3D Printers

Open Source Automated Build Platform Turns 3D Printer into 3D Factory

Let’s say you’ve got a desktop 3D printer and you’ve actually got it working consistently and reliably. No more clogged extruders, drippy prints or filament spaghetti. Well, first of all, congratulations, show off. Now, what you need is an automated build platform, a conveyor belt system for removing your print from the printbed and making room for the next one to start.  With that sort of thing, you could have yourself a mini factory.

MakerBot 3D PrintingAccording to the folks at Hack A Day, the biggest issue with creating a conveyor belt for your 3D printer is that, once you’ve done it, you can’t sell it because Makerbot has already filed patents for their original automated build platform, released in the good ol’ days of the Cupcake, back before britches were too big and bedfellows were too strange. And because they’ve covered both the device itself and the process that it performs, it’d be pretty hard to legally sell your own.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t build one just for fun and tell your fellow RepRappers about it, does it?

In fact, it’s something that a lot of people in the community have been working on. The Hack A Day thread has a long list of comments that include many attempts at the endeavour, some successful and some not so successful. Ian Lee at Make has a post about New Valence Robotics, which has incorporated a squeegee and wedge into their 3D printer design so that the print bed moves a printed object over the wedge and pries it loose. In addition to their hardware, New Valence also has a built-in camera in the machine and can monitor the status of print jobs online.  Watch Ian’s coverage of the printer below:

RepRapper Sanjay M. has developed what looks to be the simplest method for ejecting prints for continuous printing, saying that he can print ABS parts 24/7, only interrupting the process to insert new filament every 36 hours or so. Basically, Sanjay has attached a large metal plate to the front of his extruder and written some code for his printer so that, when the printer is done, it uses some serious force to ram the print off of the bed and down a cardboard shaft. Sanjay has to take at least one precaution to ensure success; he can’t print object skirts to prime the nozzle.

Here’s a demonstration of his process:

And an explanation of the process:

For more information on how to use Sanjay’s method, visit this RepRap thread. Sanjay also sells metal hot ends for 3D printers online through his company E3D.

The original inventor of the MakerBot Automated Build Platform, Chris Edward Pax, has no qualms about people copying his design. In fact, he loves it, saying in the Hack A Day comments: “I’d like to clarify a point on patents. I made the ABP long before I worked at MakerBot and with no expectation of profiting from a patent. Patents stifle innovation and harm those who would otherwise benefit from products suppressed by the patent system.” I’m glad that Chris is in favour of open source. Maybe he’ll contribute to my open source article on the benefits (and drawbacks?) of open source design to be published here on 3DPI in the near future!

Source: Hack A Day