Yes, this patent has reached its mandatory publication date and appears to be Autodesk’s vision of a filament based 3D printer. Remember, Ember is an SLA DLP printer, so this is a whole different direction. Check it out.
On the right side of the picture above, there are filament modules which will carry a highly customizable mixture of materials to create different properties for a desired build surface. According to the patent application, the printer seems to be designed to facilitate any and all available material filaments, including flexible and conductive ones.
What’s interesting about this design is this helix-shaped chamber (1046) where the separate filaments meet to mix together, prior to leaving the nozzle (1034).
For flow control, the patent describes a horizontally placed slide pin for each tube that leads into mixing chamber, which seems to be for a less expensive version of the printer that uses a single motor for the entire machine rather than a motor per filament module. Of course, the mechanized version of this will cost more, but at least there will be an option.
But what about all of these nozzles, depicted in the image below? 1-4 can be fitted onto the printer head, which is great for projects that require different accuracy and material properties, which will in turn, make the printer faster. For instance, you could use a wider nozzle to 3D print parts that don’t require a high degree of accuracy, and use smaller ones for more precise and intricate components.
Described in the patent are the size of the nozzle openings, which are 0.75 square millimeters. Common sense dictates that 0.75 square mm indicates the largest possible nozzle, but the smallest was not specified.
Parcelling out prints through different sized nozzles shows that Autodesk is designing for speed, but they are prepared to switch between prioritizing speed versus turn momentum, because the patent shows that certain configurations include gearboxes on the printer head to emphasize the latter.
Interestingly, some of the technology described in the patent is similar to technologies implemented by other 3D printers. For instance, the ability to mix colors in the extruder is used by botObjects, who was later purchased by 3D Systems. And multiple nozzles for speed vs. detail is an important part of the Robox 3D printer’s design. Either way, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for an announcement regarding an Autodesk multi-material filament 3D printer, if one is ever released, and whether that will be open source like their DLP SLA Ember 3D printer.