (Figure
screw is 5),
1.25and
mm. the inner rubber seal prevents the drive screw
from spinning.against
The pitch theof
drive screwscrew
the drive (Figure 5), and
is 1.25 mm.the inner rubber seal prevents the drive screw
from spinning.
from spinning.The
Thepitch
pitchofofthe
thedrive
drivescrew
screwisis1.25
1.25 mm.
mm.

Figure
Figure 5.
5. Section
Section view
view of
of aa virtual
virtual model
model of
of the
the paste
paste extruder.
extruder.
Figure 5. Section view of a virtual model of the paste extruder.
Figure 5. Section view of a virtual model of the paste extruder.
The
The paste
paste extruder
extruder was
was designed
designed to to make
make use
use of of one
one ofof the
the stepper
stepper motors
motors that
that comes
comes withwith the
the
thermoplastic
The pastematerial
extruder extruders,
was in
designed order
to to
make not modify
use of onetheof3D printer
the steppertoo
thermoplastic material extruders, in order to not modify the 3D printer too much. The stepper much.
motors The
that stepper
comes motor
with the
motor
is a The paste extruder
NEMA17-sized
thermoplastic material was
motor, designed
which
extruders, is to make
typically
in order to use
used
not in of onethe
desktop
modify of3D
theprinter
stepper motors
extruders.
too much. that
The
The comes
stepper
stepper with
motor
motorthe
is a NEMA17-sized motor, which is typically used in desktop 3D printer extruders. The stepper motor
thermoplastic
is used
is aused in 200material
NEMA17-sizedmicro extruders,
steps per turnin order
setting.to not
The modify
shaft of the
the 3D printer
stepper too
motor much.
is The
connected stepper
to the motor
drive
is in 200 micromotor, which
steps per turnis typically
setting. The used in desktop
shaft 3D printer
of the stepper extruders.
motor The stepper
is connected to themotor
drive
isscrew
a NEMA17-sized
is through
used in 200 a
micromotor,
set of
stepswhich
double
per is typically
helical
turn gears
setting. usedashaft
with
The in desktop
torque
of the 3D printer
multiplier
stepper of 3.3
motorextruders.
(Figure
is The stepper
6).
connected to the motor
drive
screw through a set of double helical gears with a torque multiplier of 3.3 (Figure 6).
is screw
used in 200 micro
through a setsteps per turn
of double helicalsetting.
gears The
withshaft of the
a torque stepperof
multiplier motor is connected
3.3 (Figure 6). to the drive
screw through a set of double helical gears with a torque multiplier of 3.3 (Figure 6).
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Figure 6.
Figure 6. Herringbone
Herringbone gears
gears transmission.
transmission.
Figure6.6.Herringbone
Figure Herringbone gears
gears transmission.
transmission.
The extruder
extruder offers
offers the
the possibility
possibility of
of heating
heating the
the feedstock
feedstock up
up to
to 80
80 °C if
if the
the fabrication
fabrication process
process
TheThe
requiresextruder
The it. Thisoffers
extruder the possibility
offers
temperature is of heating
the possibility
achievedofusingthe
heating
a feedstock
theWfeedstock
30 ceramic up
◦ C if°C
up toheater
80to 80 thecontrolled
°C
and iffabrication process
the fabrication
using requires
process
an NTC
requires it. This temperature is achieved using a 30 W ceramic heater and controlled using an NTC
it. This
3950 temperature
requires
thermistor. is achieved
it. This temperature
The heater using a 30
is achieved
and the W ceramic
using a 30
thermistor heater
are and
Wmounted controlled
ceramic heater
on a using an
and controlled
copper sleeveNTC 3950 thermistor.
using antoNTC
attached the
3950 thermistor. The heater and the thermistor are mounted on a copper sleeve attached to the
Theextruder
heater
3950 and the
thermistor.
tube thermistor
The 7).
(Figure heaterareand
mounted on a copper
the thermistor are sleeve attached
mounted on a to the extruder
copper sleeve tube (Figure
attached 7).
to the
extruder tube (Figure 7).
extruder tube (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Copper sleeve for heater and temperature sensor.


Figure7.7.Copper
Copper sleeve for heater and
Figure 7. Coppersleeve
Figure sleeve for
for heater andtemperature
heater and temperaturesensor.
temperature sensor.
sensor.
The 3D
The 3D printer
printer used
used inin testing
testing the
the device
device uses
uses the
the stepper
stepper motor
motor bodies
bodies mounted
mounted onon the
the extruder
extruder
The 3D3D
The printer used
printer used inintesting
testing the
the device
device uses the stepper
the steppermotor
motorbodies
bodiesmounted
mounted on
thethe
onwas extruder
extruder
to
to trigger
trigger the
the mechanical
mechanical switch
switch of
of the
the end
end stop
stop for
for the
the x
x axis.
axis. Since
Since the
the motor
motor position
position was changed
changed
to trigger thethe
to trigger
for the paste
paste
mechanical
mechanical
extruder,
switch
switch ofofthe end
thetoend stop
stop for the xx axis.
for the axis. Since
Sincethe
themotor
motorposition
position was changed
8). was changed
forfor
the the
paste extruder,
extruder, a aa new
new
new solution
solution
solution to
trigger
totrigger
trigger the
the
the
end-stop
end-stop
end-stop
was designed
was
was
designed
designed
(Figure 8).
(Figure
(Figure 8).
for the paste extruder, a new solution to trigger the end-stop was designed (Figure 8).

Figure 8.
Figure 8. End-stop
End-stop trigger.
trigger.
Figure 8. End-stop trigger.
Figure 8. End-stop trigger.
AA fan
fan mount
mount was
was included
included on
on the
the side
side ofof the
the extruder
extruder carriage.
carriage. It
It can
can be
be used
used to
to blow
blow air
air onto
onto
the A fan
built mount
part in wasto
order included
cool or on the side
harden it of the9).
(Figure extruder carriage. It can be used to blow air onto
the built part in order to cool or harden it (Figure 9).
A built
the fan mount
part inwas included
order onharden
to cool or the side of the extruder
it (Figure 9). carriage. It can be used to blow air onto the
built part in order to cool or harden it (Figure 9).
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Figure
Figure 9.
9. Fan
Fandesign
design for
for forced
forced cooling
cooling of
of printed
printed part.
part.

2.2. Materials
2.2. Materials
Various materials have been used to build the prototype device (see Table 1). The tube that holds
Various materials have been used to build the prototype device (see Table 1). The tube that holds
the feedstock is made out of polypropylene, a plastic with a slippery surface that is resistant to many
the feedstock is made out of polypropylene, a plastic with a slippery surface that is resistant to many
chemical solvents, bases and acids [17]. The tip of the plunger uses a polyisoprene seal. Other parts
chemical solvents, bases and acids [17]. The tip of the plunger uses a polyisoprene seal. Other parts for
for the paste extruder have been 3D printed from acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) filament
the paste extruder have been 3D printed from acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) filament supplied
supplied by 3D Prima. For the set of double helical gears, polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified
by 3D Prima. For the set of double helical gears, polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified (PETG)
(PETG) was used because of its superior mechanical properties.
was used because of its superior mechanical properties.
Using 3D printed parts has allowed for the efficient distribution of weight. The resulting
Using 3D printed parts has allowed for the efficient distribution of weight. The resulting extruder
extruder has a center of mass just 60 mm higher than the standard equipment, and a total mass when
has a center of mass just 60 mm higher than the standard equipment, and a total mass when filled
filled with 50 cm3 of clay of 640 g, which is roughly the same as the weight of the machine’s standard
with 50 cm3 of clay of 640 g, which is roughly the same as the weight of the machine’s standard
dual extruder.
dual extruder.
Table
Table 1.
1. 3D
3D printed
printed materials
materials used
used for
for prototype
prototype fabrication.
fabrication.
Print Temperature Layer Height
Component Material Print Temperature Layer Infill
Component Material (°C) (mm)Height Infill
Mounting brackets, plunger connector ABS (◦ C)
230 (mm)
0.2 35.00% (hexagonal)
Nutplunger
Mounting brackets, case connector ABS
ABS 230
230 0.150.2 63.00%
35.00%(linear)
(hexagonal)
NutGears
case ABS
PETG 230
235 0.15
0.12 63.00%
100.00%(linear)
Gears PETG 235 0.12 100.00%
2.3. 3D Printing Parameter Settings for Paste Extruder
2.2.1. 3D Printing Parameter Settings for Paste Extruder
As previously mentioned, the Cartesian 3D printer uses a version of Sailfish open-source
As previously mentioned, the Cartesian 3D printer uses a version of Sailfish open-source firmware.
firmware.
The firmware
The firmware defines
defines and
and enables
enables the
the set-up
set-upofofseveral
severalimportant
importantparameters
parametersof ofthe
theAM
AMprocess.
process.
For the
For thethermoplastic
thermoplasticfilamentfilamentextruder,
extruder,the
the volume
volume of of extruded
extruded material
material is set
is set up specifying
up by by specifying
the
the diameter
diameter of the offilament
the filament df,diameter
df, the the diameter
of theofnozzle dn, andn,
the nozzle an over/under
over/under extrusion
extrusion parameter
parameter e, and
ae,constant
and a constant that reflects
that reflects the specifications
the specifications of the mechanism,
of the driving m. Thus, m.
driving mechanism, theThus,
volumetheofvolume
extruded of
extrudedVe
filament filament
is: Ve is:
df2
Ve = ·π ·e·m (1)
= 4∙ ∙ ∙ (1)
and the length of the extruded filament Le is: 4
and the length of the extruded filament Le is:
df2
Le = ·e·m (2)
= dn2∙ ∙ (2)

These formulas
These formulas were
were used
used to
to determine
determine the
the parameters
parameters needed
needed for
for the
the extrusion
extrusion process
process while
while
using the paste extruder prototype. The filament diameter is replaced by the inner diameter oftube
using the paste extruder prototype. The filament diameter is replaced by the inner diameter of the the
tube that holds the feedstock. The driving mechanism is also modified. The m variable for the
thermoplastic material extruder is:
=2 ∙ ∙ (3)
Technologies 2017, 5, 50 7 of 13

that holds the feedstock. The driving mechanism is also modified. The m variable for the thermoplastic
material extruder is:
mt = 2π ·b·s (3)

where s is the number of motor steps, and b is the radius of the toothed wheel that grabs and drives
the filament.
This formula changes for the paste extruder, where m becomes:
z1
mp = ·p (4)
z2

where z1 , z2 are the number of teeth in the double helical gears, and p is the pitch of the drive screw.
While these settings can be changed directly in the printer’s firmware, the same result can
also be achieved by using a slicing software program that allows the user to access and modify
these parameters.
The slicer program used to set the process parameters and split the test models into layers is
Makerware from Makerbot. The source code of this software program was initially developed by
Makerbot for use on its own products, and eventually made available to the public. The program
uses text files that contain references to various parameters, and allow an end-user to easily load and
unload fabrication process settings without modifying the printer firmware. Several test parts with
basic geometry have been modeled, sliced, and 3D printed using various materials.
The settings used for testing the paste extruder prototype can be seen in Table 2.

Table 2. Printing settings.

Setting Value
Nozzle diameter 0.4 to 1.5 mm
Layer height 0.15 to 1 mm
Road width 0.4 to 1 mm
Number of contours 2
Temperature 35 ◦ C
Infill 100%
Print speed 30 to 60 mm/s

3. Discussion
The paste extruder prototype (Figure 10) was integrated seamlessly with the desktop 3D printer.
The stepper motor, ceramic heating cartridge, thermistor, and DC fan were successfully exported and
incorporated into the new extruder.
Certain potential applications for material extrusion 3D printing, such as the fabrication of molds
used in the dental industry, require high part detail and smooth surfaces. By removing the guide rail
system found in other paste extruders, and lowering device mass through using lightweight 3D-printed
parts, the proposed extruder is able to match typical desktop thermoplastic material extrusion accuracy,
layer heights, and printing speeds.
Printing speed becomes increasingly important when printing with paste-like materials rather
than thermoplastic filament. Most paste-like materials have different curing times, which means that
the printer a limited timeframe to fabricate a part before the material starts to cure or harden, and it
becomes difficult or even impossible to process. As build time in additive manufacturing is inversely
proportional to the layer height, higher printing speeds enable the fabrication of highly detailed,
smooth surfaces with a wider range of materials.
Number of contours 2
Temperature 35 °C
Infill 100%
Print speed 30 to 60 mm/s

Technologies 2017, 5, 50 8 of 13
3. Discussion
The paste extruder prototype (Figure 10) was integrated seamlessly with the desktop 3D printer.
Subsequently,
The stepper motor, the prototype
ceramic was
heating used to fabricate
cartridge, a series
thermistor, and DCof test
fan were a 20 × 20 ×exported
parts:successfully 20 mm cube,
and
20 × 20 mminto
aincorporated cylinder and a 15 × 60
the new extruder. × 10 bar (Figure 11).

Technologies 2017, 5, 50 8 of 12

Printing speed becomes increasingly important when printing with paste-like materials rather
than thermoplastic filament. Most paste-like materials have different curing times, which means that
the printer a limited timeframe to fabricate a part before the material starts to cure or harden, and it
becomes difficult or even impossible to process. As build time in additive manufacturing is inversely
proportional to the layer height, higher printing speeds enable the fabrication of highly detailed,
smooth surfaces with a wider range of materials.
Subsequently, the prototype was used to fabricate a series of test parts: a 20 × 20 × 20 mm cube,
Figure 10. Paste extruder prototype.
a 20 × 20 mm cylinder and a 15 × 60Figure
× 10 bar
10. (Figure 11). prototype.
Paste extruder

Certain potential applications for material extrusion 3D printing, such as the fabrication of
molds used in the dental industry, require high part detail and smooth surfaces. By removing the
guide rail system found in other paste extruders, and lowering device mass through using
lightweight 3D-printed parts, the proposed extruder is able to match typical desktop thermoplastic
material extrusion accuracy, layer heights, and printing speeds.

Figure 11. Test samples (Left column) virtual models (Middle column) slicer paths (Right column)
Figure 11. Test samples (Left column) virtual models (Middle column) slicer paths (Right column)
fabricated parts using silicone polymers.
fabricated parts using silicone polymers.

The fabricated parts show a good first layer adhesion on the polycarbonate print surface used
during The
thefabricated
test. Someparts showdrooping
noticeable a good first layerdue
occurs adhesion on the polycarbonate
to the viscosity of the material.print surface
Figure used
12 shows
during the test. Some noticeable drooping occurs due to the viscosity of the material.
the differences in surface finish between a part made from silicone with the paste extruder prototype Figure 12
shows the differences in surface finish between a part made from silicone with
using a 1.5 mm needle and 1 mm layer height, and one made with ABS using the standard extruderthe paste extruder
prototype
with using
a 0.4 mm a 1.5 and
nozzle mm0.2needle
mm andlayer1 height.
mm layerAllheight, and one have
configurations madebeen
with3DABS using on
printed thethe
standard
same
extruder
machine. with a 0.4 mm nozzle and 0.2 mm layer height. All configurations have been 3D printed on
the same machine.
Figure 13 depicts the use of the proposed extruder when using various paste-like materials such
as silicone, white cement mixture, and commercial dental gel (using the same parameters as above for
the printing process, see Table 3 for materials characteristics). Figure 14 shows the same part fabricated
using dental gel and two different nozzle sizes and layer heights, which illustrate the improvements in
surface finish.
The fabricated parts show a good first layer adhesion on the polycarbonate print surface used
during the test. Some noticeable drooping occurs due to the viscosity of the material. Figure 12 shows
the differences in surface finish between a part made from silicone with the paste extruder prototype
using a 1.5 mm needle and 1 mm layer height, and one made with ABS using the standard extruder
with a 0.42017,
Technologies mm5,nozzle
50 and 0.2 mm layer height. All configurations have been 3D printed on the 9same
of 13
machine.

Technologies 2017, 5, 50 9 of 12

Figure 13 depicts the use of the proposed extruder when using various paste-like materials such
as silicone, white cement mixture, and commercial dental gel (using the same parameters as above
forFigure
the printing process,
12. Test see Table
sample surface
surface 3 for(a)
quality materials characteristics).
Cylindrical surface, Figure Top
14 shows
surface,the same (c)
part
Figure 12. Test sample quality (a) Cylindrical surface, silicone
silicone (b)
(b) Top surface, silicone
silicone (c)
fabricated using dental
Cylindrical surface, gel and two different nozzle
surface, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene
acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS)sizes
(ABS) (d) and
(d) Top layer
Topsurface, heights,
surface,ABS.
ABS. which illustrate the
Cylindrical
improvements in surface finish.

(a) (b) (c)

(d)
Figure 13. Fabricated parts using the proposed solution (a) Part fabricated using silicone (b) Part
Figure 13. Fabricated parts using the proposed solution (a) Part fabricated using silicone (b) Part
fabricated using white cement mixture (c) Part fabricated using commercial dental gel (d) Part
fabricated using white cement mixture (c) Part fabricated using commercial dental gel (d) Part fabricated
fabricated using white cement mixture.
using white cement mixture.

Figure 15 shows two images during the printing process of an ABS part and a silicone part
manufactured using the same machine, as proof of the versatility added by our extruder solution to
a desktop 3D printer.
(d)
Figure 13. Fabricated parts using the proposed solution (a) Part fabricated using silicone (b) Part
Technologies 2017, 5, 50
fabricated using white cement mixture (c) Part fabricated using commercial dental gel (d) Part 10 of 13
fabricated using white cement mixture.

Technologies 2017, 5, 50 10 of 12
Figure 14. Same part fabricated out of dental gel using two different nozzles and layer heights (Left)
Same part fabricated outheight
of dental
Figure 14. nozzle
1.2 mm
Figure 15 withtwo
shows 0.8 mm layer
images during thegel
(Right) using
0.4 mmtwo
printing different
nozzle
processwith nozzles
of 0.25
an and layer
mm layer
ABS and heights
part height. (Left)
a silicone part
1.2 mm nozzle with 0.8 mm layer height (Right) 0.4 mm nozzle with 0.25 mm layer height.
manufactured using the same machine, as proof of the versatility added by our extruder solution to
a desktop 3D printer.
Table 3. Materials used during testing and process parameters.
Table 3. Materials used during testing and process parameters.
Material
Material Supplier(Model)
Supplier (Model) Mixture
Mixture PrintingParameters
Printing Parameters
Proprietary
Proprietaryblend
blendof ofsilanes
silanesandandsiloxanes,
siloxanes, N 11:: 0.6–1.5;
0.6–1.5; LH2:20.4–1.0;
LH : 0.4–1.0;
Silicone
Silicone Bison(Sanitary)
Bison (Sanitary)
Methoxypolydimethylsiloxane
Methoxypolydimethylsiloxane 60–100% 60–100% S 33:: 40;
40;TT4:4 40;
: 40;FC
FC
Proprietary
Proprietaryblend
blendofoflimestone
limestone75%,75%, N:
N:0.6–1.2;
0.6–1.2;LH:
LH:0.4–0.8;
0.4–0.8;
Silicone (acrylic)
Silicone (acrylic) DAP
DAP(Alex
(AlexPlus)
Plus) Dipropylene glycol
Dipropylene glycoldibenzoate,
dibenzoate,Diethylene
Diethylene S:
S:50;
50;T:T:40;
40;FC
FC
glycol
glycol dibenzoate,
dibenzoate,TiO TiO2,2 ,Quartz
Quartz
Hetero-polysaccacharide (glycogen) 50%, N: 0.4–1.2; LH: 0.25–0.8;
Dental gel FINO (Finogel) Hetero-polysaccacharide (glycogen) N: 0.4–1.2; LH: 0.25–0.8;
Dental gel FINO (Finogel) water S: 80; T: 75; FC
50%, water S: 80; T: 75; FC
Proprietary blend of: water, cellulose fibers, N: 0.6–1.2; LH: 0.25–0.8;
White cement 1 Poliform (Model Air) Proprietary kaolinite,
blend of: additives
water, cellulose fibers, N: 0.6–1.2;
White cement 1 Poliform (Model Air) S: 30;LH:
T: 300.25–0.8;
kaolinite, additives S: 30; T: 30
Proprietary blend of water, cellulose fibers, N: 0.6–1.2; H: 0.25–0.8;
White cement 2 Darwi (Classic)
Proprietary blendquartz,
kaolinite, of water, cellulose fibers,
additives N: 0.6–1.2; H:30
S: 40; T: 0.25–0.8;
White cement 2 Darwi (Classic)
kaolinite, quartz, additives
—Nozzle diameter in mm; 2—Layer Height in mm; —printing speed in mm/s; —Feedstock
1 3 4 S: 40; T: 30
1 —Nozzlediameter in mm; 2 —Layer Height in mm; 3 —printing speed in mm/s; 4 —Feedstock temperature in ◦ C;
temperature in °C; FC—forced air cooling of part. All parts have been fabricated with 1 external
FC—forced air cooling of part. All parts have been fabricated with 1 external contour and 100% infill.
contour and 100% infill.

Figure
Figure Parts
15.15. 3D3D
Parts printed byby
printed thethe
same machine
same (a)(a)
machine Extruder prototype
Extruder component
prototype printed
component with
printed ABS
with
(b)ABS
Silicone samplesample
(b) Silicone part printed by paste
part printed byextruder prototype.
paste extruder prototype.

4. Conclusions
In the last few years, the range of materials used in 3D printing has seen an extension towards
paste-like materials. Applications have been developed for various industries, such as using cement-
like materials in the construction industry, or chocolate material in the food industry. In the arts, clay
3D printed models are starting to be used, not only because of the possibility of exploiting the
building capacity of objects with complex geometry, but also due to the advantage of reusing the
Technologies 2017, 5, 50 11 of 13

4. Conclusions
In the last few years, the range of materials used in 3D printing has seen an extension towards
paste-like materials. Applications have been developed for various industries, such as using
cement-like materials in the construction industry, or chocolate material in the food industry. In the
arts, clay 3D printed models are starting to be used, not only because of the possibility of exploiting
the building capacity of objects with complex geometry, but also due to the advantage of reusing
the paste-like material and the possibility of re-shaping the 3D printed model by hand to suit the
needs of the artist or client. In other words, if the 3D part printed with paste-like materials does not
correspond to various quality or design criteria, it can be immediately reworked as raw material and
re-used to create another object. This process can reduce waste and have an important impact on the
implementation of circular economy concepts [18].
The proof-of-concept device developed in this research has clearly indicated that a paste-like material
extruder can open the way for new applications, especially in the creative fields, where remodeling due
to frequent changes is one of the most important necessities of the design process. This is where the
importance of our study lies.
From this point of view, our research brings us closer towards enabling 3D printing with recyclable,
environmentally-friendly materials. Obviously, the idea is not to replace plastic materials with
paste-like materials, but rather to enlarge the material range in order to offer more choice to designers,
and more possibilities to adapt to particular applications.
The current paper has been focused on developing and testing a paste extruder designed to be
an add-on for a desktop 3D printer. The development process consisted of analyzing the constructive
variants of extruders available on the market and observing their advantages and disadvantages,
industry outlook, and opportunities. A paste extruder was designed and a prototype was manufactured.
Several of its parts were manufactured from different materials using a material extrusion 3D printing
process. The resulting prototype was mounted on a desktop 3D printer, and replaced its standard
thermoplastic filament extruder. After setting process parameters using slicing software, several sample
parts were printed using silicone and acrylic polymers. A comparison with existing solutions is provided
in Table 4.

Table 4. Comparison of proposed solution with existing syringe-based paste extruders.

Heated Build Print Speed Build Material Min. Layer Nozzle


Model Add-On Retraction
Material (mm/s) Vol. (mL) Height (µm) Size (mm)
Fab@Home Model 4 [19] No Yes Yes 10 10 100 0.1–1.54
“Universal paste
Yes No No 20 10 200 0.2–1.54
extruder” by RichRap
Discov3ry by
Yes Yes No 20 60 200 0.25
Structur3D Printing [20]
Paste & Food extruder
Yes Yes No 15 60 300 1.54
by Printrbot [21]
Proposed solution Yes Yes Yes, up to 80 ◦C 15–60 60 100 0.15–1.54

This research proved that a paste-like material extruder could be easily adapted to low-cost 3D
printers, which extends the access of this technology to a larger number of designers. At this stage,
the proposed solution allows for the creation of different, simple geometrical shapes. Further research
will be focused on generating objects that are more complex and require the build of support structures
using the second extruder of the 3D printer.
Technologies 2017, 5, 50 12 of 13

Further work will be focused on optimizing 3D printing process parameters for different types
of paste/clay materials in order to obtain accurate and good quality objects. Future work will also
investigate the possibility of combining the new extruder to a classic 3D printing extruder within the
same deposition head, which would enable the building of paste/clay objects using support structures
made of thermoplastic material.

Acknowledgments: This work has been funded by University Politehnica of Bucharest, through the “Excellence
Research Grants” Program, UPB-GEX. Identifier: UPB-EXCELENT, Ă-2016 3D Printing system and method using
paste-like materials (P3DM) Contract number 33/26.09.2016.
Author Contributions: Catalin Gheorghe Amza conceived the experiments; Aurelian Zapciu designed the
extruder; Aurelian Zapciu and Diana Popescu performed the experiments; Aurelian Zapciu analyses the data
obtained from the 3D prints; all three authors contributed in writing up the paper. All authors have read and
approved the final manuscript.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution
(CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).