Open Source DIY Printers are Alive and Well: What We Saw At ERRF 18

If you follow the desktop 3D printer market, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that nearly every 3D printer on display at the inaugural East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) was made in China. Even Printrbot CEO Brook Drumm had to admit that this was the year his company may finally bite the bullet and begin selling a branded and customized printer built overseas.

When you can get a decent (but let’s be clear, not great) 3D printer for $200 USD, it’s no surprise that American and European manufacturers are having a hard time staying competitive. But not everyone is seduced by low-cost printers. They know they could buy a decent printer for a couple hundred bucks, but for them that’s not the point. Some hackers are just as (if not more) interested in designing and building the machines than they are churning out little plastic boats with the finished product.

Luckily for us, these are also the type of folks who document their builds and make all their collected information and design files available for others under an open source license. Such builders exemplify the true spirit of the RepRap movement, and we’re happy to report that in a sea of imported printers, there were several interesting home built open source printers.

Whether you want to build your own copy of one of these machines, or simply get inspired by some of the ideas their creators had, these machines are physical proof that just because you can order a cheap 3D printer on eBay right now doesn’t mean you have to.

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Delta Printer Morphs into CNC Flat Coil Winder

Anyone who has ever wound a coil by hand has probably idly wondered “How do they do this with a machine?” at some point in the tedious process. That’s about when your attention wanders and the wire does what physics wants it to do, with the rat’s nest and cursing as a predictable result.

There’s got to be a better way, and [Russ Gries] is on his way to finding it with this proof-of-concept CNC flat coil winder. The video below is a brief overview of what came out of an intensive rapid prototyping session. [Russ] originally thought that moving the coil would be the way to go, but a friend put him onto the idea of using his delta-style 3D-printer to dispense the wire. An attachment somewhat like a drag knife was built, but with a wire feed tube and a metal roller to press the wire down onto an adhesive surface. The wire feed assembly went through a few design iterations before he discovered that a silicone cover was needed for the roller for the wire to properly track, and that the wire spool needed to be fed with as little friction as possible. Fusion 360’s CAM features were used to design the tool paths that describe the coils. It seems quite effective, and watching it lay down neat lines of magnet wire is pretty mesmerizing.

We’ve seen a couple of cylindrical coil winding rigs before, but it looks like this is the first flat coil winder we’ve featured. We can’t help but wonder about the applications. Wireless power transfer comes to mind, as do antennas and coils for RF applications. We also wonder if there are ways to use this to make printed circuit boards. Continue reading “Delta Printer Morphs into CNC Flat Coil Winder”

Cable Bots, Arise! Domination of the Universe is at Hand

Most CNC robots people see involve belts and rails, gantries, lead screws, linear bearings, and so forth. Those components need a rigid chassis to support them and to keep them from wobbling during fabrication and adding imperfections to the design. As a result, the scale is necessarily small — hobbyist bots max out at cabinet-sized, for the most part. Their rigid axes are often laid out at Cartesian right angles.

One of the exceptions to this common configuration is the delta robot. Deltas might be the flashiest of CNC robots, moving the end effector on three arms that move to position it anywhere in the build envelope. A lot of these robots are super fast and precise when charged with carrying a light load, and they get put to work as pick-and-place machines and that sort of thing. It doesn’t hurt that delta bots are also parallel manipulators, which means that the motors work together to move the end effector, with one motor pulling while the matching motor pulls.

But while Cartesian CNC bots are sturdy workhorses, and deltas are fly-weight racehorces, neither can really cut it when you want to go gigantic. In terms of simplicity and scale, nothing beats cable bots.

Cable Bots

Cable bots use wires or strings pulled by reel-mounted motors, with dimensions limited only by the room to mount the motors and the tensile strength of the cables used. When the strings are tensioned you can get a surprising degree of accuracy. Why not? Are they not computer-controlled motors? As long as your kinematic chain accounts for the end effector’s movement in one direction by unwinding another cable (for instance) you can very accurately control the end effector over a very wide scale.

The following are some fun cable bots that have caught my eye.

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Winch Bot Records Hacks and Cats

Some people are better than others when it comes to documenting their hacks. Some people, like [Micah Elizabeth Scott], aka [scanlime], set the gold standard with their recordings. Hacking sessions with the Winch Bot have been streamed regularly throughout the build and this is going to lead to a stacking effect in her next projects because the Winch Bot was designed to record hacking sessions. Hacking video inception anyone? Her Winch Bot summary video is after the break.

The first part of this build, which she calls the Tuco Flyer, was [Micah Elizabeth Scott]’s camera gimbal hack which we already covered and is a wonderful learning experience in itself. She refers to the gimbal portion as the “flyer” since it can move around. The Winch Bot contains the stationary parts of the Tuco Flyer and control where the camera will be in the room.

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Mini Delta Gets a Hot End Upgrade

3D printers are now cheaper than ever and Monoprice is at the absolute forefront of that trend. However, some of their printers struggle with flexible filaments, which is no fun if you’ve discovered you have a taste for the material properties of Ninjaflex and its ilk. Fear not, however — the community once again has a solution, in the form of a hot end adapter for the Monoprice Mini Delta.

The Mini Delta is a fantastic low-cost entry into 3D printing but its hot end has a break in the Bowden between the extruder and nozzle. This can lead to flexible filaments not being properly guided through the hot end and a general failure to print. This adapter allows the fitting of the popular E3D V6 hot end, and is similar to modifications out there for other Monoprice printers.

Overall, 3D printing has long benefited from the efforts of the community to bring both incremental improvements and major leaps forward to the technology. We look forward to seeing more hacks on the Monoprice range!

Mini Delta 3D Printer in Action at the Monoprice Booth

When I was at Bay Area Maker Faire a few weekends ago I stopped by the Monoprice booth to chat with [Chris Apland], their head of 3D Printing. Earlier in the week, the company had just announced preorders for their new $169 delta-style 3D printer called the MP Mini Delta.

[Brian Benchoff] covered that launch and I don’t have a lot of details about the machine itself to add. I saw it in action, printing tiny waving cat models. The stock printer can use ABS or PLA and has a build volume of 110mm in diameter and 120mm tall and these preorder units (being sold through Indegogo) will begin shipping in August.

What was of interest is to hear the shipping estimates the Monoprice team is throwing around. Chris told me that their conservative estimate is that 20,000 of these printers will ship through this preorder, but he is optimistic that by the end of the fourth quarter they’ll be closer to 100,000 units. That is incredible.

Part of the promise here is the out of the box functionality; [Chris] mentioned having a printed cat in your hands within 5 minutes. If it can actually do that without the need for setup and calibration that’s impressive. But I know that even seasoned printing veterans are interested in seeing how fast they can run this tiny delta and still turn out quality prints.

You’ll find the video interview after the break.

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Printing Bed Off-Kilter? Blu-Tack To The Rescue!

For all their applications, 3D printers can be finicky machines. From extruder problems, misaligned or missing layers, to finding an overnight print turned into a tangled mess, and that’s all assuming your printer bed is perfectly leveled. [Ricardo de Azambuja’s] new linear delta printer was frustrating him. No matter what he did, it wouldn’t retain the bed leveling calibration, so he had to improvise — Blu-Tack to the rescue.

It turns out [Azambuja]’s problem was so bad that the filament wouldn’t even attempt to adhere to the printing bed. So, he turned to Printrun Pronterface and a combination of its homing feature and the piece-of-paper method to get a rough estimate of how much the bed needed to be adjusted — and a similar estimate of how big of a gob of Blu-Tack was needed.

Pressing the bed into place, he re-ran Pronterface to make sure he was on the level. [Azambuja] notes that you would have to redo this for every print, but it was good enough to print off a trio of bed leveling gears he designed so he doesn’t have to go through this headache again for some time.

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