1
$\begingroup$

I assume SLA printing only works on Earth and upright.

But would fused-filament printer (e.g. Prusa Mk3) work in zero gravity? What about upside down or sideways? If not, could it be modified to work in other orientations? Have there been any demonstrations of it?

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

I think it's safe to say that there's at least one model of 3D printer that works in microgravity -- since one was sent to the International Space Station a few months ago. I presume the one there is an FDM type, as those need not be dependent on gravity; my Ender 3, for instance, has positive drive both ways on all three axes, so as long as the filament source is kept captive, the printer ought to work the same as it would on Earth.

Beyond that, there is the Quinly setup, in which a common FDM printer like the Ender 3 is set up at about a 45 degree angle, using a polymer coated glass bed, to allow network printing part after part (the printer pushes the parts off the cooled bed with the X gantry and hot end housing before preheating for the next print). Similar methods are used to print at a significant angle on a flat build surface for conveyor bed printers that can both print very long parts, and print sequences of parts one after the other (the belt carries the parts to the turn-around, then the flex pops them off).

The operation of common FDM printers depends on mechanical grip of the filament, screw or toothed belt drive of the axes, and adhesion of the first layer to the build surface and of subsequent layers to those already laid down --- this ought to work even upside down, against gravity, at least until the weight of the part starts to compete with its adhesion strength.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ would you link to the NASA/ESA/JAXA article on that project? $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Jun 3 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Trish Done. Thanks for suggesting it! $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 3 at 16:57
1
$\begingroup$

Yes!

3D Printing upside would only potentially have an issue with the first layer if you're using an extremely large gap on the first layer, however in normal circumstances there's enough pressure that the filament is squished into the bed, if you've got one yourself you can put it on it's side, the question when it comes to 3D Printing isn't upside down, but not the correct way, as it's presuming that gravity pushing down is the important thing, while in every other orientation it also works.

In theory SLA printing would work just fine, as long as you're able to seal the build plate and vat together so no resin leaks out.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think I remember that Adrian Bowyer did test with upside down printing and found that gravity is less important than we might think. Also MadeInSpace created a 3d printer that is now operational on the ISS. So zero gravity is also covered. Maybe add these to your answer? I wounder about bridging though,... $\endgroup$ Dec 30 '20 at 13:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @LarsPötter: Bridging should only do better. $\endgroup$ May 29 at 19:58
1
$\begingroup$

Barrel's answer is absolutely correct, provided the printer doesn't have gratuitous dependencies on gravity. For example, a lot of high-end CoreXY designs I've seen, with 3 Z motors for automatic true leveling, rely on gravity to move/hold the bed in the -Z direction and only drive the +Z direction. This is often done for the purpose of decoupling from error in lead screws/ball screws, as in the HevORT ZR V2. Such machines can't print in alternate orientations or zero/low gravity. However, they can be adapted to drive the Z in both directions.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Lulzbot used to do this at trade shows -- printers on their side, printing all day long.

So long as it sticks to the bed, and sticks to the subsequent layers of the part, it works.

The determining factor is gravity -- if the part being printed has overhangs or unsupported areas, the extruded material would fall back at the extruder, instead of down onto the part. You may get around this with dual extrusion supports, but if there's any layer separation, it would probably fail quickly, lol.

Zero gravity? Easier than upside down with gravity, I'd think!

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to 3D Printing SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. $\endgroup$
    – agarza
    May 29 at 22:21
0
$\begingroup$

SLA printing wouldn't just work on earth, it just needs some sort of gravitational pull just to keep the liquid down. On the other hand, "normal" 3D printing in theory could print upside down, sideways or in 0 gravity because the process that takes to print is it squishes melted filament down onto other filament that has been melted and cooled or the print bed, the only constraint with doing that is making sure that making sure that the print doesn't slip or fall

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.