US20180281283A1 - Material manipulation in three-dimensional printing - Google Patents

Material manipulation in three-dimensional printing Download PDF

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Publication number
US20180281283A1
US20180281283A1 US15/937,812 US201815937812A US2018281283A1 US 20180281283 A1 US20180281283 A1 US 20180281283A1 US 201815937812 A US201815937812 A US 201815937812A US 2018281283 A1 US2018281283 A1 US 2018281283A1
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material
pre
embodiments
comprise
μm
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US15/937,812
Inventor
James FRECHMAN
Alan Rick Lappen
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Velo3D Inc
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Velo3D Inc
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Priority to US201762477848P priority Critical
Application filed by Velo3D Inc filed Critical Velo3D Inc
Priority to US15/937,812 priority patent/US20180281283A1/en
Assigned to Velo3D, Inc. reassignment Velo3D, Inc. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: FRECHMAN, James, LAPPEN, ALAN RICK
Publication of US20180281283A1 publication Critical patent/US20180281283A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • B29C31/00Handling, e.g. feeding of the material to be shaped, storage of plastics material before moulding; Automation, i.e. automated handling lines in plastics processing plants, e.g. using manipulators or robots
    • B29C31/04Feeding of the material to be moulded, e.g. into a mould cavity
    • B29C31/08Feeding of the material to be moulded, e.g. into a mould cavity of preforms to be moulded, e.g. tablets, fibre reinforced preforms, extruded ribbons, tubes or profiles; Manipulating means specially adapted for feeding preforms, e.g. supports conveyors
    • B29C31/085Feeding of the material to be moulded, e.g. into a mould cavity of preforms to be moulded, e.g. tablets, fibre reinforced preforms, extruded ribbons, tubes or profiles; Manipulating means specially adapted for feeding preforms, e.g. supports conveyors combined with positioning the preforms according to predetermined patterns, e.g. positioning extruded preforms on conveyors
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    • B28B1/001Rapid manufacturing of 3D objects by additive depositing, agglomerating or laminating of material
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    • B28B13/02Feeding the unshaped material to moulds or apparatus for producing shaped articles
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    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
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    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
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    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
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    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
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Abstract

The present disclosure provides three-dimensional (3D) printing systems, apparatuses, software, and methods for the production of at least one requested 3D object. The 3D printer includes a material conveyance system, filtering system, and unpacking station. The material conveyance system may transport pre-transformed material against gravity. The 3D printing described herein comprises facilitating non-interrupted material dispensing through a component of the 3D printer, such as a layer dispenser.

Description

    CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application claims benefit of prior-filed U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/477,848, filed on Mar. 28, 2017, titled “MATERIAL CONVEYANCE IN THREE-DIMENSIONAL PRINTERS,” which is entirely incorporated herein by reference.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Three-dimensional (3D) printing (e.g., additive manufacturing) is a process for making a three-dimensional object of any shape from a design. The design may be in the form of a data source such as an electronic data source, or may be in the form of a hard copy. The hard copy may be a two-dimensional representation of a 3D object. The data source may be an electronic 3D model. 3D printing may be accomplished through an additive process in which successive layers of material are laid down one on top of another. This process may be controlled (e.g., computer controlled, manually controlled, or both). A 3D printer can be an industrial robot.
  • 3D printing can generate custom parts. A variety of materials can be used in a 3D printing process including elemental metal, metal alloy, ceramic, elemental carbon, or polymeric material. In some 3D printing processes (e.g., additive manufacturing), a first layer of hardened material is formed (e.g., by welding powder), and thereafter successive layers of hardened material are added one by one, wherein each new layer of hardened material is added on a pre-formed layer of hardened material, until the entire designed three-dimensional structure (3D object) is layer-wise materialized.
  • 3D models may be created with a computer aided design package, via 3D scanner, or manually. The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics may be similar to plastic arts, such as sculpting or animating. 3D scanning is a process of analyzing and collecting digital data on the shape and appearance of a real object (e.g., real-life object). Based on this data, 3D models of the scanned object can be produced.
  • A number of 3D printing processes are currently available. They may differ in the manner layers are deposited to create the materialized 3D structure (e.g., hardened 3D structure). They may vary in the material or materials that are used to materialize the designed 3D object. Some methods melt, sinter, or soften material to produce the layers that form the 3D object. Examples for 3D printing methods include selective laser melting (SLM), selective laser sintering (SLS), direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) or fused deposition modeling (FDM). Other methods cure liquid materials using different technologies such as stereo lithography (SLA). In the method of laminated object manufacturing (LOM), thin layers (made inter alia of paper, polymer, or metal) are cut to shape and joined together.
  • At times, during the process of dispensing pre-transformed (e.g., particulate) material as part of the 3D printing, the pre-transformed material may be dispensed in a discontinuous manner, or cease to be dispensed. For examples, there may be one or more intermissions in the conveyance of the pre-transformed material during the 3D printing. The intermissions(s) may be undesired. For example, the material dispenser may run out of pre-transformed material. For example, the material dispensing process may pause (e.g., stop) to refill the material dispenser. In some situations, it may be desired to diminish the number of (e.g., undesired) interruptions to the material dispensing process. At times, it may be desirable to facilitate a continuous movement (e.g., flow) of the pre-transformed material (e.g., to allow non-interrupted and/or smooth deposition). At times, it may be desirable to convey an excess amount of pre-transformed material (e.g., as a result of leveling, vacuuming, or unused material) to the material dispenser. At times, there may be an excess of material that is not used during the 3D printing. The excess of material may be recycled and/or reused during the 3D printing. In some embodiments, there may be a need for a conveyance system of the excess material to the material dispenser.
  • In some embodiments, material is supplied in bulk qualities. There may be a need for a conveyance system that conveys material to the material dispenser. The conveyance system may facilitate uninterrupted function of the material dispenser. The conveyance system may facilitate continuous flow of pre-transformed material to the material dispenser.
  • In some examples, it may be beneficial to transport pre-transformed material against gravity (e.g., in an upwards direction). For example, it may be beneficial to transport the pre-transformed material from a reservoir containing a large amount of pre-transformed material, against gravity to a reservoir containing a smaller amount of pre-transformed material. For example, it may be beneficial to keep large quantities of the pre-transformed material in a large reservoir disposed at a low elevation (e.g., relative to a position of the material dispenser) for ease of operation (e.g., handling), and/or safety consideration.
  • SUMMARY
  • In an aspect, the present disclosure comprises a transporting of pre-transformed material from a reservoir during a portion of the 3D printing process. The transporting may be against gravity.
  • In another aspect, a system for three-dimensional printing of at least one three-dimensional object comprises: a material dispenser that dispenses a pre-transformed material towards a platform; a first pressure container that is configured to contain the pre-transformed material, which first pressure container is operatively coupled to the material dispenser; a gas conveyor channel that is operatively coupled to the first pressure container; a material conveyor channel that is operatively coupled to the first pressure container, the gas conveyor channel, and the material dispenser; and at least one controller that is operatively coupled to the material dispenser, the first pressure container, the gas conveyor channel, and the material conveyor channel, which at least one controller is programmed to direct performance of the following operations: operation (i) direct insertion of at least one gas into the first pressure container, through the gas conveyor channel, to elevate the pressure in the pressure container, operation (ii) direct conveying of the pre-transformed material from the pressure container to the material dispenser through the material conveyor channel, as a result of an elevated pressure in the pressure container, operation (iii) direct dispensing of conveyed pre-transformed material towards the platform, and operation (iv) direct printing, during dispensing or after dispensing, of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object, from the pre-transformed material.
  • In some embodiments, the system further comprises a second pressure container that is configured to contain the pre-transformed material, which second pressure container is operatively coupled to the material dispenser, and the material conveyor channel. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct performance of conveying the pre-transformed material from the second pressure container to the material dispenser. In some embodiments, conveying from the second pressure container comprises dense phase conveying. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct performance of alternatingly conveying the pre-transformed material to the material dispenser, from the first pressure container and from the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct performance of switching conveying from the first pressure container to the second pressure container. In some embodiments, at least two of operation (i), operation (ii), operation (iii), and operation (iv) are directed by the same controller. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is a plurality of controllers and wherein at least two of operation (i), operation (ii), operation (iii), and operation (iv) are directed by different controllers.
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for three-dimensional printing of at least one three-dimensional object comprises: a material dispenser that dispenses pre-transformed material towards a platform, which pre-transformed material is used to print at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object, wherein the print is after the dispensing or during the dispensing; a first pressure container that is configured to contain the pre-transformed material, which first pressure container is operatively coupled to the material dispenser; a first gas conveyor channel that is operatively coupled to the first pressure container, which first gas conveyor channel is configured to at least facilitate an insertion of at least one gas into the first pressure container, wherein the insertion can form an elevated pressure in the first pressure container; and a material conveyor channel that is operatively coupled to the first pressure container, the first gas conveyor channel, and the material dispenser, which material conveyor channel conveys pre-transformed material from the first pressure container to the material dispenser, on insertion of the at least one gas into the first pressure container to form the elevated pressure in the pressure container.
  • In some embodiments, elevated is relative to an ambient pressure. In some embodiments, the first pressure container is additionally configured to facilitate an extraction of the at least one gas from the first pressure container, wherein the extraction forms a reduced pressure in the first pressure container. In some embodiments, reduced is relative to an ambient pressure. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a second pressure container that is configured to contain the pre-transformed material, which second pressure container is operatively coupled to the material dispenser, and the material conveyor channel. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a second gas conveyor channel that is operatively coupled to the second pressure container, which second gas conveyor channel is configured to at least facilitate insertion of at least one gas into the second pressure container, wherein the insertion can form an elevated pressure in the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the second gas conveyor channel is different from the first gas conveyor channel. In some embodiments, the second gas conveyor channel is operatively coupled to the first gas conveyor channel. In some embodiments, the second gas conveyor channel is the same as the first gas conveyor channel. In some embodiments, at least a portion of the material conveyor channel is inserted into an interior of the first pressure container. In some embodiments, the material conveyor channel extends into an interior of the first pressure container. In some embodiments, the material conveyor channel comprises one or more boundaries that comprise a smooth internal surface, which smooth internal surface is configured to facilitate conveyance of the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the internal surface comprises a static dissipative surface. In some embodiments, the internal surface comprises a charge. In some embodiments, the charge is altered. In some embodiments, the charge is altered is during the conveyance of the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a separator, which separator is operatively coupled to the material conveyor channel and the material dispenser, which separator is configured to at least partially separate the at least one gas from the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a separator, which separator is operatively coupled to the material conveyor channel and a recycling mechanism, which separator is configured to at least partially separate the at least one gas from the pre-transformed material, wherein the recycling mechanism comprises an entrance port and/or an exit port
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for three-dimensional printing of at least one three-dimensional object comprises at least one controller that is programmed to perform the following operations: operation (a) direct conveying of a pre-transformed material from a first pressure container to a material dispenser, which conveying comprises dense phase conveying; operation (b) direct dispensing of a conveyed pre-transformed material from the material dispenser towards a platform; and operation (c) direct printing of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object from the pre-transformed material after the dispensing or during the dispensing.
  • In some embodiments, the at least two of operation (a), operation (b), and operation (c) are directed by the same controller. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is a plurality of controllers and wherein at least two of operation (a), operation (b), and operation (c) are directed by different controllers
  • In another aspect, a method for printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: a. conveying a pre-transformed material from a first pressure container to a material dispenser, which conveying comprises dense phase conveying; b. dispensing a conveyed pre-transformed material from the material dispenser towards a platform; and c. printing at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object from the pre-transformed material after the dispensing or during the dispensing.
  • In some embodiments, dense phase conveying comprises (i) inserting pre-transformed material into the first pressure container, (ii) inserting at least one gas into the first pressure container to form a pressure gradient between the first pressure container and a target to facilitate dispensing the conveyed pre-transformed material, and (iii) conveying the pre-transformed material from the first pressure container to the target, across the pressure gradient. In some embodiments, the target includes a bulk reservoir, the material dispenser, a processing chamber, or any combination thereof. In some embodiments, the method further comprises conveying the pre-transformed material from a second pressure container to the material dispenser. In some embodiments, conveying from the second pressure container comprises dense phase conveying. In some embodiments, the method further comprises alternatingly conveying the pre-transformed material to the material dispenser, from the first pressure container and from the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the conveying is continuous. In some embodiments, the conveying is discontinuous. In some embodiments, the conveying includes packets of pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the method further comprises switching conveying from the first pressure container to the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the method further comprises facilitating continuous flow of pre-transformed material into the material dispenser. In some embodiments, the method further comprises switching conveying from the second pressure container to the first pressure container. In some embodiments, the switching is alternating. In some embodiments, the switching is controlled. In some embodiments, the switching is during dispensing the conveyed pre-transformed material from the material dispenser. In some embodiments, the switching is coordinated with evacuating at least a portion of the pre-transformed material from the first pressure container or the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the switching is coordinated with filling of the first pressure container or the second pressure container with the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, filling comprises filling with pre-transformed material from an external material source. In some embodiments, filling comprises filling with an excess of pre-transformed material from a processing chamber in which the at least one three-dimensional object is printed. In some embodiments, filling comprises filling with an excess of pre-transformed material from a leveler or from a material remover, wherein the leveler and/or the material remover planarize an exposed surface of a material bed that the material dispenser forms upon dispensing pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, evacuating comprises conveying pre-transformed material to the material dispenser. In some embodiments, evacuating comprises conveying pre-transformed material to a bulk reservoir. In some embodiments, evacuating comprises conveying pre-transformed material to an external material source. In some embodiments, the method further comprises conveying (i) pre-transformed material from the first pressure container to the material dispenser and (ii) pre-transformed material from the material dispenser to the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the conveying of (i) and (ii) is simultaneous. In some embodiments, the conveying of (i) and (ii) is sequential. In some embodiments, the method further comprises (i) evacuating pre-transformed material from the first pressure container, and (ii) filling pre-transformed material to the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the conveying of (i) and (ii) is simultaneous. In some embodiments, the conveying of (i) and (ii) is sequential. In some embodiments, conveying comprises conveying via a material conveying channel
  • In another aspect, a computer software product for three-dimensional printing of at least one three-dimensional object comprises a non-transitory computer-readable medium in which program instructions are stored, which instructions, when read by a computer, cause the computer to perform operations comprises: operation (a) directing conveying of a pre-transformed material from a first pressure container to a material dispenser, which conveying comprises dense phase conveying; operation (b) directing dispensing of a conveyed pre-transformed material from the material dispenser towards a platform; and operation (c) directing printing of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object from the pre-transformed material after the dispensing or during the dispensing.
  • In some embodiments, at least two of operation (a), operation (b), and operation (c) are directed by the same controller. In some embodiments, the computer software product further comprises a plurality of controllers configured to read the program instructions, and wherein at least two of operation (a), operation (b), and operation (c) are directed by different controllers.
  • In another aspect, a system for three-dimensional printing of at least one three-dimensional object comprises: a processing chamber that is configured to expel an excess amount of a pre-transformed material, which excess is generated during printing of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object; a first pressure container, which first pressure container is operatively coupled to the processing chamber; a material conveyor channel, wherein the material conveyor channel is operatively coupled to the first pressure container and to the processing chamber; and at least one controller that is operatively coupled to the processing chamber, the first pressure container and the material conveyor channel, which at least one controller is programmed to collectively or separately direct performance of the following operations: operation (i) direct collecting an excess amount of pre-transformed material that is expelled from the processing chamber, and operation (ii) direct dilute phase conveyance of the excess pre-transformed material from the processing chamber to the first pressure container, through the material conveyor channel.
  • In some embodiments, the system further comprises a second pressure container that is configured to collect the excess amount of pre-transformed material that is expelled from the processing chamber, which second pressure container is operatively coupled to the processing chamber, and to the material conveyor channel. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct performance of conveying the pre-transformed material from the processing chamber to the second pressure container. In some embodiments, conveying to the second pressure container comprises dilute phase conveying
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for three-dimensional printing of at least one three-dimensional object comprises: a processing chamber comprising an exit opening from which an excess amount of pre-transformed material in the processing chamber is expelled, which excess amount of pre-transformed material is generated during printing of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object; a first pressure container that collects the excess amount of pre-transformed material that is expelled from the processing chamber, which first pressure container is operatively coupled to the processing chamber; and a material conveyor channel that is configured to convey the excess amount of the pre-transformed material from the processing chamber to the first pressure container by dilute phase conveyance, wherein the material conveyor channel is operatively coupled to the first pressure container and to the processing chamber.
  • In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a gas source that is configured to deliver at least one gas to the material conveyor channel to facilitate the dilute phase conveyance, wherein the material conveyor channel is operatively coupled to the gas source. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a recycling mechanism that is configured to collect the excess amount of the pre-transformed material, which recycling mechanism is operatively coupled to the processing chamber, which recycling mechanism comprises an opening. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a material remover that is configured to facilitate collection and/or expulsion of the excess amount of pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a material leveler that is configured to facilitate collection and/or expulsion of the excess amount of pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a second pressure container that is configured to collect the excess amount of pre-transformed material that is expelled from the processing chamber, which second pressure container is operatively coupled to the processing chamber, and to the material conveyor channel. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a separator, which separator is operatively coupled to the material conveyor channel and the first pressure container, which separator is configured to at least partially separate the at least one gas from pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a separator, which separator is operatively coupled to the material conveyor channel and the second pressure container, which separator is configured to at least partially separate the at least one gas from pre-transformed material
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for three-dimensional printing of at least one three-dimensional object comprises at least one controller that is collectively or separately programmed to perform the following operations: operation (a) direct collecting an excess amount of pre-transformed material from a processing chamber, which excess is generated during printing of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object; and operation (b) direct conveying a collected excess amount of pre-transformed material from the processing chamber to a first pressure container, which conveying comprises dilute phase conveying.
  • In another aspect, a method for printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: (a) collecting an excess amount of a pre-transformed material from a processing chamber, which excess is generated during printing of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object; and (b) conveying a collected excess amount of the pre-transformed material from the processing chamber to a first pressure container, which conveying comprises dilute phase conveying.
  • In some embodiments, the method further comprises before (b), recycling and/or reconditioning the excess amount of the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the method further comprises after (a), recycling and/or reconditioning the excess amount of the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, collecting comprises transferring an excess amount of the pre-transformed material into a recycling mechanism. In some embodiments, a material leveler transfers the excess amount of the pre-transformed material into the recycling mechanism. In some embodiments, a material remover transfers the excess amount of the pre-transformed material into the recycling mechanism. In some embodiments, dilute phase conveying comprises (i) inserting the pre-transformed material into a material conveying channel from the processing chamber, (ii) inserting at least one gas into the material conveying channel, which at least one gas comprises a conveying velocity to form a suspended pre-transformed material from at least a portion of the pre-transformed material, and (iii) conveying the suspended pre-transformed material from the processing chamber to the first pressure container. In some embodiments, the method further comprises maintaining the conveying velocity while conveying through the material conveying channel. In some embodiments, the conveying velocity is constant while conveying through the material conveying channel. In some embodiments, the conveying velocity is altered while conveying through the material conveying channel. In some embodiments, the method further comprises maintaining a suspension of the suspended pre-transformed material while conveying through the material conveying channel. In some embodiments, the inserting at least one gas comprises pressurizing the at least one gas. In some embodiments, the method further comprises conveying the collected excess amount of the pre-transformed material from the processing chamber to a second pressure container. In some embodiments, conveying to the second pressure container comprises dilute phase conveying. In some embodiments, the method further comprises conveying the excess amount of the pre-transformed material from a material dispenser to the first pressure container and the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the method further comprises simultaneously conveying (i) pre-transformed material from the first pressure container to a material dispenser and (ii) excess pre-transformed material from the material dispenser to the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the method further comprises simultaneously (i) evacuating pre-transformed material from the first pressure container, and (ii) filling excess pre-transformed material into the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the method further comprises alternatingly (i) evacuating pre-transformed material from the first pressure container, and (ii) filling excess pre-transformed material into the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the conveying is continuous. In some embodiments, the conveying is discontinuous. In some embodiments, the conveying includes packets of pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the method further comprises switching conveying to the first pressure container from the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the method further comprises facilitating continuous dispensing of pre-transformed material from the material dispenser. In some embodiments, the method further comprises switching conveying to the second pressure container from the first pressure container. In some embodiments, the switching is alternating. In some embodiments, the switching is controlled. In some embodiments, the switching is during the printing of the at least one three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the switching is during material dispensing from the material dispenser. In some embodiments, the switching is coordinated with emptying of the first pressure container or the second pressure container. In some embodiments, the switching is coordinated with filling of the first pressure container or the second pressure container.
  • In another aspect, a computer software product for three-dimensional printing of at least one three-dimensional object comprises a non-transitory computer-readable medium in which program instructions are stored, which instructions, when read by a computer, cause the computer to perform operations comprises: operation (a) directing collecting an excess amount of pre-transformed material from a processing chamber, which excess is generated during printing of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object; and operation (b) directing conveying the collected excess amount of pre-transformed material from the processing chamber to a first pressure container, which conveying comprises dilute phase conveying.
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: an enclosure comprising at least one wall that encloses a volume configured to accommodate a gas and the at least one three-dimensional object; an energy source that is configured to provide an energy beam that transforms a pre-transformed material to a transformed material to print the at least one three-dimensional object, which energy beam generates soot during transformation of the pre-transformed material to the transformed material; a channel configured to transport a first mixture that includes the gas, the soot, and the pre-transformed material which channel is operatively coupled to the enclosure; a separator that is operatively coupled to the channel, which separator is configured to separate the first mixture to a second mixture rich in the gas and the soot, and a third mixture rich in the pre-transformed material (and may comprise the soot), wherein the channel is configured to transport the first mixture between the enclosure and the separator; and a collector comprising an inlet opening operatively coupled to the separator and configured to facilitate flow of the second mixture therethrough, which collector is configured to collect at least a portion of the soot from the second mixture.
  • In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprising a layer dispenser that dispenses a planar layer of the pre-transformed material to form a material bed in which the at least one three-dimensional object is printed. In some embodiments, the layer dispenser is configured to extract the first mixture that additionally comprises spatter generated during the printing. In some embodiments, the soot is a byproduct of the transformation of the pre-transformed material to the transformed material. In some embodiments, the soot comprises particles having a fundamental length scale (FLS) of at most about 5 microns, and wherein the pre-transformed material comprises particles having a FLS of at least about 10 microns. In some embodiments, the first mixture further comprises spatter, which spatter is a byproduct of the transformation of the pre-transformed material to the transformed material. In some embodiments, the third mixture comprises the spatter. In some embodiments, the printing of the at least one three-dimensional object comprises a printing cycle, and wherein the collector is configured to collect the at least the portion of the soot from the second mixture at least during the printing cycle. In some embodiments, the collector is configured to collect the at least the portion of the soot during printing of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the printing cycle comprises layerwise printing of the at least one three-dimensional object, and wherein the collecting in (d) is following each layer. In some embodiments, the collector comprises a filter. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises one or more sensors operatively coupled with the separator and/or the collector, which one or more sensors are operable to detect a characteristic of the soot, spatter, and/or the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the characteristic comprises (i) a level, (ii) a volume, (iii) a flux, (iv) a chemical composition, or (v) any combination thereof. In some embodiments, the one or more sensors facilitate controlling one or more apparatuses of the printing by considering output of the one or more sensors. In some embodiments, the one or more apparatuses comprises a remover that removes the mixture by (i) attracting a gas and the material into an internal volume of the remover and (ii) cyclonically separating the material from the gas in the remover. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a power connector coupled with the one or more apparatuses, which power connector comprises an outlet, an inlet, a wire, or any combination thereof. In some embodiments, the collector further comprises an outlet opening. In some embodiments, the outlet opening is configured to facilitate flow of the gas therethrough. In some embodiments, the channel is a first channel, and wherein the apparatus further comprises a second channel operatively coupled to the outlet opening and to the enclosure, which second channel is configured to transport the gas. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises one or more valves coupled with the first channel and/or the second channel, which one or more valves are configured to alternately block or allow flow of gas therethrough. In some embodiments, the first channel and the second channel are the same. In some embodiments, the separator is a cyclonic separator. In some embodiments, the separator comprises at least two cyclonic separators that are operatively coupled in parallel or sequentially. In some embodiments, the at least two cyclonic separators are arranged in a sequence, such that an outlet of a first cyclonic separator is coupled with an inlet of a following cyclonic separator of the sequence. In some embodiments, the separator comprises a wall enclosing an internal volume, which separator is configured to gravitationally collect the third mixture in the internal volume. In some embodiments, the internal volume comprises a reservoir. In some embodiments, the separator is configured to collect the third mixture in at least a portion of the internal volume that does not share a flow path with the second mixture through the internal volume
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: at least one controller that is operatively coupled to an energy source, a separator, and an inlet opening, which at least one controller is programmed to (i) direct the energy source to generate an energy beam to transform a pre-transformed material to a transformed material to print the at least one three-dimensional object and generate soot in an enclosure that encloses a gas, (ii) facilitate transport of a first mixture comprising the pre-transformed material, the soot, and the gas, to the separator, (iii) direct the separator to separate the first mixture to a second mixture rich in gas and soot, and a third mixture rich in (soot and) pre-transformed material, and (iv) facilitate collection of at least part of the soot of the second mixture in a collector.
  • In some embodiments, the at least one controller is operatively coupled to a layer dispensing mechanism. In some embodiments, the controller is further configured to direct planarizing an exposed surface of a material bed in which the at least one three-dimensional object is printed, which planarizing comprises extracting the first mixture that additionally comprises spatter generated during the printing. In some embodiments, the apparatus comprises one or more valves and/or a compressed gas source coupled with the separator, the enclosure, and/or the collector, wherein the at least one controller is coupled with the one or more valves and/or the compressed gas source. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct at least one valve of the one or more valves and/or the compressed gas source to facilitate the transport in (ii). In some embodiments, the compress gas source is an active compressed gas source that comprises a blower, a fan, a compressor, or a pump. In some embodiments, the compress gas source is a passive compressed gas source (e.g., a gas cylinder). In some embodiments, to facilitate comprises controlling an opening or closing of the one or more valves, or a flow of the compressed gas. In some embodiments, the soot is a byproduct of a transformation of the pre-transformed material to the transformed material. In some embodiments, the soot comprises particles having a fundamental length scale (FLS) of at most about 5 microns, and wherein the pre-transformed material comprises particles having a FLS of at least about 10 microns. In some embodiments, the printing the at least one three-dimensional object comprises a printing cycle, wherein the printing cycle includes a layer-by-layer formation of the three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to facilitate the collection in (iv) following formation of each layer. In some embodiments, the collection is from a remover that is configured to attract the mixture during the printing. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to facilitate at least two of the transport in (ii), the separation in (iii) and the collection in (iv) at least during the printing. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises the at least one controller operatively coupled with one or more sensors, which one or more sensors are configured to detect at least one characteristic of the soot the pre-transformed material and/or any spatter produced during the printing. In some embodiments, the at least one characteristic comprises (i) a level, (ii) a volume, (iii) a flux, (iv) an amount, (v) a chemical composition, or (vi) any combination thereof. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is configured to adjust at least one of the at least one characteristic (i)-(v), considering a detection of the at least one characteristic. In some embodiments, to adjust comprises a closed loop control scheme, which comprises a feedback or a feed-forward control scheme. In some embodiments, the closed loop control is in real time, which real time comprises during the printing at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is configured utilize a closed loop control scheme that is utilized is in real time during printing of at least a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to facilitate adjustment to a rate at which the first mixture is transported to the separator. In some embodiments, the adjustment is considering a detection of a rate at which second mixture is flowing to the collector. In some embodiments, at least two (i)-(iv) are directed by the same controller. In some embodiments, at least two of (i)-(iv) re directed by different controllers.
  • In another aspect, a method of printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: (a) generating an energy beam to transform a pre-transformed material to a transformed material to print the at least one three-dimensional object in an enclosure and generate soot, which enclosure comprises a gas; (b) flowing a first mixture comprising the gas, the soot, and the pre-transformed material from the enclosure to a separator; (c) separating the first mixture to a second mixture rich in the gas and the soot, and a third mixture rich in the pre-transformed material (and may comprise soot); and (d) collecting at least part of the soot of the second mixture.
  • In some embodiments, the method further comprises before flowing the first mixture, planarizing an exposed surface of a material bed in which the at least one three-dimensional object is printed, which planarizing comprises extracting the first mixture that additionally comprises spatter generated during the printing. In some embodiments, the soot is a byproduct of transforming the pre-transformed material to the transformed material. In some embodiments, the soot comprises particles having a fundamental length scale (FLS) of at most about 5 microns, and wherein the pre-transformed material comprises particles having a FLS of at least about 10 microns. In some embodiments, the first mixture further comprises spatter, which spatter is a byproduct of transforming the pre-transformed material to the transformed material. In some embodiments, the separating in (c) comprises the third mixture to further be rich in the spatter. In some embodiments, the printing the at least one three-dimensional object comprises a printing cycle, wherein the collecting in (d) is during the printing cycle. In some embodiments, the collecting in (d) is during printing of a portion of the at least one three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the printing cycle comprises layerwise printing of the at least one three-dimensional object, and wherein the collecting in (d) is following each layer. In some embodiments, the collecting in (d) comprises filtering. In some embodiments, the method further comprises detecting a characteristic of the soot, the pre-transformed material, and any spatter produced during the printing. In some embodiments, the characteristic comprises (i) a level, (ii) a volume, (iii) a flux, (iv) a chemical composition, (v) and amount, or (vi) any combination thereof. In some embodiments, the method further comprises flowing the gas to the enclosure, following the collecting in (d). In some embodiments, the separating comprises gravitationally collecting the third mixture in an internal volume of the separator. In some embodiments, the method further comprises storing the third mixture in a reservoir. In some embodiments, the collecting the third mixture is in a portion of the internal volume through which the second mixture does not flow. In some embodiments, the separating comprises cyclonic separation. In some embodiments, the separating in (c) comprises at least two separating operations, each separating operation reducing an amount of the soot and pre-transformed material from the first mixture. In some embodiments, each separating operation of the at least two separating operations comprises a respective collecting of the soot and pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, each separating operation is by a respective separator. In some embodiments, the at least two separating operations are performed sequentially. In some embodiments, the pre-transformed material comprises an elemental metal, metal alloy, ceramic, an allotrope of elemental carbon, a polymer, or a resin.
  • In another aspect, a system for printing a three-dimensional object comprises: an enclosure comprising at least one wall enclosing a volume that accommodates the three-dimensional object during the printing; a dispenser that is configured to dispense a dispensed amount of pre-transformed material through an opening of the dispenser toward a target surface that is disposed in the enclosure in which the three-dimensional object is printed, which dispensed amount of pre-transformed material is at least twice an amount of pre-transformed material required to form a material bed in which the three-dimensional object is printed, wherein an excess material comprise the dispensed pre-transformed material that did not form the material bed and/or the at least one three-dimensional object; and a recycling system comprising a sieve, wherein the recycling system is operatively coupled to the enclosure and is configured to (i) accommodate at least a portion of the excess material and (ii) recycle the at least a portion of the excess material at least in part by sieving the excess material through the sieve.
  • In some embodiments, the recycling system comprises an entrance opening configured to facilitate flow of the excess material therethrough. In some embodiments, the recycling system is operatively coupled to a remover that removes the excess material by (i) attracting a gas and the excess material into an internal volume of the remover and (ii) cyclonically separating the excess material from the gas in the remover. In some embodiments, the flow of the excess material comprises a mixture of a gas and the excess material. In some embodiments, the system further comprises a separator coupled with the enclosure and the entrance opening of the recycling system, which separator is configured to separate at least part of the excess material from the gas. In some embodiments, the separator comprises a cyclonic separator. In some embodiments, the excess material comprises any soot or any spatter produced in the printing. In some embodiments, the system further comprises a material reservoir having a material inlet coupled to an outlet of the recycling system, which material reservoir is configured to store a recycled pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the material reservoir is configured to provide at least part of the recycle pre-transformed material during the printing of the three-dimensional object and/or during a subsequent printing. In some embodiments, the printing the three-dimensional object is during a print cycle, which print cycle comprises a layer-by-layer formation of the three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the recycling system is configured to recycle in (ii) following each layer formation. In some embodiments, the recycling system is configured to recycle at least 40 cubic centimeters of the excess material following each layer formation. In some embodiments, the recycling system and/or sieve is configured to filter at least 50 kilograms. In some embodiments, the recycling system and/or sieve is configured to filter at least 500 kilograms. In some embodiments, the recycling system and/or sieve is configured to filter at a throughput of at least about six (6) cubic centimeters of material per hour (cc/hr). In some embodiments, the recycling system and/or sieve is configured to filter the excess material that has a fundamental length scale of at most 1000 micrometers. In some embodiments, the recycling system and/or sieve is configured to filter the excess material that has a fundamental length scale of at most 100 micrometers. In some embodiments, each layer of the layer-by-layer formation comprises a substantially equal layer height in the material bed. In some embodiments, a height of the dispensed amount of pre-transformed is at least five times a layer height. In some embodiments, the height of the dispensed amount of pre-transformed material comprises an average height across the target surface. In some embodiments, the system comprises a material removal member that is adjacent to the target surface, wherein the material removal member is operable to remove the excess material from the enclosure. In some embodiments, the excess material comprises at least five (5) times the layer height. In some embodiments, to remove is with aid of one or more a magnetic force, an electrostatic force, and a gas flow (e.g., vacuum). In some embodiments, the pre-transformed material comprises a particulate material. In some embodiments, the pre-transformed material comprises an elemental metal, metal alloy, ceramic, an allotrope of elemental carbon, a polymer, or a resin. In some embodiments, the system further comprises a power connector coupled with the dispenser and/or the recycling system, which power connector comprises an outlet, an inlet, a wire, or any combination thereof. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a material remover that is configured to planarize an exposed surface of the material bed in which the three-dimensional object is printed to form the layer height. In some embodiments, the material remover attracts from the material bed the excess material and a gas and at least partially separates the excess material from the gas in the material remover by using a cyclonic separator integrated in the material remover.
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: at least one controller that is operatively coupled to a dispenser and to a recycling system, which at least one controller is configured (e.g., programmed) to (i) direct dispensing of a dispensed amount of a pre-transformed material in an enclosure to form (a) a material bed in which the at least one three-dimensional object is printed, and (b) an excess material, which dispensed amount is at least twice an amount of pre-transformed material required to form the material bed, which excess material comprises the dispensed material that does not form the material bed and/or the at least one three-dimensional object, and (ii) direct recycling of the excess material at least in part by sieving the excess material.
  • In some embodiments, the recycling system comprises an entrance opening configured to facilitate flow of the excess material therethrough, wherein in (ii) the at least one controller is programmed to facilitate entry of the excess material from the enclosure to the recycling system. In some embodiments, the excess material comprises any soot or any spatter produced in the printing. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct recycling of the excess material at least in part during the printing. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct recycling of the excess material to be continuous during the printing. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct recycling of the excess material to form a recycled pre-transformed material, and to direct use of the recycled pre-transformed material during the printing of the three-dimensional object and/or during a subsequent printing. In some embodiments, to facilitate comprises controlling (I) one or more valves to open or close, (II) a compressed gas source to selectively flow gas, or (III) a power source to selectively supply power. In some embodiments, the recycling system further comprises an outlet opening configured to facilitate conveyance of the recycled pre-transformed material to a material reservoir. In some embodiments, the material reservoir comprises a material port coupled with an inlet port of the dispenser, wherein the at least one controller is programmed to (iii) facilitate conveying the pre-transformed material to the dispenser from the material reservoir. In some embodiments, the conveying comprises a dense phase conveyance of the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the outlet opening is configured to facilitate conveyance of the recycled pre-transformed material to at least two material reservoirs. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct conveying the recycled excess to the at least two material reservoirs alternatingly. In some embodiments, the printing the three-dimensional object comprises a printing cycle, which printing cycle comprises layer-by-layer formation of the three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct during the printing cycle recycling of a total amount of recycled excess material that is greater than a total material bed volume at the completion of the printing cycle. In some embodiments, the total amount of recycled excess material is at least 5 times the total material bed volume. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct the recycling in (ii) following at least one (e.g., each) layer of the layer-by-layer formation. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct the recycling to sieve at a rate of at least 0.5 cubic centimeters of the excess per minute, per square centimeter of a sieving area. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct the recycling to sieve at least 50 kilograms. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct the recycling to sieve at least 500 kilograms. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct the recycling to sieve at a throughput of at least about six (6) cubic centimeters of material per hour (cc/hr). In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct the recycling to sieve the excess material that has a fundamental length scale of at most 1000 micrometers. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to direct the recycling to sieve the excess material that has a fundamental length scale of at most 100 micrometers. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to facilitate maintaining the enclosure at a first atmosphere, and a recycling system enclosure at a second atmosphere, which first atmosphere and second atmosphere are different than an external atmosphere that comprises a reactive agent. In some embodiments, the at least one controller is programmed to facilitate flow of a gas comprising an inert atmosphere for the maintaining the first atmosphere and the second atmosphere. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a removal member comprising a removal opening disposed over the material bed, which at least one controller is programmed to facilitate removal of the excess material from the enclosure through the removal opening. In some embodiments, removal is with the aid of one or more of a magnetic force, an electrostatic force, and a gas flow.
  • In another aspect, a method for printing a three-dimensional object comprises: (a) dispensing a dispensed amount of a pre-transformed material to form (i) a material bed in which the three-dimensional object is printed and (ii) an excess amount of the pre-transformed material, which dispensed amount can fill at least twice a volume of the material bed; and (b) recycling the excess amount of the pre-transformed material at least in part by sieving the excess amount of the pre-transformed material, wherein the excess amount of the pre-transformed material comprises dispensed pre-transformed material that does not form the material bed and/or the at least one three-dimensional object
  • In some embodiments, the recycling is at least in part during the printing. In some embodiments, the recycling is continuous during the printing. In some embodiments, the excess pre-transformed material comprises any soot or any spatter produced in the printing. In some embodiments, the recycling is to form a recycled pre-transformed material that is used during the printing of the three-dimensional object and/or during a subsequent printing. In some embodiments, the method further comprises providing the recycled pre-transformed material to a material reservoir, following the recycling in (b). In some embodiments, the method further comprises flowing the pre-transformed material to a dispenser from the material reservoir. In some embodiments, the flowing comprises a dense phase conveyance of the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the providing the recycled pre-transformed material is to at least two material reservoirs. In some embodiments, the method further comprises providing the recycled excess to the at least two material reservoirs alternatingly. In some embodiments, the printing the three-dimensional object comprises a printing cycle, which printing cycle comprises a layer-by-layer formation of the three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, a total amount of recycled excess pre-transformed material during the printing cycle is greater than a total material bed volume at the completion of the printing cycle. In some embodiments, the total amount of recycled excess pre-transformed material is at least 5 times the total material bed volume. In some embodiments, the recycling in (b) is following each layer of the layer-by-layer formation. In some embodiments, the recycling comprises sieving at a rate of at least 0.5 cubic centimeters of the excess amount of the pre-transformed material per minute, per square centimeter of a sieving area. In some embodiments, the pre-transformed material comprises a powder. In some embodiments, the dispensing in (a) is in a first enclosure at a first atmosphere, and the recycling in (b) is in a second enclosure at a second atmosphere, which first atmosphere and second atmosphere are different than an external atmosphere that comprises a reactive agent. In some embodiments, the reactive agent is reactive with respect to a reactant and/or to a product (e.g., byproduct) of the printing the three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the first atmosphere and the second atmosphere are substantially the same. In some embodiments, the first atmosphere and the second atmosphere are different. In some embodiments, the method further comprises conveying the excess pre-transformed material from the first enclosure to the second enclosure in a dilute phase. In some embodiments, recycling and/or sieving is of at least 50 kilograms. In some embodiments, recycling system and/or sieving is of least 500 kilograms. In some embodiments, recycling and/or sieving is at a throughput of at least about six (6) cubic centimeters of material per hour (cc/hr). In some embodiments, recycling and/or sieving is of the excess pre-transformed material that has a fundamental length scale of at most 1000 micrometers. In some embodiments, recycling and/or sieving is of the excess pre-transformed material that has a fundamental length scale of at most 100 micrometers.
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: an enclosure configured to accommodate the three-dimensional object during printing; a compressed gas source configured to flow a gas in a direction; a material reservoir having at least one first wall that encloses a first volume configured to hold (i) a first atmosphere that has a gas content different from an ambient atmosphere and a first pressure, and (ii) a first material port disposed in the at least one first wall and configured to facilitate transport of a pre-transformed material therethrough, which material reservoir is operatively coupled (e.g., connected) to the enclosure and is configured to facilitate supply of the pre-transformed material to the enclosure to print the three-dimensional object; and a bulk reservoir configured to hold a second atmosphere having a pressure above the first pressure and a gas content different from an ambient atmosphere, which bulk reservoir comprises a second material port, a gas port, and at least one second wall that encloses a second volume configured to accommodate the pre-transformed material, which compressed gas source is operatively coupled to the bulk reservoir through the gas port to facilitate pressurized conveyance of the pre-transformed material from the bulk reservoir through the second material port to the first material port at least in part against the gravitational field.
  • In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a vertically translatable platform configured to support the at least one three-dimensional object during the printing. In some embodiments, the platform is disposed in the enclosure. In some embodiments, the pressurized conveyance of the pre-transformed material comprises dense phase conveyance. In some embodiments, the bulk reservoir comprises a transportable container or a stationary reservoir, which stationary reservoir is configured to couple with at least one material reservoir through the second material port. In some embodiments, the first material port is coupled with a valve, which valve is operable to open to facilitate the pressurized conveyance of the pre-transformed material, and to close to prevent the pressurized conveyance. some embodiments, the material reservoir comprises one or more sensors, which one or more sensors are operable to detect a level, type, and/or volume of pre-transformed material within the material reservoir. In some embodiments, the material reservoir comprises one or more sensors. In some embodiments, the one or more sensors are operable to detect a reactive species within the reservoir (e.g., oxygen or humidity). In some embodiments, the valve is operable to open in response to a detection by the one or more sensors that the pre-transformed material is below a threshold level. In some embodiments, the first pressure is established by an operation of the valve. In some embodiments, the enclosure comprises a second material port configured to accept the pre-transformed material from the material reservoir during the printing without interruption to the printing of the at least one three-dimensional object, and/or without interruption of the pressurized conveyance. In some embodiments, without interruption to the printing comprises printing continuously for at least 8 hours. In some embodiments, without interruption to the printing comprises printing continuously for at least 15 days. In some embodiments, the printing comprises printing at a rate of at least 45 cubic centimeters per hour (cc/hr). In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a (e.g., vertically translatable) platform configured to support the at least one three-dimensional object during the printing. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises at least one valve operatively coupled with the gas port, which one valve is configured to open and close to facilitate and to prevent, respectively, ingress of the compressed gas. In some embodiments, the ambient atmosphere comprises a reactive agent that is reactive (e.g., during and/or after the printing) with a reactant and/or with a product of the printing. In some embodiments, the at least the one first wall and/or the at least the one second wall are hermetically sealed and/or comprise a sealant, wherein the first volume and/or the second volume are configured to hold a positive pressure with respect to an ambient pressure. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a system frame enclosing a system frame volume, which system frame volume comprises the enclosure and the material reservoir. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a recycling system coupled with an outlet port of the enclosure, which recycling system is configured to receive a mixture of an excess pre-transformed material and a debris from the printing through the outlet port, and to separate at least part of the debris from the excess pre-transformed material by cyclonic separation. In some embodiments, the recycling system is operatively coupled to a material remover to receive the mixture for filtration from the material remover and/or provide the filtered mixture to the material remover (e.g., before, after, and/or during the printing). In some embodiments, the material remover removes the mixture by (i) attracting a gas and the material into an internal volume of the remover and (ii) cyclonically separating the material from the gas in the remover. In some embodiments, the apparatus the apparatus further comprises a power connector coupled with the compressed gas source, which power connector comprises an outlet, an inlet, a wire, or any combination thereof.
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: one or more controllers that are operatively coupled to a compressed gas source, to a material reservoir, and to a bulk reservoir, which one or more controllers are individually or collectively configured to (i) direct the compressed gas source to flow a gas through a gas inlet port of the bulk reservoir to establish a first atmosphere that has a first gas content that is different from an ambient atmosphere and a first pressure, which first atmosphere is of an internal volume of the bulk reservoir; and (ii) facilitate pressurized transport of a pre-transformed material from the bulk reservoir to the material reservoir against a gravitational force, which material reservoir holds a second atmosphere that has a second gas content that is different from the ambient atmosphere and a second pressure lower than the first pressure, wherein pre-transformed material in the material reservoir is used for printing the three-dimensional object.
  • In some embodiments, the one or more controllers further direct vertically translating the platform that is configured to support the at least one three-dimensional object during the printing. In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are configured to direct facilitating addition of the pre-transformed material to the material reservoir through a material inlet port, which material inlet port is configured to accept pre-transformed material from a storage container during the printing. In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are configured to facilitate flowing the gas flow from the compressed gas source through a gas storage inlet of the storage container to establish a third atmosphere that has a third gas content that is different from the ambient atmosphere and a third pressure. In some embodiments, facilitate flowing comprises directing a compressed gas flow to flow the gas, or alerting an operator to initiate the flow of the gas. In some embodiments, the compressed gas flow is passive (e.g., a cylinder). In some embodiments, the compressed gas flow is active (e.g., a pump or blower). In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are operatively coupled with a sieve inlet port of a sieve assembly disposed between the bulk reservoir and the material reservoir, wherein the pressurized transport in (ii) comprises transport through the sieve inlet port for sieving at least part of the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the pressurized transport comprises a dense phase conveyance of the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the sieve assembly comprises an outlet opening configured to facilitate conveyance of sieved pre-transformed material to a respective storage inlet port of at least two storage containers. In some embodiments, the outlet opening and/or the respective storage inlet comprises a gate and/or a switch, wherein the one or more controllers are configured to control a position of the gate and/or the switch to direct the conveyance of sieved pre-transformed material to the at least two storage containers. In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are programmed to direct the conveyance of sieved pre-transformed material to the at least two storage containers alternatingly. In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are programmed to facilitate conveyance of pre-transformed material to the material reservoir from a storage container of the at least two storage containers that is not receiving pre-transformed material from the bulk reservoir and/or the sieve assembly. In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are programmed to alternate conveying from a first storage container of the at least two storage containers to a second storage of the at least two storage containers considering a level of the pre-transformed material in the first storage container, which level is detected by a sensor operatively coupled with the one or more controllers. In some embodiments, during the printing comprises without interruption of the printing, and/or without interruption of conveyance against the gravitational force of the pre-transformed material to the material reservoir. In some embodiments, without interruption comprises printing continuously for at least 8 hours. In some embodiments, without interruption comprises printing continuously for at least 15 days. In some embodiments, the printing comprises printing at a rate of at least 45 cubic centimeters per hour (cc/hr). In some embodiments, the pre-transformed material comprises an elemental metal, metal alloy, ceramic, an allotrope of elemental carbon, a polymer, or a resin. In some embodiments, the material reservoir is disposed within an enclosure in which the three-dimensional object is printing. In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are programmed to adjust the first atmosphere and/or the second atmosphere in response to a detection of one or more sensors, which one or more sensors are configured to detect at least one characteristic of the first atmosphere and/or the second atmosphere. In some embodiments, the at least one characteristic comprises (I) a pressure differential between the first atmosphere and the second atmosphere, and/or (II) an atmospheric level of a reactive agent. In some embodiments, the reactive agent is reactive (e.g., during and/or after the printing) with a reactant (e.g., pre-transformed material) and/or with a product (e.g., transformed and/or hardened material) of the printing. In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are configured to adjust the pressure differential between the first atmosphere and the second atmosphere such that the first pressure is higher than the second pressure. In some embodiments, to direct the compressed gas in (i) and to facilitate the pressurized transport in (ii) are performed by the same controller. In some embodiments, to direct the compressed gas in (i) and to facilitate the pressurized transport in (ii) are performed by different controllers.
  • In another aspect, a method of printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: holding a first atmosphere in a first volume of a material reservoir which first atmosphere has a first gas content that is different from an ambient atmosphere, and a first pressure; flowing compressed gas into a bulk reservoir to establish a second atmosphere that has a second gas content that is different from the ambient atmosphere and a second pressure greater than the first pressure; and flowing a pre-transformed material from the bulk reservoir to the material reservoir, which pre-transformed material in the material reservoir is used for printing the three-dimensional object.
  • In some embodiments, the method further comprises (e.g., vertically) translating a platform supports the at least one three-dimensional object during the printing. In some embodiments, the flowing in (c) comprises dense phase conveyance of the pre-transformed material. In some embodiments, the method further comprises establishing the first pressure by flowing the compressed gas into the first volume. In some embodiments, the method further comprises establishing the first pressure in the first volume in response to the pre-transformed material being below a threshold level within the material reservoir. In some embodiments, the threshold level corresponds to an amount of material required to fill a material bed in which the at least one three-dimensional object is printing. In some embodiments, the method further comprises holding (e.g., maintaining) the bulk reservoir at the second pressure, such that the flowing in (c) commences upon the establishing of the first pressure in the first volume. In some embodiments, the second atmosphere comprises substantially the same gas as the first atmosphere. In some embodiments, the first atmosphere and/or the second atmosphere comprise an inert atmosphere. In some embodiments, the flowing in (c) comprises sieving the pre-transformed material between the bulk reservoir and the material reservoir. In some embodiments, the sieving is in a third atmosphere that has a third gas content that is different from the ambient atmosphere and at least by having a third pressure that is lower than the second pressure. In some embodiments, the method further comprises flowing the pre-transformed material from the bulk reservoir to at least two material reservoirs. In some embodiments, the method further comprises (d) conveying the pre-transformed material from the at least two material reservoirs to an enclosure within which the at least one three-dimensional object is printing. In some embodiments, flowing the pre-transformed material in (c) and/or conveyance of the pre-transformed material in (d) is against a gravitational field. In some embodiments, flowing the pre-transformed material in (c) is without interruption to the printing of the at least one three-dimensional object, and/or without interruption of conveyance of the pre-transformed material in (d). In some embodiments, without interruption to the printing comprises printing continuously for at least 8 hours. In some embodiments, without interruption to the printing comprises printing continuously for at least 15 days. In some embodiments, the printing comprises transforming the pre-transformed material to a transformed material at a rate of at least 45 cubic centimeters per hour (cc/hr). In some embodiments, conveyance of the pre-transformed material in (d) comprises switching from a first material reservoir to a second material reservoir. In some embodiments, flowing the pre-transformed material in (c) is to a material reservoir of the at least two material reservoirs that is not currently conveying the pre-transformed material in (d). In some embodiments, the conveying to the enclosure is continuous. In some embodiments, the conveying to the enclosure is discontinuous. In some embodiments, the ambient atmosphere comprises a reactive agent that is reactive (e.g., before and/or after the printing) with a reactant and/or with a product of the printing.
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: a filtering enclosure comprising: (i) at least one wall enclosing a volume configured to accommodate an atmosphere, (ii) an inlet port disposed in the at least one wall, which inlet port is configured to facilitate ingress of a material into the volume, wherein the material comprises (1) a remainder of the printing of the three-dimensional object, or (2) a debris produced during the printing of the three-dimensional object, and (iii) a collection volume in the volume that facilitates collection of a filtered material and/or an exit port disposed in the at least one wall, which exit port is configured to facilitate egress of the filtered material from the volume; and a supportive structure configured to accommodate a filtration member having a filter and a frame that is configured to support the filter, which filtration member is (a) disposed in the volume at an angle with respect to a normal to the gravitational field vector and (b) divides the volume into an upper portion and a lower portion, which upper portion is partially defined by a fraction of the at least one wall that includes the inlet port, and which lower portion is partially defined by a fraction of the at least one wall that includes the exit port and/or the collection volume.
  • In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a processing chamber configured to accommodate printing of the three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a vertically translatable platform configured to support the three-dimensional object during its printing. In some embodiments, the platform is disposed in the processing chamber. In some embodiments, the filtering enclosure is operatively coupled to a material remover to receive the material for filtration from the material remover. In some embodiments, the material remover removes the material by (i) attracting a gas and the material into an internal volume of the remover and (ii) cyclonically separating the material from the gas in the remover. In some embodiments, the supportive structure comprises a protrusion, depression, ledge, or a railing. In some embodiments, the supportive structure is configured to support the filtration member (e.g., cartridge) upon filtering at least 50 kilograms. In some embodiments, the supportive structure is configured to support the filtration member (e.g., cartridge) upon filtering at least 500 kilograms. In some embodiments, the supportive structure is configured to support the filtration member (e.g., cartridge) upon filtering at a throughput of at least about six (6) cubic centimeters of material per hour (cc/hr). In some embodiments, the supportive structure is configured to support the filtration member (e.g., cartridge) upon filtering a material having a fundamental length scale of at most 1000 micrometers. In some embodiments, the material comprises a pre-transformed material has a fundamental length scale of at most 1000 micrometers. In some embodiments, the debris comprises material having a fundamental length scale of above 50 micrometers. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises an enclosure configured to accommodate the three-dimensional object during the printing. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a movable platform configured to support the three-dimensional object during its printing in the enclosure. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises an energy beam configured to transform a pre-transformed material to a transformed material to print the three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the pre-transformed material comprises a particulate material. In some embodiments, the material comprises a small material and a large material. In some embodiments, the small material comprises a pre-transformed material, wherein the large material comprises a byproduct of printing the three-dimensional object by transforming the pre-transformed material to a transformed material. In some embodiments, the byproduct of the printing comprises spatter. In some embodiments, the at least one wall comprises a secondary exit opening disposed adjacent to the filtration member to accommodate egress of material therethrough (e.g., adjacent and/or at the top surface of the filtration member). In some embodiments, the filtration member is configured to filter the small material from the large material, wherein the angle facilitates simultaneous (1) filtration of any small material, and (2) eviction of any large material through the secondary exit opening. In some embodiments, the small material comprises particles having a maximal fundamental length scale (FLS), which maximal FLS is at most about 50 microns, and wherein the large material comprises particles having a larger FLS than the maximal FLS. In some embodiments, the angle is such that facilitates the simultaneous filtration and eviction. In some embodiments, the angle is from about 1 degree to about 8 degrees. In some embodiments, the filtering enclosure further comprises a leveling member to controllably dispose the filtration member at the angle. In some embodiments, the leveling member comprises a gas- or liquid-filled bladder, a pin, an actuator, a jack, a lever, or a screw. In some embodiments, the actuator comprises an (e.g., magnetic) encoder, or a (e.g., servo) motor. In some embodiments, the supportive structure, frame and/or the at least one wall comprises an isolation element operable for mechanical and/or thermal isolation of the frame from the at least one wall. In some embodiments, the isolation element comprises a gasket, a bumper, a spring, a sponge, a bellow, a cloth, a cork, or a membrane. In some embodiments, the frame comprises one or more skeleton structures (e.g., support structures, or scaffold structures) disposed to support the filter. In some embodiments, the one or more skeleton structures are configured to support a filter of the filtration member below the inlet port when the filtration member is engaged with the supportive structure in the volume, wherein below is with respect to the gravitational field vector, such that the ingress of the material is at least partially directed towards the one or more skeleton structures. In some embodiments, the inlet is disposed laterally adjacent to a first side of the supportive structure that places the filtration member that is angled at a more distant position from the gravitational center as compared to a second side of the filtration member that is angled. In some embodiments, the one or more skeleton structure(s) and/or supportive structure comprise a material that is durable with respect to filtering metallic particles. In some embodiments, the skeleton structure is configured to support a filter upon filtering at least 50 kilograms. In some embodiments, the skeleton structure is configured to support a filter upon filtering at least 500 kilograms. In some embodiments, the skeleton structure is configured to support a filter upon filtering at a throughput of at least about six (6) cubic centimeters of material per hour (cc/hr). In some embodiments, the skeleton structure is configured to support a filter upon filtering a material having a fundamental length scale of at most 1000 micrometers. In some embodiments, the one or more skeleton structures are operatively coupled (e.g., affixed) to the frame of the filtration member and/or to a filter operatively coupled (e.g., connected) to the filtration member. In some embodiments, the one or more skeleton structures are disposed to span at least a portion of a long and/or a short axis of the filtration member. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises at least one agitator having a controllably movable member, which movable member is coupled with the frame of the filtration member and is operable for moving the filtration member to facilitate filtration of the material thereby. In some embodiments, the at least one agitator comprises an ultrasonic transducer. In some embodiments, moving the filtration member comprises a vibration of the filtration member and/or a back and forth movement of the filtration member. In some embodiments, at least one wall comprises an outlet configured to facilitate travel of a filtered material therethrough, which outlet is disposed laterally adjacent to a second side of the supportive structure that places the filtration member that is angled at a more adjacent position to the gravitational center as compared to a first side of the filtration member that is angled.
  • In another aspect, an apparatus for printing at least one three-dimensional object comprises: one or more controllers that are operatively coupled to a filtration member and to an inlet port of a filtering enclosure, which one or more controllers are collectively or individually programmed to facilitate ingress of a material to the filtering enclosure through the inlet port to impinge upon the filtration member that is tilted at an angle with respect to a normal to the gravitational field vector, which filtration member is disposed in a volume of the filtering enclosure, the material comprising (1) a remainder of the printing of the three-dimensional object, or (2) a debris produced during the printing of the three-dimensional object.
  • In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are operatively coupled to a platform. In some embodiments, the platform is configured to support the at least one three-dimensional object during the printing, In some embodiments, the one or more controllers are further programmed to direct the platform to translate vertically during the printing of the at least one three-dimensional object. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a sensor and wherein the sensor detects a characteristic of an atmosphere of the volume of the filtering enclosure, which characteristic of the atmosphere includes a temperature and/or a reactive agent, wherein the reactive agent comprises oxygen or humidity. In some embodiments, the apparatus further comprises a sensor. In some embodiments, the sensor detects a characteristic of the flow comprises a flow rate of (I) the remainder, (II) the first portion of the remainder and/or (III) the second portion of the remainder. In some embodiments, the sensor detects a characteristic of an accumulation of (I) the first portion of the remainder and/or (II) the second portion of the remainder. In some embodiments, the angle is configured to facilitate simultaneous separation between (i) a first portion of the remainder that flows through the filtration member from one exposed surface of the filtration member to an opposing exposed surface of the filtration member, and (ii) a second portion of the remainder that slides on the one exposed surface of the filtration member to (a) an outlet port of the filtering enclosure and/or (b) a collection volume. In some embodiments, the filtering enclosure further comprises a leveling member, whe