Large Format 3D Printer Is A Serious Engineering Challenge

When you want to build a large format 3D printer, you can’t just scale up the design of a desktop machine. In an excellent four-part build series (videos after the break), [Dr. D-Flo] takes us through all the engineering challenges he had to contend with when building a 3D printer with a 4x4x4 ft (1.2 m cube) print volume.

For such a large print volume you won’t be printing with a 0.4 mm nozzle. The heart of the printer is a commercial Massive Dimension MDPH2 pellet extruder, capable of extruding ~1 kg of plastic per hour through 1.5 mm to 5 mm nozzles. To feed the extruder, [Dr. D-Flo] used a Venturi vacuum system to periodically suck pellets from a large hopper. The system is driven by compressed air, which can introduce moisture back into the carefully dried pellets. To reduce the humidity levels, the compressed air passes through a series of vertical aluminum tubes to allow moisture to condense and drain out the bottom.

At 8.4 kg, it needs a powerful motion platform to move it. [Dr. D-Flo] went with a stationary bed design, with the extruder pushed around by seven high torque NEMA23 motors on a large gantry built from C-beam aluminum extrusions. A machine this size needs to be very rigid with well-fitting parts, so [Dr. D-Flo] made heavy use of CNC machined aluminum parts.

To allow dynamic bed leveling, [Dr. D-Flow] made use of a Quad Gantry Leveling (GQL) scheme. This means that each of the four Z-actuators will dynamically adjust its position based on inputs from the leveling probe. The avoid stressing the corner mountings that hold the X-Y gantry to the Z carriage plates, he used radial spherical bearings at the mounting points to allow a few degrees of play.

The build plate consists of an aluminum plate bolted onto the base in 25 positions with springs for adjustability. A massive 6000 watt 220 V heating pad sticks to the bottom, while the actual printing surface is a large sheet of borosilicate glass. One major concern was the deflection of the build plate when heated to working temperature, but with all the adjustment options [Dr. D-Flo] was able to get height variation down to about 0.25 mm. This is within the acceptable range when printing with layer heights of 1 mm or more.

We’ve featured large scale 3D printers in the past, but none are quite as big the University of Maine’s building-sized 3D printer that can print a motorboat in one piece.

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DIY Rocket Mass Heater Build Log For Commercial Greenhouse

[Bigelow Brook Farm] has a cool geodesic dome greenhouse that needs to stay warm in the winter. There are a lot of commercial solutions for greenhouse heating, but if you’re the kind of person who research and develops solutions for aquaponics, a greener solution may have more appeal.

A rocket mass heater is a combination of a rocket stove and underfloor heating. A rocket stove works by having such a strong draft created by the heat rising up the chimney that the flames can’t crawl up the fuel and burn in the open air, creating a controlled burn zone. Unfortunately, with just a plain rocket stove a lot of heat is lost to the atmosphere needlessly. You only need enough to create the draft.

The mass part solves this. It runs the exhaust under the floor and through radiators. This passively retains a lot of heat inside the space to be heated. It’s a bit of a trick to balance the system so it puts as much heat into the space as possible without stalling, which can be dangerous due to carbon monoxide, among other things. Once the balance is achieved the user gets a stove that can burn fuel very effectively and best of all passively.

[Bigelow Brook Farms] have been working on their heater for quite some time. We really enjoy their test driven development and iteration. They have really interesting autopsies when a component of the heater fails and needs replacing. Right now they have a commercial sized operation heated by their latest iteration and it’s completely passive, being gravity fed. Video after the break.

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