Maker Faire NY: Infinite Autonomous 3D Printing

Although it’s not an idea that has yet trickled down to $200 printers drop-shipped from China, one of the most innovative ideas in the 3D printing world in the last few years is putting plastic down on a conveyor belt. Yes, MakerBot was doing it back in 2010, but we’re not going to talk about that. Printing on a conveyor belt instead of a static bed allows you to easily print multiples of an object autonomously, without any human interaction. If you’re really clever, you could rotate the hot end 45° and build a piece of plastic that is infinitely long, like the printer [Bill Steele] built, the Blackbelt, or ‘the CAD files might exist somewhere’ Printrbot infinite build volume printer.

At this year’s World Maker Faire, we didn’t see an infinite printer, but we did catch a glimpse of an idea that could reliably take 3D printers into production. It’s a Multiprinter Autonomous 3D Printer, designed and built by [Thomas Vagnini].

The idea of using 3D printers for production and manufacturing is a well-studied problem. Lulzbot has a heated room filled with printers they use to manufacture all their machines. Prusa’s manufacturing facility is similarly well-equipped. However, both of these setups require helper monkeys to remove a part from the bed and set the machine up for the next print.

Instead of a strictly manual process, [Thomas]’ machine uses a sort of cartridge-based system for the printing bed. The glass beds are stored in a cassette, and for the first print, the printer pulls a bed onto the heated build plate through a system of conveyors. When the print is finished, the part and the bed ar fed into a rotating cassette, where it can be removed by a tech, prepped for the next print, and placed back in the ‘bed feeder’. It’s a system that brings the manual intervention cycle time of a 3D printer down to zero. If you’re producing hundreds of parts, this will drastically speed up manufacturing.

While it is a relatively niche idea, this is a very well-designed machine. It’s all laser cut, uses core-XY mechanics, and with the right amount of tuning, it does exactly what it says it will do. It’s not for everybody, but that’s sort of the point of manufacturing parts on a 3D printer.

7 thoughts on “Maker Faire NY: Infinite Autonomous 3D Printing

  1. Nice!

    May I make a suggestion though?

    If I were building any kind of automated 3d printer I would not use wood or any flammable materials that could be avoided. I’m sure a well built printer is safe but… printer fires are a thing, it has happened.

    Besides not making the printer itself flammable I would probably go all out and get a metal cart to hold it and wheel it to the center of the room when it’s in use. It can’t hurt right?

      1. Really? I’ve always thought that laser cut wood was one of the coolest looking materials. Looks like it’s from a comic book with the highlighted lines.

        Not that I think it’s a great choice for a 3D printer though. I remember the days of using wooden printers, and it’s not something I’d like to go back to.

  2. “The idea of using 3D printers for production and manufacturing is a well-studied problem.”

    And continued to as technology improves. How else are we going to get Alvin Toffler’s “Future Wave”?

  3. One roll of filament for 8 platters?
    I’ve got bad news for you…

    Jokes aside, a multi roll of filament auto load may be a nice addition.
    It’s a nice build anyway.

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