Category Archives: Hardware

The Age Of Home Printable Hexagonal Prisms Is Here

This coming week I have two statistics exams coming up, so naturally I have been procrastinating by trying once again to get some decent prints out of my MakerBot.
When I first built my MakerBot I was immediately disappointed – for some reason my printhead wouldn’t hold its temperature properly.
After a week or so of troubleshooting with the help of the great people on the MakerBot Operators Mailing List I determined that my motherboard was faulty.
I sent the motherboard and extruder controller back to MakerBot Industries and they identified a problem and sent me back repaired boards.
Upon receiving my repaired boards I immediately attempted a few prints. To my utter dismay my prints didn’t come out perfectly, they didn’t even come out okay.
Often the extrusion would just stop mid-print because of a lack of pressure against the extruder gear, and when it was extruding it would ‘ooze’ ABS while the print head was moving up to the next level and cause the layers to vary in thickness to the point where the print head would collide with the part and knock it over.

It turns out that buffering the GCode to the SD Card is really important for getting good prints. It completely stops the pauses between layers and ensures that no excess ABS is deposited on the part. I didn’t understand how much of a difference it makes – printing straight from ReplicatorG is a recipe for disaster.
It also turns out that customising the Skeinforge profiles (or exploring different defaults) makes a big difference too. If your raft is large then the part is much less likely to knock itself over. Especially important if you are using an acrylic build platform instead of the heated one.

ReplicatorG Screenshot

Holy crap it works…

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3D Printer Build

This weekend I took a break from Kinect software hacking and did some hardware hacking instead.

RepRap is an open source hardware project to create a desktop 3D printer that is constructible from parts that are easily printable themselves. The vision is to make a self-replicating machine, and it has very exciting implications for personal manufacturing.

The printers deposit layers of plastic to build up a 3D object. If you imagine a Pen Plotter that moves a pen mechanically to draw images on large format paper, you have the idea. Instead of the pen depositing ink, the print head deposits molten plastic. Instead of just moving in 2 dimensions the print head can move vertically too. There’s your 3D printer.
It is well worth watching at least some of the following video to get the idea:

The RepRap electronics and hardware are completely open source and make use of other open hardware projects like the Sanguino (think Arduino). If you’re interested in the tech specs of the motherboard see here.

For tinkerers who don’t want to spend their life SMT soldering, the awesome folks at MakerBot Industries sell mostly pre-assembled electronics. They also have a derivative of the RepRap called the CupCake CNC which sacrifices some of the ‘all-parts printable’ ethos of the RepRap for a more reliable and robust printer.

I bought all the parts required to construct a CupCake CNC from the MakerBot guys and spent about 21 hours this weekend constructing my printer.

About 200 bolts, 3 stepper motors, some good soldering and some not so good soldering later I had this:

MakerBot CNC

It is quite an involved process but also very rewarding.

For those interested there are some photos of my build on Flickr.

Here is a quick video of the first power-on when I was testing the stepper motors. You can see that the XY stage is working as it should but the Z stage makes a horrible noise because the bearings are slipping and catching.

I need to lubricate and adjust some bearings and belt tensions before starting proper calibration.

As soon as I have a successful print I will post again.

The game plan here is to use some of the 3D Scanning abilities of the Kinect and a bit of software magic to create a real-life ‘replicator’ that can scan real objects and then print copies.

That is of course if I don’t get too distracted with hardware mods on my CupCake…

The Frostruder lets MakerBots print using viscous fluids like silicone, Nutella, peanut butter, or icing. You read that correctly.

My machine made me a cake and I eated it.

My machine made me a cake and I eated it. by bre pettis, on Flickr

Either way – cool things are coming so stay tuned for either a personal manufacturing revolution or a really sweet way to ice cupcakes.

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