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.

Continue reading “Scratch Built 3D Printer Goes Big”

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.

Continue reading “E3D Teaches Additive 3D-Printers How To Subtract”

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.

Continue reading “E3D Tool Changer Partially Reviewed”

E3D’s Love Letter To Toolchanging 3D Printers

It’s been just over a year since E3D whetted our appetites for toolchanging printers. Now, with the impending release of their first toolchanging system, they’ve taken the best parts of their design and released them into the wild as open source. Head on over to Github for a complete solution to exchanging, locating, and parking tools on a 3D printer.

For anyone interested in fabricating the design, the files are in a format that you can almost re-zip and email to a manufacturer for quotes. As is, the repository offers STP-style CAD files, a complete set of dimensioned drawings, exploded views, and even a bill of materials. Taken as a whole, the system elegantly solves the classic problems that we’d encounter in toolchanging. Locking tools is done with a spring-based T-bar that swivels onto an wedge-shaped groove on the back of each tool plate. Locating tools is done so with a 3-groove kinematic coupling fabriacted from dowel pins. With these problems solved and presented so cleanly, these files become a path by which we can establish a common means for exchanging tools on 3D printer systems.

It’s worth asking: why develop an exceptional design and then release it for free? I’ll speculate that E3D has done an excellent job over the years establishing a well-recognized standard set of stock parts. Nearly every 3D printer builder is bound to have at least one spare V6 hotend sitting idle in a disassembled pool of former-3D-printers. With tool-changing positioned to become another step forward in the space of possibilities with 3D printing, setting the standard for tools early encourages the community to continue developing applications that lean on E3D’s ecosystem of parts.

In the last 30 years, 3D printing has transformed away from a patent-trolling duopoly to a community-friendly group of contributors that lean on each other’s shoulders with shared findings. It’s a kind gesture to the open-source community of machine builders to receive such a feature-complete mechanism. With that said, let’s start rolling the toolchanger hacks.

High Detail 3D Printing With An Airbrush Nozzle

On a fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer, the nozzle size dictates how small a detail you can print. Put simply, you can’t print features smaller than your nozzle for the same reason you’d have trouble signing a check with a paint roller. If the detail is smaller than the diameter of your tool, you’re just going to obliterate it. Those who’ve been around the block a few times with their desktop 3D printer may have seen this come up in practice when their slicer refused to print lines which were thinner than the installed nozzle (0.4mm on the vast majority of printers).

Smaller nozzles exist for those looking to improve their printer’s detail on small objects, but [René Jurack] wasn’t happy with just putting a finer nozzle on a stock E3D-style hotend. In his opinion it’s still a hotend and arrangement intended for 0.4mm printing, and doesn’t quite fully realize the potential of a smaller diameter nozzle. After some experimentation, he thinks he’s found the solution by using airbrush nozzles.

As [René] sees it, the hotend is too close to the subject being printed when using nozzles finer than 0.4mm. Since you’re working on tiny objects, the radiant heat from the body of the hotend being only a few millimeters away is enough to deform what you’re working on. But using the long and tapered airbrush nozzle, the hotend is kept at a greater distance from the print. In addition, it gives more room for the part cooling fan to hit the print with cool air, which is another critical aspect of high-detail FDM printing.

Of course, you can’t just stick an airbrush nozzle on your E3D and call it a day. As you might expect, they are tiny. So [René] designed an adapter that will let you take widely available airbrush nozzles and thread them into an M6 threaded hotend. He’s now selling the adapters, and judging by the pictures he posted, we have to say he might be onto something.

If you’re more about brute strength than finesse, you might be interested in outfitting your E3D with a ruby nozzle instead.

Continue reading “High Detail 3D Printing With An Airbrush Nozzle”

ERRF 18: Slice Engineering Shows Off The Mosquito

With few exceptions, it seemed like every 3D printer at the first inaugural East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) was using a hotend built by E3D. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; E3D makes solid open source products, and they deserve all the success they can get. But that being said, competition drives innovation, so we’re particularly interested anytime we see a new hotend that isn’t just an E3D V6 clone.

The Mosquito from Slice Enginerring is definitely no E3D clone. In fact, it doesn’t look much like any 3D printer hotend you’ve ever seen before. Tiny and spindly, the look of the hotend certainly invokes its namesake. But despite its fragile appearance, this hotend can ramp up to a monstrous 500 C, making it effectively a bolt-on upgrade for your existing machine that will allow you to print in exotic materials such as PEEK.

We spent a little time talking with Slice Engineering co-founder [Dan], and while there’s probably not much risk it’s going to dethrone E3D as the RepRap community’s favorite hotend, it might be worth considering if you’re thinking of putting together a high-performance printer.

Continue reading “ERRF 18: Slice Engineering Shows Off The Mosquito”