Do you want to make your own springs? Yeah, that’s what we thought. Well, blow the dust off of that spare Arduino and keep reading. A few months ago, we let you know that renowned circuit sculptor [Jiří Praus] was working on a precision wire-bending machine to help him hone his craft. Now it’s real, it’s spectacular, and it’s completely open source.
Along with that ‘duino you’ll need a CNC shield and a couple of NEMA 17 steppers — one to feed the wire and one to help bend it. Before being bent or coiled into springs, the wire must be super straight, so the wire coming off the spool holder runs through two sets of rollers before being fed into the bender.
[Jiří]’s main goal for this build was precision, which we can totally get behind. If you’re going to build a machine to do something for you, ideally, it should also do a better job than you alone. It’s his secondary goal that makes this build so extraordinary. [Jiří] wanted it to be easy to build with commonly-available hardware and a 3D printer. Every part is designed to be printed without supports. Bounce past the break to watch the build video.
It’s been a while since we’ve shown a DIY wire bending machine, and [How To Mechatronics] has come up with an elegant design with easy construction through the use of 3D-printed parts which handle most of the inherent complexity. This one also has a Z-axis so that you can produce 3D wire shapes. And as with all wire bending machines, it’s fun to watch it in action, which you can do in the video below along with seeing the step-by-step construction.
One nice feature is that he’s included a limit switch for automatically positioning the Z-axis when you first turn it on. It also uses a single 12 volt supply for all the motors, and the Arduino that acts as the brains. The 5 volts for the one servo motor is converted from 12 using an LM7805 voltage regulator. He’s also done a nice job packaging the Arduino, stepper motor driver boards, and the discrete components all onto a single custom surface mount PCB.
The bender isn’t without some issues though, such as that there’s no automatic method for giving it bending instructions. You can write code for the steps into an Arduino sketch, which is really just a lot of copy and paste, and he’s also provided a manual mode. In manual mode, you give it simple commands from a serial terminal. However, it would be only one step more to get those same commands from a file, or perhaps even convert from G-code or some other format.
Another issue is that the wire straightener puts too much tension on the wire, preventing the feeder from being able to pull the wire along. One solution is to feed it pre-straightened wire, not too much to ask for since it’s really the bending we’re after. But fixing this problem outright could be as simple as changing two parts. For the feeder, the wire is pulled between copper pipe and a flat steel bearing, and we can’t help wondering whether perhaps replacing them with a knurled cylinder and a grooved one would work as the people at [PENSA] did with their DIWire which we wrote about back in 2012. Sadly, the blog entries we linked to no longer work but a search shows that their instructable is still up if you want to check out their feeder parts.
As for the applications, we can think of sculpting, fractal antennas, tracks for marble machines, and really anything which could use a wireframe for its structure. Ideas anyone?
3D Printers are great for printing out parts or items you need, but can they really help if you run out of paper clips? Yes, the all important and extremely overlooked bent metal fastener can put a serious damper on your day if not readily available. There is a solution to this problem, it’s called the Paper Clip Maximizer 1.0. The only consequence of using such a machine may be the destruction of mankind.
The machine takes a spool of wire and methodically bends it into a paper clip shape. Just like an extruder on a 3D Printer, there is a knurled drive wheel with a spring-loaded bearing pinching the wire. This drive wheel is powered by an RC servo that has been modified for continuous rotation. After the drive mechanism, the wire passes through a sturdy guide block. Upon exit, the wire finds the bending head, also powered by a servo. There is a bearing on the end of the bending head that is used to bend the wire around the guide block. After making several bends to form the paper clip, the bending head swings around to cut off the newly manufactured clip with an abrasive wheel. Unfortunately, this part of the process doesn’t work well. The cutoff wheel motor is powered directly by the Arduino that controls the entire machine, the power output of which is not enough to easily cut the wire. It can also leave a sharp burr on the cut wire which is not a great feature for paper clips to have. But we just see these as future fodder for hacking sessions!
Sometimes while working on a project there comes a point where a specialized tool is needed. That necessary tool may or may not even exist. While [Fabien] was working on his DNA Lamp project he needed to bend a copper wire into a helical shape. Every one of us has wrapped a wire around a pencil and made a little springy thing at some point. While the diameter may have been constant, the turn spacing certainly was not. [Fabien] came up with a simple gizmo to solve that problem.
The tool utilizes an 8mm rod that will ensure the ID of the helix is indeed 8mm. We’ve already discussed that was the easy part. To make certain the turn spacing is not only consistent but also of the correct amount, a wooden frame is used. The frame has holes in it to allow the 8mm rod to pass through. Adjacent to those rod holes are much smaller holes just a bit larger than the copper wire that will become the helix. These holes are drilled at an angle to produce the correct turn spacing. [Fabien] figured out the correct angle by taking the desired turn spacing distance, helix diameter and wire diameter and plopping it in this formula:
The DIWire bender we saw last summer made its way to Maker Faire this year with a new and improved version that is now able to bend steel even more accurately than the previous aluminum-bending version.
I chatted up [Marco Perry] (above, obviously), and he explained a new feature of the DIWire bender that makes soldering or welding creations made out of CNC bent wire even easier. The new machine features a sharpie that precisely marks where the wire should be welded.
The folks behind the DIWire – Pensa – have a ton of really cool wire sculptures at their booth at Maker Faire, quite incidentally within spitting distance of Hackaday’s Red Bull booth. Be sure to check them out if you’ve got a chance.
The people over at Pensa posted an awesome CNC wire bender on their blog. Robotic wire benders are common industrial machine that are very fun to watch. These machines can turn out custom wire-bent parts or sculptures in a matter of seconds. The Pensa team’s “DIWire Bender” might not be as fast as the big boys, but it works just the same.
From their Tumblr blog, we see that there are motors to draw the wire off a spool and into a hollow shaft. At the business end of the machine, there’s a small gear-driven bender that can form wire in just about any shape. There’s an awesome video of the DIWire Bender in action after the break if your mind is still trying comprehend how wire top hats and glasses can be made.
The Pensa team says they built this to fill a void in DIY fabrication machines – 3D printers are great and all, but some things can be done more easily by bending some wire.