The Tantillus, Reborn

In the beginning, around 2011 or thereabouts, there was an infinite variety of designs available for anyone to build their own 3D printer. There were Mendels, some weirdos were actually trying to build Darwins, and deltas were starting to become a thing. In the years since then, everyone just started buying cheap Prusa clones and wondering why their house burnt down.

One of the most innovative printers of this era was the Tantillus. It was a small printer, with the entire frame fitting in a 250mm square, but still able to print a 100mm cube. You could print the entire printer, and it was adorable. Face it: most of your prints aren’t bigger than 100mm unless you’re purposely printing something huge, and having a low moving mass is good.

The Tantillus has fallen by the wayside, but now it’s back. The Tantillus R — the ‘R’ means ‘reborn’ — is the latest project to take the design goals of the original Tantillus and bring it into the era of the modern RepRap ecosystem. (German, Google Translatrix, but the English translation of all the documentation is in the works),

Of note in this new design, the Tantillus R is still using shafts driven with high-test fishing line, driven by steppers and belts. The R version is getting away from the J-head, but in the interests in keeping the moving mass down, the hotend is a Merlin. This might seem an especially odd choice in the age of all-metal hotends, but again the goal is to keep moving mass down. As you would expect from a modern 3D printer, there’s support for a heated bed, you can plug a Raspberry Pi into it for Octoprint, and in true RepRap fashion, most of the parts are printable.

While the era of self-build 3D printers is probably over — you can’t compete with the cheap Chinese firestarters on price — the Tantillus R is a great project that retains the spirit of the RepRap projects while adding a few modern niceties and can still produce some impressive prints.

34 thoughts on “The Tantillus, Reborn

  1. “Face it: most of your prints aren’t bigger than 100mm unless you’re purposely printing something huge”

    I guess that’s true but only as a tautology. I’m usually purposely printing something huge, whatever that means. I really can’t see getting by with a 100mm bed. That’s less than a quarter of what I’ve got going and I very often use the real estate.

    It’s a very cool-looking setup, though. I’d love to experiment with a printer that uses wires instead of belts.

    1. Even a Raspberry Pi gets close to that limit, not to mention designs that extend it – e.g if there’s a USB board plugged in and you want the case to enclose that along with the Pi itself. And an Arduino Due, by itself, is already over the limit.

      A printer with such small print dimensions is going to be a hard sell unless it’s really cheap and/or way more precise than more versatile printers.

    2. I’d say there is a market for everything. For me, the 100mm would probably be enough for maybe 30% of the prints. For someone that just wants to make custom keychains, warhammer/tabletop figurines or other small objects, the 100mm limit might be perfectly OK. And maybe he does not have the room in the basement of his parents house to get a bigger i3 clone printer…
      If only need maybe one or two bigger prints per year, you could always use a service like 3dhubs or shapeways to get that thing printed on a bigger machine.

    3. I have a printer that uses wires. Six wires side-by-side, in fact, encapsulated in rubber – flat strips of rubber with teeth on one side. What you might call “belts”. It hasn’t burned down my house yet, but I would never leave it running unattended just the same, unless it was inside a heat-resistant box. Like an old oven, maybe. Hmm. That may be a way to get it to print ABS properly – putting it in an oven and heating it to about 100 degC. I WAS going to put it in a cardboard box and have the bed heater and/or a light bulb (Easy-Bake oven style) warm the whole thing up, but that just makes it harder to notice when it catches fire. So, oven. Most of the parts should survive. Maybe not the power supply, but I could move that and the controller board out of the oven. And into its own fireproof box. 3D printing is complicated. So is baking brownies, since you can’t even FIND an Easy-Bake oven any more, and even if you did, THEN you’d have to find an incandescent bulb to put in it. I’ll stop now.

  2. “In the years since then, everyone just started buying cheap Prusa clones and wondering why their house burnt down.”

    Feature, not bug. Gotta keep the housing industry going.

    1. Sure is. Found myself sifting through his site wondering ‘render or photo?’ as I looked at every pic. Some super nice deign work in there. The hotend assembly on his Steel i3 thing is rad.

  3. Probably a silly question, But why not have the filament driver on the main part of the body and drive the filament through a semi rigid pipe to the hot end? to much friction in the pipe? This seems like a good way to drastically reduce head weight. Maybe I’m completely misunderstanding how 3d printers work.

      1. The original Tantillus used a Bowden tube with the extruder inside the base. It made the effector very light which kept ringing to a minimum. However it prevented non-rigid filaments like TPU from being used, and with the non-heated bed made it useful only for printing PLA.

    1. The semi-rigid pipe is semi-rigid, so there’s a bit of slop introduced to the feed. Bowden machines tended to drool a lot, but this can be largely accommodated/fixed in software.

      Also extra friction, but no big deal. More specialized parts. Slightly higher hassle.

      Reducing the weight/size is the big gain, which enables higher speeds and/or cheesier frames.

    2. i use a delta with a bowden, for that reason – the only moving part on the delta is the end effector (the bed doesn’t move), and it is really light. i don’t know how much trouble it has saved me (because i’ve never used anything more “traditional”), but i can say it hasn’t given me much trouble. i’ve pretty much had trouble-free printing for 3 years without putting too much work into the printer.

      on the other hand, the bowden limitations are pretty severe. unless you get a firmware or slicer that compensates for the hysteresis in the bowden tube (the fact that if you retract by 1mm, the hot end may not retract at all because it is just taking up slack in the tube), any place where the extrusion speed changes (like transition from infill to perimeter) will have an imperfection. i “solve” this by setting my slicer to use roughly the same speed for extrusion and perimeter. also, retracts for going over a gap do not work so well, but the effect is just that some pieces have fine hair on them, which is easy to clean up with an x-acto knife.

      i think other peoples’ printers are more well-tuned for a lot of purposes but i get a very predictable result that doesn’t hinder my designs.

      uh, i also live with a 112mm square build area. it is limiting sometimes but mostly i’m alright with it.

  4. I built an original Tantalus back then, still have it on my shelf. cute little thing, but the fishing line drive system was a heck of a pain to work with, even if it was clever. Built one of those aluminum extrusion based ultimaker 2 clones and never looked back.

    1. I built one of the early printed frame models. The fishing line drive worked great when it worked, but took hours to restring if it needed to be tightened. I eventually scrapped it to build a delta and never looked back. If I had to build a similar printer I’d definitely go for a CoreXY instead. No reason not to use belts.

  5. Reminds me very much of the Makibox, which was similarly well packaged and had some neat design features, but suffered (like so many others of that kickstarter generation) on an insistence on reinventing the wheel (literally, in the case of the extruder!). Manufacturing quality then killed it completely (aside from any usual kickstarterness) – Acrylic that was too thin and injection-moulded parts that weren’t able to cope with the loads.

    Having said all that, I really ought to beef mine up and bring it back to life…

    1. I don’t think fishing line is inherently better for avoiding surface pattern artifacts, since fishing line is neither stronger nor stiffer than steel-cored belts. I think the main advantage is that by making the dimensions smaller, and the moving masses smaller, the resonances that cause these artifacts have smaller amplitudes.

      1. You are wrong.

        Every toothed belt leaves polygonal errors in the printed surface. Dyneema/Spectra is much stronger than steel cord. All commom used toothed belts in 3d printing community are of cheap quality and contain cheap quality fibres. To use high quality fishing line is a big effort.

        1. Okay, I may be wrong, but so are you. I have one of the cheapest 3D printers ever sold, and it uses toothed belts that are steel core, so your assertion of “cheap quality fibres” doesn’t even apply. And how about comparing the STIFFNESS of Spectra vs. steel, since it’s unlikely that the tension used in the Tantillus is high enough for the difference in strength to be an issue.
          Furthermore, you don’t even address my actual claim, which is that the reason for the reduction in artifacts is simply the reduction in SIZE, not the material used for transferring force.
          Finally, you start off with “every toothed belt”. Have you seen artifacts left by 3D printers in the 100 x 100 x 100 mm class using toothed belts? What model do you have in mind?

          1. The best belts use aramid-based fibers. They don’t stretch (rather, stretch very negligibly) and they flex well. Steel-cored belts will eventually fatigue around the small pulleys hobby 3d printers tend to use.

          2. If test conditions are specified we can go collect data and sort this out. Looking at parts from my belt driven printer I think the only significant surface marks are where the support material attaches to the outside shell. Would printing a square with rounded corners in vase mode be an acceptable test that removes supports as a source of error?

        2. I’ve built both line and belt driven printers, and I never found any surface imperfections that I could tie to the belt pitch. Head oscillations and aliasing were the most visible errors.

  6. “The R version is getting away from the J-head, but in the interests in *keeping the moving mass down*, the hotend is a Merlin. This might seem an especially odd choice in the age of all-metal hotends, but again the goal is to *keep moving mass down.*”

    Is it to keep the moving mass down?

    Genuine J-head is pretty similar in size and mass as a Merlin, mass doesn’t really explain the change unless you’re conjuring the numerous knock-off hot ends that just slap J-Head in the name when there’s nothing J-Head about it.

    A small non-sliding bed makes higher temperature materials more feasible, you can probably use the Deltaprintr hot end for not much mass penalty and still retain the use of those materials.

    1. Reading the article, it has some weird assumptions. Even if 90% of the parts might fit on a 10cm square bed that still leaves 10% of your parts unprintable without further rework. And a larger bed allows printing more parts per print cycle. I think portability as a bullet point is more novelty than meaningful. It’s nice but prints tend to take long enough that I’m not likely take it places to print, for example I took my Ultimaker 2 Go to MRRF and that’s it.

      That said I do think it’s good to have small machines in the mix, especially if user space is tight.

  7. “While the era of self-build 3D printers is probably over”

    Really? I would imagine now that building is no longer the path to the cheapest possible printer there would be far fewer builders. Still, if you want a printer that is actually good and you don’t want to take out a mortgage to do so you could do worse than to build it yourself. Also, a printer that you built is a printer that you can repair and upgrade easily. Have factory built printers reached appliance level reliability yet? I’m guessing not.

    But hey, if burning more houses down cheaply is your goal then go ahead, pretend home-built printers are dead.

      1. I wanted to build my own 3D printer, but I ended up buying an Anet A6 (Prusa i3 clone), because it cost quite a bit less than I could get the parts to build one. And while a number of i3 clones have started fires, this is caused by the kind of oversights that a homebuilder is likely to make anyway, so I don’t think you can say that a homebuilt printer is less likely to start a fire. I’ll be getting a thermal fuse for mine, now that I understand the problem.

        But my point is, I don’t see a lot of benefit to building a 3D printer from scratch, these days.

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