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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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Prusa XL Goes Big, But That’s Only Half The Story

For a few years now it’s been an open secret that Prusa Research was working on a larger printer named, imaginatively enough, the Prusa XL. Positioned at the opposite end of their product spectrum from the wildly popular Prusa Mini, this upper-tier machine would be for serious hobbyists or small companies that need to print single-part objects that were too large for their flagship i3 MK3S+ printer. Unfortunately, the global COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for the Czech company to focus on bringing a new product to market, to the point that some had begun to wonder if we’d ever see this mythical machine.

But now, finally, the wait is over. Or perhaps, it’s just beginning. That’s because while Prusa Research has officially announced their new XL model and opened preorders for the $1,999+ USD printer, it’s not expected to ship until at least the second quarter of 2022. That’s already a pretty substantial lead time, but given Prusa’s track record when it comes to product launches, we wouldn’t be surprised if early adopters don’t start seeing their machines until this time next year.

So what do you get for your money? Well, not an over-sized Prusa i3, that’s for sure. While many had speculated the XL would simply be a larger version of the company’s popular open source printer with a few modern niceties like a 32-bit control board sprinkled in, the reality is something else entirely. While the high purchase price and ponderous dimensions of the new machine might make it a tough sell for many in the hacker and maker communities, there’s little question that the technical improvements and innovations built into the Prusa XL provide a glimpse of the future for the desktop 3D printer market as a whole.

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Can A 3D Printer Print Better Filament For Itself?

3D printed parts are generally no way near the strength of an equivalent injection moulded part and techniques such as a sustained heat treatment, though effective usually distort the part beyond use.

[CNC Kitchen] was investigating the results (video, embedded below) of a recent paper, that described a novel ABS filament reinforced by a “star” shaped Polycarbonate core, an arrangement the authors claim is resilient to deformation during the annealing process often necessary to increase part strength. While the researchers had access to specialised equipment needed to manufacture such a composite material, [CNC Kitchen’s] solution of simply using his dual extruder setup to directly print the required hybrid filament is something we feel, strongly resonates with the now old school, RepRap “print your printer” sentiment.

The printed filament seems to have reasonable dimensional accuracy and passing the printed spool through a heater block without the nozzle attached, ensured there would be no obvious clogs. The rest of the video focuses on a very thorough comparison of strength and deformation between the garden variety Polycarbonate, ABS and this new hybrid filament after the annealing process. Although he concludes with mixed results, just being able to combine and print your own hybrid filament is super cool and a success in its own right!

Interested in multi-material filaments? Check out our article on a more conventional approach which does not involve printing it yourself!

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Giant 3D Printer For Giant Projects

Established FDM 3D printers designs generally lead themselves well to being scaled up, as long as you keep frame stiffness, alignment and movement in mind. [Ivan Miranda] needed a big printer for his big projects (videos below), so he built his own i3 style printer with a 800 mm × 500 mm usable print bed and about 500 mm vertical print height.

The frame of the new machine is built using 20×20 and 20×40 aluminium V-slot extrusions with some square tubing for reinforcement. To move all the weight, all 3 axes are driven by double NEMA17 steppers, via a DUET3D board with an expansion board for the extra motors. The extruder is the new E3D Hemera with a 0.8 mm nozzle. The print bed is a mirror, on top of the aluminium plate, headed by a large silicone heat pad. The first bed version used a smaller heat pad directly on the back of the mirror, but it heated up unevenly and the mirror ended up cracking. Look out for the ingeniously lightweight and simple cable management to the extruder. When all was said and done he printed a 800 mm long size 66 wrench as a test piece with zero warp, which is pretty good even for PLA. This project is also a perfect example of the power of 3D printing for rapid iterative development, as lot of the printed fittings went through multiple versions.

Although [Ivan] received most of the components for free, a printer like this is still within reach of the rest of us. We look forward to a lot of big prints by [Ivan] in his signature red, like a massive nerf gun and the ridable tank he is currently working on. Continue reading “Giant 3D Printer For Giant Projects”

Robot Vs. Superbug

Working in a university or research laboratory on interesting, complicated problems in the sciences has a romanticized, glorified position in our culture. While the end results are certainly worth celebrating, often the process of new scientific discovery is underwhelming, if not outright tedious. That’s especially true in biology and chemistry, where scaling up sample sizes isn’t easy without a lot of human labor. A research group from Reading University was able to modify a 3D printer to take some of that labor out of the equation, though.

This 3D printer was used essentially as a base, with the printing head removed and replaced with a Raspberry Pi camera. The printer X/Y axes move the camera around to all of the different sample stored in the print bed, which allows the computer attached to the printer to do most of the work that a normal human would have had to do. This allows them to scale up massively and cheaply, presumably with less tedious inputs from a large number of graduate students.

While the group hopes that this method will have wide applicability for any research group handling large samples, their specific area of interest involves researching “superbugs” or microbes which have developed antibiotic resistance. Their recently-published paper states that any field which involves bacterial motility, colony growth, microtitre plates or microfluidic devices could benefit from this 3D printer modification.

Infinite Build Volume With RepRap On Wheels

The average 3D printer is a highly useful tool, great for producing small plastic parts when given enough time. Most projects to build larger 3D printed objects use various techniques to split them into smaller parts which can fit inside the limited build volume of most Cartesian-based printers. However, there’s no reason a printer need sit inside a box, and no reason a printer can’t roam about, either. Hence, we get the RepRap HELIOS on wheels.

[Nicholas Seward] created the HELIOS and entered it into the Hackaday Prize in 2017, using a SCARA arm to build a printer with a large build volume and no moving steppers. One of [Nicholas]’s students then did a test, in which the HELIOS was mounted on an angled motorized cart, giving the printer potentially infinite build volume in one axis.

[Nicholas] expects the current basic setup to be capable of prints 200mm wide, 100mm high, and theoretically infinite length. There’s also potential to enable the device to create large curved parts by allowing the printer to steer itself with independently controlled motors.

There’s more work to be done, particularly to allow the printer to locate itself relative to its work space to avoid dimensional issues on large prints, but the preliminary results are highly impressive. We’ve seen other infinite volume printers, too – like this build using a conveyor belt design. Video after the break.

[Thanks to smerrett79 for the tip!]

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The 3D Printed Plotter You Didn’t Know You Needed

We’ve been seeing an influx of repurposed 3D printers recently. Thrifty hackers have been leveraging cheap 3D printers as a way to bootstrap their builds, on everything from laser engravers to pick and place machines. There’s nothing wrong with that, and honestly when you can get a cheap 3D printer for less than the cost of the components separately thanks to the economies of scale, you’d be foolish not to.

But there’s still something to be said for the classic RepRap mentality of building things using printed parts and smooth rods. Case in point, the largely 3D printed plotter that [darth vader] sent in for our viewing pleasure. This isn’t somebody sicking a pen on the extruder of their open box Monoprice special, this is a purpose built plotter and it shows. In the video after the break you can see not only how well it draws, but also how large of a work area it has compared to a modified 3D printer.

If you know your way around a 3D printer, most of it should look pretty familiar to you. Using the same GT2 belts, steppers, end stop switches, and linear bearings which are ubiquitous in 3D printers, it shouldn’t be difficult to source the parts to build your own. It even uses a Mega 2560 with RAMPS 1.4 running Marlin 1.1.9 for control.

The biggest difference is the physical layout. Since there’s no heavy hotend or extruder assembly to move around, the plotter has a cantilever design which gives it far greater reach. As it only needs to sightly lift the pen off the paper, there’s no need for a complex Z axis with leadscrews either; a simple servo mounted to the end of the arm is used to raise and lift the pen. We especially like the use of a tape measure as strain relief for his wiring, a fantastic tip that we (and many of you) fell in love with last year.

While it’s hard to beat just tossing a pen onto the business end of your desktop 3D printer in terms of convenience, we think it’s pretty clear from this build that the results don’t quite compare. If you want a real plotter, build a real plotter.

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