3D Print Springs With Hacked GCode

If you’ve used a desktop 3D printer in the past, you’re almost certainly done battle with “strings”. These are the wispy bits of filament that harden in the air, usually as the printer’s nozzle moves quickly between points in open air. Depending on the severity and the material you’re printing with, these stringy interlopers can range from being an unsightly annoyance to triggering a heartbreaking failed print. But where most see an annoying reality of pushing melted plastic around, [Adam Kumpf] of Makefast Workshop sees inspiration.

Noticing that the nozzle of their printer left strings behind, [Adam] wondered if it would be possible to induce these mid-air printing artifacts on demand. Even better, would it be possible to tame them into producing a useful object? As it turns out it is, and now we’ve got the web-based tool to prove it.

As [Adam] explains, you can’t just load up a 3D model of a spring in your normal slicer and expect your printer to churn out a useful object. The software will, as it’s designed to do, recognize the object can’t be printed without extensive support material. Now you could in theory go ahead and print such a spring, but good luck getting the support material out.

The trick is to throw away the traditional slicer entirely, as the layer-by-layer approach simply won’t work here. By manually creating GCode using carefully tuned parameters, [Adam] found it was possible to get the printer to extrude plastic at the precise rate at which the part cooling fan would instantly solidify it. Then it was just a matter of taking that concept and applying it to a slow spiral motion. The end result are functional, albeit not very strong, helical compression springs.

But you don’t have to take their word for it. This research has lead to the creation of an online tool that allows you to plug in the variables for your desired spring (pitch, radius, revolutions, etc), as well as details about your printer such as nozzle diameter and temperature. The result is a custom GCode that (hopefully) will produce the desired spring when loaded up on your printer. We’d love to hear if any readers manage to replicate the effect on their own printers, but we should mention fiddling with your printer’s GCode directly isn’t without its risks: from skipping steps to stripped filament to head crashes.

The results remind us somewhat of the 3D lattice printer we featured a couple of years back, but even that machine didn’t use standard FDM technology. It will be interesting to see what other applications could be found for this particular technique.

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More Suspension Than Necessary

The triangular frame of a traditional mountain bike needs to be the most rigid structure, and a triangle can be a very sturdy shape. So [Colin Furze] throws a spanner in the works, or, in this case, a bunch of springs. The video is below the break, but please try to imagine you are at a party, eyeballing some delicious salsa, yet instead of a tortilla chip, someone hands you a slab of gelatin dessert. The bike is kind of like that.

Anyone who has purchased springs knows there are a lot of options and terminology, such as Newton meters of force, extension, compression, and buckling. There is a learning curve to springs so a simple statement, for example “I want to make a bicycle of springs,” doesn’t have any easy answers. It is a lot like saying, “I want to make a microprocessor out of transistors“. This project starts with springs roughly the diameter of the old bike tubes, and it is a colossal failure. Try using cooked spaghetti noodles to make a bridge.

The first set of custom springs are not up to the task, but the third round produces something rideable. The result seems to be a ridiculous way to exercise your abs and is approximately a training unicycle mated with a boat anchor.

What makes this a hack? The video is as entertaining as anything [Colin] has made, but that does not make it a hack by itself. The hack is that someone asked a ridiculous question, possibly within reach of alcohol, and the answer came by building the stupid thing. A spring-bicycle could have been simulated six ways from Sunday on an old Android phone, but the adventure extracted was worth the cost of doing it in real life.

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3D Printed Vice Holds Dev Boards Beside Breadboard

The Stickvise has been a staple of the Hackaday community for a while now. If you need something held for soldering there’s no better low-cost helping hand. But if you’re just using a breadboard and a dev board of some sort, there’s another vice on the horizon that uses similar spring clamping to hold everything in place while you build something awesome.

BreadboardVise1-croppedWhile [Pat]’s inspiration came from the aforementioned Stickvise, the new 3d-printed vice is just what you’ll need before you’re ready to do the soldering. The vice is spring-loaded using rubber bands. The base is sized to fit a standard breadboard in the center with clamping arms on either side to hold dev boards such as an Arduino. This innovative yet simple de”vice” grips boards well enough that you won’t be chasing them around your desk, knocking wires out of place, anymore.

There are some nuances to this board, so be sure to check out the video below to see it in action. As we mentioned, it uses rubber bands instead of springs to keep it simple, and it has some shapes that are easily 3d printed such as the triangular rails. If you want to 3d print your own, the files you’ll need are available on the project’s site. If you want to get even simpler, we’ve seen a few other vices around here as well.

The Stickvise is available for sale in the Hackaday Store.

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Hardware store robot hand


Here’s a robot hand which can be built using mostly hardware store items. It doesn’t have the strongest of grips, but it does have lifelike movement. The demonstration video shows it picking up small objects like a metal nut.

The image above shows the ring and pinky fingers of the hand beginning to flex. These are controlled by the servo motors mounted in the palm area. The skeletal structure of each digit begins with the links of a bicycle chain. The links are first separated by removing the friction fit rods. Each rod is replaced with a screw and a nut, which also allows the springs (which open the digits) to be anchored at each ‘knuckle’.

[Aaron Thomen] didn’t stop the design process once the hand was finished. He went on to build a controller which lets you pull some rings with your fingers to affect movement. This movement is measured by a set of potentiometers and translated into electrical signals to position the hand’s servo motors. The demo, as well as two how-to videos are embedded below.

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