ImplicitCAD: Programmatic CAD Built with 3D Printing in Mind

Cornerstone of many useful things: This Prusa i3 part was modeled in OpenSCAD.

Programmatic CAD, in particular the OpenSCAD language and IDE, has accompanied the maker movement for a while now. After its introduction in 2009, it quickly found its way into the 3D printing toolbox of many makers and eventually became what could be called an Industry Standard among open hardware labs, makerspaces and tinkerers. The Prusa i3, one of the most popular DIY 3D printers, was designed in OpenSCAD, and even Makerbot, the company that sold 100.000 3D printers, uses the language for its “Customizer” – an online tool that allows users to customize 3D printable models with minimal effort.

OpenSCAD is indeed a wonderful tool, and we have been using it a lot. We have become used to its quirks and accepted working with polygon mesh approximations of the models we are trying to design. We have made our peace with excessive rendering times, scripting workarounds and the pain of creating fillets, and we have learned to keep our aesthetic expectations low. We are happy with the fact that there is a way to programmatically create and share virtually any object, but sometimes we wish there was a better way in the open source world. Hint: there is.

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MIT’s Glass 3D Printer

How hot does your 3D printer’s hot end get? Most low cost printers heat up to 240°C (464°F) at the most because they contain PEEK which starts to get soft if you go much higher. Even a metal hot end with active cooling usually won’t go much higher than 400°C (752°F). Pretty hot, right? [MIT’s] new G3DP printer goes to 1900°F (over 1000°C) and prints optically clear glass.

By changing design and print parameters, G3DP can limit or control light transmission, reflection and refraction. The printer uses a dual heated chamber. The upper chamber acts as a 1900°F kiln while the lower chamber serves to anneal the structures. The print head is an alumina-zircon-silica nozzle.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: 3D Printed Modular Keyboard

There is a big community of people creating all kinds of synthesizers, but until now no one has attempted to make a keyboard controller like the one [Tim] created. Not only has he created the keyboard synthesizer, but he’s developed one that is modular and 3D printed so you can just expand on the synth you have rather than go out and buy or build a new one.

The design has a lot useful features. Since the design is modular, you can 3D print extra octaves of keys if you need, and simply build off of the existing keyboard. The interior has mounts that allow circuit boards to be screwed down, and the exterior has plenty of available places to put knobs or sliders. Anything that could possibly be built into a synthesizer is possible with this system, and if you decide you want to start small, that’s possible too!

All of the design files are available from Pinshape if you want to get started. The great thing about this controller is that you could use a 555-based synth in this keyboard controller, or a SID synth, or any other synth you could think of!

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Hot Swappable Raspberry Pi Rack

The Raspberry Pi has inspired many a hacker to take the inexpensive (~$35) microcomputer to the enterprise level. From bitcoin miners to clusters, the Raspberry Pi has found itself at the heart of many large-scale projects.

On [Dave] served up his own contribution with his Raspberry Pi Rack. Inspired by enterprise blade servers, he wanted to house multiple Raspberry Pi boards in a single enclosure providing power and Ethernet. The spacing between the blades and the open sides allow for each Pi to cool without the additional power and cost of fans.

Starting with an ATX power supply and Ethernet switch, Dave created a base that housed the components that would be shared by all the Pis. Using a 3D model of a Pi he found online, he began working on the hotswap enclosures. After “dozens of iterations” he created a sled that would hold a Pi in place with clips rather than screws and slide into his rack to connect to power and Ethernet.

Like most projects, some mistakes were made along the way. In his write up [Dave] describes how after printing the bottom plate he realized he hadn’t accounted for the holes for the Ethernet cable runs. Instead the cables run along the back wall in a way he now prefers.

You can find all the details and download the 3D models on his project page.

Home-brew Vibration Cleaner leaves your SLA Prints Squeaky-Clean

If you’ve had the chance to add a Form 1+ 3D printer to your basement, you might find the post-print cleaning step a bit tedious. (A 20-minute alcohol bath? Outrageous!) Fortunately, for the impatient, [ChristopherBarr] has developed the perfect solution: a post-print agitator that cuts the time in-and-out-of the bath from 20 minutes to about two.

[ChristopherBarr’s] build is the right conglomerate of parts we’d expect when keeping the price down for this hack. He’s combined a palm sander, a couple pints of urethane expanding foam, and two loaf pans into one agitating mechanism that he’s dubbed “the Loafinator.” With the urethane expanding foam, [ChristopherBarr] achieved a near-perfect fit of the sander inside the loaf pan, now that the foam has filled in the remaining contours to hold the sander in place. Best of all, the sander hasn’t been sacrificed for this build; instead, the foam holder was assembled in three stages and isolated from the sander with a layer of plastic wrap to enable later extraction.

[ChristopherBarr’s] simple, yet practical, hack serves as an excellent solution to a number of hobbyists looking to “get things agitated.” While his device is able to polish off the uncured resin from his resin prints much faster than the conventional approach, we’d imagine that a similar build could greatly expedite the PCB etching process in a muriatic-acid or ferric-chloride based PCB etching procedure–far more quickly than our previous automated solution. The time-saving comes at a price; however. Once you’ve installed your very own Loafinator alongside your printer, expect a few nosy neighbors to start asking for visits to check out your new motorboat.

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NASA is 3D printing rocket engine parts

In case you haven’t heard, NASA is building a new rocket – a replacement for the shuttle – that will eventually take crews again outside low Earth orbit. It’s called the Space Launch System and looks surprisingly similar to the Saturn V that took men to the moon. Manufacturing technology is light years ahead of what it was in the mid-60s, and this time around NASA is printing some rocket parts with selective laser melting.

Teams at the Marshall Space Flight center are melting metal powder together with lasers to produce parts for the new J-2X engine intended for use in the earth departure stage of the Space Launch System. While the 3d-printed parts haven’t seen a use in any live fire tests of the J-2X, the goal is to test these parts out later in the year and eventually have them man-rated, to carry astronauts to the moon, asteroids, or even Mars.

This isn’t the first time 3d printing has been used to make rocket engines. Earlier this year we saw [Rocket Moonlighting] build an entire rocket engine, powered by propane and NO2, using the same technology that NASA is using. [Moonlighting]’s engine is quite small, too small to lift itself off the ground, even. Still, it’s awesome to see 3D printing that will eventually take people into solar orbit.