When you’re a machinist, your stock in trade is precision, with measurements in the thousandths of your preferred unit being common. But when you’re a diemaker, your precision game needs to be even finer, and being able to position tools and material with seemingly impossibly granularity becomes really important.
For [Adam Demuth], aka “Adam the Machinist” on YouTube, the need for ultra-fine resolution machinist’s jacks that wouldn’t break the bank led to a design using off-the-shelf hardware and some 3D printed parts. The design centers around an inch-metric thread adapter that you can pick up from McMaster-Carr. The female thread on the adapter is an M8-1.25, while the male side is a 5/8″-16 thread. The pitches of these threads are very close to each other — only 0.0063″, or 161 microns. To take advantage of this, [Adam] printed a cage with compliant mechanism springs; the cage holds the threaded parts together and provide axial preload to remove backlash, and allows mounting of precision steel balls at each end to make sure the force of the jack is transmitted through a single point at each end. Each full turn of the jack moves the ends by the pitch difference, leading to ultra-fine resolution positioning. Need even more precision? Try an M5 to 10-32 adapter for about 6 microns per revolution!
While we’ve seen different thread pitches used for fine positioning before, [Adam]’s approach needs to machining. And as useful as these jacks are on their own, [Adam] stepped things up by using three of them to make a kinematic base, which is finely adjustable in three axes. It’s not quite a nanopositioning Stewart platform, but you could see how adding three more jacks and some actuators could make that happen.
Since the early 2000s, the CPU industry has shifted from raw clock speed to core counts. Pat Gelsinger famously took the stage in 2002 and gave the talk the industry needed, stating processors needed specialty silicon or multiple cores to reduce power requirements and spread heat. A few years later, the Core series was introduced with two or four-core configurations to compete with the AMD Athlon 64 x2.
Nowadays, we’re seeing heterogeneous chip designs with big and little cores, chiplets, and other crazy fabrication techniques that are fundamentally the same concept: spread the thermal load across multiple pieces of silicon. This writer is willing to put good money into betting that you’ll see consumer desktop machines with 32 physical cores in less than five years. It might be hard to believe, but a 2013 Intel Haswell i7 came with just four cores compared to the twenty you’ll get in an i7 today. Even an ESP32 has two cores with support in FreeRTOS for pinning tasks to different cores. With so many cores, how to even write software for that? What’s the difference between processes and threads? How does this all work in straight vanilla C98?
When it comes to innovation in FDM 3D printing, there doesn’t seem to be much room left to move the needle. Pretty much everything about filament printing has been reduced to practice, with more or less every assembly available off the shelf. Even the business end — the extruder — is so optimized that there’s not much room left for innovation.
Or is there? The way [David Leitner] sees it, there is, which is why he built this rolling-screw extruder (if you can get to the Thingiverse link, [David] cross-posted on reddit, too). Standard extruders work on the pinch-roller principle, where the relatively soft filament is fed past a spring-loaded gear attached to a stepper motor. The stepper rotates the gear, which either advances the filament into or retracts it from the hot end. [David]’s design instead uses a trio of threaded rods mounted between two rings. The rods are at an angle relative to the central axis of the rings, forming a passage that’s just the right size for the filament to fit in. When the rings spin, the threads on the rods engage with the filament, gripping it around its whole circumference and advancing or retracting it depending on which way it’s spinning. The video below shows it working; we have to admit it’s pretty mesmerizing to watch.
[David] himself admits there’s not much advantage to it, perhaps other than a lower tendency to skip since the force is spread over the entire surface of the filament rather than just a small pinch point. Regardless, we like the kind of thinking that leads to something like this, and we’ll bet there are probably unseen benefits to it. And maybe the extruder actually is a place for innovation after all; witness this modular nozzle swapping system.
I’ve noticed, lately, that slotted screw heads are all but gone on new equipment. The only thing that I find remarkable about that is that it took so long. While it is true that slotted heads have been around for ages, better systems are both common and have been around for at least a century.
The reason slotted heads — technically known as the drive — are so common is probably because they are very easy to make. A hacksaw is sufficient for the job and there are other ways to get there, too. The only advantages I know of for the user is that you can easily clean a slotted drive and — possibly — use field expedient items like butter knives and quarters to turn the screw. I’ve heard people claim that it also is a feature that the screwdriver can pry things like paint can lids, but that’s a feature of the tool, not the screw drive.
The disadvantages, though, are significant. It is very hard to apply lots of torque to a slotted screw drive without camming it out or snapping the head off the screw. The screwdriver isn’t self-centering either, so applying force off-axis is common and contributes to the problem.
When the tool you need doesn’t exist, you have to make it yourself. Come to think of it, even if the tool exists, it’s often way more fun to make it yourself. The former situation, though, is one that [Sean Hodgins] found himself in with regard to threaded inserts. Rather than suffer from the wrong tool for the job, he machined his own custom threaded insert tool for his Hakko soldering iron.
Like many of us, [Sean] has embraced the use of heat-set threaded inserts to beef up the mechanical connections on his 3D-printed parts. [Sean] dedicated a soldering iron to the task, equipping it with a tip especially for the job. But it was the flavor of iron proverbially known as a “fire stick” and he found that this iron was too hot for PLA prints. As the new owner of a lathe, he was able to make quick work of the job using a piece of brass rod stock. Luckily, Hakko tips just slip on the heating element, so no threading operations were needed. [Sean] made insert tips for multiple sized inserts, and the results speak for themselves.
Hackers being as a rule practical people, we sometimes get a little guff when we run a story on an art installation, on the grounds of not being sufficiently hacky. We understand that, but sometimes the way an artist weaves technology into their pieces is just too cool to pass us, as with this thread-printing art piece entitled On Framing Textile Ambiguities.
We’ll leave criticism of the artistic statement that [Nathalie Gebert]’s installation makes to others more qualified, and instead concentrate on its technical aspects. The piece has four frames made mainly from brass rods. Three of the frames have vertical rods that are connected to stepper motors and around which is wrapped a single thread. The thread weaves back and forth over the rods on one frame, forming a flat surface that constantly changes as the rods rotate, before heading off to do the same on the others. The fourth frame has a platen that the thread passes over with a pen positioned right above it. As the thread pauses in its endless loop, the pen clicks down onto it, making a dot of color. The dots then wend their way through the frame, occasionally making patterns that are just shy of recognizable before morphing into something new. The video below shows it better than it can be easily described.
Love it or hate it, you’ve got to admit that it has some interesting potential as a display. And it sort of reminds us of this thread-art polar robot, although this one has the advantage of being far simpler.
For humans, life is in the eyes. Same deal with automatons. The more realistic the eyes, the more lifelike (and potentially disturbing) the automaton is. [lkkalebob] knows this. [lkkalebob] is so dedicated to ocular realism in his ultra-real eyeballs that he’s perfected a way to make the minuscule veins from a whisper of cotton thread.
First he prints an eyeball blank out of ABS. Why ABS, you ask? It has a semi-translucence that makes it look that much more real. Also, it’s easier to sand than PLA. After vigorous sanding, it’s time to paint the iris and the apply the veins. [lkkalebob] shaves strands of lint from red cotton thread and applies it with tweezers to smears of super glue.
Here comes our favorite part. To make the whole process easier, [lkkalebob] designed a jig system that takes the eyeballs all the way through the stages of fabrication and into the sockets of the automaton. The hollow eye cups pressure fit on to prongs that hold it in place. This also gives the eyeball a shaft that can be chucked into a drill for easy airbrushing. In the build video after the break, he uses the eye-jig to cast a silicone mold, which he then uses to seal the eyes in resin.