See us at the UMD Technology Startup Boot Camp – Oct 10 2012

UM boot_camp_header_2012

Dave and Mike with be attending the MTECH sponsored boot camp.  Our hope is to present our ideas at the crowd-sourced idea innovation elevator pitch to attract talented people to our cause.  We give back to all of our members through a combination of experience, academic credit, equity, and/or fee, depending on the situation and length of time involvement.  For more information, please see our help needed page and contact us if you are interested!  Ideal candidates live near the College park, MD or Bethesda, MD areas.

Armani Creations has received funding from UMD at least 5 times (see here for more info).  Hopefully, our latest projects will be just as prosperous.

Ideas for new filament printing materials

Filament

Ideas for new filaments have been brewing at ArmaniCreations for almost a month, since the realization that 3D printers could make fully functional, commercially competitive products in the future, but that it would require a bundle of new materials.  To date, the majority of sellers only carry ABS and PLA plastics.  A few resellers carry PVA (a dissolvable support material) and even fewer carry polycarbonate (PC) or polyethylene (HDPE) because of printing challenges.

So, Michael posted on the reprap forums to see what the reception would be like for some new materials, what other materials are desired, etc.  Surprisingly, conductive filament and magnetic filament, which could be used to print objects like functional motors or speakers were not even mentioned after the initial post.  Reprappers were mainly interested in printing rubbery materials, heavy-weighted polymers, and alternative materials like Delrin.

For each of these materials, there are obvious technical constraints, and safety considerations.  All of the filaments proposed by ArmaniCreations assume a 1.75 mm filament and melting temperature typically between 180 C and 250 C.  This is specifically aimed at the filament deposition modeling printers, where it is possible to simply exchange one polymer for another by changing filaments or using a multi-extruder head.  The development of new materials has extremely exciting prospects for RepRap.

By contrast, printers like the B9Creator can only print one or more light-cured polymers.  While it is possible to light cure rubber, generally these materials are brittle, have little resistance to the elements, and can not be used as functional parts in a final product.  More generally, they are best suited to 3D printed models.  On the other hand, their resolution is state of the art, and you can not easily see layering lines with their prints.

Fully Automated Electronics Board Maker

After Acetone and Sanding

Traditionally, if you need to create a circuit, you’d use a breadboard for testing, then do a short run with an electronics manufacturer. It costs about $50 or so to and 3 days to make a single board from an online service. If you want 10, you might be able to get each for $40. But, what if you could make a board that would otherwise cost $300 online for $20 in components. If you need 5 or 10 of them, this idea really starts to make a lot of sense. Not everyone needs this. But imagine that there is a thinigiverse of electronics online and you could just download the CAD files, purchase a kit with the surface mount components and have most boards for just $20. It’s the idea of democratizing electronics with the reprap community the way that manufacturing is being democratized with 3D printing. It’s no longer necessary to set up costly manufacturing for every company. Now you can start small with 3D printing and scale when it makes sense.

I imagine one day that the poor will someday be able to print out their own high quality homes and electronics. It may take a while to get there. But the idea that anyone could produce just about anything easily and cheaply means that each one of us will be that much more capable and able to solve the problems that we face as a species.

The original idea for the machine was described here in the reprap forums.  But the idea has continued to evolve. We’ve successfully hacked a laser printer to print unfused toner to make it easy to transfer the toner to a PCB without ironing. The original idea was to use a cylindrical arm design, but we’ve now concluded it’s not worth the trouble and that we should continue to use the XYZ stage designs that are typical of 3D printing. This means we can combine a 3D printer with the ability to make electronics!

The goal is to make a reprap that is not only able to print in plastic, but is able to create and test it’s own RAMPS board in under an hour!

The idea of home printing PCB’s has been tested by only a brave few before, such as here and here.  However, no one has achieved an easy and reliable electronics maker yet, and they have only just begun discussing the inclusion of pick and place. These machines typically cost many thousands and are only used by industry. The only other way is to do it manually.

In addition, the technique we’ve developed for using laser toner is much cheaper than using photo resist. Pre-sensitized PCB boards that can be developed with UV light are very expensive. Using toner reduces the price so that it becomes more attractive to use this technique for small to medium production runs.

A typical pick and place machine requires reels of components. But when you’re not making that many boards, using reels makes no sense. We’ve devised a method by which you place the components for the board on the table and the robot recognizes the components where they are. This reduces the complexity and size of the robot, while making it possible for larger groups to add reels to the setup and use that technique just as well.

What we are trying to do is put the ability to make electronics quickly and cheaply on a small scale into the hands of anyone for around $1000. We think that could revolutionize how electronics development and production is done.

I’ve also been considering to make the XYZ robotic stage easily re-programmable and reusable for other things, like making your coffee in the morning. This would allow people to tinker with robotics more easily and dive deeper when they are ready.

 

Easy Prusa Mendel Leveling Calibrations, Optimization for makergear V2 Prusa mendel

Prusa

In a sept 14th RepRap Post, Michael suggests the use of paper in place of a heated bed for printing, a new way to even the printing bed base with thumb screws, modified firmware for greater speed, and a “faked small nozzle” to allow better bridging and tighter plastic bonds.

We are honored to have inspired Rick at Reprap to modify his printer based in part on our design.

 

Details from Michael’s original post are copied below:

I made some big changes to improve 3D printing out of the standard domain of ~25% fill to 100% fill. I print almost all my parts in 100% fill, which is tricky, because if the fill is off your parts can warp inward or outward. Also, as the nozzle goes over for multiple close passes, it tends to “bunch up” or collect and dislodge previously laid down plastic. Also, full fill was very slow before.

To solve these problems, I started with the base alignment.

EVENING THE BASE:
The makergearv2 comes with a screw set with springs and many nuts to help calibrate the base. This is a great start, however, because the base is wood and wasn’t threaded, it meant that turning the screw for calibrations would squish the nuts that held the screw in position around the wood. What you could do was turn the nuts holding the springs in place, but it was very difficult to get in there and turn small screws, plus it only gave you about 100 microns of alignment space because the screw was weak. To fix the base, i tapped two pieces of hardwood with 1/4-20. This is tight enough to act as a loose lock-nut – the friction prevent dislodging from stepper vibration. Meanwhile, I upgraded to fully long springs that have about 5 times more force. Next, I use thumb screws for easy access. I am able to use a piece of paper to test the friction between the nozzle and base at Z=0, and can calibrate the whole device in seconds. Also, I applied flat glass ($2 from home depot) over the PCB and uses hot glue and two paper clamps to hold it in place. The glue needs a few heat-cool cycles to equalize (otherwise the center bows upwards about 0.2mm).

PATTERN BEGINS IN PAPER:
Next, I recognized that no matter how hard you try, sometimes getting a pattern started requires tricks, temperature changes. Instead of tricking the print to extrude more in the beginning, or modifying temperatures, I use a piece of paper clamped to the base. This allows all extrusion to embedd the paper, which sucks up the cheap chinese PLA like a sponge (even at 185 C). Also, because the paper absorbs by wicking/surface tension, it keeps the nozzle head extremely clean and it doesn’t bunch up or collect old prints for the first layer or two.

MODIFY FIRMWARE (5:1 SPRINTER)
The basic idea of 3D printer now is keep the nozzle cool, and print slowly, otherwise you’ll pickup and distort previous prints. To prevent this, and ooze from forming, you also retract the filament, and Z step up and then back down to prevent ramming into/crossing over a perimeter from the same layer. What a pain!! And so much slower. So in my design, I speed up the firmware so it accelerates very quickly – 4 times faster than the default settings. I also ramp up speed to 350mm/s between printing areas. This allows you to turn up the print speed so fast that between extrusion areas, the nozzle doesnt have time to ooze. That means if you go over an existing perimeter, it doesn’t have time to scrape it off while it is hot. It also means hotter temps are okay, and thus, welding of plastic fully. I also eliminated the temperature checks to allow the Printrun software to set the temps and the firmware ignores any settings. Also, set max speed to 350mm/s, print at 60mm/s. My default layer height is 0.1mm, and don’t worry, its FAST enough.

FAKE SMALL NOZZLE:
Use slicer 0.9.1 to tell the nozzle it is 0.4mm OR set default extrusion width to 0.4mm. This way, you get multiple passes. At low extrusion temps, the nozzle puts out a line thinner than the 0.5mm width of the nozzle. Therefore, faking a smaller distance closes the gap and allows better overhang formation.

 

The Future is even cooler than you imagined! The 6 “Holy” Pillars of 3D Printing!

screen-shot-2012-08-03-at-1-13-29-pm

The origins of RepRap, as suggested by the wikipedia article, are to make a machine that can mostly print itself.

Mostly print itself?

So why stop there?  Well, three of us got to thinking and quickly realized that, while it is far fetched, there is no reason why a printer couldn’t fully reproduce itself.  However, the requirements are fairly staggering.  Today, only structural plastic is printed, and that is good for some prototypes and functional parts; however, products like cars, houses, bikes, and toys, need more function elements like non-porous metals, conductive wiring, printed electronics, magnets for motors, rubber for tires, and more.  In addition, today’s printer resolution would need to be improved to allow for the re-invention of micro-circuits to be printed in an additive process from raw parts.  Also in addition, full color printing would be desired.

The 6 Pillars of a full 3D printer include:

  • Structural Plastic
  • Stuctural Metal
  • Structural Magnets
  • A Soft, Rubbery Material
  • A Conductive Printable Material
  • Full Color Coatings (possibly including ‘clear’ to simulate glass)

From this list, one could see that it is possible for printer technology to grow, organically, into something that can print VERY rudimentary but fully functional parts.  Take a stepper motor for example; it requires a heat-dissipating shell, a strong structural core and shaft, conductive low-resistivity wiring for electromagnetic forces, insulation for the conductive wiring, and solid magnets to interact with the electromagnets.  However, surprisingly, only two materials are needed to print this: structural plastic, which also acts as insulation, and conductive polymer, which can be printed with ease within the part.

A 3D printed stepper motor would be weak; because of the high resistance of the wires, large cross-sectional areas would be needed and maximum hold strength would be weak.  However, even early models might boast extremely low cost and high power-to-weight ratios that may be desirable.  It is then possible to see that with moore’s law type scaling in the industry, improvements in materials, speed, and costs could make this “all inclusive” 3D printer extremely competitive with existing manufacturing practices.

In fact, if you could print a car for example, you would be able to have a better product, not an inferior one; for example, you can create dimpling in the side panels of the cars tht only special racing cars use to reduce drag today.  In this way, in the future, many consumer products, such as houses, cars, and toys will become 3D printed, once the speed is fast and costs are low.  This would be a revolution bigger that the internet and computer itself.

If that scares you, never fear – an idea is emergent, and its going to happen whether you want it to or not!  While this technology creates many concerns, such as protecting jobs, patents, and dangerous weapons from being made, it is also extremely liberating, allowing people to do more with less.  In fact, in the future of full 3D printing, the dominant highly-paid trade might become artistic engineering, because the only distinguishing factor between manufacturers is the design of a product, and not so much its cost or functionally.

Also rest assured, we are talking decades.  However, we feel that this technology applied as manufacturing for the masses, a “replicator” in effect, is inevitable.  Oh, and its already happening:

A (mostly) 3D printed car
A 3D printed house and prototype
A nearly fully 3D printed bicycle! -see video at the end.

For additional discussion, please post to the related reprap post.

New site

BLOGWORDCLOUD

This is the new front end portfolio and home site, Armani Creations, which represents the projects a small cohort of makers and innovators.  Armani Creations is the parent company of all the projects listed here under current projects.