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Evaluation of Dimensional Accuracy and Material Properties of the MakerBot 3D Desktop Printer

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  • Purpose: This paper evaluates the material properties and dimensional accuracy of a MakerBot Replicator II desktop 3D printer. Design Methodology: A design of experiments (DOE) test protocol was applied to determine the effect of the following variables on the material properties of 3D printed part: layer height, percent infill and print orientation using a MakerBot Replicator II printer. Classical laminate plate theory (CLPT) was used to compare results from the DOE experiments with theoretically predicted elastic moduli for the tensile samples. Dimensional accuracy of test samples was also investigated. Findings: DOE results suggest that percent infill has a significant effect on the longitudinal elastic modulus and ultimate strength of the test specimens whereas print orientation and layer thickness failed to achieve significance. Dimensional analysis of test specimens shows that the test specimen varied significantly (p<0.05) from the nominal print dimensions. Originality / Value: Three dimensional (3D) printing is a rapidly expanding manufacturing method. Initially, 3D printing was used for prototyping but now this method is being employed to create functional final products. In recent years, desktop 3D printers have become commercially available to academics and hobbyists as a means of rapid component manufacturing. Although these desktop printers are able to facilitate reduced manufacturing times, material costs and labor costs; relatively little literature exists to quantify the physical properties of the printed material as well as the dimensional consistency of the printing processes. Practical Implications: Although desktop 3D printers are an attractive manufacturing option to quickly produce functional components, this study suggests users must be aware of this manufacturing process’ inherent limitations, especially for components requiring high geometric tolerance or specific material properties. Therefore, higher quality 3D printers and more detailed investigation into the MakerBot MakerWare printing settings are recommended if consistent material properties or geometries are required.

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    Attribution 3.0 International