Prusa presents its new modular 3D printer farm at Expo 2020 Dubai
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3D printer maker Prusa has announced the launch of its new Prusa Pro Automated Farm System (AFS).
The company’s latest innovation is a modular printing farm for large campus universities, engineering companies, parts manufacturers, on-demand 3D printing service offices and anyone else looking for a fully automated production of small batches. Prusa has already developed a fully functional prototype comprising 34 new CoreXY Original Prusa 3D printers, which is currently on display in the Czech pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, a world fair that will run until March 31, 2022.
By the way, the Dubai Expo also features a 3D printed replica of Michelangelo’s David, made using 3D scanning and resin 3D printing technology. Organizers of the event reportedly covered the private parts of the 17-foot statue in an attempt to maintain a PG rating, despite the original proudly showing all of its appendages in Florence.
Towards automated additive manufacturing
Founded in 2012 by Josef Průša, Prusa Research is well known in the 3D printing community for its broad portfolio of office machines for both hobbyists and professionals. The company already operates a massive 24/7 printing farm of 600 3D printers at its headquarters in Prague, but it is maintained by a whole team of farmers.
Josef Průša said: “We have always wanted to automate production, but we never had the opportunity to do so. That changed about three years ago. We were approached with the idea of representing Czechia at EXPO 2020 Dubai – provided we have something “next-gen” to show. It was the right opportunity to dive head first into our plans for our new 3D printing farm.
Prusa assembled a new team to develop this automated printing farm and three years later the Prusa Pro AFS made its debut in Dubai.
The Prusa Pro AFS
AFS consists of 34 specially designed Prusa 3D printers, specially developed farm management software and an automatic parts collection and delivery system. In an effort to make the system more compact, the company designed a cube-shaped frame for each printer module. Much like a server rack, these modules can be hot-swapped, meaning printers can simply be removed when they need to be repaired and a new one can be installed in minutes.
Although the prototype has 34 printers, the print farm itself is actually designed to be scalable and the number of printers is not fixed. Prusa also intends to develop several options for unloading parts, beyond the simple two-bin system presented at Expo 2020.
The new software used to control Prusa Pro AFS is called Prusa Connect. Designed for complete control of the print farm, the program offers a number of smart functions to truly automate the 3D printing workflow. When a model is selected for printing, Prusa Connect will automatically find the best printer for the job, while keeping track of active print jobs, statistics, remaining print times and other key parameters.
Once the construction is complete, the control software then sends a mechanical arm to remove the print sheet and place it in the collection bay where the part is detached and deposited in the collection bin. The arm then returns the sheet to the printer to start the next print.
The next step for Prusa is to test AFS at its headquarters over a period of several months. With plans to deliver the first units over the next year, the company expects its printing fleet to cost around $ 3,000 per printer (+ service contracts).
Last month, Prusa also released the latest version of its open source slicing software, the second alpha version of PrusaSlicer 2.4.0. Building on version 2.4.0 alpha one, this latest release brings several new features and upgrades to make the pre-print workflow faster and more efficient. The software also fixed a whole host of bugs found by users, resulting in a cleaner 3D printing experience.
Earlier this summer, the company announced the launch of a new resin-based LCD 3D printer called SL1S Speed. Designed to succeed the company’s first MSLA system, the SL1, the new SL1S Speed comes with a plethora of significant upgrades. In addition to a 25% larger print area, the system offers a print speed three times faster than its little brother, with cure times as low as 1.4s per layer.
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The image shown shows the new Prusa Pro Automated Farm System (AFS). Photo via Prusa.