Add-On Lets FDM 3D Printer Wash And Cure Resin Parts

The dramatic price reductions we’ve seen on resin 3D printers over the last couple of years have been very exciting, as it means more people are finally getting access to this impressive technology. But what newcomers might not realize is that the cost of the printer itself is only part of your initial investment. Resin printed parts need to be washed and cured before they’re ready to be put into service, and unless you want to do it all by hand, that means buying a second machine to do the post-printing treatment.

Not sure he wanted to spend the money on a dedicated machine just yet, [Chris Chimienti] decided to take an unusual approach and modify one of his filament-based 3D printers to handle wash and cure duty. His clever enclosure slips over the considerable Z-axis of a Anet ET5X printer, and includes banks of UV LEDs and fans to circulate the air and speed up the drying process.

Looking up into the curing chamber.

The curing part is easy enough to understand, but how does it do the washing? You simply put a container of 70% isopropyl alcohol (IPA) on the printer’s bed, and place the part to be washed into a basket that hangs from the printer’s extruder. Custom Python software is used to generate G-code that commands the printer to dip the part in the alcohol and swish it back and forth to give it a good rinse.

Once the specified time has elapsed, the printer raises the part up into the enclosure and kicks on the LEDs to begin the next phase of the process. The whole system is automated through an OctoPrint plugin, and while the relatively low speed of the printer’s movement means the “washing” cycle might not be quite as energetic as we’d like, it’s definitely a very slick solution.

[Chris] provides an extensive overview of the project in the latest video on his YouTube channel, Embrace Racing. In it he explains that the concept could certainly be adapted for use on printers other than the Anet ET5X, but that it’s considerable build volume makes it an ideal candidate for conversion. Of course it’s also possible to use the foam board enclosure by itself as a curing chamber, though you’ll still need to wash the part in IPA ahead of time.

This is perhaps one of the most unusual wash and cure systems we’ve seen here at Hackaday, but we appreciate the fact that [Chris] based the whole thing on the idea that you’ve probably got a FDM printer sitting nearby that otherwise goes unused when you’re working with resin. If that’s not the case for you, putting together a more traditional UV curing chamber is an easy enough project.

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How To Make Resin Prints Crystal Clear

[Matou] has always been entranced by the beauty of natural crystal formations [and has long wished for a glowing crystal pendant]. Once he got a resin-based 3D printer, he was majorly disappointed to find out that although transparent resin prints look like delicious candy when they’re still wet, they turn cloudy and dull after being washed in an isopropyl bath and cured with UV light. There must be a way to either polish pieces back to clear, or keep them clear in the first place, [Matou] thought, and set about experimenting with some test crystals (video, embedded below).

As [Matou] found out, the dullness is caused by surface imperfections. Resin prints have layer lines, too, and although they may be super fine and invisible to the naked eye, they will still scatter light. The choices seem obvious — either polish the proud parts down with many grits of sandpaper, or fill the valleys with something to smooth everything out. As you’ll see in the video after the break, [Matou] tried it all, including a coat of the same resin that made the print. It’s an interesting look at the different ways to smooth out resin prints, though you may not be surprised to find that the one with the most work put into it looks the best.

We were hoping to see [Matou] try a green LED in the pendant, but it didn’t happen. If you’re dying to know what that looks like, you can get one of these pendants for yourself by supporting [Matou] on Patreon.

We think crystals are pretty cool, too — especially crystal radios. Here’s the hack-iest one of those we’ve ever seen, free of charge.

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Off-The-Shelf Parts Make A Tidy Heater For Resin Printer

Resin printers can offer excellent surface finish and higher detail than other 3D printing technologies, but they come with their own set of drawbacks. One is that they’re quite sensitive to temperature, generally requiring the resin chamber to be heated to 25-30 degrees Celsius for good performance. To help maintain a stable temperature without a lot of mucking around, [Grant] put together a simple chamber heater for his printer at home.

Rather than go for a custom build from scratch with a microcontroller, [Grant] was well aware that off-the-shelf solutions could easily do the job. Thus, a W1209 temperature control board was selected, available for under $5 online. Hooked up to a thermocouple, it can switch heating elements via its onboard relay to maintain the set temperature desired. In this case, [Grant] chose a set of positive-temperature coefficient heating elements to do the job, installing them around the resin chamber for efficiency.

The heater can preheat the chamber in under fifteen minutes, much quicker than other solutions using space heaters or heat mats. The time savings will be much appreciated by [Grant], we’re sure, along with the attendant increase in print quality.  If you’re still not sure if resin printing is for you, have a read of our primer. And, if you’ve got your own workflow improvements for resin printing, drop us a line!

Inspire Dev Kit Drops Price Of MSLA Printer To Just $30

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen massive price reductions on consumer 3D printers based on masked stereolithography (MSLA) technology. As the name implies, these machines use a standard LCD panel to selectively mask off the ultraviolet light coming from an array of LEDs. Add in a motorized Z stage, and you’ve got a simple and cheap way of coaxing UV resin into three dimensional shapes. These days, $200 USD can get you a turn-key MSLA printer with resolution far beyond the capabilities of filament-based FDM machines.

But [JD] still thinks we can do better. His project aims to produce a fully-functional MSLA printer for $30, and perhaps as low as $15 if manufactured in sufficient quality. He believes that by making high-resolution 3D printing more accessible, it will allow users all over the globe to bring their ideas to life. It’s no wonder he’s calling his machine the Inspire 3D Printer.

A test fixture for the LCD module.

This isn’t just some pie in the sky concept rolling around in [JD]’s head, either. You can order the Inspire Development Kit right now for just $30, though he makes it clear what you’ll receive isn’t quite a functional MSLA printer. By leveraging a common LCD module, the ESP32, and several 3D printed parts, he’s proven his price point for the kit is achievable; but there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done before the machine is ready for the general public.

For one thing, he’s still working the kinks out of the Z movement. The current design is 3D printed, but [JD] says he’s not quite happy with the amount of slop in the movement and is considering replacing the entire thing with the linear actuator from an optical drive. We’ve already seen these parts reused for accurately positioning lasers, so there’s certainly precedent for it. The firmware for the ESP32 is also in its infancy, and currently only allows the user to print from a selection of simple hard-coded shapes as a proof of concept.

We’ve seen DIY attempts at resin printers in the past, but they’ve often been based on more complex techniques involving projectors or UV lasers. Masked stereolithography is much more approachable for the home gamer, and projects like the Inspire 3D Printer show just how little it really takes to pull solid objects out of a puddle of goo.

Adding Remote Control To The Elegoo Mars Pro

Recent price drops put entry level masked stereolithography (MSLA) resin 3D printers at around $200 USD, making them a very compelling tool for makers and hackers. But as you might expect, getting the price this low often involves cutting several corners. One of the ways manufacturers have made their machines so cheap is by simplifying the electronics and paring down the feature set to the absolute minimum.

So it was hardly a surprise for [Luiz Ribeiro] to find that his new Elegoo Mars Pro didn’t offer WiFi connectivity or a remote control interface. You’re supposed to just stick a USB flash drive into the printer and select the object you want to print from its menu system. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t hack the capability in himself.

Monitoring a print with Mariner.

If this were a traditional 3D printer, he might have installed OctoPrint and been done with it. But resin printers are a very different beast. In the end, [Luiz] had to develop his own remote control software that worked around the unique limitations of the printer’s electronics. His software runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero and uses Linux’s “USB Gadget” system to make it appear as a flash drive when plugged into the USB port on the Elegoo Mars Pro.

This allows sending object files to the printer over the network, but there was a missing piece to the puzzle. [Luiz] still needed to manually go over to the printer and select which file he wanted to load from the menu. Until he realized there was an exposed serial port on control board that allowed him to pass commands to the printer. Between the serial connection and faux USB Mass Storage device, his mariner software has full control over the Mars Pro and is able to trigger and monitor print jobs remotely.

It might not offer quite the flexibility of adding OctoPrint to your FDM 3D printer, but it’s certainly a start.

Hand-Stitched Keycaps For Truly Luxurious Typing

We’ve seen some very unique custom keycaps recently, but nothing quite like the embroidered ones that [Billie Ruben] has been experimenting with. Using a clever 3D printed design, she’s crafted what could well be one of the most easily customizable keycaps ever made…assuming you’ve got a needle and thread handy.

The idea is to take a standard keycap blank and pop an array of 25 holes in the face. Your thread or yarn is run through these holes, allowing you to create whatever shape you wish within the 5 x 5 matrix. While it’s somewhat tight quarters on the underside of the cap, nothing prevents you from using multiple colors or even materials to do your stitching. As an added bonus, the soft threads should provide a very comfortable and particularly tactile surface to tap on.

Now the most obvious application is to simply stitch up versions of all the alphanumeric keys, but there’s clearly room for some interpretation here. [Billie] has already shown off some simple iconography like a red heart and we’re sure creative folks will have no trouble coming up with all sorts of interesting needlepoint creations to top their prized mechanical keyboards.

The intricate details necessary to make this idea work may be beyond the common desktop FDM 3D printer, so [Billie] ran these prototypes off on a resin printer (she attributes the visible layer lines to a hasty print). She’d love to hear feedback from other keyboard aficionados who’ve made the leap to liquid goo printing, so be sure to drop her a line if you print out a set of your own. It sounds like a new version is in the works which will provide a false bottom to cover the stitching from below, but functionally these should get you started.

Review Of The Moai SLA 3D Printer

It is funny how we always seem to pay the same for a new computer. The price stays the same, but the power of the computer is better each time. It would appear 3D printers may be the same story. After all, it wasn’t long ago that sinking a thousand bucks or more on a 3D printer wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. Yet today you can better printers for a fraction of that and $1,300 will buy you an open source Moai SLA printer as a kit. [3D Printing Nerd] took a field trip to MatterHackers to check the machine out and you can see the results in the video below.

The printer uses a 150 mW laser to make parts up to 130 mm by 130 mm by 180 mm. The laser spot size is 70 micron (compare that to the typical 400 micron tip on a conventional printer). The prints require an alcohol bath after they are done followed by a UV curing step that takes a few hours.

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