In the early days of FDM 3D printing, the RepRap project spawned all sorts of weird and and wonderful designs. In the video after the break [dizekat] gives us a throwback to those times with the Marionette 3D printer, completely forgoing linear rails in favor of strings.
The closest thing to a linear guide found on the Marionette is a pane of glass against which the top surface of the print head slides. A pair of stepper motors drive the printhead in the XY-plane, similar in concept to the Maslow CNC router, but in this case two more strings are required to keep the mechanism in tension. To correctly adjust the length of the string across the full range of motion, [dizekat] uses a complex articulating pulley mechanism that we haven’t seen before. The strings are also angled slightly downward from the spool to the print head, holding it in place against the glass.
The bed print bed is also suspended and constrained using string, with no rigid mechanical member attaching it to the frame of the printer. Six strings connected to the sides and bottom of the bed frame constrain it in 6-DOF, and pass through another pulley arrangement to three more strings and finally to a single stepper driven belt.
We can’t see any particular advantage to forgoing the linear rails, especially when the mechanisms have to be this complex, but it certainly make for an interesting engineering challenge. Whatever the reason, the end result is fascinating to watch move, and the print quality even looks decent.
One practical advantage to some cable-based 3d printers is on the large scale, where it can turn an entire room into usable print volume.