Apr 19, 2015

Emerging synergy of lasers and 3d printers with real-time scanning and cutting

What is cooler then lasers? Well, lasers and 3d printers combined! duh! At some time at past I have argued on some forums that lasers will become integral parts of 3d printers and I was met with lot of opposition. There have been some attempts to integrate laser based 3d scanners into 3d printers even in commercial products but it is far from wide acceptance.
Yet, adding a laser with sensing electronics can give you so much more then just cheap 3d scanning.

Here is a video by Claudio Di Leo, MIT student, who attached a InīŦniter VLM-650-27 line laser to a Solidoodle which uses a 2MP web camera to scan printbed enabling it to 3d print on place object. The entire upgrade costs some 50 USD but increases the ability of the machine.

Now, what would happen if you turn up the power on the laser?

There are several simple DIY laser cutter projects based on replacing the extruder but what if a laser cutter would be a separate tool moving independently?

Here is a video demonstration of laser cutting 3d printed PLA object. As you can see it can be done easily.

Here is a project with detailed guide and software on how to make springs with a laser cutter from different materials but also features PLA 3d printed tube:

Here are detailed instructions for spring laser cutter:


So, what could we achieve if we integrate active lasers into 3d printers:

  1. 3d scanning
  2. real-time scanning of print volume for continuous 3d print calibration, sensing failure and continuation of aborted prints
  3. 3d printing on objects attached to a print surface
  4. laser cutting printed objects giving new dimensions to 3d printed objects
  5. "standard" laser cutting of sheet materials, engraving and PCB processing
This could be the next big thing :-)

Apr 17, 2015

Hack your FDM Delta into DLP 3D printer

As I was researching low cost DLP solutions I found this project by sirocco where he converted his old Delta into DLP SLA 3d printer by putting a projector on the top opening and adding vat resin. Delta configuration looks like good option due to hight.

I'm not sure how he moves his vat with salt water and resin, it could be done by separate mechanism or by some type of vat tray mounted on three points to the Delta frame and moved by existing motors.

Source, more details, but no clear instructions:


Print results look decent:

TestrBot DIY static dynamic tension and compression tester

Ever wanted to test your printed parts? Michael developed this project that uses 3d printed parts and can perform tension and compression test on various objects. It is very useful to get real results for different 3d printing materials and printing techniques. As it is easy to make with affordable price of around 300 USD it will certainly find place in many workshops.

Project description:
TestrBot is a $300 Universal Test Machine (UTM) and can be used to perform any type of static or dynamic testing in tension or compression up to 200 lbs. It was designed to run a gamut of physical tests on 3D printed specimens. 
3D printing is still new enough that there are many questions that do not yet have definitive answers. While the basic physical properties of raw ABS & PLA have been well established, there are still many esoteric material properties that cannot be determined without doing actual mechanical testing.
TestrBot is going to help the 3D printing community by figuring out these properties. As of this writing, I am at the beginning of the testing process but you can among the first to hear about the results as they become available by following blog here: www.EngineerDog.com

Here is TestrBot in action with description:

Detailed build guide and all the files needed:


Simple and affordable DIY hot end building tutorial

Andy M made this great video tutorial on how to make a simple and cheap metal hot end from affordable common parts.

Great job Andy!

For a tutorial on how to make a nozzle out of a single brass nut look at:


Disney develops innovative textile 3D printer for soft objects

Disney researchers have developed a completely new 3d printing technology for making soft objects out of textile. They call it "Layered Fabric 3D Printer for Soft Interactive Objects". It works by laser cutting fabric layer form a continuous band and then binding them with heat sensitive glue.

Video of it in action:

Description from the project page:

We present a new type of 3D printer that can form precise, but soft and deformable 3D objects from layers of off-the-shelf fabric. Our printer employs an approach where a sheet of fabric forms each layer of a 3D object. The printer cuts this sheet along the 2D contour of the layer using a laser cutter and then bonds it to previously printed layers using a heat sensitive adhesive. Surrounding fabric in each layer is temporarily retained to provide a removable support structure for layers printed above it. This process is repeated to build up a 3D object layer by layer.
Our printer is capable of automatically feeding two separate fabric types into a single print. This allows specially cut layers of conductive fabric to be embedded in our soft prints. Using this capability we demonstrate 3D models with touch sensing capability built into a soft print in one complete printing process, and a simple LED display making use of a conductive fabric coil for wireless power reception.
Project homepage:

Detailed PDF paper:

Apr 16, 2015

Printrbot Play 3D printer

Printrbot just announced their new Printrbot Play 3D printer which is aiming towards low cost market but has full metal body and aluminum platform.

They posted on their Twitter:

Coming soon….. Printrbot Play. $399 assembled. 100x100x130mm. Metal construction. Mic6 Alu bed.

How stupid laws regulating 3D printing are ruining fun for everyone in California

Now this is just absurd and shows the sad state of affairs. Libraries are the key place where 3d printers should be accessible to everyone and now the LIABILITY and INFRINGEMENT protection are going to make them impossible to use.

From the source:
Here's a new bill in the California Assembly, AB-37*, which would require libraries that have 3D printers to post stupid signs warning people not to do nasty infringy things with those printers:
This bill would require every public library that provides public access to a 3D printer, as defined, to post a notice on or near the 3D printer that would alert users of the 3D printer of the potential liability of the user for misuse of the 3D printer, as specified.
This bill would require the Department of Justice to draft and distribute this notice, as specified, and annually review and revise the notice for accuracy. By imposing additional duties upon local officials, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.
In the actual text of the law, they're explicit about how it's about not infringing intellectual property:
The Department of Justice shall prepare and distribute to a public library that provides public access to a 3D printer a notice that would alert users of the 3D printer of the potential liability of the user for misuse of the 3D printer. The notice shall do all of the following:

(A) Provide citations to the applicable state and federal laws that may impose civil liability or criminal penalties for misuse of a 3D printer, including laws regarding copyright infringement and trademark and patent protection.
Source and more detailed information:


EPIC FAIL CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY! Get your act together! Stupidity of this is beyond description!

Let people create and make stuff without fear of prosecution!

I am Groot

You can 3d print Groot on purpose like Marcel Meyer did:

Or you can get similar result by accident like Justin Soule did :-)

Great work guys! :-)

Apr 12, 2015

3D Printed Antenna Knowledge Base

Since I'm getting more involved with communal WiFi mash networks and open source smart city project in my town, I decided to research and make a small knowledge base on 3d printed antennas.
This post will be updated as I gather new information.

Basically, there are two main areas of 3d printed antenna development: High-tech industrial and DIY. The main difference is in type of machines and purpose. Industrial 3d printers are very diverse with applications ranging from aerospace to consumer electronics, while DIY printers use mostly FDM and are used in hobby projects, drones, HAM etc.

High-tech industrial and commercial 3D printed antennas 

Optomec Aerosol Jet Antenna 3D printing

Optomec is an industry leader and they integrate their antennas in wide variety of products.

Here is the summary from process homepage:

Mobile device antennas including LTE, NFC, GPS, Wifi, WLAN, and BT have been printed using the Aerosol Jet process and independently tested by a leading cell phone component supplier.
Measured antenna performance is comparable to other production methods. The Aerosol Jet printing process is scalable – antennas can be printed on up to 4 cases simultaneously on a single machine. Machine throughput for a typical antenna pattern measuring ~300 mm2 averages 30,000 units per week. 
The Aerosol Jet printer lower manufacturing costs for antennas used in mobile devices. The process works with standard injection molded plastics – no special additives or coatings are required. Based on Aerosol Jet technology, the digital process prints conformal antennas using conductive nanoparticle silver inks.
The printing process accurately controls the location, geometry and thickness of the deposit and produces a smooth mirror-like surface finish to insure optimum antenna performance. No plating or environmentally harmful materials are used in the process.

You can see more on Optomec homepage:

3D Printing antennas on curved surfaces with nanomaterials

From the source:
“Omnidirectional printing of metallic nanoparticle inks offers an attractive alternative for meeting the demanding form factors of 3D electrically small antennas (ESAs),” stated Jennifer A. Lewis, the Hans Thurnauer Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at Illinois.

“To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of 3D printed antennas on curvilinear surfaces,” Lewis stated. The research findings and fabrication methods developed by Bernhard, Lewis, and their colleagues are featured in the cover article,"Illinois Calling" of the March 18 issue of Advanced Materials (“Conformal Printing of Electrically Small Antennas on Three-Dimensional Surfaces”).

Source with more details:




Here is a similar technology used at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:

Source article and more information:


Fractal antenna systems 

Fractal Antenna Systems is a company that has been working for some 20 years in creating specialized antennas for military and civilian sector based on fractal patterns. They recently published that they also use 3d printers to make some designs.

Company page: http://www.fractenna.com/

Here are some other works on the topic of 3d printed antennas:

Fully 3D Printed 2.4 GHz Bluetooth/Wi-Fi Antenna by Paul Deffenbaugh, Kenneth Church from The University of Texas El Paso:  





Origami antennas and packaging using 3D printing technologies by John Kimionis and Manos Tentzeris


From other media:

3D printed satellite and space based antennas

I made a more detailed post here with several projects and materiel sources: 


DIY 3D printed antennas


If you search Thingiverse you will currently find 500+ projects tagged with "antenna".

As far as I know all of them are arrays where the actual antenna is some form of non-printed metal wire held by 3d printed frame or enclosure.

DVB-T antenna deigned to hold metal wire on 3d printed frame and that can be mounted on a back of a TV screen

There are many models ranging from UHF satellite communication arrays to drone piloting antennas like this one:

So can we produce real metal antennas on DIY machines? In theory there are two project that enable you to embed wire into your plastic filament:

Slew ring wire embedding:


and Spoolhead:


Future will show are there any projects working with conductive filaments, but I don't know anybody currently developing antennas based on them.

Services like Shapeways can print in metal (they actualy make molds and then cast metal AFAIK) so Shapeways list 300+ products tagged with "antenna".

Link: http://www.shapeways.com/search?q=antenna

Here is an example of Shapeways made antenna:

Right Hand Polarized Antenna 5.8GHz 3D - for RG316

Let me know if you have anything related to this subject. Any feedback is welcome.