3D Metal Printer Uses Welding Wire

If you’ve seen both a fused filament fabrication (FFF) printer and a wire welder, you may have noticed that they work on a similar basic principle. Feedstock is supplied in filament form — aka wire — and melted to deposit on the work piece in order to build up either welds in the case of the welder, or 3D objects in the case of the printer. Of course, there are a number of difficulties that prevent you from simply substituting metal wire for your thermoplastic filament. But, it turns out these difficulties can be overcome with some serious effort. [Dominik Meffert] has done exactly this with his wire 3D printer project.

Extruder cold end using a standard feeder roller

For his filament, [Dominik] chose standard welding wire, and has also experimented with stainless steel and flux-cored wires. Initially, he used a normal toothed gear as the mechanism in the stepper-driven cold end of his Bowden-tube extrusion mechanism, but found a standard wire feeder wheel from a welder worked better. This pinch-drive feeds the wire through a Bowden tube to the hot end.

In thermoplastic 3D printers, the material is melted in a chamber inside the hotend, then extruded through a nozzle to be deposited. Instead of trying to duplicate this arrangement for the metal wire, [Dominik] used a modified microwave oven transformer (MOT) to generate the low-voltage/high-amperage required to heat the wire restively. The heating is controlled through a phase-fired rectifier power controller that modulates the power on the input of the transformer. Conveniently, this controller is connected to the cooling fan output of the 3D printer board, allowing any standard slicer software to generate g-code for the metal printer.

To allow the wire to heat and melt, there must be a complete circuit from the transformer secondary. A standard welding nozzle matching the wire diameter is used as the electrode on the hot end, while a metal build plate serves as the other electrode. As you can imagine, getting the build plate — and the first layer — right is quite tricky, even more so than with plastic printers. In this case, added complications involve the fact that the printed object must maintain good electrical continuity with the plate, must not end up solidly welded down, and the fact that the 1450 °C molten steel tends to warp the plate.

Considering all the issues that have to be solved to make this all work, we are very impressed with [Dominik’s] progress so far! Similar issues were solved years ago for the case of thermoplastic printers by a group of highly-motivated experimenters, and it’s great to see a similar thing starting to happen with metal printing, especially using simple, readily-available materials.

This isn’t the only approach to DIY metal printing, though. We saw one that used electron beam melting (EBM) not too long ago.

Thanks to [Krzysztof] for the tip!

Simple 3D Printed Robotic Arm Uses Compliant Mechanism

Learning through play is effective for humans of all ages, and since 2016 [slantconcepts] has been designing STEM kits that help teach kids to build their future overlords. They are launching version 3 of their LittleArm robotic arm, and the progression from version 1 is an interesting study in simplification and parts count reduction without sacrificing functionality.

In all of the LittleArm versions the main mechanical components are 3D printed, and driven by 3 servos for motion plus one additional servo to run the gripper. These kits are specifically intended to be built and disassembled repeatedly, and classrooms are a great place for small screws to easily disappear, so reducing the number of screws was a big goal for v3. The gripper/forearm shows the most dramatic improvement from the previous versions, being simplified from 8 separate components to a single 3D printed part by using a compliant mechanism — that squiggly pattern that allows the gripper to flex into place. The gripper tips also feature a simple “cutout” that allow it more easily grasp horizontal objects.

An Arduino Nano based expansion board is used to control the arm, with a HC-06 Bluetooth module to allow it to be controlled via a smart phone app. Various sensors can also be added to expand the kit’s capabilities. Unfortunately the mechanical design is not open source, but it can still be a source of inspiration for your own design projects.

Hopefully this kit will inspire some future hackers to build a more advanced 3D printed version, or even a giant hydraulic powered arm.

2019: As The Hardware World Turns

Well, this is it. The end of the decade. In a few days the 2010s will be behind us, and a lot of very smug people will start making jokes on social media about how we’re back in the “Roaring 20s” again. Only this time around there’s a lot more plastic, and drastically less bathtub gin. It’s still unclear as to how much jazz will be involved.

Around this time we always say the same thing, but once again it bears repeating: it’s been a fantastic year for Hackaday. Of course, we had our usual honor of featuring literally thousands of incredible creations from the hacking and making community. But beyond that, we also bore witness to some fascinating tech trends, moments that could legitimately be called historic, and a fair number of blunders which won’t soon be forgotten. In fact, this year we’ve covered a wider breadth of topics than ever before, and judging by the record setting numbers we’ve seen in response, it seems you’ve been just as excited to read it as we were to write it.

To close out the year, let’s take a look at a few of the most popular and interesting stories of 2019. It’s been a wild ride, and we can’t wait to do it all over again in 2020.

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Hackaday Podcast 040: 3D Printed Everything, Strength V Toughness, Blades Of Fiber, And What Can’t Coffee Do?

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams opine on the coolest hacks we saw this week. This episode is heavy with 3D printing as Prusa released a new, smaller printer, printed gearboxes continue to impress us with their power and design, hoverboards are turned into tanks, and researchers suggest you pour used coffee grounds into your prints. Don’t throw out those “toy” computers, they may be hiding vintage processors. And we have a pair of fantastic articles that cover the rise and fall of forest fire watchtowers, and raise the question of where all those wind turbine blades will go when we’re done with them.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (59 MB)

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This Clapperboard Prints Movie Posters

The clapperboard is a device used in video to synchronize audio and video. Its role in movies is well known and its use goes back in one form or another to the 1920s. [Gocivici] is a big movie fan and created a clapperboard that is able to print out posters of recently announced movies when the clapper is clapped.

The poster is not a big, full color job, but rather a black and white one, roughly the size of a movie ticket. [Gocivici] keeps his movie tickets in a journal and wanted to be able to keep small posters in there along with them. A thermal printer is used to print the poster along with the title, the release date, and some information about the movie. In addition to the printer, the hardware involved is a Raspberry Pi, a switch, and an LED. The clapperboard itself is 3d printed and then painted. A bit of metal is used to keep the clappers apart and give a bit of resistance when pressing them together. A nice touch is a metal front, so you can use magnets to keep your posters on the board.

[Gocivici] has detailed build instructions up along with a video (available after the break) showing the printer in action. The 3d models are available as well as the code used to create the posters after grabbing data from TMDb. If you need your clapperboard to be as accurate as possible, take a look at this atomic clock clapperboard.

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Benchmarking A Garbage Disposal Using The 3DBenchy Tugboat

We’ve always had a love-hate relationship with 3DBenchy, the tugboat-shaped 3D printer calibration target. On one hand, it’s incredibly useful to have a common, widely used, and challenging benchmark object to evaluate printer performance and improve tuning, but we’d somehow like to get back the countless frustrated hours we’ve spent trying to get the damn thing perfect with various printers. So, it was with no little joy that we watched the video below by [Eric R Mockler], in which he uses 3DBenchy prints to benchmark his newest acquisition: a new-in-box garbage disposal he scored off Craigslist. Take that, tugboat!

[Eric] is considering using the disposal as the first step in a failed-print-recycling method to ultimately turn the waste back into filament, presumably to print more tugboats. The tiny bits produced by the disposal should provide a reasonable substitute for pelleted plastic feedstock going into a filament extruder, if the disposal is up to the task, that is. Reasoning that any device capable of grinding chicken bones should handle little plastic tugboats just as well, [Eric] gave it shot, and found that the ⅓-horsepower disposal had no problem grinding even 100%-infill PLA prints.

The video is short and to-the-point, so we’ll even excuse the portrait orientation, just this once. If you’re considering recycling your failed prints, too, you’ll also need a filament extruder, and we’ve got you covered with a low-cost version, or a high-throughput one.

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Laser Draws Weather Report

Have you ever wished that a laser could tell you the weather? If you have, then [tuckershannon] has you covered. He’s created a machine that uses a laser and some UV sensitive paper to draw the temperature and a weather icon! And that’s not all! It’s connected to the internet, so it can also show the time and print out messages.

Building on [tuckershannon]’s previous work with glow-in-the-dark drawing, the brains inside this machine is a Raspberry Pi Zero. The laser itself is a 5mw, 405nm laser pointer with the button zip-tied down. Two 28BYJ-48 stepper motors are used to orient the laser, one for the rotation and another for the height angle. Each stepper motor is connected to a motor driver board and then wired directly to the Pi.

The base and arm that holds the laser were designed in SolidWorks and then 3d printed. The stepper motors are mounted perpendicular to one another and then the laser pointer mounted at the end. The batteries have been removed from the laser and the terminals are also wired directly to the raspberry pi. The Pi is then connected to Alexa via IFTTT so that it can be controlled by voice from anywhere.

The real beauty of [tucker]’s laser drawing machine is that is will draw out the temperature and weather icon, as well as drawing the time in either digital or analog forms! We’ve seen [tuckershannon]’s work before. The precursors to this project were his clock which uses a robotic arm with a UV LED on it to draw the time and another clock which uses similar robotic arm only with a laser attached. Let’s hope we get to see the rest of [tucker]’s progress!

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