Category Archives: The Workbench

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.

This machine can print pictures using drops of coffee, wine and other liquids


Just when you thought you’ve seen it all…


If you’ve ever been to a Maker Faire, then chances are you’ve stumbled upon the PancakeBot, a CNC machine that extrudes delicious art out of batter. A few years ago, RIT Assistant Professor Ted Kinsman decided that he wanted to print using something other than ink as well. His choice? Coffee, or any other material with low viscosity.

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The machine itself is an xy-axis printer equipped with a solenoid liquid valve, stepper motors for positioning and an Arduino, which can store images of approximately 80×100 pixels. However, despite its mediocre resolution, it does plot human faces fairly well. The drip size, the nozzle distance and the paper that the beads of coffee extract fall onto can all be changed.

“For many years I have thought about building a machine that could paint for me,” he explains. “Since I always have leftover coffee, I thought it would be a fun medium to play with.”

For what it lacks in resolution, it surely makes up for in cost — Kinsman says that it’s super inexpensive to create images. To begin, the professor snaps a picture, heightens the contrast and converts that into a PGM file that the Arduino could read. The sketch then prints a test grid, which can be modified by dropping in a PGM image and adjusting the space between drops. As MAKE: notes, the grayscale is converted to an array of dots whose darkness corresponds to the length of time that the valve of the pipette opens to release a coffee drop.

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“Each of the pixels is turned into a number from 0 (no coffee) to 256 (the largest drip size). The size of each pixel is controlled by determining how long to open the drip valve for — the largest drop (and darkest pixel) requires the valve to be open for 63 milliseconds. In this way, the machine currently can do 53 different shades of coffee,” according to PetaPixel.

A Mariotte’s siphon is employed to ensure that the depth of the coffee in the reservoir won’t affect the pressure, which in turn could influence the size of the drops. Each print requires about an hour from start to finish, but takes roughly a day to fully dry.

Looking ahead, Kinsman would like to explore the possibility of adding another stepper motor so that he can make spirographs or use a syringe that would enable him to print with thicker liquids. But until then, you can watch it in action below (note that the machine is using blue ink) and read more about the project here.

 

Maximo is an Arduino-driven, 5-axis robotic arm


This affordable, easy-to-assemble arm will let you learn a thing or two about robotics.


Whether you’re a novice Maker or a well-seasoned engineer, Maximo is a new five-axis robotic arm perfect for your desktop. The brainchild of Montreal-based startup InnoTechnixMaximo boasts a laser-cut acrylic body and a wide range of applications.

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The arm itself is driven by an Arduino board and servo shield. Maximo provides many add-on options like motion sensors, webcams, LED lighting and wheels to make it mobile. Beyond that, the board offers Bluetooth compatibility which opens up a realm of interesting possibilities including wireless control from your PC. The possibilities are simply endless.

Maximo comes with Robotic Studio software, which enhances what you’re able to do with the arm executing complex automations that would otherwise be impossible to do manually. Robotic Studio enables you to move the robot with a game controller and perform different series of recorded steps. You can even connect up to 10 robots at the same time in Robotic Studio to create amazing automations.

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Another advantage of Maximo’s design is the head of the arm, which can be removed and switched with other modules in seconds. Although each kit includes a standard claw, this can be swapped out for a more sophisticated gripper that can grab (smaller and rounder) objects by applying balanced pressure as well as a palletizer head, which is miniature reproduction of the ones found in factories and warehouses. Plus, there’s a pen-holder module that allows various items to be placed on Maximo’s head, including writing utensils, laser pointers and drumsticks, for drawing, painting, playing music and more.

Interested? Head over to Maximo’s Kickstarter campaign, where the InnoTechnix crew is currently seeking $18,044. The kit will ship with a black and clear acrylic body, a set of screws, nuts and standoffs, six high-torque servo motors, a bearing base, an Arduino with servo shield, wiring, USB cable and a power supply. You will also receive the standard gripper head module, align with a Robotic Studio license and the easy-to-follow assembly manual. Delivery is slated July 2016.

 

CowTech Ciclop is a $100 3D laser scanner


Makers can produce high-quality scans for a fraction of the cost of other machines.


Those who’ve ever wanted to copy a three-dimensional object without shelling out an arm and a leg for a professional-grade machine are in luck. That’s because Maker Jason Smith has developed an open source, RepRap 3D scanner. The best part? It’ll cost you less than $100.

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According to its creator, the CowTech Ciclop boasts “a large scan volume, a simple yet elegant design, and a disruptive price point that blows any other laser scanner out of the water.” Inspired by the BQ Ciclop, this unit’s frame is comprised of sleek laser-cut acrylic and plastic components that users can easily fabricate themselves. Smith has also shrunken down the scanner’s footprint so it can be reproduced on even the smallest of printers.

“We wanted to make sure our product was usable for anyone who owns a 3D printer, so we meticulously designed our parts for a print bed volume of only 115mm x 110mm x 65mm (4.5 x 4.3 x 2.6in) so they can be produced on even the smallest of printers,” Smith adds.

Unlike some other DIY gadgets available today, the CowTech Ciclop is a scanner that employs two red line lasers, a camera and a rotating turntable. Not only can Makers create the CowTech Ciclop’s parts on their own 3D printer in any color and resolution, they can assemble the device in under 30 minutes. Once constructed, they can then take any item they wish to replicate, set it on the 200mm laser cut acrylic turntable, and begin the scanning process.

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At this time, two redline lasers flash on the object as the turntable makes a complete revolution. A camera detects the location of each of the lines and stores them as points in the 3D space. A cloud of points is generated after the scan is complete, replicating the surface of the object with up to 0.5mm precision. That point cloud could then be utilized as a standalone or converted into a program like Meshlab and Cloudcompare.

As you would expect, the low-cost CowTech Ciclop kit has an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) for its brain, an Arduino shield for controlling a NEMA 17 stepper motor, a USB cord and a 1.5A power supply.

Sound like the DIY scanner you’ve been looking for? Head over to the CowTech Ciclop’s Kickstarter campaign, where the team is currently seeking $10,000. Delivery is slated for April 2016.

 

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.

Make your own Arduino-powered laser engraver at home


Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars, a 16-year-old decided to build his own professional-looking machine. 


If you don’t have a laser cutter, and would like one (after all, who wouldn’t?) you could buy one for thousands of dollars…. or build one yourself. 16-year-old “MichielD99” decided to do just that, and documented the entire process on Instructables.

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Control is handled by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) running the grbl CNC controller software. This, in turn, runs two stepper motors via driver boards, as well as a laser via its own separate driver. It’s noted that this configuration could even be used as a CNC router if a rotary tool and Z-axis was added.

What really sets this project apart is the beautifully-made physical structure. It’s constructed primarily from 18mm and 12mm sheets of MDF, which translates to roughly ¾” and ½” thick material. It’s been 3D-modeled, and the cutouts are available as PDF images and STL files. This means that if you want to replicate it, all you have to do is print the PDFs out, then use a bandsaw to cut out the appropriate pieces. STL makes it possible to replicate with a laser or CNC router. Some work with a Dremel tool will also be needed, though this could possibly be avoided if using a CNC router to make the cuts.

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If you’re going to create one of these yourself, this engraver is a great place to start (right after you purchase a pair of safety goggles meant for your laser’s wavelength). For another take on this type of tool, check out this build using similar electronics with a frame made of aluminum extrusion.

Prometheus lets you make circuit boards in minutes


While it may look like a 3D printer, Prometheus is a PCB milling machine that carves, drills and shapes your PCBs so you don’t have to wait for a delivery truck.


While open source hardware has dramatically reduced the time and cost associated with product development, there are still a few speed bumps that Makers and designers must endure en route to taking their idea from prototype to mass production. Looking to change that is Rocco Tuccio, who together with his Zippy Robotics team, has built a desktop machine that can create real circuit boards in a matter of minutes. Meet Prometheus.

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“When we’re prototyping, we need a tool that can give us nearly instant feedback — not feedback that comes in a few week’s time in the form of a PCB delivery. Let the PCB manufacturers make the hundreds or thousands of boards for your production run — not your prototypes. If production is your goal, Prometheus will help get you there faster,” Tuccio explains.

Prometheus works by carving through the copper layer of a standard copper-clad board (FR-4 or FR-1). Essentially, it can be thought of as mechanically etching the PCB as opposed to dealing with chemicals to perform the etching. Prometheus can also drill holes and route the shape of the board itself if you need it to fit a specific enclosure.

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Surely the ongoing desktop fabrication revolution has yielded similar equipment, but what makes Prometheus stand out from others on the market is its unique spindle. This mechanical part’s incredible specs speak for themselves — 45,000 RPM and a static Total Indicated Runout (TIR) of less than 2.5 microns (.0001 inches), measured 10mm below the spindle bearing.

“TIR is important because it determines the minimum bit diameter we can run. Too much runout (wobble) and a micro end mill will just snap instead of milling copper as intended. Prometheus can reliably run bits as small as .007 inches in diameter, so you can use (with few exceptions) any surface mount components in your designs — not just ‘giant’ SOIC packages. This is a major differentiator with what’s available in our price class today,” Tuccio adds.

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And they didn’t stop there, either. No other manufacturer makes a PCB milling machine and the design software to go with it. Zippy Robotics’ Circuit Factory program works seamlessly with Prometheus, enabling you to devise your schematic and board layout quickly and easily, even if you’ve never designed a PCB before. Once completed with your mockup on Circuit Factory, simply click the ‘carve’ button and Prometheus will take care of the rest. 

In terms of hardware, Prometheus boasts its own custom motor controller which is built around an Atmel | SMART SAM4S Cortex-M4 MCU. The machine features USB plug-and-play connectivity and will soon come with its own free Java API that will let anyone write their own software using a set of commands called ZippyTalk. (This is how Circuit Factory communicates with Prometheus.)

“It will allow a software developer to control Prometheus so that they can write their own apps to make particular tasks easy. They can then give those apps away or sell them, without restriction, to the benefit of all Prometheus users. You don’t have to know anything about G-code. G-code is a relic from the ’70s and it’s time we moved on to better things,” Tuccio explains.

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With its incredible XY resolution and its ability to mill out traces and spaces as fine as 0.007 inches from any standard copper-clad PCB material, Prometheus is arguably one of the most advanced gadgets in its class. These traits will put Zippy Robotics toe-to-toe with other professional grade machines out there, which keep in mind, cost more than $8,000. This unit’s price tag, however, is a fraction of that.

Not only a great product, but an outstanding team behind it as well. We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Tuccio and the New York-based startup for several years now, and have witnessed the progression of the desktop-friendly device — from its earlier and bulkier versions to its latest compact, commercial-ready form factor.

Tired of waiting for delivery and rather have your own PCBs just a click away? Head over to Prometheus’ Kickstarter campaign, where the Zippy Robotics crew is currently seeking $95,000. Delivery is slated for sometime next fall. Trust us, it’ll be worth the wait!