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Relative energy consumption of low-cost 3D printers

Walls, Simon and Corney, Jonathan and Annamalai Vasantha, Gokula Vijayumar (2014) Relative energy consumption of low-cost 3D printers. In: 12th International Conference on Manufacturing Research, 2014-09-09 - 2014-09-11, Southampton Solent University.

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    Abstract

    The potential of low cost, 3D printing to support distributed manufacture in remote, rural communities has been noted by several observers. However the economic practicality of such proposals has not yet been clearly established and although some overheads, such as capital or consumables, are easily quantified the energy costs are less clear. Motivated by the need to understand the energy and power trade-off’s inherent in 3D printing this paper reports the results of an initial study to evaluate the relative performance of three popular, low-cost models. Direct measurement of the electrical power required to build the same benchmark part demonstrates that there is both significance variance in the average power required and that the total energy consumption varies dramatically with the build parameters (i.e. layer thickness and platform temperature). In other words the research suggests that although 3D printed parts created on different machines might appear physically identical, their energy costs will be anything but. Far from completely characterizing the energy trade-off’s inherent in 3D printing this initial study only highlights the need for further work to fully understand the energy implications of varying air temperature, print speed, layer resolution, filament diameter and print head temperature.