New project idea – Low cost 3D wax printer


Dave sent this video and also found that 3D wax printers are about $45K.  There printers only print one material.  They are however, ideal for create a lost-wax casting mold, which is great for making jewelry.  In fact, the main attraction to this technology is the appeal of solidifying one jewelry design and then casting dozens in bulk.  This takes the costs down from about $50 (outsourced from shapeways) to about $2 per piece, plus the cost of metal materials.

For examples of cad to jewelry, see the rpwax site.

It makes for a great resale business from the perspective of a home custom metal or jewelry maker.  This is especially true because never-before-possible 3D designs can be mad in a free program like Sketchup, and then once a design is finalized it can be saved and printed over and over again – allowing the artist to focus on what he or she does best – innovating new designs instead of building replicas.

There is no question that wax printers have a lot of potential, and there is no real low-end competition.  Today’s inexpensive UV printers like the B9Creator ($2000) make it possible to print 50 micron resolution 3D prints, however, these can not be used in lost-material casting.  On the other hand, inexpensive 3D printers like the soliddoodle ($500) make it possible to print PLA, which has been used for lost-material casting.   However, the inexpensive PLA/ABS printers, which use filament deposition modeling leaves behind ugly lines or gaps between layers, that would not be ideal for jewelry making.  Therefore, there is a need for this new product, an inexpensive wax 3D printer.

At ArmaniCreations, we are considering the design of three low-cost 3D wax printer models.  One would print straight wax and would cost around $600.  One would print wax and support structures and would cost around $900.  And one would print full color (CYMKW) and having a full mixing nozzle.  Since this hasn’t been done before and is more of a niche, it would cost around $2500.

Ideas for new filament printing materials


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.


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


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.