Category Archives: 3D Printing

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Reach is an all-in-one 3D printer, laser cutter, plotter and mill


… and it costs less than $300.


If you’re like most of us, chances are you’ve played around with a 3D printer at some point. But as you know all too well, the market only has a few affordable options for the everyday enthusiast: there are the sub-$500 plastic units with non-accesible parts, and then there are RepRaps with their fragile fames that require frequent adjustments. With hopes of solving all of these issues, Nate Rogers and his team have developed the Reacha high-quality, versatile machine with an all-alluminum frame, a large build area, as well as interchangeable modules for cutting, engraving, plotting and milling.

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The Reach has everything you’d expect from a DIY 3D printer kit, such as auto-leveling, a 200mm x 200mm x 215mm volume, a heated bed and a geared extruder. It boasts V-Slot extrusions, Delrin V Wheels and a sturdy frame comprised of 1/8” laser-cut aluminum plates. With an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and RAMPS 1.4 shield at its core, NEMA 17 stepper motors, a precision 8mm lead screw and GT2-20 pulleys, the Reach is capable of achieving 90mm/second print speeds with an accuracy of 50 micron layers. As you would expect, the Reach works with pretty much all 1.75mm filaments ranging from PLA and ABS, to Nylon and NinjaFlex, to faux metal.

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As a Maker himself, however, Rogers knew that a 3D printer in today’s market was a dime a dozen. And so, he and his crew enhanced the Reach’s capabilities using detachable toolheads: a laser for cutting and engraving, a plotter and a light mill, which together create the ultimate all-in-one machine that will be a welcomed fixture on any workbench or at any Makerspace.

An upgrade kit will soon also be available for an extra $70, which consists of a full graphics LCD screen with SD card reader, an MK2 heated bed, a 100K thermistor and an improved power supply. The Reach supports most open source software, including Sketchup, Meshlab, Repetier, Cura and Inkscape, and is currently compatible with Windows and most Mac operating systems.

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Sound like the $259 device for you? Head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where Rogers and his team have already doubled their $40,000 goal. Delivery is slated for summer 2016.

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This 3D-printed, Arduino-powered robotic mower will take care of your lawn for you


Build your own Ardumower for less than $300.


Mowing the lawn; it’s a nice slice of solitude and exercise for some, and an arduous task for others, to be avoided at all costs. If you fall into that second category, then the Ardumower might be for you. According to its description,“With this download project you can build your own robotic lawn mower at a fraction of the cost that one would have to apply for a commercial one.”

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The mower itself is an interesting build, with a nicely sloped canopy and driving wheels that resemble something found inside of a clock. Housed inside is an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and a motor driver board for control. Two 12V electrical motors are used for locomotion around a yard, while another motor turns the cutting blade.

The robo-mower is kept within your yard using a boundary wire fence to tell it when it has reached the limits of its domain. As seen in the video below, it also has some obstacle avoidance capability, though it would likely be best to keep it in an area free from animals, children, and irresponsible adults!

If you want to assemble one yourself, you can do so for about $250-$300 — a fraction of the cost of its commercial counterparts. A manual, which is available for $12.16, claims to give step-by-step directions to build your own Ardumower (or maybe two for larger lawns!), as well as info on how to create the boundary fence.

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This modified laser cutter can print complex 3D objects from powder


Rice University researchers have modified a commercial-grade CO2 laser cutter to create OpenSLS, an open source SLS platform.


Engineers at Rice University have modified a commercial-grade CO2 laser cutter to create OpenSLS an open source, selective laser sintering platform that can print complicated 3D objects from powdered plastics and biomaterials.

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As impressive as that may be, what really sets this system apart is its cost. OpenSLS can be built for under $10,000, compared to other SLS platforms typically priced in the ballpark of $400,000 and up. (That’s at least 40 times less than its commercial counterparts.) To make this a reality, this DIY device is equipped with low-cost hardware and electronics, including Arduino and RAMBo boards. The Rice team provides more detail around specs and performance in PLOS ONE.

“SLS technology is perfect for creating some of the complex shapes we use in our work, like the vascular networks of the liver and other organs,” explains Jordan Miller, an assistant professor of bioengineering and the study’s co-author. He adds that commercial SLS machines generally don’t allow users to fabricate objects with their own powdered materials, which is something that’s particularly important for researchers who want to experiment with biomaterials for regenerative medicine and other biomedical applications.

To test their concept, the team demonstrated that OpenSLS is capable of printing a series of intricate objects from both nylon powder — a commonly used material for high-resolution 3-D sintering — and from PCL, a nontoxic polymer that’s typically used to make templates for studies on engineered bone.

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It should be noted, however, that OpenSLS works differently than most traditional desktop 3D printers, which create objects by extruding melted plastic through a nozzle as they trace out two-dimensional patterns and 3D objects are then built up from successive 2D layers. On the contrary, an SLS laser shines down onto a flat bed of plastic powder. Wherever the laser touches powder, it melts or sinters the powder at the laser’s focal point to form a small volume of solid material. By tracing the laser in 2D, the printer can fabricate a single layer of the final part. After each layer is complete, a new one is laid down and the laser is reactivated to trace the next layer.

The best way to think of this process, says Miller, is to think of “finishing a creme brulee, when a chef sprinkles out a layer of powdered sugar and then heats the surface with a torch to melt powder grains together and form a solid layer. Here, we have powdered biomaterials, and our heat source is a focused laser beam.”

The professor, who happens to be an active participant in the burgeoning Maker Movement, first identified commercial CO2 laser cutters as prime candidates for a low-cost, versatile SLS machine three years ago. According to Miller, that’s because the cutter’s laser already possessed the right wavelength and perfectly suitable hardware for controlling power and its axes with precision.

Intrigued? You’ll want to see it in action below, and then head over to the team’s Wiki page and GitHub repository to delve a bit deeper.

[Images: Rice University]

Pen

3Doodler Start is a child-safe 3D printing pen


Kids can now draw their own 3D creations in thin air.


With aspirations of bring 3D printing to the everyday consumer, the WobbleWorks team launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund its 3Doodler 3D printing pen back in 2013. This handheld device lets Makers draw in mid-air or on most surfaces, heating and solidifying plastic material so that the thing being drawn is able to come to life as an actual object.

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And after upgrading its pen in 2015, which yet again garnered more than $1.5 million on Kickstarter, the Boston-based startup has returned with a child-friendly version of its popular drawing tool, which will enable those ages 8 to 13 to explore their creativity beyond using just crayons and paper. Instead, the 3Doodler Start will allow children to design their own figurines, art, jewelry and pretty much any other 3D model that comes to mind. This should come as great news to parents, because let’s face it, the sight of a discarded toys is all too common these days.

“3Doodler Start inspires creativity, design, building and spatial understanding, opening up 3D creation to a whole new generation. This is not a fad toy; we believe that, like LEGO and now Minecraft, the 3Doodler Start will become part of every kid’s upbringing,” company co-founder Daniel Cowen explains. 

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The most notable thing about the 3Doodler Start, however, is that has no hot parts, and uses an environmentally-friendly filament that melts with barely any heat. Just pick up the single-temperature, one-speed device and it’s ready to go. Click once on its main orange button to extrude the plastic automatically, click again to stop, and double click to reverse the plastic — it’s as simple as that. Meanwhile, LEDs will indicate warming up, ready, forward flow and reverse.

The 3Doodler Start dispenses with the conventional pen shape, but has adopted a shorter, thicker and more ergonomically-designed frame that’s suitable for smaller hands. Weighing under a quarter of a pound and measuring 5.4” x 1.4”, the turquoise unit can operate wirelessly for 45 minutes per charge or run while plugged in via a micro-USB port.

“The core values of 3Doodler are creative freedom and limitless imagination, so it was a natural progression to create a pen for a younger audience. The 3Doodler Start provides the perfect educational platform for kids around the world and we cannot wait to see what the next generation creates,” Cowen adds.

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What’s also nice is that those just starting out can follow along with what’s called a DoodleBlock, which is similar to a 3D coloring book and allows users to draw in grooves to form a shape, then pop them out. Once they’ve traced all the pieces, they can then use their 3Doodler Start to join them together to form a finished three-dimensional creation.

Does this sound like the 3D printing instrument for your youngsters or perhaps even you? Head over to WobbleWorks’ page here to get your hands on one today.

 

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Dad builds a talking and transforming birthday cake for his son


Maker Russell Munro created an Optimus Prime cake that actually transforms.


While Jeff Highsmith may have been the unofficial Maker dad of the year in 2014 with his impressive mission control desk, it looks like we just found 2015’s undisputed champion. That’s because Russell Munro recently created the ultimate birthday cake for his six-year-old son: a talking Optimus Prime cake that actually transforms.

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According to Munro, the animated cake consists of a 3D-printed skeleton: a chest, thighs, arms and lower legs. The thighs and the chest are the only animatronic pieces, as the lower legs remain in place to support all of the movement. Metal fishing wire is wound up by a stepper motor which pulls the chassis to a standing position. A pair of arms pop out from the chest once the robot is fully upright.

The entire operation is controlled by an Arduino, along with an EasyDriver from SparkFun, a 2A DC motor driver and an MP3 player module. The platform for the cake is made from 8mm MDF.

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With the help of his wife, the chocolate mud cake was then baked around the mechanism and ultimately topped off with an amazing icing job. Safe to say, this Maker will probably be receiving countless invites to birthday parties in the very near future. Intrigued? Read all about the build on his log, as well as his latest writeup in MAKE: Magazine.

And now sans the cake…

Protocycler

Turn your old soda bottles into 3D printer filament with ProtoCycler


3D printing can now be sustainable and affordable.


As if 3D printing isn’t revolutionary enough, Canadian startup ReDeTec has devised a filament extruder that uses plastic waste. A spool of 3D printing filament in one color costs around $30-$50; but if you already recycle your own plastic, your spools are free with ProtoCycler.

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The team – Dennon Oosterman, Alex Kay and David Joyce – recognizes that simplicity, reliability, performance and hackability are important to Makers and tinkerers. So much so, ProtoCycler allows anyone to create whatever they want without worrying about the cost or the environment. This easy-to-use machine takes in your recycled waste, and produces filament up to 10 feet a minute, in any color you like.

Designed to be the easiest extruder on the market, ProtoCycler employs patent pending MixFlow technology to ensure consistent filament and faster extrusion of ABS and PLA plastic. In total, the device is equipped with five motors (two steppers for extruding and pulling, a fan for cooling, a servo for spreading and a small little motor for spooling), three sensors (one temp and two diameter), and an ATmega32U4 for a brain.

Makers will love the fact that it is fully automated with a push of a button, alleviating any unnecessary hassle. For more experienced users, ProtoCycler has open source software so you can experiment with your own settings and custom materials, fit for any 3D printer.

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The ProtoCycler comes with a built-in grinder, intelligent computer control, safety certification and real time diameter feedback. It has a grinder input of 5” x 5”, and an all metal hot end for 400+ Celsius. At 14” x 12” x 10,” ProtoCycler can sit on a table without taking up too much space.

After three years of development, Oosterman and his crew are ready to get ProtoCycler into the hands of the public. ProtoCycler recently wrapped up a successful Indiegogo campaign, but those wishing to get their hands on an affordable, sustainable 3D printer filament can do so here.

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A 3D printer with fully-auomated bed leveling and tool height adjustment


This Maker will never have to think about leveling or Z height again. 


3D printers are great pieces of Maker equipment, but they don’t work so well if the bed is not level with the extruder. Aligning these two elements together is commonly known as “bed leveling” or “tramming,” and, although simple in theory, needs to be highly accurate. Jeremie Francois decided to combine automating this process with setting the Z-axis offset (important when using multiple extruder heads) using a bed supported by lead screws on three stepper motors.

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The motors that Francois used came pre-assembled with a lead screw, and throwing conventional wisdom aside, chose to use the screws to both drive and guide the bed. These “multi-use” lead screws are then independently controlled to touch a force sensitive resistor attached to the extruder head in different positions in order to level the bed. You can see the procedure in the video below, where he manually adjusts the bed into an offset position. The stepper motors then automatically adjust the bed in calibration mode.

Once this is done, the Z-axis can be controlled in “transparent mode” where all three steppers rotate in unison. This allows the calibration motors to act like a normal Z-axis when using the main Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) to control a print. If you’d like to get a better look at the code for this project, be sure to check out Francois’ GitHub page.