THP Hacker Bio: Neil Jansen

If we were running a contest to give away a trip to space for building the most innovative open hardware project a few years ago, the winner would inevitably be a 3D printer. Times have changed, 3D printing is reaching the limits of what can be done with simple plastic extrusion, and there are new hardware challenges to be conquered. One of the challenges facing hardware designers is the ability to create and assemble electronic circuits quickly. For that, there are a few pick and place machines being developed, the lowest cost being the FirePick Delta. It sells itself as a $300 pick and place machine borrowing heavily from the RepRap project, enabling tinkerers and engineers to assemble PCBs quickly.

[Neil Jansen] is the project lead for the FirePick Delta, and along with team members ranging from software developers in the bay area, to electronics technicians and high school students, they’ve created what will become the lowest cost and most capable pick and place machine available. Already the machine has tape feeders, tray feeders, a vision system, and modules to dispense solder paste. It’s an astonishing accomplishment, and were it not for some damage in shipping, we would have a video of [Neil] demoing the FirePick at Maker Faire NY.

In lieu of that, we do have a bio on [Neil] and what challenges he’s faced in building the FirePick. You can read that below, or check out their second demo video for The Hackaday Prize:

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WirePrint is a Physical ‘Print Preview’ for 3D Printers

3D printers may be old news to most of us, but that’s not stopping creative individuals from finding new ways to improve on the technology. Your average consumer budget 3D printer uses an extrusion technology, whereby plastic is melted and extruded onto a platform. The printer draws a single two-dimensional image of the print and then moves up layer by layer. It’s an effective and inexpensive method for turning a computer design into a physical object. Unfortunately, it’s also very slow.

That’s why Hasso Plattner Institute and Cornell University teamed up to develop WirePrint. WirePrint can slice your three-dimensional model into a wire frame version that is capable of being printed on an extrusion printer. You won’t end up with a strong final product, but WirePrint will help you get a feel for the overall size and shape of your print. The best part is it will do it in a fraction of the time it would take to print the actual object.

This is a similar idea to reducing the amount of fill that your print has, only WirePrint takes it a step further. The software tells your printer to extrude plastic in vertical lines, then pauses for just enough time for it to cool and harden in that vertical position. The result is much cleaner than if this same wire frame model were printed layer by layer. It also requires less overall movement of the print head and is therefore faster.

The best part about this project is that it’s a software hack. This means that it can likely be used on any 3D printers that use extrusion technology. Check out a video of the process below to see how it works. Continue reading “WirePrint is a Physical ‘Print Preview’ for 3D Printers”

Lulzbot & Lime Green Begonias

Lulzbot, or more specifically Aleph Objects, had a booth at Maker Faire this year, and unlike a lot of other 3D printer manufacturers they’re not afraid to show off what they currently have in development. The latest is code-named Begonia, although when it makes it to production it will probably be called the Lulzbot Mini. It’s a smaller version of their huge Taz 3D printer that trades build volume for a lower price.

The Lulzbot Mini will have a 6x6x6 inch build volume, heated bed, and all the other features you would expect in its larger counterpart. One interesting feature is automated nozzle cleaning and bed leveling. At the start of every print run, the nozzle runs over a small felt pad at the back of the build plate, touches off four metal washers at each corner, and recalculates the GCode for a level print. You can check out a demo of that in the video above.

Also in the works in the Lulzbot labs is a controller panel with an SD card, display, and (I think) a touch interface. Lulzbot didn’t have a demo of this, but rest assured, we’ll post something on that when it’s released. The last time we saw Lulzbot we heard of a 3D scanner project they’re working on that will turn any physical object into an .STL file, without having to mess about in Meshlab. Development on this project is stalled, but that is a very difficult problem. Can’t fault them for that.

Oh, the price for the unannounced Lulzbot Mini? Somewhere around $1300-1400.

3D Printer Gets Wheels, Leaves Trail Of Plastic Boxes

The limitation of 3D Printer build volume is over. The folks over at NEXT and LIFE Labs have created a prototype robot with a 3D print head attached to it. Unlike a traditional 3D Printer that moves the print head around within the confines of a machine, the 3&DBot drives the print head around any flat surface, extruding as it goes.

Although the 3&DBot has 4 wheels, they are all stationary and face independent directions. Normally, this arrangement would only allow a vehicle to rotate in a circle. However, the wheels used here are not conventional, they are Mecanum-style with many mini-wheels around the main. This arrangement allows omnidirectional movement of the robot, depending on how each wheel is driven. If you haven’t seen this type of movement before, it is definitely worth watching the video after the break.

Sure, the print quality leaves something to be desired and the distance the print head is from the robot chassis may be a bit limiting but all new technology has to start somewhere. This is a great joining of two technologies. Don’t scoff, remember your Iphone 12 wouldn’t be possible without this.

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Update: 3D Printed Concrete Castle Completed

After two years of dreaming, designing, and doing, [Andrey Rudenko] has finally finished 3D printing his concrete castle. We’re sure a few readers will race to the comments to criticize the use of “castle” as an acceptable descriptor, but they’d be missing the point. It’s been only three months since he was testing the thing out in his garage, and now there’s a beautiful, freestanding structure in his yard, custom-printed.

There are no action shots of the printer setup as it lays down fat beads of concrete, only close-ups of the nozzle, but the castle was printed on-site outdoors. It wasn’t, however, printed in one piece. [Andrey] churned out the turrets separately and attached them later. He won’t be doing that again, though, because moving them in place was quite the burden. On his webpage, [Andrey] shares some insight in a wrap-up of the construction process. After much experimentation, he settled on a layer height of 10mm with a 30mm width for best results. He also discovered that he could print much more than his original estimation of 50cm of vertical height a day (fearing the lower layers would buckle).

With the castle a success, [Andrey] plans to expand his website to include a “posting wall for new ideas and findings.” We’re not sure whether that statement suggests that he would provide open-source access to everything or just feature updates of his future projects.

Wooden supports for concrete bridging.
[Andrey] used wooden supports to print concrete bridges.
We hope the former. You can check out its current format as the Architecture Forum, where he explains some of the construction capabilities and tricks used to build the castle.

His next project, a full-scale livable structure, will attempt to print 24/7 (weather permitting) rather than the stop-start routine used for the castle, which turned out to be the culprit behind imperfections in the print. He’ll have to hurry, though. [Andrey] lives in Minnesota, and the climate will soon cause construction to take a 6-month hiatus until warm weather returns. Be sure to check out his website for more photos and a retrospective on the castle project, as well as contact information—[Andrey] is reaching out to interested parties with the appropriate skills (and investors) who may want to help with the new project.

[via 3ders.org]

[Thanks Brian]

THP Semifinalist: Retro Populator, A Pick And Place Retrofit For A 3D Printer

retro

A huge theme of The Hackaday Prize entries is making assembly of electronics projects easier. This has come in the form of soldering robots, and of course pick and place machines. One of the best we’ve seen is the Retro Populator, a project by [Eric], [Charles], [Adam], and [Rob], members of the Toronto Hacklab. It’s a machine that places electronic components on a PCB with the help of a 3D printer

The Retro Populator consists of two major parts: the toolhead consists of a needle and vacuum pump for picking up those tiny surface mount parts. This is attaches to a quick mount bolted right to the extruder of a 3D printer. The fixture board attaches to the bed of a 3D printer and includes tape rails, cam locks, and locking arms for holding parts and boards down firmly.

The current version of the Retro Populator, with its acrylic base and vacuum pen, is starting to work well. The future plans include tape feeders, a ‘position confirm’ ability, and eventually part rotation. It’s a very cool device, and the ability to produce a few dozen prototypes in an hour would be a boon for hackerspaces the world over.

You can check out a few videos of the Retro Populator below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize. 

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THP Semifinalist: Theta Printer

thetaThe early 3D printers of the 80s and 90s started off as cartesian bots, and this is what the RepRap project took a cue from for the earliest open source 3D printer designs. A bit later, the delta bot came on the scene, but this was merely a different way to move a toolhead around build plate. We haven’t really seen a true polar coordinate 3D printer, except for [Tyler Anderson]’s incredible Theta printer.

[Tyler]’s theta printer is designed to print in as many different materials as possible, without the reduction in build volume that comes with multiple toolheads on more traditional printers. It will be able to lay down different colors of plastic in a huge build volume, and even some of the weirder filaments out there, all in a single print.

The theta printer is based on a polar coordinate system, meaning instead of moving a hot end around in the X and Y axes, the build plate rotates in a circle, and the extruders move along the radius of the circle. This spinning, polar coordinate printer is the best way we’ve seen to put multiple extruders on a printer, and has the added bonus of being a great platform for a 3D scanner as well.

With four extruders, four motors to control the position of each extruder, a rotation motor, and the Z axis (that’s 10 steppers if you’re counting), this is very likely the greatest number of motors ever put in a 3D printer. Most electronics boards don’t support that many stepper drivers, and the one that will won’t be ready for the end of The Hackaday Prize. Right now, [Tyler] is running a fairly standard RAMPS board, running two extruders and R axes in parallel. Still, it’s good enough for a proof of concept.

One interesting aspect of [Tyler]’s design is something even he might not have realized yet: with a single bed and four extruders, he’s effectively made a 3D printer geared for high-volume production; simply by printing the same part with all the extruders, he’s able to quadruple the output of a 3D printer with the same floor space as a normal one. This may not sound like much, but when you realize Lulzbot has a bot farm producing all their parts, the Theta printer starts to look like a very, very good idea.

Videos of [Tyler]’s Theta below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

Continue reading “THP Semifinalist: Theta Printer”