Automatically 3D Print Infinite Number of Parts

We’ve seen 3D printers coming out with infinite build volumes, including some attempts at patenting that may or may not stall their development. One way around the controversy is to do it in a completely different way. [Aad van der Geest]’s solution may not give you the ability to print an infinitely long part, but it will allow you to print an infinite number of the same, or different, parts, at least until your spool runs out.

[Aad]’s solution is to have a blade automatically remove each part from the print bed before going on to the next. For that he put together a rail system that sits on the bed of his Ultimaker 2, but out of the way on the periphery. A servo at one end pulls a blade along the rails, sweeping over the bed and moving any parts on the bed to one end where they fall away. This is all done by a combination of special G-code and a circuit built around a PIC12F629.

One of many things that we think is pretty clever, as well as fun to watch, is that after the part is finished, the extruder moves to the top corner of the printer and presses a micro switch to tell the PIC12F629 to start the part removal process. You can see this in the first video below. The G-code takes over again after a configurable pause.

But [Aad]’s put in more features than just that. As the second video below shows, after the parts have been scraped from the build plate, a pin on the extruder is used to lift and drop the blade a few times to remove small parts that tend to stay on the blade. Also, the extruder is purged between prints by being moved over a small ridge a few times. This of course is also in that special G-code.

How do you produce the special G-code, since obviously it also has to include the parts to print? For that [Aad]’s written a Windows program called gcmerge. It reads a configuration file, which you edit, that contains: a list of files containing the G-code for your parts, how many to print, whether or not you want the extruder to be purged between prints, various extruder temperatures, cooling times, and so on. You can find all this, as well as source for the gcmerge program, packaged up on a hackaday.io page. Incidentally, you can find the PIC12F629 code there too.

As for those infinite build volume printers with conveyor belt-like print beds, we first brought it up after seeing one by [Bill Steele] where he added a conveyor belt on a 45 degree angle to his MakerBot. Then we saw BlackBelt come out with their own that can print very long objects, much longer than the build plate. But these infinite build volume printers aren’t without their patent controversy.

24 thoughts on “Automatically 3D Print Infinite Number of Parts

    1. One could say, before digging into patent details, that the commercial solution is more complex and developed. The usage of a full bed raft to keep pieces together, using the going forth and back with a wedge to remove and move the print …. I don’t see the creator directly copying this.

      I mean, there is grades and grades of development and complexity. And if the creator develops a workaround the key terms of the patents (if there are), it’s all clear. That’s what James Watt did with the sun and planet gear to bypass the crank patent of his time. Yes, the crank mechanism was patented back then.

    1. yeah completely agree every time i read infinite build volume i cringe and wish i could shoot the idiot who came up with the term into the sun. why cant they call it something more accurate and “cool” like extended build volume or tilted print or whatever because infinite build volume is just BS

      1. It’s like when companies say something is “tamper proof” but what they really mean is “tamper resistant”. I cannot imagine how many lawsuits have been filed over this marketing puffery / outright lie.

        At least if something is shatterproof but can still break just by a different mechanism than shattering, it is at least still not able to shatter.

      2. It must be awful to get so angry when people say things that are slightly less than perfectly accurate for the sake of simplification.

        It’s a good thing you clearly aren’t bothered by spelling, grammar, punctuation, or even structuring your thoughts in a coherent manner.

    1. I would argue that you will have possible z height interferences unless you mount them perfectly level, also when scrapping, with odd overhanging geometries, the nozzle might get hit before the blade.

      Also a huge issue is you are driving against the entire carriage system, likely to knock it out of alignment, the beauty of this is it only induces stress on 1 part, the print bed edge. It’s actually very clever.

      The only thing I don’t like is it needs extra batteries.

  1. My initial comment was the first when I posted it. Snow, Internet and Warion followed in close succession. Rather mysteriously, a number of other comments with earlier time stamps have now appeared. How is this possible and why? If I change my RTC setting can I post comments before an article appears? Prescience is a very marketable ability, but difficult to prove. Is this an “opportunity” yp put a new “skill” on my resume?

    HaD’s income depends upon ads I don’t see because the devs buggered things so they don’t display properly using portrait mode. I happen to be interested in the ads, but many months later it is still broken. Over the last year or so I’ve seen it become increasingly difficult to buy things online because of buggy libraries (aka frameworks) which won’t let me select shirt size or reject a perfectly valid credit card (I called the credit card company to check that things were OK).

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