If you’ve ever experimented with 3D printing, you’ve likely run into one major, frustrating problem: most 3D printers available to the average person are extremely slow, and they can only print relatively small objects. To create larger objects, designs typically needs to be broken down into smaller parts and then assembled. That’s why Autodesk is experimenting with a new 3D printing system that uses multiple printing heads to quickly fabricate large-scale objects in a single pass.
The system, called Project Escher, represents a new approach to 3D printing. It breaks up large designs into multiple sets of instructions that can then be sent to an array of multiple printheads simultaneously. Not only does this allow much larger objects to be printed more easily, it also dramatically speeds up the printing process on smaller objects. The printheads can even be swapped out for a variety of other tools, for example, a robot hand that repositions parts of the object when necessary, or a milling head that removes support structures from the final object.
Autodesk is quick to emphasize that they aren’t releasing a new 3D printer to the market: they’re simply creating the software that would make these large-scale, modular printers possible. So while this technology is extremely promising and may be helpful for anyone with the hardware knowledge to build their own 3D printer, it’s not going to be terribly practical for casual users at the moment. Hopefully in time, other companies will pick up this technology and start using it to create more flexible 3D printers for home consumers.