3D Prints And Food

We recently ran a post about a cute little 3D printed elephant that could dispense booze. The design didn’t actually have the plastic touching the liquid — there was a silicone tube carrying the shots. However, it did spark a conversation at the secret Hackaday bunker about how safe it is to use 3D printed objects for food. In particular, when I say 3D printing, I’m talking fused deposition modeling. Yes, there are other technologies, but most of us are printing using filament laid out in layers with a hot nozzle.

There’s a common idea that ABS is bad in general, but that PET and PLA are no problem because there are food-safe versions of those plastics available. However, the plastic is only a small part of the total food safety picture. Let me be clear: I am not a medical professional and although my computers have run a few plastics plants in years past, I am not really an expert on polymer chemistry, either. However, I don’t use 3D printed materials to hold or handle food and while you might not drop dead if you do, you might want to reconsider.

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Stripping 3D Printed Gears For Science

While 3D printing is now well on its way to becoming “boring” in the same way that a table saw or lathe is, there was a time when the media and even some early adopters would have told you that the average desktop 3D printer was perhaps only a few decades behind the kind of replicator technology we saw on the Enterprise. But as the availability of these machines increased and more people got to see one up close, reality sunk in pretty quickly.

Many have dismissed the technology as little more than a novelty, and even within the 3D printing community itself there’s a feeling that most printers are used for little more than producing “dust collectors”. Some would see this attitude as disheartening, but the hackers over at [Gear Down For What?] see it as a challenge. They’ve made it their mission to push printed parts to increasingly ridiculous heights to show just what the technology is capable of, and in their latest entry, set out to push a pair of 3D printed gearboxes to failure.

The video starts out with a head to head challenge between two of their self-designed gearboxes. As they were spun up with battery powered drills, the smaller of the two quickly gave up the ghost, stripping out at 228 lbs. The victor of the first round then went on to pull a static load, only to eventually max out the scale at an impressive 680 lbs.

The gearbox may have defeated the scale, but the goal of the experiment was to run it to failure. By rigging up a compound pulley arrangement, they were able to double the amount of force their scale could detect. With this increased capacity the gearbox was then run up to an astonishing 1,000 lbs before it started to slip.

But perhaps the most impressive: after they got the gearbox disassembled, it was discovered that only a single planet gear out of the ten had broken. Even then, judging by how the gear sheared, the issue was more likely due to poor layer adhesion during printing than from stress alone. No gears were stripped, and in fact no visible damage was seen anywhere in the mechanism. The team is currently unable to explain the failure, other than to say that the stresses may have been so great that the plastic deformed enough that the gears were no longer meshed tightly.

This isn’t the first time we’ve checked in with the team at [Gear Down For What?], just a few months ago they impressed us by lifting an anvil with one of their printed mechanisms. They’re also not the only ones curious to find out just how far 3D printed plastic can go.

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TeensyStep – Fast Stepper Library For Teensy

The Teensy platform is very popular with hackers — and rightly so. Teensys are available in 8-bit and 32-bit versions, the hardware has a bread-board friendly footprint, there are a ton of Teensy libraries available, and they can also run standard Arduino libraries. Want to blink a lot of LED’s? At very fast update rates? How about MIDI? Or USB-HID devices? The Teensy can handle just about anything you throw at it. Driving motors is easy using the standard Arduino libraries such as Stepper, AccelStepper or Arduino Stepper Library.

But if you want to move multiple motors at high micro-stepping speeds, either independently or synchronously and without step loss, these standard libraries become bottlenecks. [Lutz Niggl]’s new TeensyStep fast stepper control library offers a great improvement in performance when driving steppers at high speed. It works with all of the Teensy 3.x boards, and is able to handle accelerated synchronous and independent moves of multiple motors at the high pulse rates required for micro-stepping drivers.

The library can be used to turn motors at up to 300,000 steps/sec which works out to an incredible 5625 rpm at 1/16 th micro-stepping. In the demo video below, you can see him push two motors at 160,000 steps/sec — that’s 3000 rpm — without the two arms colliding. Motors can be moved either independently or synchronously. Synchronous movement uses Bresenham’s line algorithm to plan motor movements based on start and end positions. While doing a synchronous move, it can also run other motors independently. The TeensyStep library uses two class objects. The Stepper class does not require any system resources other than 56 bytes of memory. The StepControl class requires one IntervallTimer and two channels of a FTM  (FlexTimer Module) timer. Since all supported Teensys implement four PIT timers and a FTM0 module with eight timer channels, the usage is limited to four StepControl objects existing at the same time. Check out [Lutz]’s project page for some performance figures.

As a comparison, check out Better Stepping with 8-bit Micros — this approach uses DMA channels as high-speed counters, with each count sending a pulse to the motor.

Thanks to [Paul Stoffregen] for tipping us off about this new library. Continue reading “TeensyStep – Fast Stepper Library For Teensy”