A Fully Mechanical 3D Printer is Mind Blowing

mechanical 3d printer

It’s been a while since we’ve been seriously impressed with a project like this one. [Daniël de Bruin], a student at the Art Academy in Utrecht has just put the final touches on his mechanical 3D printer.

That’s right. Mechanical.

No computers, no motors, just the power of gravity. It could have been built 100 years ago.

The machine uses a 15kg weight to power the mechanism — it does need to be reset during the print, but that’s a small price to pay for this kind of mechanical automation.

He uses a type of clay in a paste extruder that slowly deposits the material on the build platform. To program the machine, there is a small guiding mechanism that follows the contour of a bent aluminum wire. This allows you to make any number of symmetrical and circular objects.

[Daniël] says he was inspired to build this machine because he loves 3D printing — but at the same time, he feels like it’s kind of like cheating. Beyond pressing the print button, there’s no real human interaction.

I love technology but how can I reclaim ownership of my work? Perhaps by building the machine that produces the work. Perhaps by physically powering the machine, which I built, that produces the work. in hopes of rediscovering the sense of having created something, I create.

Amazing work [Daniël]!

58 thoughts on “A Fully Mechanical 3D Printer is Mind Blowing

  1. I usually shudder at the sight of an art project on this site, but I do like this one. It just feels more hacky and “because I can” than artistic statement.

    1. There have been precious few “practical” hacks of late, keeping in mind “games” and “LED clocks” etc fall into the “art” category…

  2. WOW knowing how everything has to be just right with 3d printers it is amazing to see this work. My fully computer controlled constantly adjusted reprap manages to fail on a regular basis. Making this work is heroic. And it is “programmable” by bending just one wire. This made my day!

    1. (Mod: I hit “report” instead of “reply” by accident, disregard that.)

      I agree, the combination of the simple guide and the constant track velocity mechanism / integrator is a beautiful solution, makes the contraption worthwhile and viable.

      /Markus

    1. Also known as a patterning machine.. any good shop lathe (metal) will have a patterning attachment. This is also how baseball bats are made. ;)

  3. Consider my mind BLOWN. I’m sure there’s a motorized version of this in industry at some time in the past. Would be interesting to find it. But I think this guy earned an A!

  4. WOW! The continuously variable transmission that maintains a constant linear speed under the extruder nozzle is is a delightful touch of genius.

  5. Brilliant. One can imagine it made of wood, leather and catgut, and Leonardo (the italian, not the turtle) standing satisfied beside it.

    1. If one can’t imagine Leonardo (the turtle, not the italian) standing satisfied beside it, one lacks imagination.

      1. In fact, the moment I thought of Leonardo (the italian), the mental image that came up was that of the other Leonardo (the turtle). That is why I clarified

  6. Wow! 25 comments so far and none of them negative. Must be some kind of record for HAD comment section…

    This is a really cool project. Looks just like something Leonardo (the Italian) could have come up with.

  7. This isn’t a hack. It is a bona fide invention. And a spectacularly fine one at that.

    Beautifully engineered and implemented. Splendid work.

  8. omg absolute love.
    I really like looking at clock tower clocks, 19th century steam engines, and any machine turn of the century really.
    Loved the air resistance fan for speed control, which reminds me of those clock towers.
    Excellent work.

  9. It’s very good. But… the automata of the 18th (17th?) Centuries show that he could do yet more… Dunno if an X/Y machine would be the way, I think a Delta would be more suited. With a Delta you’d just need 3 “program” wires to control the arms. An X-Y might use a series of cams, with the reader slipping from one cam to the next…

    I bet it could be done mechanically. It would be a real challenge to do, but maybe some very clever software would be the other half of it. Either converting objects, or maybe G-code, into cam patterns or wire bending.

    I wonder if the guy who did this very impressive thing, would consider expanding it to 3 delta arms?

    Also, last thought for this machine, I bet some sort of museum that sells pottery could sell these pots all day long. Have the customer pick their own pattern and insert the requisite wire. Maybe -even- allow some to bend a wire of their own if they really want to, and for a few more quid. Stick the pot in the oven while the customer wanders round to see the sights, and present it to them at the end. Or possibly just post it to their home.

  10. The clay is impressive. I’ve never seen a clay that could be extruded, stick to itself that well, and have that much mechanical strength.

    1. Some method of pinching, maybe pinch wheels running a bit behind the extruder, might help it all stay together. Though once you kiln it, the whole thing melts together anyway.

  11. Possible sales pitch: “No electrons were harmed in the making of this pot.”

    A truly excellent piece, very impressive indeed.

  12. “I love technology but how can I reclaim ownership of my work?” – we should, at some point, evolve past the point where ownership is necessary (open source).

    1. It’s more sort-of “authorship”, “craftsmanship”, a sort of moral or mental ownership, a sense of having made something with one’s own hands. Pressing a button doesn’t give that. Even designing an object on computer doesn’t have the physical satisfaction to it. Although I suppose making your 3D printer yourself would help a lot with that.

      Not the literal, boring, capitalist type of “ownership”.

  13. Could likely make it not need a reset while still being entirely mechanical by appropriating the mainspring from a decently sized clock, or making one himself, and end up with a clockpunk 3D printer in the process as a happy bonus.

    1. Honestly, I’m thinking that a crank would definitely be the best next step. Human-powered 3D printing without electronics. Excuse me while I stop salivating from excitement.

  14. I’m a potter by trade and a hacker by inclination and education. I join with the folks who feel reminded of turn of a couple centuries back, and my “Steam Punk” artistic roots. Is it art? Is it a hack? I’ve got to say yes most enthusiastically yes, it is both.

    Thanks for sharing this great project with us.

  15. File this design under “stuff to mess up the timeline with” once time travel is invented ;)

    Awesome work.

    1. Wow, what is a person with this kind of mind doing in HaD? And the pompous way he say’s it makes me feel disgusted instead of just sad for him.

      I imagine him like a Homo habilis watched a YouTube video of how a rocket works, and thought ” that’s stupid, I can do that if I fart hard enough!”

      But that would be insulting to the Homo habilis.

  16. If the wire shape was replaced by a model, that also rotated, you would have the basics of a rifle stock copying machine.

  17. Nice to see player piano transmission chain in use. I noticed some jerky motion in the rotation, could be the horizontal chain drive catching on the sprockets. These chains are normally vertical and with a slack wheel or just the right tension.

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