As if regular 3D printing was not good enough, a team of Cornell researchers have taken it a step further. Regular 3D printing allows us to speed up the prototyping process and enables us to make the required tweaks to a design once it is printed. The “On-the-Fly Print System” allows us to make changes to an object, as it is being printed.
The printing process can be paused and resumed at will after making the required changes. The system uses a “WirePrint” printer, which secretes quick-hardening plastic and creates a wire frame skeleton of the object, instead of printing the whole thing at once. This allows room for rapid prototyping and the Cornell system uses this concept to make changes during printing.
A complex system of nozzles controls the whole process, with one rotating and adding surfaces to any side of an object. It is also equipped with a cutter to create cutaways. Another extended nozzle reaches beyond the wire-frame to make changes to the object. A pair of mist-cooling nozzles spray the extruded material and fast tracks the hardening process. Most importantly, the object can be removed from its place after pausing the printing process, tested upon and put back into place with the aid of magnet alignment system to resume the printing process.
A CAD software plugin comes with the system which allows changing the object while it is being printed. In the illustrative video below, a toy plane is being printed using the “On-the-Fly Print System”. While the fuselage is being printed, the wings are still in the CAD software and they are added later to the printable area. At the 2016 ACM Conference for Human Computer Interaction, Cornell graduate student Huaishu Peng said, “”We believe that this approach has the potential to improve the overall quality of the design process.”