Prints In Space (Said In “Pigs In Space” Voice)

3D Printing on Earth is soooo last year. Recently, NASA has sent a 3D Printer to the International Space Station in order to test printing capability in space. The agency’s ultimate goal is to have a means to make parts and tools for astronauts that are far away from earth.

So, why should NASA have all of the extra-terrestrial printing fun? Three 15 year-olds thought that same thing and decided to build their own space printer. It’s goal, however, is a bit different from the one on the ISS. This printer is made to print on other celestial bodies such as the moon or Mars, not in a space station. The students call their project the DELTA 3 and as its name implies, is a delta-style printer and that’s where all similarities with conventional printers end. This printer has tank tracks so that it can maneuver itself around the planet. There is no print bed. The printer prints directly to the surface of which it is resting on. The frame is open at the front of the printer so that it can back up leaving a free-standing print in its wake. It certainly beats the hot-glue versions seen before and we think this is the Automated Build Platform of the future, today!

The DELTA 3’s electronic controls are also quite different from the norm. There is a Lego EV3 controller that is responsible for navigating the printer around obstacles to find a suitable print area. Once a location has been picked out, the EV3 triggers the standard Arduino Mega/RAMPS combo to coordinate the printing.

The young creators brought their DELTA 3 to the World Robot Olympiad just last month. They came in 4th in their division.




E-Waste Printer Looks Nice, Prints Really, Really Small

Prices of 3D Printers have certainly been falling quite a bit over the last few years. Even so, it is still, at a minimum, a few hundred dollars to get going in the hobby. [mikelllc] thought it would be a fun challenge to see if he can build a functional 3D printer for under $100.

To stay under his budget, [mikelllc] took a reasonable route and decided to use as many recycled parts as he could. In every DVD and floppy drive, there is a stepper motor, lead screw and carriage that is used to move the read/write head of the drive. These assemblies will be used to drive the 3 axes of the printer. Two DVD drives and one floppy drive were dissembled to access the needed components.

e-waste small 3d printerLuckily [mikelllc] has access to a laser cutter. He made the frame from 5mm acrylic sheet stock. All of the pieces have slots and tabs to ease assembly and keep everything straight and square. The motors and frames from the DVD and floppy drives are mounted to the acrylic frame pieces in strategically pre-planned holes. The Y axis is responsible for moving the print bed back and forth. It is mounted on screws so that it can be adjusted to ensure a level bed.

A little DVD drive stepper motor just isn’t powerful enough to be used as an extruder motor so a standard NEMA17 motor was purchased for this task. The motor is part of a MK7/MK8 style direct drive extruder that is made from mostly 3D printed parts. The extruder is mounted on the frame and a bowden tube guides the filament to the hot end mounted to the printer’s moving carriage. Remotely mounting the extruder motor keeps it’s mass off of the axes, which in this case may be too heavy for the small, scavenged drive stepper motors.

The electronics are standard RepRap type and the same with for the hotend. The recycled motors work well with the RepRap electronics. After all that hard work, the printable area is a mere 37mm x 37mm x 18mm, but that’s not the point of this project! [mikelllc] met his goal of building a super cheap printer from recycled parts. He has also made the extruder and laser cut frame files available for download so anyone can follow in his footsteps. If you’re digging this e-waste 3D Printer but want a larger print volume, check out this printer.


Ester, The Open Source SLS Printer

Filament printers are here to stay, and in the past year there have been a number of SLA and DLP resin printers that can create objects at mind-boggling high resolutions. Both of these technologies have their place, but printing really complex objects without also printing supports is out of the question.

[Brandon] has been working to create an open source printer using a different technology, selective laser sintering. That’s a laser melting tiny particles of stuff to create an object. This printer can work with any material that can be turned into a powder and melted by a laser, and also has the neat bonus of printing without any supports.

[Brandon]’s printer, Ester, uses small meltable polyester dust as both a print material and support structure. The object to be printed is created by shining a laser over a bed filled with polyester, drawing one layer, and putting another small layer of material over the previous layer.

The machine is using a diode laser, with a few experiments with a 1 Watt diode providing some very nice parts. The mechanics of the machine were built at [Brandon]’s local TechShop, and already he has an IndieGoGo for future development and a $3000 development kit. That’s a bit expensive as far as project printers go, but SLS is an expensive technology to get right; ‘pro’ SLS printers are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Solar Powered Circuit Waters Your Plants


If you want your plants to stay healthy, you need to make sure they stay watered. [Dimbit] decided to build his own solar powered circuit to help automatically keep his plants healthy. Like many things, there is more than one way to skin this cat. [Dimbit] had seen other similar projects before, but he wanted to make his smarter than the average watering project. He also wanted it to use very little energy.

[Dimbit] first tackled the power supply. He suspected he wouldn’t need much more than 5V for his project. He was able to build his own solar power supply by using four off-the-shelf solar garden lamps. These lamps each have their own low quality solar panel and AAA NiMH cell. [Dimbit] designed and 3D printed his own plastic stand to hold all of the solar cells in place. All of the cells and batteries are connected in series to increase the voltage.

Next [Dimbit] needed an electronically controllable water valve. He looked around but was unable to find anything readily available that would work with very little energy. He tried all different combinations of custom parts and off-the-shelf parts but just couldn’t make something with a perfect seal. The solution came from an unlikely source.

One day, when [Dimbit] ran out of laundry detergent, he noticed that the detergent bottle cap had a perfect hole that should be sealable with a steel ball bearing. He then designed his own electromagnet using a bolt, some magnet wire, and a custom 3D printed housing. This all fit together with the detergent cap to make a functional low power water valve.

The actual circuit runs on a Microchip PIC microcontroller. The system is designed to sleep for approximately nine minutes at a time. After the sleep cycle, it wakes up and tests a probe that sits in the soil. If the resistance is low enough, the PIC knows that the plants need water. It then opens the custom valve to release about two teaspoons of water from a gravity-fed system. After a few cycles, even very dry soil can reach the correct moisture level. Be sure to watch the video of the functioning system below. Continue reading “Solar Powered Circuit Waters Your Plants”

Printing In Metal with a MIG Welder

Whenever the question of metal 3D printers comes up, someone always chimes in that a MIG welder connected to a normal 3D printer would work great. A bit of research would tell this person that’s already been done, but some confirmation and replication is nice. A few students at TU Delft University strapped a welder to a normal, off-the-shelf 3D printer and made a few simple shapes.

This project builds on the work of [Joshua Pearce] et al. at Michigan Tech where an MIG welder and delta bot was used to lay down rather complex shapes on a metal plate substrate. The team at TU Delft used a cartesian bot – a Prusa i3 – for their replication because of the sheer mass of moving a metal build plate, firebricks, and welder around.

In the first few prints on their machine, the team was able to lay down enough metal to build a vertical wall. It’s not much, and to turn this into a finished part would require some machining, but these are only the beginning steps of what could become a legitimate way of creating metal parts. Video below.

Continue reading “Printing In Metal with a MIG Welder”

Making a Speaker with Resin, Magnets, and Wire

A speaker is just about the simplest electronic component possible, just barely more complex than resistors and wire. They’re also highly variable in their properties, either in size, shape, frequency response, and impedance. Obviously, building custom speakers would be of interest to a lot of people, but there aren’t many people out there doing it. [Madaeon] is one of those people. He created a speaker from scratch, using nothing but magnets, wire, and a bit of UV curing resin.

The frame of the speaker contains a magnet, and the coil of wire is carefully attached to the 0.1mm thin speaker cone with a bit of UV curing resin. All the parts are available on Thingiverse, but you will need a UV resin printer with a low layer height to print this thing out.

The speaker was built by [madaeon] as a demonstration of what the printer he built can do. It’s a fairly standard resin-based 3D printer built around a DLP projector. It’s also cheap, and unlike some other cheap resin-based 3D printers, there’s a reasonable likelihood his will ship within the next few months.

Make Flexible PCBs with Your 3D Printer

The last few years have seen great strides in budget printed circuit board manufacturing. These days you can have boards made in a week for only a few dollars a square inch. Flexible PCBs still tend to be rather expensive though. [Mikey77] is changing that by making flex circuits at home with his 3D printer. [Mikey77] utilized one of the properties of Ninjaflex Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) filament – it sticks to bare copper!

The TPE filament acts as an etch resist, similar to methods using laser printer toner. For a substrate, [Mikey77] lists 3 options:

.004″ thick “Scissor cut” copper clad board from Electronics Goldmine

.002″ thick pure copper polyester taffeta fabric from

<.001″ Pyralux material from Adafruit, which is one of the materials used to make professional flex PCBs.

A bit of spray adhesive will hold the Flex PCB down on the printer’s bed. The only issue is convincing the printer to print a few thousandths of an inch higher than the actual bed level. Rather than change the home position on his Z axis, [Mikey77] used AutoDesk 123D to create 3D PCB designs. Each of his .stl files has a “spacer bar”, which sits at the bed level. The actual tracks to be printed are in the air a few thousandths of an inch above the bed – exactly the thickness of the substrate material. The printer prints the spacer bar on the bed, then raises its Z height and prints on the flexible PCB material. We’re sure that forcing the printer to print in mid-air like this would cause some printer software to throw errors, but the system worked for [Mikey77] and his Makerbot.

Once the designs have been printed, the boards are etched with standard etching solutions such as ferric chloride. Be careful though – these thin substrates can etch much faster than regular PCB.