ES-Cage technique lets you 3D print big and strong objects in no time at all

Mar 17, 2016 | By Andre

There’s an old saying about not being able to have your cake and eat it too. The idea is you can’t have it all and that so much of life is about compromise. This principal generally applies to 3D printing as well.

Let’s say you want a high resolution 3D print. You’ll just about always have to sacrifice something (such as print density or speed) because more layers will need to be laid out over a smaller vertical space. 3D print strength is another area where compromise is traditionally king. As is common practice with FDM style 3D printers, you can increase the speed of a 3D print by lowering the internal density but will lose part strength in the process.

It seems as though Erik Es – long time Maker and owner of the Amsterdam 3D Print Shop – has developed a way to produce incredibly quick, decently sized single walled 3D prints that can in some cases hold a person without collapse.

His method, called ES-Cage Printing relies on 3D printing geometrically sturdy structures using a single shell of filament and no support structures thanks in large part to the handy time-saving feature utilized by FDM 3D printers called bridging.

Typically if you are 3D printing something and there is nothing below for the material to extrude onto, the result in a sloppy mess. Bridging allows you to print over decently spaced out gaps by quickly depositing a thin line of filament over the open space as demonstrated in the video below.

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The Es-Cage method relies heavily on this feature and after looking through some 3D print examples by Erik, it doesn’t take long to understand how fast the 3D prints using his approach would form.

As mentioned on his website, “the printer is printing “zig-zags” all the time, alternating between zig-zagging and zag-zigging to form the stages.” Fun word play aside, it is with these patterns and the “OFMS” (Only Follow Mesh Surface”) feature in Ultimaker’s Cura 3D print software that he can achieve results.

It’s worth checking out his helpful tutorial, as it demonstrates how a solid object (as seen below) is turned into a single shell surface in a relatively straightforward way.

Over the course of the last few months, Erik has produced lighter cases, a pen, bracelets, errings, rings, necklaces and much more using this technique.

And while he admits to not being tech savvy enough to do so himself, he thinks this 3D printing method will really shine if an algorithm can be developed to incorporate the highlighted rules in other slicing/3D print programs.

I myself am looking closely at the impressive castle he developed using this method and am jealous I don’t have the file required to make one myself. But beyond that, the potential practical applications to this formula are vast. Just consider, he was able to stand on a 4x4x4cm block (about half an hour of 3D printing) without smashing it to bits.

In the end, Erik’s Maker spirit shines throughout the informative narrative of both his introduction and tutorials to the technique he developed. He’s eager to work with anyone that might be eager to further develop his idea (or alternatively point him to a similar system that already exists).

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

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