THP Entry: An Affordable Metal 3D Printer

metalFor years now, people have been trying to develop an affordable, RepRap-derived 3D printer that will create objects in metal. There has been a lot of work with crazy devices like high-powered lasers, and electron beams, but so far no one has yet developed a machine that can print metal objects easily, cheaply and safely. For The Hackaday Prize, [Sagar] is taking a different tack for his metal 3D printer: he’s extruding low temperature alloys just like a normal 3D printer would extrude plastic.

[Sagar]‘s printer is pretty much a carbon copy of one of the many ‘plastic-only’ 3D printers out there, the only change being in the extruder and hot end. As a material, he’s using an alloy of 95.8% tin, 4% copper, and 0.2% silver in a 3mm diameter spool. This alloy melts at 235° C, about the same temperature as the ABS plastic these printers normally use.

The only real problems with this build are the extruder and nozzle. [Sagar] is milling his own nozzle and hot end out of stainless steel; a challenging bit of machining, but still within the realm of a hobbyist. He has some doubts about the RepRap derived plastic geared extruder being able to handle metal, so he’s also looking at designing a new version and milling that out of stainless as well.

It’s an awesome project, and we hope we’ll be seeing some updates to the project shortly. While a 3D printer that produces objects out of a low temperature alloy won’t be building rocket engines any time soon, it could be a great way to fabricate some reasonably high-strength parts at home.

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.

A closer look at New Matter’s MOD-t 3d printer

So last week the SupplyFrame office Prusa i3 finally gave up the ghost — the z-axis threaded rods unwound themselves from their couplers and the whole thing fell apart. So we needed to get some better couplers as our tubing wasn’t going to cut the mustard anymore. Thankfully Pasadena is full of 3d printer people! Within a few blocks of our office we have New Matter, DeezMaker, and a soon to be announced 3d printer from ToyBuilderLabs.

The one everyone is talking about right now is New Matter who recently announced an already successful fundraising campaign for the first run of their $250 3d printer, the MOD-t. This has been making the rounds recently due to its low price and stated aim of bringing 3d printing into the home of the masses (a tale as old as time, right?). It’s a lovely goal for sure, but they will definitely have their work cut out for them, but perhaps this is the team to make it happen? We decided to head over to their lab since it’s just around the corner from our office and see if we could get them to print some new couplers and maybe take a look at their printer while we were at it, videos and pictures after the break!

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Customized iPad LCD Screen Clips onto Macbook as a Slick Second Screen

Macbook with iPad second screen

Last year, [Ben] found a good deal on iPad 3 LCD screens. He couldn’t resist buying a couple to play around with. It didn’t take him long to figure out that it’s actually quite simple to use these LCD screens with any computer. This is because the LCD panels have built-in Apple Display port interfaces. This means that you can add your own Display Port connector to the end of the LCD’s ribbon connector and just plug it into a computer. You’ll also need to hook up a back light driver, which [Ben] was able to find pre-made for around $35.

The hack doesn’t stop there, though. [Ben] wanted to have a nice, finished product. He laser cut an acrylic bezel for the LCD screen that was a perfect fit. He then milled out a space for the LCD to fit into. The acrylic was thick enough to accommodate the screen and all of the cables. To cover up the back, [Ben] chose to use the side panel of a PowerMac G5 computer case. He chose this mainly for aesthetics. He just couldn’t resist the nice brushed aluminum look with the giant Apple logo. It would be a perfect match to his Macbook.

Once the LCD panel was looking nice, [Ben] still needed a way to securely fasten it in the right place. He knew he’d want it next to his Macbook, so why not attach it directly to the Macbook? [Ben] got to work with his 3D printer and printed up some small plastic clips. The clips are glued to the iPad screen’s acrylic bezel and can be easily clipped on and off of the Macbook screen in seconds. This way his laptop is still portable, but he has the extra screen real estate when he needs it. [Ben] also printed up a plastic clip that turns the iPad’s USB power connector and the Display Port connector into one single connector. While this is obviously not required, it does effectively turn two separate plugs into one and makes the whole project that much more slick.

The Laser Cutter Attachment For A 3D Printer

cheapo If you already have a 3D printer, you already have a machine that will trace out gears, cogs, and enclosures over an XY plane. How about strapping a laser to your extruder and turning your printer into a laser cutter? That’s what [Spiritplumber] did, and he’s actually cutting 3/16″ wood and 1/4″ acrylic with his 3D printer.

[Spiritplumber] is using a 445nm laser diode attached directly to his extruder mount to turn his 3D printer into a laser cutter. The great thing about putting a laser diode on an extruder is that no additional power supplies are needed; after installing a few connectors near the hot end, [Spiritplumber] is able to switch from extruding to lasing by just swapping a few wires. The software isn’t a problem either: it’s all just Gcode and DXFs, anyway.

There’s an Indiegogo for this, with the laser available for $200. Compare that to the Chinese laser cutters on eBay, and you can see why this is called the L-CHEAPO laser cutter.

Man Builds Concrete 3D Printer in His Garage


[Andrey Rudenko] is building a house in his garage. Not with nails and lumber, but with concrete extruded by his 3D printer. We’ve seen concrete 3D printers in the past, but unlike those projects, [Andrey] isn’t part of a of a university or corporation. He’s just a contractor with a dream. His printer is directly derived from the RepRap project. It’s even commanded by Pronterface.

[Andrey] started with an Arduino Mega 2560 based RepRap RAMPS style controller. His big printer needed big NEMA34 stepper motors, far beyond the current capacity of the stock RAMPS stepper drivers. [Andrey] got in touch with [James] at MassMind who helped him with an open source THB6064AH based driver. [James] even came up with an adaptor cable and PCB which makes the new drivers a drop-in replacement.

Now that his printer was moving, [Andrey] needed a material to print. Concrete chemistry is a science all its own. There are many specialty blends of concrete with specific strength and drying times. Trucking in custom mixtures can get expensive. [Andrey] has come up with his own mixture based on bags of regular concrete mix, sand, and some additives. [Andrey's] special sauce doesn’t cure especially quickly, but it is viscous enough to print with.

Every piece of [Andrey's] printer had to be designed and refined, including the nozzle. The concrete printer works somewhat like a frostruder, extruding concrete in 20mm wide by 5mm tall layers. He’s even managed to print overhanging layers and arches exactly like a giant RepRap Mendel.

The printer’s great unveiling will be this summer. [Andrey] plans to print a playhouse sized castle over the course of a week. He’s looking to collaborate with architects, builders, and other like-minded folks. We’d suggest uploading the project to!

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OpenExposer, The DIY SLA Printer


Precisely applied ultraviolet light is an amazing thing. You can expose PCBs, print 3D objects, and even make a laser light show. Over on the Projects site, [Mario] is building a machine that does all of these things. It’s called the OpenExposer, and even if it doesn’t win the Hackaday Prize, it’s a great example of how far you can go with some salvaged electronics and a 3D printer.

The basic plan of the OpenExposer is a 3D printer with a small slit cut into the bed, and a build platform that moves in the Z axis. The bed contains a small UV laser and a polygon mirror ripped from a dead tree laser printer. By moving the bed in the Y direction, [Mario] shoot his laser anywhere on an XY plane. Put a tank filled with UV curing resin on the bed, and he has an SLA printer. Put a mounting bracket on the bed, and double-sided PCBs are a cinch.

The frame is made of 3D printed parts and standard RepRap rods, with the only hard to source component being the polygonal mirror. These can be sourced from scrounged laser printers, but there’s probably some company in China that will sell them bulk. The age of cheap SLA printers is dawning, friends. Video below, github here.

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Servo Stock, The Future Of 3D Printers

printerIf you think about it, the RepRaps and other commercial 3D printers we have today are nothing like the printers that will be found in the workshops of the future. They’re more expensive than they need to be, and despite the RepRap project being around for a few years now, no one has cracked the nut of closed loop control yet. [mad hephaestus], [Alex], and [Will] over on the Hackaday Projects site are working on the future of 3D printing with the Servo Stock, a delta printer using servos and closed loop control to build a printer for about a quarter of the price as a traditional 3D printer.

The printer itself is a Kossel derivative that is highly modified to show off some interesting tech. Instead of steppers, the printer has three axes controlled by servos. On each axis is a small board containing a magnetic encoder, and a continuous rotation servo. With this setup, the guys are able to get 4096 steps per revolution with closed loop control that can drive the servo to with ±2 ticks.

The electronics and firmware are a clean sheet redesign of the usual 3D printer loadout. The motherboard uses a Pic32 running at 80MHz. Even the communication between the host and printer has been completely redesigned. Instead of Gcode, the team is using the Bowler protocol, a system of sending packets over serial, TCP/IP, or just about any other communications protocol you can think of.

Below is a video of the ServoStock interpreting Gcode on a computer and sending the codes and kinematics to the printer. It seems to work well, and using cheap servos and cut down electronics means this project might just be the first to break the $200 barrier for a ready to run 3D printer.

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