P17551: Sandia Instrumented 3D Printer

Problem Definition

Table of Contents

Team Vision for Problem Definition Phase

Project Summary

A 3D printer is a device that fabricates a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model by laying down layers of a heated plastic. Current commercial 3D printers fail to provide meaningful feedback to the user during the fabrication process, leading the user to believe that the fabricated part is always sufficient to use. As the 3D printing industry expands, this information will be critical to quality control and part acceptance.

The goal of this project is to analyze the current design and find opportunities to collect process data from sensors and actuators during fabrication. The expected result is a working prototype which uses installed sensors to record process information and use collected data to control fabrication and keep product within critical parameters. The resulting design and prototype must use COTS hardware and be consistent with the customer’s desired selection of commercially available printers.

For more detailed information, please see the Project Summary.

Project Motivation

Sandia National Laboratories performs metal 3D printing for various applications. Currently, the printers used for most any kind of 3D printing technology do not have much feedback to alert the user to potential misprints, leading to lengthier testing and quality assurance cycles. If advancements can be made to plastic 3D printer's feedback systems, these advancements most likely could be applied to metal 3D printers. Additionally, developing a solution for plastic printing is significantly more cost efficient than metal printing.


Stakeholder Position
Nicholas Leathe Customer
MSD Team System Developers
Rochester Institute of Technology Project Sponsor
Sandia National Laboratories Specific Interest Group


Use Cases

Jacob's Use Case

Jacob's Use Case

Justin's Use Case

Justin's Use Case

Project Goals and Key Deliverables

Customer Requirements (Needs)

The full customer requirements document can be found here.

Engineering Requirements (Metrics & Specifications)

The full engineering requirements document can be found here.

House of Quality

House of Quality

The full house of quality document can be found here.


The full benchmarking document can be found here.

MSD Printer Suggestion: BCN3D Sigma

The full document can be found here.



The full risk management document can be found here

Plans for next phase

Gantt Chart

The working timeline can be found here.

Three Week Working Plan

Over the next several weeks, our team will research and benchmark the sensors, controllers, and print materials we may choose to use during the project, as well as common 3D printing failures and their causes. With this information, we will be able to determine the best equipment to purchase, and plan an accurate budget. When the budget plan is finalized, we will have selected the equipment to be purchased, and can make a purchase order.

Individual Three Week Plans

Over the next three weeks I plan on continuing to benchmark the printers to help make a printer recommendation by the system design review. I also plan on continuing to do some research on print materials in an effort to create a preliminary budget and to determine which materials are best under which conditions. I will also be downloading the Cura 3D printer software to start to experiment and see how the user interface is to determine if it will be a viable option for use upon receiving the printer. Lastly I will be doing some general 3D printer benchmarking and aiding in the 3D printer decision matrix.
The next three weeks will involve more printer benchmarking that will help the team achieve the goal of an educated recommendation for a 3D printer, utilizing a decision matrix. My other main point of research will involve different failure modes of the 3D printing process, understanding all of the different variables that can lead to a defective part. I will then relay this information to the sensor selection team, to help narrow down the list of sensors. My plan also involves a bit of research into the different materials we will use for printing (ABS, PLA, etc.), creating a pros/cons list of using different materials and how the properties may scale to a metal printer.
During the next three weeks I will continue to add to the 3D printer benchmarking information we have to add depth to the purchasing decision we have made as a team and fully form the purchasing opinion we will give to the client. In addition to this, I will be working on gathering information on sensors that could be used for our senior design project and then narrowing down said information through research on what is already built into the 3D printer; researching build parameters that will most likely lead to a defective part build is another aspect that I will research as it will help our team understand which sensors to purchase.
Over the next three weeks I am going to help with the benchmarking of the 3D printers so we can use a decision matrix to give a definitive suggestion on what to buy. I will also be benchmarking and researching build materials to decide which material is best for us, and how much it will cost. I will also try to learn the Cura 3D software so that more than one of us is knowledgeable enough to use it.
During the next three weeks, I will continue adding to the 3D printer benchmarking information we have already assembled, which will allow us to construct and evaluate a decision matrix for our final printer recommendation. I will work with Ryan to research different types of print failures and their causes, along with other interesting and potentially important print properties. Along with the rest of the team, I will download and familiarize myself with the software we will use to control the printer, so that we can immediately begin experimenting with the printer when it is obtained. Finally, I will be using the information obtained by the other subteams to construct a budget plan for the project, which will help us to decide on which sensors, controller, and materials to purchase.
Over the next three weeks, I will be concentrating on collecting information about the potential sensors and micro-controllers that will be suitable for our requirements. I will be paying special attention to the specifications of each to make sure that the system we choose can integrate with our sensors and micro-controller. On the side, I plan to also perform some research on 3D printers with the specific angle of understanding what data is available from the various printers we are looking at, and how we might be able to integrate the printer's system with our modifications. This includes researching and learning about whatever open-source software we will be using to understand how we might be able to take advantage of it, or even modify it. I will also be noting down the pricing of the various sensors and micro-controllers I research so that we are able to form a preliminary budget.

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