[Teaching Tech] has been interested in adding a tool changer to his 3D printer. E3D offers a system that allows you to switch print heads or even change out a hot end for a laser or a (probably) light-duty CNC head. The price of the entire device, though, is about $2,500, which put him off. But now he’s excited about a product from PrinterMods called XChange. This is a kit that will allow rapid tool changes on many existing printers and costs quite a bit less. Preorder on KickStarter is about $150, but that probably won’t be the final price.
Not all printers are compatible. It appears the unit attaches to printers that have linear rails and there is an adapter for printers that have V rollers in extrusions. Supposedly, there is an adapter in the works for printers that use rods and bearings.
It looks like the installation wouldn’t be very difficult and once you have the main part attached, the tools attach to a plate that simply snaps in and out. There is a sturdy mechanical attachment and also an electrical attachment.
This can cause the head position to change which could affect your print area, your center position, and generally require changes in your production G code or maybe your firmware. Still, you probably expect anything like this to require a little fiddling to get working. Apparently, there will be some prebuilt firmware for popular machines available by the time the units actually ship.
Switching hot ends is certainly attractive. But the real value, it seems, would be adding other things. Lasers and pen plotters seem to be a good idea. We aren’t sure a common printer is stiff enough to do anything serious with mechanical CNC, though. The video also mentions the possibility of having a pick and place system in the future.
This seems like a good idea and we’ve seen quick-change carriage designs for some time. The real issue is if the system requires recalibration on each tool change each time. If so, the value of any system like this is limited. We also wondered if there shouldn’t be an option of a serial EEPROM on the tool plates so the firmware could interrogate the tool head for its identity and even store configuration data on the plate itself. Maybe that’ll be version two. Our own [Joshua Vasquez] released his toolchanging platform, Jubilee, late last year that’s worth checking out, too.