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.

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Break Your Frames? Print Some New Ones!

3D Printed Glasses

When [Aaron Porterfield] accidentally broke his glasses frame, he saw it as an opportunity, rather than an unfortunate event. He decided he was going to design and print new ones to fit his prescription lenses!

The trickiest part of taking on a project like this is designing the glasses around the pre-existing lenses, because typically, lenses are cut to fit the frame — not vice versa. This is why we’re particularly impressed with the project. [Aaron] was able to 3D scan the lenses using his camera phone and Autodesk’s 123D Catch software (free) to create the lens model! Once he had the lens outline, he scaled it properly by measuring its maximum dimensions with calipers.

Now this is where it gets a bit tricky – designing the frames. [Aaron] is using Rhino to do the design work, and he’s actually laid out the steps quite nicely for anyone who wants to attempt something like this. He describes in detail matching the curvature of the lenses, designing the frame around it, and of course actually fitting the lenses in place.

There is a small caveat to this entire project — The frames were printed on a nice Stratasys polyjet 3D printer — due to the geometry, it might be a bit tricky (or impossible) to print on a traditional hobby FDM machine. Regardless — making your own glasses is some serious geek cred. Nice work [Aaron]!

Connect 4 Robot Taunts You Before Kicking Your Butt

Connect 4 Robot

[Patrick McCabe] is a student at MIT and for his final project in his Microcomputer Project Laboratory course he decided to build a clever Connect 4 Robot.

The only criteria for the project was that you have to use the Cypress PSOC 5LP kit along with a 8051 micro-controller or equivalent (programmed in the same assembly language as the PSOC). All in all, [Patrick] had 5 weeks to work on the project.

He’s using a regular old Connect 4 game along with an assortment of custom parts. A stepper motor drives the token carriage back and forth across a 15″ aluminum channel using a timing belt. A servo releases the tokens, and all the other components, brackets, and other pieces were either made with his very own UP Mini 3D printer, or out of acrylic using the school’s laser cutter. It’s an extremely clean and well thought out build, and he’s actually uploaded all the custom part files (in SolidWorks format) online, for others to build their own.

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Electric Solder Paste Dispenser Speeds Up Reflow Prep

solder paste dispenser

[Geir Andersen] of Let’s Make Robots has been venturing deeper and deeper into the wonderful world of surface mounted devices, which as you know, can be tricky to solder! Not wanting to shell out a few hundred for a professional solder paste dispenser (and air compressor), [Geir] decided to build his own.

It allows him to use a standard syringe for solder paste, which can easily be refilled using this technique. The professional dispensers use air pressure to control the flow of the paste, but [Geir] decided to go the all-electric route instead. He’s hooked up a small stepper motor to a threaded shaft which can push the plunger up and down the syringe.

Couple that with a few 3D printed parts for the housing, a nicely designed PCB, and bam you have yourself a super handy solder paste dispenser! He’s even included a small potentiometer on the board to change the speed of the motor.  It might not be quite as accurate as a professional one, but as you can see in the video after the break it seems to work great for [Geir's] purposes.

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The Beginning Of The Age Of 3D Resin Printers


For several years now, filament-based plastic printers have ruled the hobbyist market, with a new iteration on squirting plastic appearing on Kickstarter every week. SLA printers, with their higher resolution and historically higher price for raw materials, have sat in the background, waiting for their time to come.

Now, with the Sedgwick printer now available on Kickstarter, we may finally be seeing some resin printers make their way into hackerspaces and workshops the world over. Instead of other DLP projector-based resin printer where projector light shines up through the resin tank, the creator of the Sedgwick, [Ron Light] is doing things the old-fashioned way: shining the projector down onto the surface of the resin. He says it’s a simpler method, and given he’s able to ship a Sedgwick kit minus the projector for $600, he might be on to something.

There are a few other resin printers coming on the scene – the LittleSLA will soon see its own Kickstarter, the mUVe 1 is already shipping, and over on Hackaday Projects, the OpenExposer project is coming along nicely. All very good news for anyone who wants higher quality prints easily.

3D Printing Directly Onto Your iPad Screen

ipad 3d printing bed

Corning’s Gorilla Glass is very scratch resistant, shatter resistant, heat resistant, and even flexible material — it’s actually a perfect candidate to be used as a print bed material. The only problem is it’s not typically sold outside of consumer products, but that’s when [cvbrg] realized an iPad’s replacement screen would fit his maker-bot perfectly.

One of the biggest problems people encounter with 3D printing usually involves the print bed. Sometimes the prints don’t stick, the edges peel, or it even gets stuck on there too well when it’s done! A popular solution is a borosilicate glass bed, which typically helps with adhesion and surface finish — but again, sometimes the prints don’t want to come off! Sometimes parts can even tear up pieces of the glass bed when you’re trying to remove them. People usually counteract this with Kapton tape, which can become a headache in its own right — trying to apply it bubble free, tearing it, doing it all over again…

Using an iPad’s screen (only about $15 on eBay), means you can hack and jab at the print bed all you want without fear of breaking it – It even has a bit of flex to it to help pry your parts off. Did we mention it also has a very uniform flatness, good thermal conductivity, and resistant to pretty much all solvents?

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Heating Up a Printrbot’s Bed

A heated bed for the Printrbot 3D printer

Heated beds for 3D printers help reduce the amount of curling and warping of parts. The warping happens when the part cools and contracts. The heated bed keeps the part warm for the entire print and reduces the warping.

As an upgrade to her Printrbot, [Erin] added a heated bed. The first plan was to DIY one using Nichrome wire, but heated beds are available at low cost. They’re basically just a PCB with a long trace that acts as a resistor. She added a thermistor to monitor temperature and allow for accurate control.

The Printrbot heated bed worked, but didn’t heat up quite quick enough. [Erin] was quick to scratch off the solder mask and solder new leads onto the board. This converted the board into two parallel resistors, halving the resistance and doubling the power.

This version heated up very quickly, but didn’t have a steady heat. The simple control that was being used was insufficient, and a PID controller was needed. This type of control loop helps deal with problems such as oscillations.

The Printrbot’s firmware is based on Marlin, which has PID support disabled by default. After rebuilding the code and flashing, the PID gains could be adjusted using g-codes. With the values tuned, [Erin]‘s printer was holding steady heat, and can now print ABS and PLA with minimal warping.


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