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Printer Hardware Technology

Open-Source 3D Printer Lets Users Make Anything 242

Posted by Zonk
from the printer-for-the-people dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Picture a 3D inkjet printer that deposits droplets of plastic, layer by layer, gradually building up an object of any shape. Fabbers have been around for two decades, but they've always been the pricey playthings of high-tech labs — and could only use a single material. A Fab at Home kit costs around $2400 and allows users to print anything from Hors d'Oeuvres to flashlights."
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Open-Source 3D Printer Lets Users Make Anything

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  • More Discussion (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:34PM (#21204021) Journal
    You probably remember discussing this almost a year ago [slashdot.org]. Enjoy more on this at that coverage of the same story.
    • Any shape? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Can it make a spider-shaped object? Specifically, one in which all of the feet touch the ground, but the torso and head of the spider are above the feet (suspended by the legs), and the knees of the legs are above the torso and head of the spider?

      You can't make that layer-by-layer in a single pass. You have to make the feet first, go all the way up to the knees, and then back down to the body.

      Can it do that?

      • Re:Any shape? (Score:5, Informative)

        by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:55PM (#21204315) Homepage Journal
        You solve a problem like this by laying down sand or another substance to act as the free space and support the structure.
        After building you remove the sand and your 3d model emerges.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Spy der Mann (805235)
          Yes, but what about hollow objects, like an egg? Will the inside contain the "filler" sand?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Yes, but what about hollow objects, like an egg?

            Squeeze bulb? [fabathome.org]
          • Re:Any shape? (Score:4, Informative)

            by jank1887 (815982) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:18PM (#21205299)
            commercial software with 'support material' will look at overhanging structures. If the vertical angle is larger than a set value (maybe 45degrees) it will build a support structure under it as it builds. If the angle is less than that (as in the aforementioned squeeze bulb) it will be considered a 'self supporting angle. Enough of the upper layer bead will be on top of the lower layer bead to prevent it from toppling. This usually takes a bit of intuition, however, because simple rules like this will let you build the leaning tower of Pisa at too steep an angle for it not to fall over. (shifting the center of mass outside the footprint)
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by failedlogic (627314)
            This question is *not* helpful. Not only does it not help answer the riddle: "Which came first the chicken or the egg?", but now if one chooses 'egg' you have to now answer "Which came first the egg or the sand?".

            Thanks a bunch pal! I'll remember you next time I try to print an egg. ;)
      • You can't make that layer-by-layer in a single pass. You have to make the feet first, go all the way up to the knees, and then back down to the body.

        I don't think the point of this is that it can assemble anything. If it can make all the parts (possibly changing materials here and there) and then I have to do some minor assembly, that's good enough for me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mikael (484)
        Yes, it can. And object inside objects too. These system typically work by having a container of liquid combined with a base that slowly moves down. A laser traced out the intersection of the object with an imaginary horizontal plane. This causes a chemical reaction that converts the liquid into solid. This layer will bind to the layer immediately below. So as the base moves slowly down, the intersecting plane moves up along the height of object.

        I've seen the results of these systems. They could model ever
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jank1887 (815982)
          Anything with a laser is much more expensive (with fewer material options) than what's being discussed here. You are referring to a Stereolithographic [wikipedia.org] process, primarily commercialized by 3D Systems, Inc. [3dsystems.com]. This group uses more of a heated extrusion, similar to the Fused Deposition Molding [wikipedia.org] process used by Stratasys, Inc. [stratasys.com] Even the liquid resins, though, have limits to degree of overhang permitted before the cured material will sag or fall in.
      • Good point. There has to be structure in that case, might be better to go left to right (invert the model 90 degrees) than bottom to top, i.e. print up a spider sideways. But if you use a fabber that uses laser hardening within a gel you have much better control of a 3D structure than you would with a layer-by-layer approach. In either case you can create very complex models very quickly, including internal hollow structures. Horses for courses.
      • by tiny-e (940381)
        Why not just "print" it upside-down, laying on it's back?
    • by The_Mystic_For_Real (766020) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @07:11PM (#21204517)
      The editors must have bought one of these for stories.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Thank you - this is indeed old news. However I love the extra exposure for the Fab@Home project - it's awesome. Also check out RepRap - http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/WebHome [reprap.org]
  • Obvious use (Score:4, Funny)

    by LightwaveNet (229843) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:38PM (#21204075)
    Figured I'd save people from typing the search in...
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=penis+3d+model&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]
  • by Maltheus (248271) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:38PM (#21204089)
    ...until it can print another 3D printer.
  • by Mad Bad Rabbit (539142) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:40PM (#21204121)
    Apparently it won't let them print more servers
  • by davidsyes (765062) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:41PM (#21204131) Homepage Journal
    "This printer prints like... SHIT."
  • in other news... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:42PM (#21204153)
    the plastic storage container manufacturers of america have sent out their subpoena's against the first batch of kids "stealing" their products.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CarpetShark (865376)
      For anyone who thinks that's a joke... just wait. These things are going to change the world once they become usable. Instead of waiting for amazon to ship stuff, you'll be buying patterns and printing them out. Many more people will probably be downloading patterns for all sorts of patented stuff, from the likes of piratebay. You think the recording industry has issues? Wait 'till the car parts industry, the wooly sweater industry, and yes, the kids toy industry all get on board. We already know Disne
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:45PM (#21204197) Homepage Journal
    Could make toys on demand!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "Throw some Chinese out of work for a change!"


      Only if it puts lead in everything it prints.

    • by paladinwannabe2 (889776) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:50PM (#21204263)
      I've always thought something like this could be awesome for all sorts of geeky pastimes. Need an army for Warhammer 40k? Need a horde of orcs for D&D? Missing a piece to your favorite board game? You can print out an army, toss them back, then print out a new one the next day.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        "Warhammer 40k?"

        I can picture there board room now:
        "Did anyone else fell a tremor in the market just now?"

      • by ultranova (717540)

        I've always thought something like this could be awesome for all sorts of geeky pastimes. Need an army for Warhammer 40k? Need a horde of orcs for D&D? Missing a piece to your favorite board game? You can print out an army, toss them back, then print out a new one the next day.

        Yes, and you can print Magic the Gathering cards with current 2D printers. Can you actually use them to play against other people, thought ?

        Anyway, what would be really awesome would be to use a mapping software to make a ca

        • by dhasenan (758719)
          Yes; you need to print them on card stock, though, and they won't be shiny with most paper that you use (and the ink will run on the shiny paper if you're not careful).

          You also need to have some care in aligning the front and back parts, and if you want a good product, corners will be a bit difficult.

          It's more trouble than it's worth to most people, though. But if you had a good printer with an attached cutter and you could just click a few buttons to print out your desired deck, you'd see that happening ra
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Trogre (513942)
        A 3D printer that lets you manufacture damn near anything you want, and you're talking D&D figurines?

        I don't want to be unkind and ask if you get out much, but surely we can think of better used for this.

        • by tjstork (137384)
          A 3D printer that lets you manufacture damn near anything you want, and you're talking D&D figurines? I don't want to be unkind and ask if you get out much, but surely we can think of better used for this

          Yeah, you are right too. You could also have a whole fleet of Star Trek Universe ships if you want to play a SCI-FI Genre, rather than Fantasy...
      • by Kingrames (858416)
        Warhammer 40K, hardcore mode.

        Every time a piece gets wounded, you trash it up. when it dies you torch it.
    • by davidsyes (765062)
      Once again, pr0n will probably lead the way. Need a prophylactic? DOWNLOAD these specs and BANG! Shazzam! You can have all the private fun you can print.

      Not, that'll lead to INcursion protection.
  • by Bryansix (761547)
    Dang, I thought this was a dupe but then I remembered that I read it in Popular Mechanics weeks ago in print. The idea is very cool and hopefully the price for Fabbers will fall even more. I'm wondering though, can this thing lay out designes that have 90 degree turns in them? How would it lay down plastic on air?
  • material (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deander2 (26173) * <public@@@kered...org> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:47PM (#21204237) Homepage
    very neat, but it seems like they're hampered by materials. (silicone adhesive is the most permanent of what i've seen with these types of machines) does anyone have any recommendations for more permanent but still liquidish-at-deposition options? plaster of paris? ultra-fine concrete?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by plasmacutter (901737)
      two part epoxy resin.

      it's suitably viscous, dries rather quickly, and its stiff flexibility makes it virtually indestructible.

      Do remember to have the nozzels flushed with something more easily removed, like hot glue, after each pass.
    • by mollymoo (202721)
      Epoxy, with stuff (fibres, micro balloons...) added to provide appropriate mechanical properties. You'd probably want some mechanism to mix it on demand so you can use fast curing epoxy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I saw one for military use that liquefied metal and deposited it in fine drops to build up a final piece. It was intended to build replacement parts in theatre so they didn't have to be shipped. The machine size was about that of a washing machine, and the company claimed it parts were as good as a machined original. You had to machine the final piece to get a usable say disk brake rotor but still very impressive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Trogre (513942)
      The RepRap project, while currently using Polycaprolactone, aims to eventually move over to polylactic acid from corn starch or sugar cane.

  • I'd like to see a mode that allows the fab printer to automatically plot a mold for an object. You could then use the mold to create copies from more durable plastic.

    Or . . . offer a special easy-to-melt plastic "ink" so you can use the fab to create the forms for lost-wax casting. That way you can make molds for metal objects.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      Buying it for lost wax casting? Now that's what I call a cast iron investment!

      It's just a bad pun for engineers - move along and don't make eye contact with the greasy Moorlocks.

  • Yeah, but does it run Linux?

    Make machine that can fab other products.
    Make fab that can fab other fab machines. ...
    Profit!!!

    I for one, welcome our new fab overlords.

    I think I got them all out of my system. Those jokes never get old, in fact I think they are quite fab!
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:56PM (#21204323) Homepage

    This is just an illustration, that manufacturing is a solved problem. Design, research, and development is where the minds and ideas are or should be going.

    The growing emphasys on the Intellectual Property — the kind, that can be stolen by simple copying (thus leaving the original owner, seemingly, unhurt) — is another illustration of the same trend, like it or not.

    • by PieSquared (867490) <.isosceles2006. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @07:52PM (#21205009)
      No it isn't. We still have one really major step to take (that we can see from here/now). Molecular level construction. I don't mean nano-tolerance specs for things this could print, but by building things at the molecular level you finally get the ability to do self-replication. Right now the problem is that you need a scale - if you have a stick you use to measure things by, you add to the error of *every* measurement with each generation... which prevents self-replication. If you use a molecule (or some universal constant) as your stick, though, you lose this problem... stack a certain number of molecules into a stick of a useful size, or use the speed of light (in some medium) to measure distance for your "unit length" as part of the replication process and you'll have the same error in every generation. We already do this for manual manufacture... just, because we don't try to make self-replicating fabricators, we only have to measure (using the standard of the speed of light in a vacuum) once every few years to replace the "standard" used in manufacturing rulers.

      Molecular level construction could also be useful for, obviously, building really small things. Or for building really big things semi-automatically.

      Once you can spec the atomic placement in manufacture.... *then* there will be no need for brains in manufacturing. That we can understand today. Who knows, maybe there is something useful beyond that level that we just don't understand yet. But for now this is the one major step left in the ability to manufacture things.
      • by mi (197448)

        No it isn't. We still have one really major step to take (that we can see from here/now). Molecular level construction. I don't mean nano-tolerance specs for things this could print, but by building things at the molecular level you finally get the ability to do self-replication.

        I did not say, this device itself is the solution to the problem of manufacturing. I said, it is an illustration of the problem being solved. Surely, it is still cumbersome to produce many things, but it has all been reduced, pret

      • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:33PM (#21206925)

        Right now the problem is that you need a scale - if you have a stick you use to measure things by, you add to the error of *every* measurement with each generation... which prevents self-replication.


        It's not just that. Because we can't yet build at the molecular level, we have created all sorts of diverse and complex ways of achieving what we want using bulk processes. The diversity of these means that we need hundreds of huge factories to make all the components for a typical piece of gadgetry. So for example, if a hand-held video camera breaks on a future base on Mars, there is no way they can make another one without thousands of square miles of factories and thousands of workers to produce the components they need. With molecular level manufacturing, you eliminate the necessity of needing a huge set of factories.

        With a molecular manufacturing machine, building something would be a case of having the required data file. I should imagine that there would be a vibrant open-source community designing all sorts of weird and wonderful things which you could download and "print". The potential of such a technology is enormous. There will be all sorts of issues to consider though. How do you prevent people from "printing" hand grenades and machine guns or Sarin?

        If you are interested in this sort of thing, you should read "Engines of Creation" by Eric Drexler which is a non fiction book that explores these ideas. Drexler is the guy who coined the term "Nanotechnology" back in the 80s. You can read it all online here [e-drexler.com].
    • Actually, not really a solved problem. The basic principles might not change, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. There are always more boundaries to be pushed and expanded. In part, making this sort of technology cheaper is not a solved problem. Teaching all that other stuff is really enabled by easier access to the equipment. It is possible that a lot can change by allowing more people access to a technology, or when a new technology comes along.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 644bd346996 (1012333)
      This is a rapid prototyping machine. It enables R&D. It isn't meant for mass-production.
      • by dbrutus (71639)
        One type of mass production this is good for is distributed mass production. There are lots of things that cost ungodly amounts of money but would be cheaper to replicate, plastic blender parts, for example. Right now, you strip a gear and ask how much it costs, the answer comes back at about 90% the cost of a new blender. Now I don't need 10,000 gears but I might be one of 10,000 people in a given year that needs those gears and if we each get them via these sorts of printers, we've got mass production in
  • by turgid (580780) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @06:58PM (#21204347) Journal

    Horses can keep their darned douvres in the field where they belong. I ain't going near them without wellington boots. Now don't get me started on cows...

  • I think I'd prefer a small bench top CNC setup. Etch plastic, metal, wood, assemble machined parts into working contraptions - seems more useful than a plastic blob printer.
  • by Dean Edmonds (189342) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @07:05PM (#21204445)
    A RepRap [reprap.org] machine costs less than $500 in parts, though it does require a lot more assembly work.
    • That site listed British Pounds, not dollars.

      Still cheaper and cool - I like the idea of being able to add conductive threads in objects.
  • If it can't self-replicate, it's useless.
  • But all I got was a wooden goblet filled with a hard resin-like substance not like tea.
  • by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @07:21PM (#21204641)
    I, for one, welcome our self-replicating overlords!
  • The ability to produce as many miniatures as you want, simply by providing the raw materials and a 3d specification.
  • Yet another reason why biometric ID cards are nonsense!

    Read a person's fingerprints etc, ideally remotely from an RFID passport, but more likely by hacking an official reader. Then 3D fabricate copies. No need to hack off their fingers now.
  • How much will this "ink" cost???

    Or can you print some new ink and turn it into the infinite cycle???

    Sorry if this was in the article. The read was /.-ed.

  • I prefer the laser equivalent of this, stereolithography [wikipedia.org]. It is faster and more precise.
    Some fancy pictures [howstuffworks.com].
  • There's much misplaced enthusiasm for stereolithography machines. They're useful and fun, but not a panacea. It's inherently a slow process, and far more expensive than injection moulding if you're making many copies. The amateur stereolithography machine from this latest Popular Mechanics article is neither novel nor particularly good; I've seen similar machines before. Pushing some viscous liquid out of a syringe isn't one of the better approaches.

    If you want to try a stereolithography machine, and

    • It's not a mass-production technology. However, these devices (or more likely, the fourth- or fith- generation removed of these devices) could well be a wonderful personal-production technology.

      Consider: need a new pair of shoes? Load a design into the house-hold replicator, push the button, come back later and pick it up. Or more likely (as an intermediate stage, if nothing else), go to the shoe store, select a design from the variety available (having previewed in-store display models), adapt with measure
    • It's true that injection molding is faster production method. However, if you need so many parts, you can use the stereolithographic machine to make the mold you need. Optionally, you can also make the rest of the components of the molding machine.
  • ...use a UV-cured plastic. This would eliminate the problem of the silicone not getting exposed enough to the air it needs for curing. Use something like the amalgam-replacement epoxy used by dentists. If fabbed at the right speed, with the right amount of UV during the fab process, it might even be able to support itself, eliminating the need for "support materials."

    BTW, modern high-output single-LED flashlights like SureFire's new ones, require a fair amount of heatsinking to prevent the LED's regulato
  • by seven of five (578993) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:49PM (#21207089) Homepage
    I was pretty excited by this as earlier reported, but looking into it for a while, realized that you can't do precision fabbing with one of these el cheapo machines, not yet. The blobs/droplets are too big and the stepper motors spec'd at this price don't have the accuracy either. This will improve with time but 'not yet'.

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