Aligning material extrusion direction with mechanical stress via 5-axis tool paths

Mechanical properties of parts fabricated via the Material Extrusion (ME) process can be improved by optimising process settings, however, their properties are strongly influenced by build orientation due to the stair-stepping effect initiating cracks whilst under load. 5-axis ME enables the fabrication of parts without the layer-by-layer restrictions that conventional 3-axis strategies impose. By aligning extrusion direction with high stress tensors, 5-axis tool paths can be used to reduce the effects of weak inter-layer bonds. To establish performance differences between parts manufactured by either strategy, wave spring-inspired geometry was selected for production, due to the multi-directional tensile loads acting throughout the material. 5-axis and 3-axis tool paths were generated via the Grasshopper 3D virtual environment within Rhinoceros 3D and MakerBot Desktop, and manufactured using a 5AXISMAKER and a MakerBot Replicator 2, respectively. To evaluate performance differences between the two strategies, compression tests were conducted on the parts.