It may seem a paradox, but in the future tiny computers may dump electronics and return to their mechanical roots. At the macroscale, mechanical computers are fussy and slow, but when your area is down to a few molecules, electronics have trouble working but mechanical systems do just fine. In addition, these devices don’t use electricity directly, don’t generate electronic signatures, and may be less sensitive to things like radiation that damage electronics. A recent paper in Nature Communications discusses how to 3D print common logic gates using both macro-scale 3D printing techniques and a much smaller version with microstereolithography. You can see a video of gates in action below.
The gates use a bistable flexible mechanism. The larger gates use ABS plastic and measure about 250mm square. The smaller gate measures less than 25 mm square. They also use a special technique to make gates as small as 100 microns theoretically possible, although some of that is future work for the team.
We can make our 3D-printed parts even more capable when we start mixing them with some essential “mechanical vitamins.” By combining prints with screws, nuts, fasteners, and pins, we get a rich ecosystem for mechanism-making with capabilities beyond what we could simply print alone.
Today I’d like to share some tips on one of my favorite functional 3D-printing techniques: adding heat-set inserts. As someone who’s been installing them into plastic parts for years manually, I think many guides overlook some process details crucial to getting consistent results.
Make no mistake; there are a handful of insert guides already out there [1, 2]. (In fact, I encourage you to look there first for a good jump-start.) Over the years though, I’ve added my own finishing move (nothing exotic or difficult) which I call the Plate-Press Technique that gives me a major boost in consistency.
Join me below as I fill in the knowledge gaps (and some literal ones too) to send you back to the lab equipped with a technique that will give you perfectly-seated inserts every time.
Having a great word processor won’t actually help you write the next bestselling novel. It might make it easier, but if you have a great novel in you, you could probably write it on paper towels with a crayon if you had to. A great 3D printer isn’t all you need to make great 3D prints. A lot depends on the model you start with and that software known as a slicer. You have several choices, and now you have one more: PathIO, a slicer sponsored by E3D, is out in beta. You can see a video about its features below.
The software has a few rough edges as you might expect from a beta. The slicer doesn’t feed Gcode to a printer directly, although Octoprint integration is forthcoming. Developers say they are focusing on the slicing engine which is totally new. According to their website, conventional slicers immediately cut a model into 2D slices and then decide how to realize each slice with respect to the shell and infill. Pathio works in 3D space and claims this has benefits for producing correct wall thickness and an increase in self-supporting geometries.
[Steve Martin] used to do a comedy act about “Let’s get small!” You have to wonder if [Paul Klinger] is a fan of that routine, as he recently completed a very small 3D printed PC that plays snake. Ok, it isn’t really a PC and it isn’t terribly practical, but it is really well executed and would make a great desk conversation piece. You can see the thing in all its diminutive glory in the video below.
The 3D printer turned out a tiny PC case, a monitor, and a joystick. The PC contains an ATtiny1614, an RGB LED, and some fiber optic to look like case lighting. The monitor is really a little OLED screen. A 5-way switch turns into the joystick.
[Mark Rehorst] has been busy designing and building 3D printers, and Son of Megamax — one of his earlier builds — needed a bed heater replacement. He took the opportunity to add a Kelvin-type kinematic mount as well. The kinematic mount and base efficiently constrain the bed in a controlled way while allowing for thermal expansion, providing a stable platform that also allows for removal and repeatable re-positioning.
After a short discussion regarding the heater replacement, [Mark] explains the design and manufacture of his kinematic mount. Of particular note are the practical considerations of the design; [Mark] aimed to use square aluminum tubing as much as possible, with machining requirements that were easily done with the equipment he had available. Time is a resource after all, and design decisions that help one get something working quickly have a value all their own.
If you’re still a bit foggy on kinematic mounts and how they work, you’re not alone. Check out our coverage of this 3D-printed kinematic camera mount which should make the concept a bit clearer.
3D printing is cool, but most basic fused deposition printers just print in a single color. This means that if you want a prettier, more vibrant print, you need to paint or perform some other kind of finishing process. Multimaterial printers that can switch filaments on the fly exist, but they often have an issue with waste. [3DMN] decided to attempt building a purge bucket as a solution.
[3DMN] was previously familiar with using a purge block when running multimaterial prints. A basic block model is printed along side the actual desired part. The block is printed so that it is at the same layer height as the desired part, so the nozzle can purge cleanly without stringing plastic all over the print bed.
Tired of the waste, [3DMN] designed a purge bucket which moves with the Z-axis of his Geeetech A20M printer. The bucket attaches to the Z-axis with lock nuts and is always at the same height relative to the nozzle, regardless of the stage of printing. When a material change is required, the nozzle moves to the bucket, purges the filament, and then moves back to the print. The bucket features a 3mm silicone wiper to help ensure there is no material left clinging to the nozzle after the purge is complete, and aluminium tape which helps prevent the purged filament sticking to the walls of the bucket.
[3DMN] notes there’s also a speed increase for some prints, due to no longer needing to print purge objects along with the main part. The parts are available on Thingiverse for those of you wishing to experiment with your own setup.
Multimaterial printing can have some great visual results, and it’s great to see the community providing solutions to improve the process and reduce the waste involved. We’ve also seen filament splicing, which is another unique approach to multimaterial prints. Video after the break.
If you would like to make a 3D print stronger, just add more material. Increase the density of the infill, or add more perimeters. The problem you’ll encounter though is that you don’t need to add more plastic everywhere, only in the weak areas of the part that will be subjected to the most stress. Studying where parts will be the weakest is the domain of finite element analysis, and yes, you can do it in Fusion 360. With the right techniques, you can make a stronger part on your 3D printer, and [Stefan] is here to show you how to do it.
The inspiration for this build comes from [Adrian Bowyer]’s blog, where he talks about adding ‘fibers’ to the interior of 3D printed objects to increase strength. These ‘fibers’ aren’t really fibers at all, but long, thin, cylindrical voids. The theory of this is that the slicer will interpret this as a hole and place perimeters around these voids, effectively increasing the density of the infill in a local area in the print. Combine this with finite element analysis, and you get a part that is stronger where it needs to be, and doesn’t waste plastic.
However, there is an easier way. Fusion 360 and ANSYS Finite Element Simulation are both free-ish tools that allow for some amount of finite element analysis on an imported 3D object. This can be used to find the weakest part of any 3D print, and it can this can be exported as a 3D mesh. Slic3r has a modifier mesh function, and combining this finite element analysis mesh (printed at 100% infill) with the original part (printed at 10% or so infill) results in something that’s strong where it needs to be, doesn’t waste plastic, and is much easier to set up than [Adrian Bowyer]’s ‘fiber’ technique.
After printing a few 3D printed hooks with varying degrees and techniques of infill, [Stefan] found the baseline of 2 perimeters failed in a test hook at about 50kg load. The Smart Infill hook failed at about 100kg. Not bad, and the fancy-pants hook only weighs about 30% more.
You can check out a video of the entire toolchain and testing below. Thanks [Keith] for sending this one in.