3D Printing Has Evolved Two Filament Standards

We’re far beyond the heyday of the RepRap project, and the Hackaday tip line isn’t seeing multiple Kickstarters for 3D printers every week. In a way, this is a bit of a loss. The rapid evolution of the low-cost 3D printer seen in the first half of this decade will never be matched, and from now on we’ll only see incremental improvements instead of the revolutionary steps taken by the first Prusa, the first Printrbot, and even the Makerbot Replicator.

This doesn’t mean everything is standardized. There’s still enough room for arguing over deltas versus Cartesians, beds moving on the Y axis versus moving along the Z, and a host of other details that make the current crop of printers so diverse. One of these small arguments is especially interesting: the diameter of the filament. Today, you can get any type of plastic you want, in any color, in two sizes: 1.75 and 3mm. If you think about it, it’s bizarre. Why on Earth would filament manufacturers, hot end fabricators, and even printer manufacturers decide to support two different varieties of the same consumable? The answer is a mix of a historical choice, engineering tradeoffs, and an absolutely arbitrary consequence of what 3D printers actually do.

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Autodesk Open Sources Ember 3D Printer

If you’ve ever been interested in what goes on inside a (roughly) $6000 DLP stereolithography printer, you might want to check out the recent announcement from Autodesk that open sources their electronics and firmware for their Ember 3D printer. The package includes the design files and code for their controller (which is more or less a BeagleBone black with a USB hub, and more memory. It also has two AVR controllers for motor and light control.

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Enormous Delta-bot 3D Designed to Print an Entire House

[Massimo Moretti] has a big idea – to build housing on the cheap from locally sourced materials for a burgeoning world population. He also has a background in 3D printing, and he’s brought the two concepts together by building a 12 meter tall delta-bot that can print a house from clay.

The printer, dubbed Big Delta for obvious reasons, was unveiled in a sort of Burning Man festival last weekend in Massa Lombarda, Italy, near the headquarters of [Moretti]’s WASProject. From the Italian-language video after the break, we can see that Big Delta moves an extruder for locally sourced clay over a print area of about 20 square meters. A video that was previously posted on WASProject’s web site showed the printer in action with clay during the festival, but it appears to have been taken down by the copyright holder. Still, another video of a smaller version of Big Delta shows that clay can be extruded into durable structures, so scaling up to full-sized dwellings should be feasible with the 4 meter delta’s big brother.

Clay extrusion is not the only medium for 3D printed houses, so we’ll reserve judgment on Big Delta until we’ve seen it print a livable structure. If it does, the possibilities are endless – imagine adding another axis to the Big Delta by having it wheel itself around a site to print an entire village.

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Printing Chocolate with a LEGO 3D Printer

Some people think the future will include a 3D printer in every home. We think if LEGO started producing these as kits we’d get pretty close. Introducing the home-made LEGO 3D printer… with a chocolate extruder.

[Gosse Adema] has been working on his LEGO based 3D printer for a while now, and it’s gotten pretty good. It’s basically a repackaged Prusa i3, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. It uses real NEMA 17 steppers mounted with LEGO Technic — the Mindstorms motors just don’t quite cut it… not yet anyway.

During his build, a colleague pointed out that back in 2005 Instructables had a remix contest, which included a 3D printer made out of LEGO. The original hacker, [Saul], issued a challenge at the end of his Instructable hoping someone else would build a better chocolate LEGO 3D printer… Well it’s only been 10 years, but [Gosse] did it!

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The Perfect Pen Knife Handle

If you’ve ever tried to use a pen knife for anything other than cutting open a box or slicing material in one direction, you’ll know they really aren’t that ergonomic. When [Seamusriley] started Architecture school a few years ago he started on a journey — an epic journey to make the perfect pen knife handle.

He started by analyzing existing handles — the biggest problem with them is the skinny pen shape causes hyper-extension of the first joint in your index finger, so once he identified that as the root cause he started crafting a more ergonomic version. He started out with foam, then up to wood carved by hand, then 3D printing, and back to wood — but this time, with a CNC machine. Literally dozens of prototypes later, he’s come up with a very nice pen knife handle, so much so, he was asked to present it around Boston at design events!

This is a great example of the hacker mindset — identifying a problem, trying out a solution, trying out another solution, trying out a solution… and then finally getting to a finished product. It’s the tenacity that keeps us going which rewards us in the long run.

[via r/somethingimade]

Buttons, Sliders, and Touchpads All 3D Printed with PrintPut

[Jesse Burstyn] and some colleagues at Queen’s University and Carleton University (both in Canada) are delivering a paper at the INTERACT 2015 about PrintPut, their system for printing sensors directly into 3D printed objects. Using a printer with dual extrusion and conductive ABS filament, they have successfully formed capacitive touch sensors, digital resistive sensors, and analog resistive sensors.

In practice, this means they can print buttons, sliders, and even touch pads directly into objects. They also have a design for several pressure sensors and a flex sensor. The system includes scripts for the Rhinoceros 3D CAD package. Designers can create a model in any CAD package they want (including Rhinoceros) and then use these scripts to define the interactive areas.

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When you think of a CNC controller you probably think of a PC with a parallel port or some microcontroller-based solution like a Smoothie Board. [Mhouse1] has a different idea: use FPGAs as CNC controllers.

FPGAs inherently handle things in parallel, so processing G code, computing curves and accelerations, and driving multiple stepper motors at one time would not be an issue at all for an FPGA. Most computer-based designs will have slight delays when trying to drive everything at once and this introduces some mechanical jitter. Even worse jitter occurs when you have an old PC trying to run everything when some other task takes over the CPU.

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