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.

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THP Entry: A Holonomic Drive 3D Printer

holo

[Sugapes] always wanted to cut a few corners and build a really, really cheap 3D printer, but the idea of using linear actuators – pricing them, sourcing them, and the inevitable problems associated with them – scared him away. One day, he realized that moving in a plane in the X and Y dimensions wasn’t hard at all; cars and robots do this every day. Instead of moving a 3D printer bed around with rods and pulleys, [Sugapes] is moving his 3D printer around with wheelsIt’s different, it’s interesting, and it’s the perfect project to show of his creativity for The Hackaday Prize.

The drive system [Sugapes] is using is called a holonomic drive system. In his build, three omnidirectional wheels are attached to continuous rotation servos, each of them mounted 120 degrees apart. The print bed is simply placed on these wheels, and with the right control algorithms, [Sugapes] can move the bed in the X and Y axes. With an extruder on a Z axis above the bed, this setup becomes a 3D printer with a theoretically unlimited XY build axis. Pretty clever, huh?

There are a few problems [Sugapes] will have to overcome to turn this project into a proper printer. The omnidirectional wheels aren’t the best at transferring movement to the bed, so a quartet of USB optical computer mice are being used for a closed loop system. [Sugapes] put up a video of his project, you can check that out below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

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Milling Curved Objects With A G-Code Ripper

HaD Mouse

Milling and routing flat surfaces is pretty much the point of a CNC router, but how about curved surfaces? Auto leveling of hobby CNC machines and 3D printers is becoming commonplace, but Scorch Works is doing just the opposite: using a probe touch probe on a CNC machine to transform a G-Code file into something that can be milled on a curved surface.

The technique is pretty much the complete opposite of Autoleveller, the tool of choice for milling and routing objects that aren’t completely flat or perpendicular to the bed with a MACH3 or LinuxCNC machine. In this case, a touch probe attached to the router scans a curved part, applies bilinear interpolation to a G-Code file, and then starts machining.

The probe can be used on just about anything – in the videos below, you can see a perfect engraving in a block of plastic that’s about 30 degrees off perpendicular to the bed, letters carved in a baseball bat, and a guaranteed way to get your project featured on Hackaday.

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Clay 3D Printer Keeps It Simple

Clay 3D Printer

Artist [Jonathan] has built a 3D printer specifically for printing in clay. The part count is kept to a minimum and the printer was designed to be made with basic tools and beginner skills. The intent was to not require access to a plastic 3D printer in order to build this printer. Although this build’s goal was clay printing, the extruder could certainly be swapped out for a typical plastic printer version.

This Delta uses quite a bit of MDF. The top and bottom plates are MDF, as are the bearing carriages and extruder mount plate. 12mm rods are solely responsible for the support between the top and bottoms plates as well providing a surface for the LM12UU linear bearings. These bearings are zip tied to the MDF bearing carriages. The 6 arms that support the extruder mount plate are made from aluminum tubing and Traxxas RC car rod-ends. NEMA17 motors and GT2 belts and pulleys are the method used to move the machine around.

Getting the clay to dispense was a tricky task. Parts scavenged from a pneumatic dispensing gun was used. If you are unfamiliar with this type of tool, think: Power Caulk Gun. Clay is fed into the re-fillable syringes and an air compressor provides the 30 psi required to force the clay out of the nozzle. The pressure alone controls the rate of clay flow so it is a little finicky to get the extrusion rate correct. Depending on the size of the final sculpture, 1 to 2mm diameter nozzles could be used. For larger work, 1mm layer height works well. For the smaller pieces, 0.5mm is the preferred layer height.

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Print Tasty Treats With MIT’s Ice Cream Printer

Ice Cream Printer

Three MIT students decided that 3D printers just aren’t interesting enough on their own any more. They wanted to design a new type of printer that would really get young kids engaged. What’s more engaging to children than sugary treats? The team got together to develop a new 3d printer that prints ice cream.

The machine is built around a Solidoodle. The Solidoodle is a manufacturer of “accessible” 3d printers. The printer is enclosed inside of a small freezer to keep things cold during the printing process. On top of the machine is a hacked Cuisinart ice cream maker. The machine also contains a canister of liquid nitrogen. The nitrogen is used to blast the cream as it leaves the print head, keeping it frozen for the 15 minute duration of the print.

It sounds like the team ran into trouble with the ice cream melting, even with the liquid nitrogen added. For a single semester project, this isn’t a bad start. Be sure to watch the clip of the machine running below.

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THP Entry: TOME, The Portable 3D Printer

TOME Alright, 3D Printers exist. They’re machines you can simply buy for a few hundred dollars, set them on your desk, and have them start churning out plastic parts. A little pedestrian, isn’t it? How about something you can take into the field for a client, and print out some new parts right there? How about sending a printer to the latest humanitarian crisis? After all, all those humanitarian uses for 3D printers we’ve been hearing about won’t do any good without a 3D printer.

TOME is [Philip]‘s attempt at portabilizing a 3D printer and also his entry into The Hackaday Prize. The preliminary goals for TOME are the ability to print for four hours on a single battery, an auto leveling bed, and an accessible hot end that’s easy to replace.

Already the design for TOME is rather interesting. The astute printer aficionado will notice there is no stepper motor on the X carriage. The task of moving the head in the X axis is taken care of by a stepper in the base, with a square shaft and set of gears moving everything back and forth.

With this odd yet ingenious motor setup, the entire printer is able to collapse in on itself, allowing it to be installed in a waterproof plastic case. That’s something you’re going to need if you’re taking a printer on the road.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

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