SLA printer rigged for time lapse

Silky Smooth Resin Printer Timelapses Thanks To Machine Vision

The fascination of watching a 3D printer go through its paces does tend to wear off after you spent a few hours doing it, in which case those cool time-lapse videos come in handy. Trouble is they tend to look choppy and unpleasant unless the exposures are synchronized to the motion of the gantry. That’s easy enough to do on FDM printers, but resin printers are another thing altogether.

Or are they? [Alex] found a way to make gorgeous time-lapse videos of resin printers that have to be seen to be believed. The advantage of his method is that it’ll work with any camera and requires no hardware other than a little LED throwie attached to the build platform of the printer. The LED acts as a fiducial that OpenCV can easily find in each frame, one that indicates the Z-axis position of the stage when the photo was taken. A Python program then sorts the frames, so it looks like the resin print is being pulled out of the vat in one smooth pull.

To smooth things out further, [Alex] also used frame interpolation to fill in the gaps where the build platform appears to jump between frames using real-time intermediate flow estimation, or RIFE. The details of that technique alone were worth the price of admission, and the results are spectacular. Alex kindly provides his code if you want to give this a whack; it’s almost worth buying a resin printer just to try.

Is there a resin printer in your future? If so, you might want to look over [Donald Papp]’s guide to the pros and cons of SLA compared to FDM printers.

Continue reading “Silky Smooth Resin Printer Timelapses Thanks To Machine Vision”

Resin print before and after paint injection.

Resin 3D Prints Get A New Look With Paint Injection

As cool as resin-based 3D printers are, they’re not without their shortcomings. One sore point, especially for those looking to document their prints, is that the translucent resins often favored for stereolithography can make the finest details difficult to see. Injecting paint into the model is how [Andrew Sink] decided to attack this problem, and the results are pretty striking.

For sure, this isn’t a problem that everyone making resin prints is going to face. Some resins are nicely opaque, and the fine details of a print show up just fine. But transparent resins lend a nice look to some projects, and might benefit from [Andrew]’s technique. It’s pretty much as simple as it sounds: choose a hollow model — or modify an existing one — print it up in the usual way, and clean thoroughly inside and out with isopropanol before curing under UV. Using a curing station that can get UV light up into the voids is probably a smart idea.

To finish off, the cured model is injected with acrylic paint. Nothing special here, just craft store acrylic in a syringe. [Andrew] seemed to prefer a thicker paint; we don’t want to second guess, but intuitively a thinner paint would seem to have some advantages. In any case, be sure to provide adequate vent holes for the displaced air. The video below has a few before and after shots, and the technique really works well to show off surface detail. Plus it just plain looks cool.

This seems like a good technique to keep in mind, and might even work well for hollow FDM prints done with transparent filaments. Still on the fence about FDM vs. SLA? We can help with that.

Continue reading “Resin 3D Prints Get A New Look With Paint Injection”

Full Size 3D-Printed Wind Turbine

Wind energy isn’t quite as common of an alternative energy source as solar, at least for small installations. It’s usually much easier just to throw a few panels and a battery together than it is to have a working turbine with many moving parts that need to be maintained when only a small amount of power is needed. However, if you find yourself where the wind blows but the sun don’t shine, there are a few new tools available to help create the most efficient wind turbine possible, provided you have a 3D printer.

[Jan] created this turbine with the help of QBlade, a piece of software that helps design turbine blades. It doesn’t have any support for 3D printing though, such as separating the blades into segments, infill, and attachment points, so [Jan] built YBlade to help take care of all of this and made the software available on the project’s GitHub page. The blades are only part of this story, though. [Jan] goes on to build a complete full-scale wind turbine that can generate nearly a kilowatt of power at peak production, although it does not currently have a generator attached and all of the energy gets converted to heat.

While we hope that future versions include a generator and perhaps even pitched blades to control rotor speed, [Jan] plans to focus his efforts into improving the blade design via the 3D printer. He is using an SLA printer for these builds, but presumably any type of printer would be up to the task of building a turbine like this. If you need inspiration for building a generator, take a look at this build which attempted to adapt a ceiling fan motor into a wind turbine generator.

 

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Hackaday Links: May 23, 2021

The epicenter of the Chinese electronics scene drew a lot of attention this week as a 70-story skyscraper started wobbling in exactly the way skyscrapers shouldn’t. The 1,000-ft (305-m) SEG Plaza tower in Shenzhen began its unexpected movements on Tuesday morning, causing a bit of a panic as people ran for their lives. With no earthquakes or severe weather events in the area, there’s no clear cause for the shaking, which was clearly visible from the outside of the building in some of the videos shot by brave souls on the sidewalks below. The preliminary investigation declared the building safe and blamed the shaking on a combination of wind, vibration from a subway line under the building, and a rapid change in outside temperature, all of which we’d suspect would have occurred at some point in the 21-year history of the building. Others are speculating that a Kármán vortex Street, an aerodynamic phenomenon that has been known to catastrophically impact structures before, could be to blame; this seems a bit more likely to us. Regardless, since the first ten floors of SEG Plaza are home to one of the larger electronics markets in Shenzhen, we hope this is resolved quickly and that all our friends there remain safe.

In other architectural news, perched atop Building 54 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge for the last 55 years has been a large, fiberglass geodesic sphere, known simply as The Radome. It’s visible from all over campus, and beyond; we used to work in Kendall Square, and the golf-ball-like structure was an important landmark for navigating the complex streets of Cambridge. The Radome was originally used for experiments with weather radar, but fell out of use as the technology it helped invent moved on. That led to plans to remove the iconic structure, which consequently kicked off a “Save the Radome” campaign. The effort is being led by the students and faculty members of the MIT Radio Society, who have put the radome to good use over the years — it currently houses an amateur radio repeater, and the Radio Society uses the dish within it to conduct Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) microwave communications experiments. The students are serious — they applied for and received a $1.6-million grant from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) to finance their efforts. The funds will be used to renovate the deteriorating structure.

Well, this looks like fun: Python on a graphing calculator. Texas Instruments has announced that their TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator uses a modified version of CircuitPython. They’ve included seven modules, mostly related to math and time, but also a suite of TI-specific modules that interact with the calculator hardware. The Python version of the calculator doesn’t seem to be for sale in the US yet, although the UK site does have a few “where to buy” entries listed. It’ll be interesting to see the hacks that come from this when these are readily available.

Did you know that PCBWay, the prolific producer of cheap PCBs, also offers 3D-printing services too? We admit that we did not know that, and were therefore doubly surprised to learn that they also offer SLA resin printing. But what’s really surprising is the quality of their clear resin prints, at least the ones shown on this Twitter thread. As one commenter noted, these look more like machined acrylic than resin prints. Digging deeper into PCBWay’s offerings, which not only includes all kinds of 3D printing but CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, and even injection molding services, it’s becoming harder and harder to justify keeping those capabilities in-house, even for the home gamer. Although with what we’ve learned about supply chain fragility over the last year, we don’t want to give up the ability to make parts locally just yet.

And finally, how well-calibrated are your fingers? If they’re just right, perhaps you can put them to use for quick and dirty RF power measurements. And this is really quick and really dirty, as well as potentially really painful. It comes by way of amateur radio operator VK3YE, who simply uses a resistive dummy load connected to a transmitter and his fingers to monitor the heat generated while keying up the radio. He times how long it takes to not be able to tolerate the pain anymore, plots that against the power used, and comes up with a rough calibration curve that lets him measure the output of an unknown signal. It’s brilliantly janky, but given some of the burns we’ve suffered accidentally while pursuing this hobby, we’d just as soon find another way to measure RF power.

Xolography: A Method To Improve The Accuracy Of Volumetric 3D Printing

Over the past years, additive manufacturing (AM) has become a common tool for hackers and makers, with first FDM and now SLA 3D printers becoming affordable for the masses. While these machines are incredibly useful, they utilize a slow layer-by-layer approach to produce objects. A relatively new technology called Volumetric Additive Manufacturing (VAM) promises to change all that by printing the entire object in one go, and according to a recent article in Nature, it just got a big resolution boost.

The concept is similar to SLA printing, but instead of curing the resin by projecting a 2D image of the current layer into the container, VAM uses multiple lasers to create intersecting points within the liquid. After exposing the resin to this projection for several seconds, the 3D model is built all at once. Not only is this far faster, but it removes the need for support materials and even a traditional build plate is unnecessary.

Visualization of the dual-color printing process as used by Regehly et al. (Credit: Nature)

Up till now the resolution and maximum object size of VAM has left a lot to be desired, but in this new research by Regehly et al. claim to have accomplished a feature resolution of ‘up to 25 micrometers’ and a solidification rate of ‘up to 55 cm3/s’. They used two crossing laser beams of different wavelengths, one to form the ‘light sheet’ (blue in the graphic) and a second beam (in red) to project the slide onto this light sheet. They refer to this technique as ‘xolography’, as a mesh-up of ‘holo’ (Greek for ‘whole’) and the ‘X’ shape formed by the crossing laser beams.

Key to making this work is the chemistry of the resin: the first wavelength excites the molecules called DCPI (Dual-Color Photo Initiators) that are dissolved in the resin. The second wavelength when hitting the same molecules initiates the resin polymerization process. The object pictured at the top of the page was a test print; producing such a design on a traditional 3D printer would have required a considerable amount of difficult to remove support material.

While this is obviously not a technology hobbyists will be using to replace their FDM and SLA printers with any time soon, there are still many companies and institutes working on various VAM technologies and approaches. As more and more of the complexities and challenges are dealt with, who knows when VAM may become a viable replacement for at least some SLA applications?

Thanks to [Qes] for the tip.

How To Get Into Lost Wax Casting (with A Dash Of 3D Printing)

I’ve always thought that there are three things you can do with metal: cut it, bend it, and join it. Sure, I knew you could melt it, but that was always something that happened in big foundries- you design something and ship it off to be cast in some large angular building churning out smoke. After all, melting most metals is hard. Silver melts at 1,763 °F. Copper at 1,983 °F. Not only do you need to create an environment that can hit those temperatures, but you need to build it from materials that can withstand them.

Turns out, melting metal is not so bad. Surprisingly, I’ve found that the hardest part of the process for an engineer like myself at least, is creating the pattern to be replicated in metal. That part is pure art, but thankfully I learned that we can use technology to cheat a bit.

When I decided to take up casting earlier this year, I knew pretty much nothing about it. Before we dive into the details here, let’s go through a quick rundown to save you the first day I spent researching the process. At it’s core, here are the steps involved in lost wax, or investment, casting:

  1. Make a pattern: a wax or plastic replica of the part you’d like to create in metal
  2. Make a mold: pour plaster around the pattern, then burn out the wax to leave a hollow cavity
  3. Pour the metal: melt some metal and pour it into the cavity

I had been kicking around the idea of trying this since last fall, but didn’t really know where to begin. There seemed to be a lot of equipment involved, and I’m no sculptor, so I knew that making patterns would be a challenge. I had heard that you could 3D-print wax patterns instead of carving them by hand, but the best machine for the job is an SLA printer which is prohibitively expensive, or so I thought. Continue reading “How To Get Into Lost Wax Casting (with A Dash Of 3D Printing)”

More LEDs Means Faster Print Times For 3D Printer, But There’s A Catch

[Jan Mrázek] is no stranger at all to home-grown improvements with his Elegoo Mars SLA 3D printer, and there is a lot going on in his experimental multi-LED upgrade which even involved casting his own lens array. In the end it did speed up his prints by a factor of three to four, though he cooked an LCD to failure in the process. Still, it was a fun project done during a COVID-19 lockdown; as usual there is a lot to learn from [Jan]’s experiences but the mod is not something he necessarily recommends people do for themselves.

[Jan] started by wondering whether better print quality and performance could be obtained by improving the printer’s UV light source. The stock printer uses a single large UV LED nestled into a reflector, but [Jan] decided to try making a more precise source of UV, aiming to make the UV rays as parallel as possible.

Custom LED array molded in clear epoxy.

To do this, he took a two-pronged approach. One was to replace the single large UV LED with a 4×7 array of emitters plus heat sink and fans. The other was to make a matching array of custom lenses to get the UV rays as parallel as possible.

Casting one’s own lens array out of clear epoxy was a lot of work and had mixed results, but again, it was a lockdown project and the usual “is-this-really-worth-it” rules were relaxed. In short, casting a single custom lens out of clear epoxy worked shockingly well, but when [Jan] scaled it up to casting a whole 4×7 array of them, results were mixed. Mold deformation and artifacts caused by the areas between individual lenses robbed the end result of much of its promise.

More success was had with the array of UV emitters, which enabled faster curing thanks to higher power, but the heat needs to be managed. The stock emitter of the printer is about 30 W, and [Jan] was running his new array at 240 W. This meant a blazing fast one second exposure time per layer, but the heat generated by the new lighting was higher than anticipated. After only ten hours the LCD failed, probably at least in part due to the heat. [Jan] halved the power of the array down to 120 W and added an extra fan, which appears to have done the trick. Exposure time is two to three seconds per layer, and it’s up to 150 hours of printing without problems.

Again, it’s not a process [Jan] necessarily recommends to others (and he definitely recommends buying lenses if at all possible instead of casting them) but as usual there is a lot to learn from his frank sharing of results, both good and bad. We’ve seen 3D-printed lenses as well as adding WiFi connectivity to one of these hobbyist printers, and it’s great to see the spirit of hacking alive and well when it comes to these devices.