Plan B: An Open Source Powder Based 3D Printer

Open Source Powder Based 3D Printer

3D printers come in all shapes and sizes. Most widely known is the FDM (fused deposition modeling) style, which was the easiest to adapt to a consumer grade machine. We’re still waiting for widespread availability of some of the more advanced 3D printing technologies — so you can guess how excited we were when [Yvo de Haas] dropped us a line on his open-source powder based 3D printer!

Powder based 3D printing is one of the most economic and easy to use technologies in the commercial industry because of one wonderful thing — no support material required! They work by laying down fine layers of powder which can then be bonded together either by laser sintering, or by using a binding agent applied by something similar to an inkjet head. Because of this, the surrounding powder acts as a support for any complex geometry you might need — you can quite literally print anything on this style of machine.

[Yvo] has just finished his own version of this style of 3D printer, called the Plan B. Mechanically similar to a regular 3D printer, his is capable of laying down fine powders, and then binding them together using a hacked HP inkjet cartridge. Check it out after the break.

And if you happen to have a laser cutter or engraver, you might be able to make your own SLS machine as well!

13 thoughts on “Plan B: An Open Source Powder Based 3D Printer

    1. Power can allow full colour, very high speeds, and plaster that can be used for metal castings similar to lost wax. Resolution is usually lower as it is governed by the powder size, but it can print in full colour for models that are vibrant. I used a Z-corp printer that could print off a cubic inch of material in 3 minutes, compared to half an hour on a filament printer.

  1. There is one limitation of powder-printers compared to filament printers: You can’t make something completely hollow with no openings, or it will still be filled with powder when you’re done. A filament printer would leave the space empty to begin with.

      1. If you blow the dust off, cavity wouldn’t close, because cap would have no support. Maybe if you managed to somehow close this opening from outside without ANY protruding elements, this could be doable.

    1. If it’s completely sealed, it doesn’t need to be completely hollow, since nobody will be able to see inside to know. Build in a framework or something, or build it in 2 parts and glue the lid on later.

      While it’s technically a limitation it’s not a practical one, it’d be easy to work your way round it in any particular application.

  2. As far as this current printer iteration is concerned, I seem to recall reading about such printers also using talcum powder as the powder base? If so – that would be a very cheap source of such powder. Someone else earlier mentioned using plaster of paris. I’m sure there are plenty of powdered materials that are fairly easily available (and inexpensive) that could be used…

    I also tend to wonder if you could use toner powder for selective heat sintering – maybe by using a focused IR (CO2 or diode) laser? That said, filling such a printer and depowdering would likely be hazardous to your health, not too mention very, very messy.

    Hmm – another idea: What if you used the above idea (should it be workable), but lay down the toner in a fashion similar to an FDM filament printer, and immediately heat and fuse the layer of powder to the previous layer? Or maybe an ink-jet could carry some kind of liquid toner with a volatile solvent that would evaporate quickly (perhaps again with heat applied)?

  3. Try running the printer, inside a vacuum chamber. Then, vauum clean the lose powder out of the machine. This technique, could open the door, to many more possibilities. Such as 3d printing, with hard to work materials.

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