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A chunk-based slicer for cooperative 3D printing

Jace McPherson (Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA)
Wenchao Zhou (Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA)

Rapid Prototyping Journal

ISSN: 1355-2546

Article publication date: 12 October 2018

Issue publication date: 21 November 2018




The purpose of this research is to develop a new slicing scheme for the emerging cooperative three-dimensional (3D) printing platform that has multiple mobile 3D printers working together on one print job.


Because the traditional lay-based slicing scheme does not work for cooperative 3D printing, a chunk-based slicing scheme is proposed to split the print job into chunks so that different mobile printers can print different chunks simultaneously without interfering with each other.


A chunk-based slicer is developed for two mobile 3D printers to work together cooperatively. A simulator environment is developed to validate the developed slicer, which shows the chunk-based slicer working effectively, and demonstrates the promise of cooperative 3D printing.

Research limitations/implications

For simplicity, this research only considered the case of two mobile 3D printers working together. Future research is needed for a slicing and scheduling scheme that can work with thousands of mobile 3D printers.

Practical implications

The research findings in this work demonstrate a new approach to 3D printing. By enabling multiple mobile 3D printers working together, the printing speed can be significantly increased and the printing capability (for multiple materials and multiple components) can be greatly enhanced.

Social implications

The chunk-based slicing algorithm is critical to the success of cooperative 3D printing, which may enable an autonomous factory equipped with a swarm of autonomous mobile 3D printers and mobile robots for autonomous manufacturing and assembly.


This work presents a new approach to 3D printing. Instead of printing layer by layer, each mobile 3D printer will print one chunk at a time, which provides the much-needed scalability for 3D printing to print large-sized object and increase the printing speed. The chunk-based approach keeps the 3D printing local and avoids the large temperature gradient and associated internal stress as the size of the print increases.



McPherson, J. and Zhou, W. (2018), "A chunk-based slicer for cooperative 3D printing", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 24 No. 9, pp. 1436-1446.



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