How Fused Granulate Fabrication is Reshaping 3D Printing

From Granules to Greatness

1st May 2024

5-7 Minute Read

What is Fused Granulate Fabrication?

Fused Granulate Fabrication (FGF) is an advanced additive manufacturing technique that employs granular materials—commonly plastics or composites—in the form of pellets. This method uses a heated nozzle to melt and extrude these materials layer by layer, crafting intricate and bespoke objects. In contrast, Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) which involves extruding thermoplastic materials in a continuous filament, is commonly used for creating small-scale prototypes, educational models, and functional household items due to its simplicity and accessibility. Distinguished by its use of commercially available granulates, FGF is a versatile, cost-effective, and scalable option that stands out in the 3D printing landscape.

FGF is effective for specific applications in various industries due to its capacity to handle large-scale projects and complex geometries. In the marine industry, FGF excels in manufacturing objects like boat hulls, where its ability to process large volumes quickly and cost-effectively is crucial. It's also highly useful for creating moulds and tooling for industrial applications, offering rapid turnaround times and significant cost savings compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Additionally, in construction, FGF is advantageous for producing products like 3D printed concrete formwork, enabling complex architectural features to be constructed with greater efficiency and precision.

FGF Print Cross Section - Layers Are Strongly Bonded

Advantages and Challenges of FGF

FGF is celebrated for its precise, high-speed extrusion capabilities, which offer a broader range of material choices compared to FFF. However, the adaptable nature of FGF also introduces complexity to the printing process. It requires custom settings for different materials, demanding a deep technical understanding.

One of the standout advantages of FGF is its capacity to customise material properties for large-scale projects. Materials can be specifically tailored for unique applications—such as incorporating hydrophobic properties and UV stabilisers for outdoor uses or adding flame retardants and stiffeners for improved performance. This customisation is made possible by the ability to order in large quantities, which allows for precise modifications to meet exact environmental and functional requirements.

FGF Pellets

FFF Filament

Cost-Effectiveness of FGF Compared to FFF

FGF offers a substantial cost advantage over FFF. While 1kg of filament may cost around $40, the same amount of pellet material used in FGF is likely to cost around $4. Bulk ordering by the tonne further enhances FGF's economic appeal compared to the more typical kilo-by-kilo purchasing in FFF, significantly reducing material costs.

The FGF Printing Process

FGF employs a mechanism like traditional extrusion and injection moulding, featuring a screw and barrel system. Dry pellets are introduced into a hopper and transported by an extrusion screw through various heating zones, melting before extrusion. This process, governed by pressure in the extruder, follows the contours set by 3D printing software.

Managing Material Properties

Achieving consistent print quality in FGF demands control over several factors, including pellet size and moisture content. Uniform pellet size enhances extrusion smoothness and layer adhesion, while moisture can cause gas bubbles during melting, leading to defects in the final product.

Comparison with Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)

FGF surpasses FFF in material versatility and the ability to fabricate large, complex parts. It is particularly beneficial for materials that are either too rigid for winding or too soft for filament extruders. Furthermore, FGF eliminates the need for winding materials into coils, simplifying the printing process and reducing material costs.

Machine Types for Large-Format Additive Manufacturing with FGF

In the realm of large-format additive manufacturing (LFAM) with FGF, there are two primary types of machines:

Robot-based Systems: These utilise a mobile robotic arm, enabling larger build sizes and the ability to handle complex geometries. Despite their flexibility and broad capabilities, such systems are expensive and technically demanding.

Gantry-based Systems: These are prevalent due to their cost-effectiveness and simpler setup. Operating within a fixed frame, they are ideal for consistent geometries, providing faster printing speeds and greater accuracy but with restricted design flexibility.

Hyperion's Large Format AM Gantry System Extruder

CEAD’s Flexbot Robotic AM system. Photo Credit: CEAD

FGF is revolutionising the possibilities of 3D printing by enabling the creation of large, complex designs with a high degree of material freedom. This technology not only enhances design flexibility but also reduces costs and increases scalability, significantly advancing the additive manufacturing industry.

Explore the potential of fused granulate fabrication with Hyperion Systems, a leader in large-scale 3D printing solutions. Whether you're looking to innovate in marine, construction, or design, Hyperion Systems provides cutting-edge technology and expert support to bring your visions to life. Contact us today to learn how we can assist you in pushing the boundaries of 3D printing technology.

Bringing precision to every detail, your vision becomes a reality layer by layer.

Lets shape your next project with
large format 3D printing.

Bringing precision to every detail, your vision becomes a reality layer by layer.

Lets shape your next project with
large format 3D printing.

Bringing precision to every detail, your vision becomes a reality layer by layer.

Lets shape your next project with
large format 3D printing.