Modified Microwave Cures Resin Parts With Style

Once you make the leap to resin-based 3D printing, you’ll quickly find that putting parts out in the sun to cure isn’t always a viable solution. The best way to get consistent results is with a dedicated curing chamber that not only rotates the parts so they’re evenly exposed to the light, but allows you to dial in a specific curing time. A beeper that goes off when the part is done would be handy as well. Wait, this is starting to sound kind of familiar…

As you might expect, [Stynus] isn’t the first person to notice the similarities between an ideal UV curing machine and the lowly microwave oven. But his conversion is certainly one of the slickest we’ve ever seen. The final product doesn’t look like a hacked microwave so much as a purpose-built curing machine, thanks in large part to the fact that all of the original controls are still functional.

The big break there came when [Stynus] noticed that the control panel was powered by a one-time programmable PIC16C65B microcontroller. Swapping that out for the pin-compatible PIC16F877A opened up the possibility of writing custom firmware to interface with all the microwave’s original hardware, he just needed to reverse engineer how it was all wired up. It took some time to figure out how the limited pins on the microcontroller ran the LED display and read the buttons and switches at the same time, but we’d say the final result is more than worth the work.

With full control over the microwave’s hardware, all [Stynus] had to do was strip out all the scary high voltage bits (which were no longer functional to begin with) and install an array of UV LEDs. Now he can just toss a part on the plate, spin the dial to the desired curing time, and press a button. In the video below, you can see he’s even repurposed some of the buttons on the control panel to let him do things like set a new default “cook” time to EEPROM.

Compared to the more traditional fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers, resin printing requires a lot of additional post-processing and equipment. You don’t necessarily have to gut your microwave just to cure your prints, but you’d be wise to fully consider your workflow will look like before pulling the trigger on that shiny new printer.

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Building A UV Curing Station For Resin Prints

Resin printers have a lot going for them – particularly in regards to quality surface finishes and excellent reproduction of fine details. However, the vast majority rely on UV light to cure prints. [douwe1230] had been using a resin printer for a while, and grew tired of having to wait for sunny days to cure parts outside. Thus, it was time to build a compact UV curing station to get the job done.

The build consists of a series of laser-cut panels, assembled into a box one would presume is large enough to match the build volume of [douwe1230’s] printer.  UV LED strips are installed in the corners to provide plenty of light, and acrylic mirrors are placed on all the walls. The use of mirrors is key to evenly lighting the parts, helping to reduce the likelihood of any shadows or dead spots stopping part of the print from curing completely. In the base, a motor is installed with a turntable to slowly spin the part during curing.

[Douwe1230] notes that parts take around about 10 minutes to cure with this setup, and recommends a flip halfway through to make sure the part is cured nice and evenly. We’ve seen other similar DIY builds too, like this one created out of a device aimed at nail salons. If you’re struggling with curing outside, with the weather starting to turn, this might just be the time to get building!

Finishing FDM Prints With SLS Resin

[Thomas Sanladerer] has a filament-based 3D printer and a resin one. Can the two types of raw material combine to make something better? [Thomas] did some experiments using some magnets to suspend the parts and a hot air soldering gun to heat things up.

The trick turns out to be cutting the resin with alcohol. Of course, you also need to use a UV light for curing.

The parts looked pretty good, although he did get different results depending on a few factors. To see how it would work on a practical part, he took a very large printed alien egg. The problem is, the egg won’t fit in the curing station. A few minutes with a heat sink, a drill press, and an LED module was all it took to build a handheld UV curing light.

The good news is you don’t need a resin printer to take advantage of the process — just the resin. He also points out that if you had parts which needed to maintain their dimensions because they mate with something else, you could easily mask the part to keep the resin away from those areas.

If this video (and the results it shows) has you interested, then you’ll love the in-depth account that [Donald Papp] wrote up last year about his own attempts to smooth 3D printed parts with UV resin.

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3D Printering: Print Smoothing Tests With UV Resin

Smoothing the layer lines out of filament-based 3D prints is a common desire, and there are various methods for doing it. Besides good old sanding, another method is to apply a liquid coating of some kind that fills in irregularities and creates a smooth surface. There’s even a product specifically for this purpose: XTC-3D by Smooth-on. However, I happened to have access to the syrup-thick UV resin from an SLA printer and it occurred to me to see whether I could smooth a 3D print by brushing the resin on, then curing it. I didn’t see any reason it shouldn’t work, and it might even bring its own advantages. Filament printers and resin-based printers don’t normally have anything to do with one another, but since I had access to both I decided to cross the streams a little.

The UV-curable resin I tested is Clear Standard resin from a Formlabs printer. Other UV resins should work similarly from what I understand, but I haven’t tested them.

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The Triumph Of Open Design And The Birth Of A FormLabs Aftermarket

Whilst designing hardware, it’s easy to shut the doors, close the blinds, and bury ourselves deeply into an after-hours design session. Although it’s tempting to fly solo, it’s likely that we’ll encounter bugs that others have handled, or perhaps we’ll realize that we forgot to add a handy feature that someone else could’ve noticed before we sent the darned PCB files out for fab. All that said, if we probe the community around us and ask for feedback, we can produce a project that’s far more functional and feature-complete in less time than if we were to design solo. Who knows? With enough eyes giving feedback on your project, maybe others will get excited enough to want one for themselves! [Andrew Werby] and [Zak Timan] on the FormLabs forums did just that: through months of iterative design and discussion on the FormLabs forums, they’ve created the first 3rd party glass resin tank that’s altogether sturdier, longer-lasting, more scratch-resistant, and less distorting than the original resin tank. And guess what? After months of trials through a few brave customers, you too can be the proud owner such a tank as they’re now up for sale on [Zak’s] website.
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3D Printed Hydraulics

[Robert MacCurdy] at MIT wants to change how people think about hydraulics. Using fluid can be very useful in systems like robots, but it is often the case that the tubing that carries hydraulic fluid is not an integrated part of the overall design. [MacCurdy] and his colleagues have modified a 3D printer to allow it directly include hydraulic components as it prints.

The idea is simple. The team started with a printer that uses a liquid ink that is UV cured to produce solid layers. The printer has the ability to use multiple liquids, and [MacCurdy] uses hydraulic fluid (that does not UV cure) as one of the print materials. Just as you can use a 3D printer to build structures within other structures, printing the hydraulics allows for complex closed systems that use the UV-cured resin as mechanical parts that can transfer pressure to and from the hydraulic system.

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The Beginning Of The Age Of 3D Resin Printers

resin

For several years now, filament-based plastic printers have ruled the hobbyist market, with a new iteration on squirting plastic appearing on Kickstarter every week. SLA printers, with their higher resolution and historically higher price for raw materials, have sat in the background, waiting for their time to come.

Now, with the Sedgwick printer now available on Kickstarter, we may finally be seeing some resin printers make their way into hackerspaces and workshops the world over. Instead of other DLP projector-based resin printer where projector light shines up through the resin tank, the creator of the Sedgwick, [Ron Light] is doing things the old-fashioned way: shining the projector down onto the surface of the resin. He says it’s a simpler method, and given he’s able to ship a Sedgwick kit minus the projector for $600, he might be on to something.

There are a few other resin printers coming on the scene – the LittleSLA will soon see its own Kickstarter, the mUVe 1 is already shipping, and over on Hackaday Projects, the OpenExposer project is coming along nicely. All very good news for anyone who wants higher quality prints easily.