A Featherweight Direct Drive Extruder In A Class Of Its Own

Even a decade later, homebrew 3D printing still doesn’t stop when it comes to mechanical improvements. These last few months have been especially kind to lightweight direct-drive extruders, and [lorinczroby’s] Orbiter Extruder might just set a paradigm for a new kind of direct drive extruder that’s especially lightweight.

Weighing in at a mere 140 grams, this setup features a 7.5:1 gear reduction that’s capable of pushing filament at speeds up to 200 mm/sec. What’s more, the gear reduction style and Nema 14 motor end up giving it an overall package size that’s smaller than any Nema 17 based extruder. And the resulting prints on the project’s Thingiverse page are clean enough to speak for themselves. Finally, the project is released as open source under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike license for all that (license-respecting!) mischief you’d like to add to it.

This little extruder has only been around since March, but it seems to be getting a good amount of love from a few 3D printer communities. The Voron community has recently reimagined it as the Galileo. Meanwhile, folks with E3D Toolchangers have been also experimenting with an independent Orbiter-based tool head. And the Annex-Engineering crew has just finished a few new extruder designs like the Sherpa and Sherpa-Mini, successors to the Ascender, all of which derive from a Nema 14 motor like the one in the Orbiter. Admittedly, with some similarity between the Annex and Orbiter designs, it’s hard to say who inspired who. Nevertheless, the result may be that we’re getting an early peek into what modern extruders are starting to shape into: smaller steppers and more compact gear reduction for an overall lighter package.

Possibly just as interesting as the design itself is [lorinczroby’s] means of sharing it. The license terms are such you can faithfully replicate the design for yourself, provided that you don’t profit off of it, as well as remix it, provided that you share your remix with the same license. But [lorinczroby] also negotiated an agreement with the AliExpress vendor Blurolls Store where Blurolls sells manufactured versions of the design with some proceeds going back to [lorinczroby].

This is a clever way of sharing a nifty piece of open source hardware. With this sharing model, users don’t need to fuss with fabricating mechanically complex parts themselves; they can just buy them. And buying them acts as a tip to the designer for their hard design work. On top of that, the design is still open, subject to remixing as long as remixers respect the license terms. In a world where mechanical designers in industry might worry about having their IP cloned, this sharing model is a nice alternative way for others to both consume and build off of the original designer’s work while sending a tip back their way.

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Robot Joints Go Modular With This Actuator Project

[John Lauer] has been hard at work re-thinking robot arms. His project to create modular, open source actuators that can be connected to one another to form an arm is inspiring, and boasts an impressively low parts cost as well. The actuators are each self-contained, with an ESP32 and a design that takes advantage of the form factors of inexpensive modules and parts from vendors like Aliexpress.

Flex spline in action, for reducing backlash

Each module has 3D printed gears (with an anti-backlash flex spline), an RGB LED for feedback, integrated homing, active cooling, a slip ring made from copper tape, and a touch sensor dial on the back for jogging and training input. The result is a low backlash, low cost actuator that keeps external wiring to an absolute minimum.

Originally inspired by a design named WE-R2.4, [John] has added his own twist in numerous ways, which are best summarized in the video embedded below. That video is number three in a series, and covers the most interesting developments and design changes while giving an excellent overview of the parts and operation (the video for part one is a basic overview and part two shows the prototyping process, during which [John] 3D printed the structural parts and gears and mills out a custom PCB.)

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Rover V2 Handles Stairs As Easily As The Outdoors

Rover V2 is an open-source, 3D-printable robotic rover platform that has seen a lot of evolution and development from its creator, [tlalexander]. There are a number of interesting things about Rover V2’s design, such as the way the wheel hubs themselves contain motors and custom planetary gearboxes. This system is compact and keeps weight down low to the ground, which helps keep a rover stable. The platform is all wheel drive, and moving parts like the suspension are kept high up, as far away from the ground as possible. Software is a custom Python stack running on a Raspberry Pi that provides basic control.

The Rover V2 is a full mechanical redesign of the previous version, which caught our attention with its intricate planetary gearing inside the wheel hubs. [tlalexander]’s goal is to create a robust, reliable rover platform for development that, thanks to its design, can be mostly 3D printed and requires a minimum of specialized hardware.

Gorgeous Engineering Inside Wheels Of A Robotic Trail Buddy

Robots are great in general, and [taylor] is currently working on something a bit unusual: a 3D printed explorer robot to autonomously follow outdoor trails, named Rover. Rover is still under development, and [taylor] recently completed the drive system and body designs, all shared via OnShape.

Rover has 3D printed 4.3:1 reduction planetary gearboxes embedded into each wheel, with off the shelf bearings and brushless motors. A Raspberry Pi sits in the driver’s seat, and the goal is to use a version of NVIDA’s TrailNet framework for GPS-free navigation of paths. As a result, [taylor] hopes to end up with a robotic “trail buddy” that can be made with off-the-shelf components and 3D printed parts.

Moving the motors and gearboxes into the wheels themselves makes for a very small main body to the robot, and it’s more than a bit strange to see the wheel spinning opposite to the wheel’s hub. Check out the video showcasing the latest development of the wheels, embedded below.

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