One problem the team plans to address is process speed, which is currently much slower than thermoplastic AM. To increase the rate of printing, the team will have to find a way to ensure a steady stream of the materials, which are currently available only in relatively small barrels that empty quickly. In addition, the hoses, which are about 30 feet long to reach all sides of the printing table, must have a diameter large enough to handle heavier flows of the viscous material used in the process.
The team may also explore the feasibility of adding another stream to the material being deposited during the RAM printing process, such as a second resin formulation that could add a functional coating to the surface of a printed part. In addition, it will continue to refine the thermoset printing process, work toward getting better resolution for near-net shapes and build case studies with industry partners to prove out the technology.
“There will no doubt be new challenges we have to overcome, just like we did in thermoplastics, but you don’t have the limitations in thermosets that you have in thermoplastics,” says Kastura. “We will be experiencing some of the excitement that we felt when we first started thinking that 3D printing could take over the world.”