Tuesday 29 September 2009

Hairy Pea

I have had a few anonymous requests for a new post, so here is an object I made recently: -

It is a whistle downloaded from Thingiverse designed by Zaggo. It must be one of the most printed things on Thingiverse, and in a very short time after its posting. I think the reason it is so popular is that it is a functional item with a moving part (the pea) that is printed in situ. It is attached by one small point at its base and you detach it by pushing a scalpel through the slot.

It is very loud and annoys my wife every time I blow it!

The pea was initially very hairy because I get a lot of ooze with PLA. I had to pick the hairs off it through the slot, a bit tricky. I am currently working on a new extruder (when am I ever not?) with a much shorter melt zone to address this.

The reason I haven't posted for so long, apart from being on holiday in the Spanish Pyrenees, is that I have spent a long time thinking about the design of this one. It will also be super sturdy, so hopefully it will allow me to forget about extruders and move on to other things. I.e. new heads for HydraRaptor as it has spent too long having only two, so not living up to its name.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Pear shaped

My wife has a tiny orchard in our front garden, four fruit trees on dwarf stock. This year the espaliered pear tree has got a bit out of hand and has produced pears that are too high for us to reach and too far away to reach from a step ladder. In fact some are actually outside of our garden! The tree should really be 2D but it has gone a bit 3D on us.

So RepRap to the rescue, I made a device to cut pears at a distance and another device to catch them.

The cutter is based on a hook shaped Stanley knife blade No 1996. I made a sliding carrier for it with a hole to attach a string and a peg to take a spring.

This fits inside a casing with a tube to mount it on the end of a 16mm OD pipe. A spring keeps the blade extended. A string is pulled to retract it to cut the stem of the pear.

This drawing shows how the parts fit together inside.

There is a rib in the top that prevents the blade from lifting over its locating bumps. The casing was made upside down and makes heavy use of bridge spanning to avoid the need for support material.

As a mechanism it worked well, but useless for cutting pears as I completely underestimated how tough a pear stalk is. So onto plan B, a pair of secateurs clamped to a pole, with a piece of string threaded through an eye to pull them closed: -

The handle of the secateurs is a horrible shape for making something to mate with it because its surfaces are irregular curves (not arcs or ellipses) in two dimensions. Very difficult to model without a 3D scanner. I made use of a channel in the back to be able to grab it with simple flat parts.

This version works well, with a handle to make the other end of the string easy to pull: -

A cup mounted on a second tubular pole catches the pear.

It is a two person job to use both at the same time. A better design would be to mount both tools on the same pole somehow. A better catcher could be made by a plastic bag sandwiched between two circular hoops of plastic to hold the top open.

Here it is in use: -

The only design issue is that it is hard to see where the jaws of the secateurs are when looking along the length of the pole. Mounting the pole at an angle to the clamp would solve that.

Here are the extra out of reach pears that we cropped with the contraption.

The files are available on Thingiverse.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Fast extruder

I put together my new extruder controller, the worm pulley drive mechanism with the GM17 tiny stepper hack and the stainless steel extruder with heatsink and ducted fan to make possibly the most complicated extruder design yet!

You can see a better view of the drive mechanism fitted on another extruder base here: -

Here is a reminder of what the heater assembly looks like: -

The heatsink is cooled by a tiny fan. When run from 12V it is very noisy and way too powerful. With my new controller I can run it with PWM just a bit faster than its stall speed. That keeps the noise down and still gives more cooling than needed. I attached a thermistor to the heatsink by gluing it into a crimp tag with J-B Weld.

I can tell the controller to keep the temperature below a specified level by turning the fan on and off. I set the trip point to an arbitrary 35°C. It will even turn it on when the extruder is idle, much like the radiator fan of a car runs after the engine is switched off. This is needed to ensure PLA will never soften and jam in the cold part of the tube.

I run the tiny stepper motor at about 300mA to keep it cool enough to touch. It will take more current than that but runs very hot. A good design would use a single fan to cool the motor and the heatsink.

I ran the motor with micro stepping, so even though it has a 15° step, that gives 192 steps per revolution. The GM17 gearbox has a reduction of 228:1 giving a massive 43,776 steps per revolution of the worm pulley. That seems a lot, but the diameter of the pulley is 13mm, so one turn is 40.84mm of feed. That gives 1072 steps per millimetre. In comparison I have been using an 816 step shaft encoder and an 0.8mm pitch thread, which gives 1020 steps per millimetre, almost the same.

I started extruding ABS with my usual feed rate of 16mm/s for 0.5mm filament, which is 3.14 mm3 per second. I kept doubling it until it failed, which was 128mm/s if I have got the calculations right. At that point it mostly worked but something was slipping occasionally. I think it was the clutch in the gearbox. Backing off to 64mm/s it works fine. That is four times faster than the GM3 manages with a screw drive. It is too fast for HydraRaptor but I reckon my Darwin could go that fast. I have no idea what the build quality would be like but it would get the time to print one down to about 24 hours.

Here is a video of it spewing out plastic.

Fast Extruder from Nop Head on Vimeo.

It isn't mechanically compatible with HydraRaptor without making a new bracket to mount it on the z-trolley, so I haven't made anything with it yet.