3D Printing In Five Axes Makes The World Flat

Just when you thought your 3D printer was hot stuff, along comes a 5D printer. Two doctoral students at Penn State want to add two more axes to get rid of overhangs. This means that instead of supports or breaking objects into pieces, the printer simply orients the print so each region of the part is printing as if it were flat. Of course, 5D printers aren’t really new, even though you don’t hear much about them. However, the paper details a new algorithm that eliminates manually defining print regions and rotations.

You do this all the time manually when you’re setting the print up. For example, if you want to print a letter T, you could print it with supports under the cross pieces or flip it upside down and print it with no support at all. The difference here is the printer can flip the workpiece itself to different angles and can change it on the fly during printing. The printer might print the shaft of the T, rotate it to draw half of the crossbar, then rotate it 180 degrees to print the other half. In all three zones, the print head is depositing materials flat with no overhang. In a simple case like a T that doesn’t really require a special machine or an algorithm, but in the general case, you often can’t just rotate a model to avoid using supports.

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TabFS Makes Your Browser A File System

Like Unix, old-fashioned Linux has the philosophy that everything should look like a file. That paradigm works well and most of the operating system’s core features follow that pattern. However, many modern additions don’t really treat things as files or, at least, not files you can easily manipulate with the other tools. [Omar Rizwan] has a handy Chrome extension, though, that will make your browser tabs look like part of your file system. Not only is it a novel idea, but it is also surprisingly handy.

The extension feels like a bit of a proof of concept, so installation is a bit rough, but it does work and it allows you to do things that you would otherwise have to write an extension or a sophisticated program to screen scrape which is always less than desirable.

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Companies Have New Take On Old Energy Storage Tech

According to Spectrum, several companies are poised to make a splash storing energy with gravity. That sounds fancy and high tech at first, but is it, really? Sure, we usually think of energy storage as some sort of battery, but there are many energy storage systems that use water falling, for example, which is almost what this new technology is all about. Almost, since instead of water these new systems move around multi-ton blocks.

The idea itself is nothing new. You probably learned in high school that you have kinetic energy when a rock rolls down a hill, but a rock sitting on a mountain immobile has potential energy. These systems use the same idea. Moving the “rock” up stores energy and letting it fall releases the same energy. The big difference between the systems is what “up” means.

For Swiss company Energy Vault, the 35 metric ton bricks rise into the air manipulated by towers that look like alien construction cranes. To store energy, the crane builds a tower of bricks around itself. When the bricks return to the ground, they form a lower ring around the tower.

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The Day The Russians And Americans Met 135 Miles Up

If you watched the original Star Trek series, you’d assume there was no way the Federation would ever work with the Klingons. But eventually the two became great allies despite their cultural differences. There was a time when it seemed like the United States and Russia would never be friends — as much as nations can be friends. Yet today, the two powers cooperate on a number of fronts.

One notable area of cooperation is in spaceflight, and that also was one of the first areas where the two were able to get together in a cooperative fashion, meeting for the first time in orbit, 135 miles up.  The mission also marks the ultimate voyage of the Apollo spacecraft, a return to space for the USSR’s luckiest astronauts, and the maiden flight of NASA’s oldest astronaut. The ability to link US and Soviet capsules in space would pave the way for the International Space Station.  The Apollo-Soyuz mission was nothing if not historic, but also more relevant than ever as more nations become spacefaring. Continue reading “The Day The Russians And Americans Met 135 Miles Up”

Checking In On Low-Cost CNC Machines

Low cost 3D printers have come a long way in the last few years, but have entry-level CNC machines improved by the same leaps and bounds? That’s what [ModBot] recently set out to find. Despite getting burned pretty badly on a cheap CNC a few years back, he decided to try again with a sub $400 machine from FoxAlien. You can see his full review after the break.

The machine looks very similar to other generic CNC machines you see under many brand names, sometimes for a good bit less. The 3018 number is a giveaway that the work area is 30×18 cm and a quick search pulled up several similar machines for just a bit more than $200. The FoxAlien did have a few nice features, though. It has a good-looking build guide and an acrylic box to keep down the shaving debris in your shop. There are also some other nice touches like a Z-axis probe and end stops. If you add those items to the cut-rate 3018 machines, the FoxAlien machine is pretty price competitive when you buy it from the vendor’s website. The Amazon page in the video shows $350 which is a bit more expensive but does include shipping.

As with most of these cheap CNC machines, one could argue that it’s more of an engraver than a full mill. But on the plus side, you can mount other tools and spindles to get different results. You can even turn one of these into a diode laser cutter, but you might be better off with something purpose-built unless you think you’ll want to switch back and forth often.

This reminded us of a CNC we’ve used a lot, the LinkSprite. It does fine for about the same price but we are jealous of the enclosure. Of course, half the fun of owning something like this is hacking it and there are plenty of upgrades for these cheap machines.

Laser Etching Stainless Steel With Mustard

[Brain] wanted to mark some scissors with his Ortur laser engraver. The problem? The laser won’t cut into the hard metal of the scissors. His solution? Smear the scissors with mustard. No kidding. We’ve heard of this before, and apparently, you can use vinegar, as well, but since the mustard is a paste it is easier to apply. You can see the result in the video, below.

In case you think you don’t need to watch because we’ve already told you the trick, you should know that [Brian] also goes into a lot of detail about preparing single line fonts to get a good result, among a few other tips like improvements to his air assist setup. On a laser cutter, the air assist blows away charred material leaving a clear field of view between the laser and the remaining uncut material. Using a proper air assist can really expand the capabilities of these inexpensive laser cutters — something we recently saw upgraded with a 3D-printed air assist nozzle.

You can buy a commercial marking solution called CerMark Black, but you probably already have mustard. If you are super cheap, you can probably pick up a packet next time you buy a burger somewhere. After all, you don’t need much. Although the video talks about the Ortur, this technique would work with any engraver. We’ve also heard you can do something similar with plaster and alcohol.

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Metal Plating Plastic Or Metal Parts

Like most of us, [Clem] wants to 3D print in metal. Metal 3D printers do exist, but they are generally way out of reach for most of us garage hackers. As an alternative, [Clem] uses a homebrew electroplating system to get prints with a metallic coating.

The setup is quite simple. Small glass jars to act as the plating tanks and the machine uses an Arduino controller along with a PCB to hold things like a relay to control the 24V used for electroplating. To keep everything tidy, [Clem] designed a 3D printed box that stores all the cables and chemicals when you aren’t using them. Since the parts might get hot, the plastic is PETG.

The trick is that parts need to be conductive in order to use electroplating — typically plastic isn’t conductive. [Clem] paints the plastic parts to grant them conductivity. Graphite paint didn’t give great results. However, an iron-based paint worked better but obscures detail on the print. In addition to galvanization (plating with zinc or steel) you can see copper plating of a nail at around the 12 minute mark, with a plastic plating demo a minute later. The machine can even plate gold using an expensive gold-bearing electrolyte. In the video comments, someone also mentioned that it would be interesting to try plating conductive filament without using the paint. [Clem] tried to remove rust from a big part, but the power supply wasn’t up to the task.

Copper plating is often used as a step to make a part conductive so you can then plate with another metal. In addition to copper sulfate, you can use copper acetate. Sometimes, getting metal into fine details can be tough and it is easier to use a pen to plate those areas directly.

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