Xerox Corporation (Norwalk, CT)

Three-dimensional (3D) printers have build and support material development stations that can be positioned to transfer layers onto an intermediate transfer surface. The intermediate transfer surface is used to transfer a layer of support and build materials onto a platen each when the platen comes in contact with the transfer surface. The thickness of the layer on a platen is measured by a sensor. The mechanical planer is positioned on the platen to adjust it when the plate moves across the mechanical planeer. A feedback loop is connected electrically to both the sensor and mechanical planer. Based on the thickness of each layer of the platen (determined by the sensor) the mechanical planer alters how much building material as well as support material gets removed.

The systems and methods typically refer to three-dimensional ( 3D) printing processes using electrostatic printing.

Ink-jet printers can be utilized to create objects in three-dimensional printing. One example of this is where a platen moved relative to an inkjet in order to create layers of building material and support material. Each layer is then set by the help of a UV light source. This process is repeated layer-by layer. Support materials typically comprise acid-, baseor water-soluble polymers that are able to be washed off of the build material when 3D printing is complete.

The electrostatic (electro-photographic) process is a well-known means of generating two-dimensional digital images, which transfer materials onto an intermediate surface (such as a photoreceptor belt or drum). Advancements in the way anelectro-photographic image is transferred can leverage the speed, efficiency, and digital nature of printing systems.

Exemplary three-dimensional (3-D) printers include, among other components, an intermediate transfer surface, such as a drum or intermediate transfer belt (ITB), and build and support material development stations positioned to transfer (e.g.,electrostatically or mechanically) build and support material to the ITB. Stations for build and support material developments transfer layers of build and support materials to ITB.

A transfuse station is adjacent the ITB, and a flat platen that has a flat surface is positioned to repeatedly contact the ITB. The platen is moved relative to the ITB and the ITB transfers a layer of the build and support materials to the flat surfaceof the platen at every time that the platen contacts one of the layers of the ITB at the transfuse station to successively form a freestanding stack of the layers that are placed on the flat surface of the platen.

The thickness of the layer on a platen can be determined by a sensor. A mechanical planer is positioned in contact with the platen and level it as the platen passes the planer. The mechanical planer aligns the top of the layer to the flat surface of the platen, and reduces the layer’s thickness. In addition, a feedback loop is connected electrically to the sensor and to the mechanical planer. Based on the thickness of the layers, the sensor determines how much support material and build material is to be removed from each layer. The mechanical planer adjusts the amount of build material and support material based on this information.

In one case, the mechanical planer is an angled blade (e.g. an angled blade that is placed in a non-parallel or non-perpendicular angle with the flat platen surface). Further, such a blade can be moved, as is an actuator attached to the movableblade. The actuator is able to move the knife towards or away from the platen. A cleaning structure is in a fixed place and the structure is able to contact and clean the movable blade as the actuator pushes the blade past thecleaning structure. The structure can also have a collection tray that is adjacent to the mechanical planeer. The collection tray collects the construction material as well as any support material that was removed from the layer of the mechanical planer.

These and other characteristics are described in, or are apparent from the following description.

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