Easy To Use Patents Search & Patent Lawyer Directory

At Patents you can conduct a Patent Search, File a Patent Application, find a Patent Attorney, or search available technology through our Patent Exchange. Patents are available using simple keyword or date criteria. If you are looking to hire a patent attorney, you've come to the right place. Protect your idea and hire a patent lawyer.


Search All Patents:



  This Patent May Be For Sale or Lease. Contact Us

  Is This Your Patent? Claim This Patent Now.



Register or Login To Download This Patent As A PDF




United States Patent Application 20180126629
Kind Code A1
Staal; Lasse Guldborg ;   et al. May 10, 2018

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING YIELD IMPROVEMENT

Abstract

An additive manufacturing apparatus for manufacturing a product. The apparatus includes a container, a build platform with a build surface, and a radiation source for providing hardening radiation to selectively expose and solidify radiation-curable liquid in the container. An electronic controller is configured to read a first product definition file defining the product and to control at least an intensity of the hardening radiation and motion of the build platform in accordance with the product definition file to cause the manufacturing of the product. The apparatus is configured to manufacture a first fiducial marker in rigid connection with the build surface during the manufacturing process. A corresponding method is also provided.


Inventors: Staal; Lasse Guldborg; (Jyllinge, DK) ; Jessen; Jon; (Vekso, DK)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

AddiFab ApS

Jyllinge

DK
Family ID: 1000003122412
Appl. No.: 15/572213
Filed: May 6, 2016
PCT Filed: May 6, 2016
PCT NO: PCT/EP2016/060224
371 Date: November 7, 2017


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: B29C 64/124 20170801; G06T 7/74 20170101; B29C 64/393 20170801; H04N 1/00005 20130101; H04N 1/00034 20130101; H04N 1/00039 20130101; B29C 64/245 20170801; B29C 64/35 20170801; B33Y 10/00 20141201; B33Y 30/00 20141201
International Class: B29C 64/124 20060101 B29C064/124; G06T 7/73 20060101 G06T007/73; B29C 64/393 20060101 B29C064/393; H04N 1/00 20060101 H04N001/00

Foreign Application Data

DateCodeApplication Number
May 7, 2015DKPA201570271

Claims



1. An additive manufacturing apparatus for manufacturing a product comprising: a container for holding a radiation-curable liquid, a build platform having a build surface for holding a product to be manufactured during a manufacturing process, the build platform being movable relative to the container in a predetermined direction, a radiation source for providing hardening radiation to selectively expose and solidify radiation-curable liquid in the container to form the product, an electronic controller configured to read a first product definition file defining the product and to control at least an intensity of the hardening radiation and motion of the build platform in accordance with the product definition file to cause the manufacturing of the product, characterized in that the apparatus is configured to manufacture a first fiducial marker in rigid connection with the build surface during the manufacturing process.

2. An additive manufacturing apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein the first fiducial marker is a three-dimensional fiducial marker.

3. An additive manufacturing apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein the product definition file includes a first fiducial marker definition defining the first fiducial marker.

4. An additive manufacturing apparatus in accordance with claim 3, wherein the first fiducial marker is defined by a corresponding first fiducial marker definition, and the electronic controller is configured to produce a modified product definition file by combining the first fiducial marker definition file with the first product definition file, and the electronic controller is furthermore configured to control at least an intensity of the hardening radiation and motion of the build platform in accordance with the modified product definition file.

5. An additive manufacturing apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein the first fiducial marker, or the first fiducial marker together with one or more further fiducial markers, if present, are configured to enable a determination of at least one of: a set of one or more positions of one or more of the fiducial markers; an orientation of the product as manufactured; a set of one or more lengths or sizes or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions of at least one of the fiducial markers or at least one of the products as manufactured; at least a first relative distance between at least a first given fiducial reference point and at least a first given product reference point in a first given plane, the determination being enabled for at least one of: a robotic measuring device configured to perform said determination by mechanically and physically identifying a position or one or more lengths or sizes or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions of the first fiducial marker or identifying a position or positions or one or more lengths or sizes or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions of the one or more of the further fiducial markers, if present or identifying a position or positions or one or more lengths or sizes or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions of one or more of the products as manufactured, or identifying at least a first relative distance between at least a first given fiducial reference point and at least a first given product reference point in a first given plane; and an electronic imaging system configured to perform said determination by recording and analyzing one or more images of at least the first fiducial marker from one or more angles.

6. An additive manufacturing apparatus in accordance with claim 5, wherein the electronic controller is configured to adjust the manufacturing process to at least partly counteract a difference between 1) one or more results of said determination, and 2) one or more corresponding target physical dimensions or target orientations derivable from the first product definition file or from the modified product definition file.

7. An additive manufacturing apparatus in accordance with claim 6, wherein the adjusting is performed if said difference exceeds a tolerance parameter accessible to the electronic controller.

8. An additive manufacturing apparatus in accordance with claim 5, wherein the determination is carried out one or more times after manufacture of the product or after carrying out one or more subsequent post-processing steps.

9. An additive manufacturing apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein the first fiducial marker together with one or more further fiducial markers, if present, are printed on a printed plate where the first fiducial marker together with one or more further fiducial markers, if present, are configured to allow stacking of the printed plate with other printed plates.

10. A method for additive manufacturing of a product, comprising: manufacturing the product in an additive manufacturing process performed by an additive manufacturing apparatus, the product being formed on a build surface of the additive manufacturing apparatus, characterized in that the method further comprises a step of manufacturing, during the manufacturing process, one or more fiducial markers in rigid connection with the build surface.

11. A method in accordance with claim 10, wherein the first fiducial marker is a three-dimensional fiducial marker.

12. A method in accordance with claim 10, further comprising: providing a modified product definition file by combining a first product definition file defining the product with a fiducial marker definition file defining the one or more fiducial markers.

13. A method in accordance with claim 10, comprising manufacturing 2, 3, 4 or more fiducial markers configured to allow a stacking of a plurality of products manufactured during corresponding 2, 3, 4 or more manufacturing processes.

14. A method in accordance with claim 10, further comprising: measuring one or more fiducial marker sizes or lengths or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions or positions or orientations, or one or more product sizes or lengths or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions or positions or orientations, or one or more relative distances between one or more fiducial markers and one or more products as manufactured, and determining whether one or more of the measured sizes or lengths or shapes or surface contours or positions or orientations or relative distances are compliant or not according to one or more tolerance criteria, and the electronic controller adjusting the manufacturing process to fulfill the one or more tolerance criteria during a subsequent manufacturing process if determined not be in compliance.
Description



TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates to additive manufacturing.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Additive manufacturing--also called 3D printing--has become an important product development tool. Rapid prototyping, iterative design and concept validation are three disciplines that are considerably facilitated by 3D printers. Several different 3D printing platforms are commercially available in the market today, and each of these platforms have important characteristics and advantages that a product developer may exploit to create design models, demonstrators, functional prototypes and small batches of components for product validation. However, currently available 3D printers share an important set of limitations that are preventing use of 3D printing technologies in mass manufacturing of components.

[0003] In mass manufacturing, a high yield is an important way to reduce manufacturing costs. For the purpose of mass manufacturing, monitoring the manufacturing process is important. However, like any manufacturing equipment, 3D printers may produce products that are different from the intended result. This may be due for instance to wear or to changes in the properties of the raw materials that are used or to temperature variations in the manufacturing facility. The result is a quality issue. In most cases, there is a tolerance interval within which the manufactured product is considered compliant. Outside the tolerance interval, the product fails to meet the standard and must be discarded.

[0004] Patent specification EP 2 186 625 discloses a system and method for additive manufacturing where a predetermined object pattern is modified, i.e. calibrated, to correct for geometric distortion of a pattern generator in an X and/or Y plane, i.e. to compensate for optical imperfections and irregularities that may impart geometric distortion on a product. Such correction serves the purpose of ensuring that each pattern generated by the pattern generator is an accurate representation of the original object pattern.

[0005] Calibration in the X and Y planes as disclosed in EP 2 186 625 serves to ensure that each object pattern is accurately projected onto a build platform that is parallel to the X and Y planes. Thus, compliance with the desired X and Y tolerance intervals are promoted. However, geometric distortion of the product, and resulting lack of compliance with tolerance intervals, may also result from lack of control over properties influencing the plane (Z) that runs perpendicular to the build platform. Such properties may include ambience temperature, radiation exposure time length, viscosity of the reactive liquid and several other parameters that may individually or in concert influence on the thickness and/or geometry of the layer that is formed as result of the radiation. EP 2 186 625 does not address distortion resulting from variations due to one or more of these properties and furthermore does not address any methods for obtaining measures in relation to (post-processing) steps carried out after printing a product.

[0006] Improved 3D printing equipment and methods that provide an increased yield compared to present equipment and methods are desirable.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] The invention provides various aspects that can assist in increasing manufacturing yield in additive manufacturing.

[0008] A first aspect of the invention provides an additive manufacturing apparatus for manufacturing a product. The apparatus comprises: [0009] a container for holding a radiation-curable liquid, [0010] a build platform having a build surface for holding a product to be manufactured during a manufacturing process, the build platform being movable relative to the container in a predetermined direction, [0011] a radiation source for providing hardening radiation to selectively expose and solidify radiation-curable liquid in the container to form the product, [0012] an electronic controller configured to read a first product definition file defining the product and to control at least an intensity of the hardening radiation and motion of the build platform in accordance with the product definition file to cause the manufacturing of the product, and the apparatus is characterized in that the apparatus is configured to manufacture a first fiducial marker in rigid connection with the build surface during the manufacturing process.

[0013] In this way, at least one fiducial marker is manufactured concurrently with the manufacturing of the product.

[0014] The rigid connection with the build surface may be direct or indirect, the latter e.g. by being in rigid connection with a printed plate or other that is in rigid connection with the build surface.

[0015] Such an additive manufacturing apparatus is a means for increasing product yield in additive manufacturing as explained further in the following.

[0016] In some embodiments, the first fiducial marker is a three-dimensional fiducial marker.

[0017] In some embodiments, the product definition file includes a first fiducial marker definition defining the first fiducial marker.

[0018] In some embodiments, the first fiducial marker is defined by a corresponding first fiducial marker definition, and the electronic controller is configured to produce a modified product definition file by combining the first fiducial marker definition file with the first product definition file, and the electronic controller is furthermore configured to control at least an intensity of the hardening radiation and motion of the build platform in accordance with the modified product definition file.

[0019] In some embodiments, the first fiducial marker is formed integrally with the product.

[0020] In some embodiments, the first fiducial marker, or the first fiducial marker together with one or more further fiducial markers, if present, are configured to enable a determination of at least one of: a set of one or more positions of one or more of the fiducial markers; an orientation of the product as manufactured; a set of one or more lengths and/or sizes and/or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions (e.g. one or more of x, y, z) of at least one of the fiducial markers and/or at least one of the products as manufactured; at least a first relative distance between at least a first given fiducial reference point and at least a first given product reference point in a first given plane. In some embodiments, the determination being enabled for at least one of: [0021] a robotic measuring device configured to perform said determination by mechanically and physically identifying a position and/or one or more lengths and/or sizes and/or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions of the first fiducial marker and/or identifying a position or positions and/or one or more lengths and/or sizes and/or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions of the one or more of the further fiducial markers, if present, and/or identifying a position or positions and/or one or more lengths and/or sizes and/or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions of one or more of the products as manufactured, and/or identifying at least a first relative distance between at least a first given fiducial reference point and at least a first given product reference point in a first given plane; and [0022] an electronic imaging system configured to perform said determination by recording and analyzing one or more images of at least the first fiducial marker from one or more angles.

[0023] In some embodiments, the electronic controller is configured to adjust the manufacturing process to at least partly counteract a difference between 1) one or more results of said determination, and 2) one or more corresponding target physical dimensions (i.e. the physical length(s) or size(s) in the respective dimension(s)) and/or target orientations derivable from the first product definition file and/or from the modified product definition file. In some embodiments, the adjusting is performed if said difference exceeds a tolerance parameter accessible to the electronic controller. Preferably, this adjusting is performed automatically.

[0024] In some embodiments, the electronic controller is configured to read a product definition file of at least one of the following types: a Stereolithography file (.STL), an Additive Manufacturing File (.AMF), a Polygon File Format file (.PLY), a Wavefront object file (.OBJ), an Autodesk 3ds Max file (0.3DS), a Virtual Reality Modeling Language file (.WRL, .WRZ), a Universal 3D file (.U3D), an Extensible 3D Graphics file (.X3D, .X3Dv, .X3Ddb, .X3Ddz, .X3Dbz, .X3Dvz,). Other format may also be applicable.

[0025] In some embodiments, the determination is carried out one or more times after manufacture of the product and/or after carrying out one or more subsequent post-processing steps, e.g. after manufacturing and additionally after one or more subsequent post-processing steps.

[0026] The post-processing steps typically happen after completion of the additive manufacturing process, and examples of such processes include one or more of the following: [0027] a. One or more cleaning processes that are intended to remove excess/un-cured reactive liquid from the products. [0028] b. One or more drying process that remove cleaning agent from the products. [0029] c. One or more post-curing processes that are intended to ensure that the products are fully and completely cured. [0030] d. One or more recoating processes that are intended to ensure that one or more product surfaces are given specific additional characteristics (e.g. smoothness, hydrophobicity, conductivity, wear resistance, hardness, gloss, colour etc.).

[0031] It may be important to carry out the determination at one or more of such post-processing steps as they may also influence the shape of a manufactured product, e.g. causing it to no longer be in compliance with one or more tolerance limits.

[0032] In some embodiments, the first fiducial marker together with one or more further fiducial markers, if present, are printed on a printed plate where the first fiducial marker together with one or more further fiducial markers, if present, are configured to allow stacking of the printed plate with other printed plates.

[0033] A second aspect of the invention provides a method for additive manufacturing of a product.

[0034] The method comprises: [0035] manufacturing the product in an additive manufacturing process performed by an additive manufacturing apparatus, the product being formed on a build surface of the additive manufacturing apparatus, and the method is characterized in that the method further comprises a step of manufacturing, during the manufacturing process, one or more fiducial markers in rigid connection with the build surface.

[0036] The method is advantageously carried out with an apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the first aspect of the invention. Other apparatuses configured suitably may alternatively be used.

[0037] Again, the rigid connection with the build surface may be direct or indirect, the latter e.g. by being in rigid connection with a printed plate or other that is in rigid connection with the build surface.

[0038] In some embodiments, the first fiducial marker is a three-dimensional fiducial marker.

[0039] In some embodiments of the method, the one or more fiducial markers are incorporated into a first product definition file defining the product.

[0040] Some embodiments of the method further comprise providing a modified product definition file by combining a first product definition file defining the product with a fiducial marker definition file defining the one or more fiducial markers.

[0041] Some embodiments of the method comprises manufacturing 2, 3, 4 or more fiducial markers that are configured to allow a stacking of a plurality of products manufactured during corresponding 2, 3, 4 or more manufacturing processes.

[0042] Some embodiments of the method comprise: [0043] measuring [0044] one or more fiducial marker sizes and/or lengths and/or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions (e.g. one or more of x, y, z) and/or positions and/or orientations, and/or [0045] one or more product sizes and/or lengths and/or shapes or surface contours along one or more dimensions and/or positions and/or orientations, and/or [0046] one or more relative distances between one or more fiducial markers and one or more products as manufactured, and [0047] determining whether one or more of the measured sizes and/or lengths and/or shapes or surface contours and/or positions and/or orientations and/or relative distances are compliant or not according to one or more tolerance criteria, and [0048] the electronic controller adjusting the manufacturing process to fulfill the one or more tolerance criteria during a subsequent manufacturing process if determined to not be in compliance.

[0049] Tolerances such 0.025%, 0.5%, 1%, and 5% are examples of tolerances each of which might be suitable in a practical situation. The tolerance criterion may alternatively or additionally involve a trend analysis or other statistical analysis of at least one of the one or more measured physical dimensions and/or positions and/or orientations.

[0050] Some embodiments comprise performing the method and embodiments thereof after various steps in a manufacturing process and/or one or more post-processing processes.

[0051] Measuring and comparing relative distance(s) may e.g. reveal that a printed plate or other, upon which the products (and fiducials) are manufactured, has warped, become bent, etc.

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF THE DRAWINGS

[0052] FIG. 1 illustrates an additive manufacturing apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

[0053] FIGS. 2a-2d illustrate a printed plate comprising fiducial markers.

[0054] FIG. 3 illustrates stacking of printed plates.

[0055] FIG. 4 illustrates schematically a prior-art bottom projection additive manufacturing apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SELECTED EMBODIMENTS

[0056] FIG. 1 illustrates an additive manufacturing apparatus 100 configured to manufacture one or more fiducial markers concurrently with the product 122. The apparatus comprises a vat 101 with radiation-curable liquid 103, a radiation source 102 for selectively solidifying radiation-curable liquid in the vat, and a movable platform 105. The apparatus furthermore comprises an electronic controller 106. The electronic controller controls the relative position of the build surface 107 relative to the liquid, by moving the platform 105, and it controls the radiation source to produce the radiation pattern 131 dictated by a product definition file 111. A lens system 104 focuses the radiation onto the liquid surface. Note that fiducial markers are not shown in FIG. 1 (see e.g. 202a-202d in FIG. 2).

[0057] The controller may be connected to the additive manufacturing apparatus via a data interface, or it may be built into the additive manufacturing apparatus.

[0058] The shown additive manufacturing apparatus 100 is a so-called top projection additive manufacturing apparatus. Manufacturing one or more fiducial markers concurrently with one or more products may also be done by other types of additive manufacturing apparatuses, e.g. by a bottom projection additive manufacturing apparatus such as shown in FIG. 4, or by additive manufacturing apparatuses employing other principles of material deposition (e.g. Fused Deposition Modelling, material jetting, selective laser sintering, selective laser melting, etc.).

[0059] FIG. 2a shows a top view of a printed plate 205. Products--cups (as an example) 201a, 201b, 201c--have been manufactured according to an embodiment of the invention and are attached to printed plate 205. The controller has caused the products to be manufactured in accordance with a product definition file 111. Furthermore, a number, here four as an example, of fiducial markers 202a-202d have been manufactured (at the same time as manufacturing the products). These fiducial markers are also attached to the printed plate 205, and their positions (X, Y), shapes, and heights (Z) are in accordance with a fiducial marker definition.

[0060] In this case, the fiducial markers have been placed in such a way that each fiducial marker 202a, 202b, 202c, and 202d has at least a first certain predetermined relative distance 210 relative to at least a first reference point on each particular product 201a, 201b, 201c, and 201d. By measuring a) a set of positions, shapes or surface contours, and/or heights of one or more fiducial markers and ensuring their compliance with the tolerance limits e.g. defined in a fiducial marker definition file, and b) measuring said relative distance 210 between a fiducial marker and a product, compliance to the tolerance limits defined in the product definition file may be verified.

[0061] In principle, one fiducial marker (according to a determined convention) may be sufficient, but using more fiducial markers reduces uncertainty through the use of e.g. triangulation or similar methods of metrology. For more complex product geometries, multiple reference points and relative distances in multiple planes may furthermore be used. The products (and fiducial markers) are supported by a printed plate 205 being located on a build platform (see e.g. 105 in FIG. 1).

[0062] In some embodiments, the fiducial markers are 3D fiducial markers, i.e. they have a detectable extent in the x, y, and z directions (or another corresponding 3D coordinate system). The detectable extent may vary according to a given use or purpose, and does not necessarily need to be the same for the different directions, but can be (e.g. for two or for all three). A detectable extent in the z direction is at least 0.001 mm or more such as at least 0.01 mm or more, such as at least 0.1 mm or more, such as at least 1 mm or more, and such as at least 10 mm or more.

[0063] The certain predetermined relative position 210 may be in 2D or preferably it is in 3D, i.e. the certain predetermined relative position 210 is defined according to x, y, z (or another corresponding 3D coordinate system).

[0064] In some alternative embodiments, the fiducial markers are manufactured to be on the products (e.g. one marker for one product). At some later stage, the fiducial markers may be removed from the products if such removal is required.

[0065] FIG. 2b shows a side view of the cups. Support structures 208a and 208b support cups 201a and 201b, respectively on the printed plate 205. The support structure for cup 201c is not visible on this drawing.

[0066] In the present exemplary embodiment, fiducial marker 202d differs from the other three fiducial markers 202a-202c. This difference allows e.g. an electronic imaging and analysis system that may be either separate from or integrated into the additive manufacturing apparatus, to determine for instance an orientation of the products. By recording one or more images, an analysis can reveal the position of the square marker 202d and one or more of the other markers 202a-202c. Since the absolute positions and physical dimensions of the fiducial markers are known in advance from the fiducial marker definition, the orientation, location, and physical dimensions of the products (relative to the fiducial markers) can be determined. A robotic measuring system may also perform such a determination by initially measuring and characterizing positions, shapes and/or heights of the fiducial markers to ensure that they comply with the fiducial marker definition. By subsequently making physical contact with at least a given first fiducial reference point in a first given Z-axis plane on one or more of the fiducial markers 202 and subsequently making contact with at least a given first product reference point in the first or another given Z-axis plane on one or more of the products and registering the relative distance 210 between said first fiducial marker and first product reference point, a robotic measuring system can determine the location and/or orientation and/or physical dimensions of the products. In some embodiments, two or more products manufactured during a manufacturing process each has one or more associated fiducial markers.

[0067] The above-mentioned imaging system and robotic measuring system could also, or alternatively, determine an actual size and/or shape (in each relevant dimension, e.g. 1D, 2D or as preferred in 3D) of each of one or more of the fiducial markers based on the same principles (i.e. visual and/or physical contact). The ideal size and/or shape of a given fiducial marker is known beforehand, e.g. from a product definition file and/or design.

[0068] By measuring an actual size and/or shape in one or more, preferably three, dimensions after the fiducial marker has been manufactured, it is possible to compare with the respective ideal size and/or shape and check whether a difference is within a tolerance threshold. If not, the relevant manufacturing process may be changed for manufacturing of subsequent products. E.g. a fiducial marker should be 1.1 cm.times.1.1 cm.times.2.0 cm in x, y, z but is measured to have an actual size being 1.0 cm.times.1.2 cm.times.2.0 cm signifying that the manufactured products have correspondingly inaccurate sizes. Thus the manufacturing of subsequent products should be modified (scaled)--e.g. by modifying a product definition file--by 1.1; 0.91666; 1 along the respective x, y, z directions. This would bring the fiducial markers (and more importantly the products) to have an accurate size, at least within a predetermined acceptable threshold. This may be checked and handled automatically. See also below.

[0069] In some embodiments, the imaging system and the robotic measuring system are used together. In some embodiments, one of the systems can communicate one or more measurements to the other system, and the other system be configured to operate based on the received one or more measurements.

[0070] In some embodiments, the verification of sizes and/or shapes of one or more fiducial markers along one or more dimensions is carried out or carried out again after one or more post-processing steps, e.g. cleaning, drying, post-curing, (re-)coating, etc.

[0071] In the present embodiment, each fiducial marker (or at least some of them) has an additional function. Markers 202a-202c have a stacking pin part (labelled 202a-202c in FIGS. 2a and 2b) and a guide part 203a-203c. FIG. 2c illustrates section 230 of FIG. 2b in more detail. FIG. 2c illustrates the stacking pin part 202a and guide part 203a, and also illustrates a hole or cavity 204b that is accessible from a direction opposite the guide pin 203a. In this example, also fiducial markers 202b and 202c have similar holes. These fiducial markers allow printed plates with associated products to be safely stacked by enabling stacking of printed plates. The stacked configuration makes is easier to store and/or transport a large number of printed plates. They also allow the printed plates to be maintained in a controlled position during a subsequent manufacturing or post-processing stage.

[0072] FIG. 3 shows a stack 310 comprising four printed plates 205, 301, 302 and 303 but may comprise fewer or more parts depending requirements of a particular application. They can be safely stacked by engaging the guide parts of one printed plate, for instance 303, with the mating holes of another printed plate, in FIG. 3 with printed plate 302.

[0073] FIGS. 2a-2d also show inclusion of an optional serial number or other unique identifier 207 printed during (or prior or subsequently to manufacture of the product(s)) the manufacturing process on the printed plate 205 for product tracking. This enables unique identification of the printed plate 205 and thereby the manufactured product(s) it contains, which is useful for an automated or semi-automated process involving one or more subsequent (post-)processing steps.

[0074] As mentioned, measurements of the fiducial markers furthermore allow the additive manufacturing apparatus to adjust the manufacturing process in response to changes in the printed elements relative to a target or intended result. In the latter embodiment, the electronic controller is configured to receive information representing one or more determined fiducial marker lengths and/or sizes and/or shapes along one or more dimensions and/or positions, e.g. from an electronic imaging and analysis system and/or a robotic measurement system, and to adjust the manufacturing process in response.

[0075] For instance, a change in liquid temperature may cause the physical dimensions of the manufactured product to deviate from the target physical dimensions. Such a deviation may be determined by for instance optical analysis of the printed plate to determine for instance sizes along two or three dimensions of the square marker 202d. If the sizes in one or more directions deviate from the target such that the marker 202d is no longer square and/or has the ideal height, the electronic controller may cause a change in the manufacturing to compensate for the deviation. This compensation may in one embodiment be performed by effectively scaling the product definition.

[0076] If the square marker 202d has target physical dimensions of 1.times.1 cm, but turns out, after the above-described optical and/or mechanical analysis, to be 1.times.1.040 cm, the electronic controller may scale the definition in the enlarged direction. Since one of the physical dimensions is 4.0 percent too large, the electronic controller scales (or otherwise interprets) the file in such a way that the nominal or target definition results in the correct physical dimension of the manufactured product. In this example, the definition file is scaled by a factor of for instance 0.96154. When a section is printed in accordance with this factor, the additional 4.0 percent added during the printing will result in the correct physical dimension, namely 1.times.1 cm (0.962 times 1.040 equals 1.00048, which in the present example is considered to be compliant).

[0077] A single fiducial marker can have a shape that allows a determination of for instance position and/or orientation and/or size along one or more dimensions. This can be achieved using a fiducial marker having a rectangular cross-section with uneven side lengths, or other shape that allows a similar determination.

[0078] FIG. 4 illustrates a 3D printer 400 based on bottom projection. It comprises a container 401 with radiation-curable liquid 403, a build platform 405 having a build surface 407 on which a product will be formed during an additive manufacturing process. An already manufactured part 411 is shown attached to the build surface. Layers are formed by exposing radiation-curable liquid immediately adjacent to the already manufactured part to hardening radiation from a radiation source 402, for instance a Digital Light Processing (DLP) projector. A lens system 404 may be involved to focus the light from the radiation source onto the radiation-curable liquid. A new layer 412 is formed when radiation-curable liquid on the floor of the container is exposed to the hardening radiation. The pattern of the new layer might be defined by a product definition file. In one embodiment, a controller controls the motion of the build platform, the intensity of the hardening radiation, and the image provided by the projector.

[0079] When the new layer 412 is formed, it is essentially glued to the floor of the vat. To form a new layer, the newly formed layer must be released from the floor, and the build platform 405 be raised some distance.

[0080] The shown additive manufacturing apparatus 400 may also manufacture one or more fiducial markers concurrently with one or more products as described elsewhere.

* * * * *

File A Patent Application

  • Protect your idea -- Don't let someone else file first. Learn more.

  • 3 Easy Steps -- Complete Form, application Review, and File. See our process.

  • Attorney Review -- Have your application reviewed by a Patent Attorney. See what's included.