Cleaner Laser Cutting With A 3D-Printed Nozzle

[Nervous System] does a lot of laser cutting, and [Jesse] shared a fascinating experimental improvement to their laser cutter that consists of a 3D-printed nozzle for cleaner cuts. You can see the results for yourself above, where the difference between the two cuts is striking.

[Jesse]’s modification doesn’t affect the laser beam itself; it is an improvement on the air assist, which is the name for a constant stream of air that blows away smoke and debris as the laser burns and vaporizes material. An efficient air assist is one of the keys to getting nice clean laser cuts, but [Jesse] points out that a good quality air assist isn’t just about how hard the air blows, it’s also about how smoothly it does so. A turbulent air assist can make scorch marks worse, not better.

3D-printed nozzle to promote laminar air flow on the left, stock nozzle on the right.

As an experiment to improve the quality of the air flowing out the laser nozzle, [Jesse] researched ways to avoid turbulence by creating laminar flow. Laminar flow is the quality of a liquid having layers flowing past one another with little or no mixing. One way to do this is to force liquid through individual, parallel channels as it progresses towards a sharply-defined exit nozzle. While [Jesse] found no reference designs of laminar flow nozzles for air assists, there were definitely resources on making laminar flow nozzles for water. It turns out that interest in such a nozzle exists mainly as a means of modifying Lonnie Johnson’s brilliant invention, the Super Soaker.

Working from such a design, [Jesse] created a custom nozzle to help promote laminar flow. Sadly, a laser cutter head carries design constraints that make some compromises unavoidable; one is limited space, and another is the need to keep the laser’s path unobstructed. Still, after 3D printing it in rigid heat-resistant resin, [Jesse] found a dramatic improvement in the feel of the air exiting the nozzle. Some test cuts confirmed a difference in performance, which results in a noticeably cleaner kerf without scorching around the edges.

One of the things [Nervous System] does is make their own custom puzzles, so any improvement to laser cutting helps reliability and quality. When production is involved, just about everything matters; a lesson [Nervous System] shared when they discussed making the best plywood for creating their puzzles.

Unconventional Drone Uses Gas Thrusters For Control

You’ve got to hand it to [Tom Stanton] – he really thinks outside the box. And potentially outside the atmosphere, to wit: we present his reaction control gas thruster-controlled drone.

Before anyone gets too excited, [Tom] isn’t building drones for use in a vacuum, although we can certainly see a use case for such devices. This is more of a hybrid affair, with counter-rotating props mounted in a centrally located duct providing the lift and the yaw control. Flanking that is a triangular frame supporting three two-liter soda bottle air reservoirs, each of which supplies a down-firing nozzle at each apex of the triangle. Solenoid valves control the flow of compressed air from the bottles to the nozzles, providing thrust to stabilize the roll and pitch axes. As there aren’t many off-the-shelf flight control systems set up for reaction control, [Tom] had to improvise thruster control; an Arduino watches the throttle signals normally sent to a drone’s motors and fires the solenoids when they get to a preset threshold. It took some tuning, but [Tom] was eventually able to get a stable, untethered hover. And he’s right – the RCS jets do sound amazing when they’re firing, as long as the main motors are off.

This looks as though it has a lot of potential, and we’d love to see it developed more. It reminds us a bit of this ducted-prop drone, another great example of stretching conventional drone control concepts to the limit.

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Assessing Nozzle Wear In 3D-Printers

How worn are your nozzles? It’s a legitimate question, so [Stefan] set out to find out just how bad 3D-printer nozzle wear can get. The answer, as always, is “It depends,” but exploring the issue turns out to be an interesting trip.

Reasoning that the best place to start is knowing what nozzle wear looks like, [Stefan] began by printing a series of Benchies with brand-new brass nozzles of increasing diameter, to simulate wear. He found that stringing artifacts, interlayer holes, and softening of overhanging edges and details all worsened with increasing nozzle size. Armed with this information, [Stefan] began a torture test of some cheap nozzles with both carbon-fiber filament and a glow-in-the-dark filament, both of which have been reported as nozzle eaters. [Stefan] found that to be the case for at least the carbon-fiber filament, which wore the nozzle to a nub after extruding only 360 grams of material.

Finally, [Stefan] did some destructive testing by cutting used nozzles in half on the mill and looking at them in cross-section. The wear on the nozzle used for carbon-fiber is dramatic, as is the difference between brand-new cheap nozzles and the high-quality parts. Check out the video below and please sound off in the comments if you know how that peculiar spiral profile was machined into the cheap nozzles.

Hats off to [Stefan] for taking the time to explore nozzle wear and sharing his results. He certainly has an eye for analysis; we’ve covered his technique for breaking down 3D-printing costs in [Donald Papp]’s  “Life on Contract” series.

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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.

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3D Printed Variable Area Jet Nozzle

If you’ve ever seen the back end of a military jet, you’ve likely seen variable area nozzles. They’re used to adjust the exhaust flow out of the rear of a jet engine during supersonic flight and while the afterburner is engaged. Commercial aircraft, with the exception of the Concorde, don’t need such fancy hardware since a static exhaust nozzle works well enough for the types of flying they’ll be doing. For much the same reasons, RC aircraft don’t need variable area nozzles either, but it doesn’t keep builders from wanting them.

Which brings us to this utterly gorgeous design by [Marco Colucci]. Made up of 23 individual PETG parts, this variable area nozzle is able to reduce its diameter by 50% with just a twist of the rotating collar. When paired with a hobby servo, this mechanism will allow the operator to adjust the nozzle aperture with an extra channel on their RC transmitter. The nozzle hasn’t flown yet, but a test run is being planned with a 40mm Electric Ducted Fan (EDF) motor. But thanks to the parametric design, it shouldn’t be a problem to scale it up to larger motors.

But the big question: does it have an effect on the EDF’s performance? The answer is, of course, no. This doesn’t actually do anything. An EDF motor has no need for this sort of nozzle, and even if you tried to fit this on a scale jet engine, it would melt in seconds from the exhaust temperature. This is purely a decorative item, to give the plane a more accurate scale look. To that end, it looks fantastic and would definitely be impressive on the back of a large scale RC military fighter.

If anything, [Marco] says he expects performance to be worse with the nozzle fitted. Not only is it adding dead weight to the plane, but restricting the air coming out of the back of the fan isn’t going to do anything but reduce thrust. But on the bright side: if it’s flying slower, it will be easier to see how awesome your adjustable nozzles look.

This isn’t the first time somebody’s tried to make an electric RC plane look like it’s packing a proper turbine, but it certainly might be one of the slickest. Only way to top this is to build an actual jet engine for the thing.

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Want A Leak-Proof Camper? Better Fire Up The 3D Printer Now.

Ah, the great outdoors.  Rejuvenating air rife with mosquitoes and other nasties, and spending some time hanging out in the woods sleeping in a 3D printed camper. Wait– what was that last one again?

Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A Canadian team headed by [Randy Janes] of Wave of the Future 3D, printed a camper at [Create Cafe] in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, using high-flow nozzles on one of the largest 3D printers in North America. These layers are 10.3mm thick!!

This trailer is one single printed piece, taking 230 hours — nine and a half days — of straight printing with only a few hangups. Weighing 600lbs and at 13 feet long by six feet wide — approximately 507 cubic feet, this beats the previous record holder for largest single piece indoor print in size by three times over.

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LED Illusion Makes Colorful Water Drops Defy Gravity

The 60s and 70s were a great time for kitschy lighting accessories. Lava lamps, strobes, color organs, black light posters — we had it all. One particularly groovy device was an artificial rain display, where a small pump dripped mineral oil over vertical monofilament lines surrounding a small statue, with the whole thing lighted from above in dramatic fashion. If it sounds appalling, it was, and only got worse as the oil got gummy by accumulating dust and debris.

While this levitating water drops display looks somewhat similar, it has nothing to do with that greasy lamp of yore. [isaac879]’s “RGB time fountain” is actually a lot more sophisticated and pretty entrancing to watch. The time fountain idea is simple — drip water from a pump nozzle to a lower receptacle along a path that can be illuminated with flashing LEDs. Synchronizing the flashes to the PWM controlling pump speed can freeze the drops in place, or even make them appear to drip up. [isaac879] took the time fountain idea a step further by experimenting with RGB illumination, and he found that all sorts of neat effects are possible. The video below shows all the coolness, like alternating drops of different colors that look like falling — or rising — paint drops, and drops that merge together to form a new color. And behold, the mysterious antigravity cup that drips up and yet gets filled!

Allowances must be made for videos of projects that use strobes, of course. The effect of this time fountain and similar ones we’ve featured before is hard to capture, but this one still looks great to us.

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