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Remembering Sanjay Mortimer, Pioneer And Visionary In 3D Printing

Over the weekend, Sanjay Mortimer passed away. This is a tremendous blow to the many people who he touched directly and indirectly throughout his life. We will remember Sanjay as pioneer, hacker, and beloved spokesperson for the 3D printing community.

If you’ve dabbled in 3D printing, you might recall Sanjay as the charismatic director and co-founder of the extrusion company E3D. He was always brimming with enthusiasm to showcase something that he and his company had been developing to push 3D printing further and further. But he was also thoughtful and a friend to many in the community.

Let’s talk about some of his footprints.

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E3D On Patents And Not Being Evil About Them

In our community it’s certain that there will be many people with very strong views about patents. It’s fair to say that the patents system is at times not fit for purpose, with such phenomena as patent trolls, submarine patents, and patent war chests doing nothing but leading it into disrepute. So it’s interesting to read the words of 3D printer hotend manufacturer E3D, as they talk about why they feel the need to patent some of their inventions, and how they intend to proceed with them.

The result is a no-nonsense explanation of why their work being reproduced by overseas competitors has brought them to this point, and in short: they’re patenting very specific inventions rather than broad catch-alls, they are making what they call a legally binding promise not to enforce the patents against non-commercial or academic experimenters, and they will continue to open-source as much as they can.

Will it work for them, or is it the start of a slippery slope? We can see why the E3D folks have taken this step, and we hope that they will continue to act in a responsible manner. If not, as those who have followed the maker-oriented 3D printing business for a long time will know: treading the line between open-source and closed-source can be fraught with danger.

Fail Of The Week: The Metal Hot End Upgrade

My son, Patrick, has observed on more than one occasion that I do not like 3D printing. That may sound odd, because I built a printer back in 2012 and since then I’ve built a lot of printers and I currently have at least three in my lab. But Patrick correctly realized that I don’t actually enjoy printing things that I need. What I do enjoy is building, fixing and even more importantly improving the printers themselves. If you are reading Hackaday, you probably know how that is. This is the story of an upgrade gone bad, although the ending is happy enough. If you’ve ever thought about moving from a traditional hot end to an all-metal hot end, you might want to hear me out and maybe I can save you some trouble.

A few years ago, I picked up an Anet A8 for a really low price. As printers go, it is adequate. Not bad, but not amazing. But it is a fun printer because you really need to do some work on it to brace the acrylic frame and fix other shortcomings. I merrily improved the printer quite a bit over a relatively short period of time and I also bought a bunch of aluminum extrusion to rebuild the frame to the AM8 plans you can find on Thingiverse.

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Get A Better Look At E3D’s Tool-changing 3D Printer Kit

Want a closer, in-depth look at E3D’s motion system and tool-changing platform? [Kubi Sertoglu] shared his impressions after building and testing the system, which comes in the form of a parts bundle direct from E3D costing just under $3000 USD. The project took [Kubi] about 15 hours and is essentially built from the ground up. The system is definitely aimed at engineers and advanced prosumers, but [Kubi] found it to be of remarkable quality, and is highly pleased with the end results.

E3D Motion system and toolchanger, with four extruders

We first saw E3D’s design announced back in 2018, when they showed their working ideas for a system that combined motion control and a toolchanger design. The system [Kubi] built uses four 3D printing extruders for multi-material prints, but in theory the toolheads could just as easily be things like grippers, lasers, or engravers instead of 3D printing extruders.

One challenge with tool changing is ensuring tools mount and locate back into the same place, time after time. After all, a few fractions of a millimeter difference in the position of a print head would spell disaster for the quality of most prints. Kinematic couplings are the answer to being sure something goes back where it should, but knowing the solution is only half the battle. Implementation still requires plenty of clever design and hard engineering work, which is what E3D has delivered.

Want a closer look at the nitty-gritty? Check out E3D’s GitHub repository for all the details on their toolchanger and motion system.

Scratch Built 3D Printer Goes Big

There was a time, not so very long ago, that buying a reliable 3D printer was a fairly expensive proposition. Many chose to build their own printer instead, and for a few years, we were flooded with very impressive custom designs. But as you might expect, with the prices on decent 3D printers now having hit rock bottom, the custom builds have largely dried up.

Arguably, the only reason you’d build rather than buy in 2020 is if you want something very specific. Which is precisely how [Joshendy] ended up building the Big F… Printer or BFP. No doubt the F stands for Fun, or Friendly. Either way, it’s certainly something special. With a 300 mm³ build volume and heavy-duty Z axis, this fully enclosed CoreXY machine is ready to handle whatever he throws at it.

It did take [Joshendy] a few attempts to get everything the way he wanted though. In fact, the prototype for the machine wasn’t even CoreXY, it started as an H-Bot. In his write-up he goes over the elements of the BFP did that didn’t quite live up to his expectations, and what he replaced them with. So when wobbly leadscrews and a knock-off V6 hotend both left something to be desired, they ended up getting replaced with ball screws and an authentic E3D Hemera, respectively.

To control this monster, [Joshendy] is using OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi and a BigTreeTech SKR Pro running Klipper. OctoPrint gives him the ability to control and monitor the printer remotely, complete with a camera mounted inside the enclosure to keep an eye on things, while the Klipper firmware on the SKR board pushes all the computationally expensive aspects of 3D printing onto the vastly more powerful ARM chip in the Pi. The end result is faster and more accurate control of the steppers through the TMC2130 drivers than would be possible otherwise.

If you don’t mind tinkering, a cheap entry-level desktop 3D printer is good enough for most of hackers and makers. If you need something more capable or more reliable, there’s always higher-end options from the likes of Prusa and Ultimaker. Very few people need to build something as serious as the BFP, but when the do, we’re glad they send them our way.

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E3D Teaches Additive 3D-Printers How To Subtract

We might’ve thought that extrusion based 3D printers have hit their peak in performance capabilities. With the remaining process variables being tricky to model and control, there’s only so much we can expect on dimensional accuracy from extruded plastic processes. But what if we mixed machines, adding a second machining process to give the resulting part a machined quality finish? That’s exactly what the folks at E3D have been cooking up over the last few years: a toolchanging workflow that mixes milling and 3D printing into the same process to produce buttery smooth part finishes with tighter dimensional accuracy over merely 3D printing alone.

Dubbed ASMBL (Additive/Subtractive Machining By Layer), the process is actually the merging of two complimentary processes combined into one workflow to produce a single part. Here, vanilla 3D printing does the work of producing the part’s overall shape. But at the end of every layer, an endmill enters the workspace and trims down the imperfections of the perimeter with a light finishing pass while local suction pulls away the debris. This concept of mixing og coarse and fine manufacturing processes to produce parts quickly is a re-imagining of a tried-and-true industrial process called near-net-shape manufacturing. However, unlike the industrial process, which happens across separate machines on a large manufacturing facility, E3D’s ASMBL takes place in a single machine that can change tools automatically. The result is that you can kick off a process and then wander back a few hours (and a few hundred tool changes) later to a finished part with machined tolerances.

What are the benefits of such an odd complimentary concoction, you might ask? Well, for one, truly sharp outer corners, something that’s been evading 3D printer enthusiasts for years, are now possible. Layer lines on vertical surfaces all but disappear, and the dimensional tolerances of holes increases as the accuracy of the process is more tightly controlled (or cleaned up!) yielding parts that are more dimensionally accurate… in theory.

But there are certainly more avenues to explore with this mixed process setup, and that’s where you come in. ASMBL is still early in development, but E3D has taken generous steps to let you build on top of their work by posting their Fusion 360 CAM plugin, the bill-of-materials and model files for their milling tool, and even the STEP files for their toolchanging motion system online. Pushing for a future where 3d printers produce the finer details might just be a matter of participating.

It’s exciting to see the community of 3D printer designers continue to rethink the capabilities of its own infrastructure when folks start pushing the bounds beyond pushing plastic. From homebrew headchanging solutions that open opportunity by lowering the price point, to optical calibration software that makes machines smarter, to breakaway Sharpie-assisted support material, there’s no shortage of new ideas to play with in an ecosystem of mixed tools and processes.

Have a look at ASMBL at 2:29 in their preview after the break.

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E3D Tool Changer Partially Reviewed

[Design Prototype Test] got a box in the mail. Inside? An E3D “tool changer and motion system.” Superficially, it looks like a 3D printer, but it is touted as a machine that can mount several different kinds of tools, including a 3D print head. In the video below, you can see the assembly of the heavy-looking machine.

In a world in which a cheap 3D printer costs way under $200, this machine is much sturdier and costs about $3,000 with all the pieces. [Design Prototype Test] is a bit put out by the price, but you have to wonder if they aren’t trying to allow for an eventual CNC head for which the extra-sturdy build could be an advantage. However, the use of motion belts makes that seem like a long shot.

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