Pick-and-place Lego prototyping

[Ned] tipped us off about his project for a class at Carnegie Mellon. Utilizing a Denso 6-AOF robotic arm they have built a rapid prototyping machine that uses Lego as the building material. LDraw, the open standard Lego CAD program, is used to build a model which is then translated into MATLAB files that the robotic arm can use for placement commands. Right now pieces need to be placed on a template for the robot to find and pick up.

It’s great that Lego pieces are used because they are readily available and inexpensive, but this type of precision robot makes the project unattainable for most tinkerers. Still, the concept is interesting and we could see an end goal being a more widely available machine. It’s not too much of a leap to image a RepRap type machine that takes internal measurements of a circuit board and the components, calculates inside case dimensions, then builds a prototype enclosure from common Lego pieces.

RepRap wedge

reprap_wedge

Generation 2.0 of RepRap, the self replicating 3d printer, is approaching realization. Code named “Mendel”, the new design will be wedge shaped rather than a box which offers a few benefits. The overall design is smaller than the original RepRap but the printable area is larger. This means more functionality with less building material. With each new generation of this project the assembly gets easier and total parts price drops making the RepRap available to a much wider audience.

The RepRap blog has put forth some design specs, a picture of the assembled prototype, and has links for general assembly information (ZIP). We won’t see a finished version of this released for a few months but so far it looks like a big leap forward.

Printing a RepRap

repstrap

The RepRap project has been working on bringing 3D printing to the masses by creating a extrusion printer that can also make the majority of its own parts. For the most part, these print ABS or HDPE plastics which are strong and recyclable. In order to create these replicating printers, similar machines called RepStraps are built out of either laser-cut parts or machined elements. They are functionally equivalent to RepRap printers, but are not made of printed parts. [nophead] documented his RepStrap, HydraRaptor, that is based off a milling machine. He had already printed a set of RepRap parts, and he documented printing a second set. The machine worked for about 100 hours over the course of 2 weeks, printing about 1.5 kg of parts. He made a few adjustments, such as replacing ABS bearings with HDPE to reduce friction. The parts are for Factor e Farm so they can get started with 3D printing.

Related: RepRap pinch wheel extruder

Printing circuits on the RepRap

reprappcb

[Rhys Jones] has been working with the RepRap team to develop a way to print circuit boards. The machine first prints the plastic substrate with channels for the metal to be deposited into. They adapted their pinch wheel feeder to work with solid core solder (flux creates a mess). The extruded solder’s specific heat isn’t hot enough to melt the plastic. They made a video (embedded below) of their test piece: an optical endstop. The team has also been experimenting with decoupling the feed mechanism from the extruder.

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3D Printing at home

3dprint

We’ve seen a lot of 3d printing lately, with the RepRap and Cupcake, both the fused deposition modeling type. We don’t often see the Inkjet method. This is a great example of one, built in someones home. Instead of laying down layers of molten plastic, he uses the inkjet system to deposit glue like substances into layers of plaster. This project is much higher resolution than the other two, as you can see in the video of it making an RC engine case below. He is currently rebuilding it to be even better and larger.

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RepRap pinch wheel extruder

pinchwheel

What you see above is the culmination of [Zach Smith]’s work building a pinch wheel style extruder for the RepRap. The current RepRap 3D printer uses a screw mechanism to push 3mm polymer filament into a heating barrel where it is melted and then extruded through a fine nozzle. [Zach]’s new version uses a drive gear from SDP/SI mounted directly to the DC motor we saw him teardown earlier. He’s redesigned the carrier for the extruder as well. It’s now much lighter and has provisions for mounting current and future controller electronics along with a magnetic rotary encoder. In the last two days, he’s been doing real world testing. It’s been doing well, but he’s learning to do things like always using a full spool and not trying to run short lengths back to back.

Ponoko launches subscription manufacturing

reprap

Ponoko is an on-demand manufacturing service. You submit your design and they’ll cut it out of one of their many materials. The site is built so you can sell your products or designs directly. They recently took a major step with the introduction of Designmake Prime. It’s a monthly subscription based service with many benefits. It lets you submit DXFs for evaluation instead of their standard EPS or SVG. You can request any material you want and they’ll provide direct support. You also get priority in manufacturing queues. While they’ve always offered an à la carte service, this new move puts Ponoko directly in the role of a traditional manufacturer. Offering manufacturing as a service shows their intention of former a relationship with their customers, but at the an individual level, which most manufacturers can’t approach because of scale.

Ponoko first came to our attention when RepRap published an acrylic version of their machine.

[via Fabbaloo]