Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Bearing fruit

My wife has been asking me to make something to prop up the overladen branches of our dwarf apple tree for a few weeks now. I put it off while I was set up for ABS because I knew I did not have enough to finish my Darwin. Now that I have switched the machine to HDPE it is no problem, but it is now a few days late as one large branch has already snapped off!

We have lots of plastic covered metal poles so all I needed to do was make some Y-shaped end pieces. My first attempt went a bit chaotic while making the arms: -

I wasn't watching it but I figured it got too hot when doing the small pieces so I made the arms thicker.

Better but still very rough, it should look like this :-

I cleaned it up with a penknife and it was functional but it felt more whittled than extruded.

I made a couple more with even thicker arms but I was around to observe what was going wrong this time: -

When building the curved arms Enrique's software switches to 100% fill because it decides part of the layer is two layers from an outer horizontal surface, which a thin sliver down each side is. That would not be a problem in itself but because I have the infill overlap option set it ends up with slightly too much plastic on the 100% layers. As the height increases this excess builds up until the nozzle is actually submerged in the object while it is building it. Amazing that it manages to make anything resembling the correct shape!

What really needs to happen is that if the infill overlap parameter is set then the head needs to lay down the infill slightly faster so that the amount of plastic is still correct. I ran into the same problem with ABS when making an object with 100% fill.

I made a fourth version with the infill overlap set to zero and it was a lot better: -

Still very blobby but all the blobs are down to extruder overrun and easier to carve off. Overrun is worse with HDPE because it seems to be a more non Newtonian liquid than ABS. I.e. it compresses and expands more than ABS does, so when the extruder stops it oozes for longer.

I haven't tried anything to stop ooze yet. Simply stopping the extruder before the end of the line like the RepRap host does should improve it and is easy to do. Reversing the motor drive should also help. Simply stopping causes the extruder flow rate to fall exponentially but backing up a little should stop it completely in a finite time. The shaft encoder can then be used to go back at full speed to where it was before it backed up. There will still be some ooze without a valve but I think it could be a lot better.

Here is the final version cleaned up: -

And here is the tree with four crutches installed although only three are visible from this view though: -


  1. HydraRaptor or the tree? ;-)

  2. Both really but more so the tree, Particularly given this years feeble weather.

  3. It'd be a good idea to thin out the crop next time if you haven't done so this time.

    A nice neat solution though!

  4. You can print it horizontally, divided by symmetry plane on two objects, then glue it.