Aug 21, 2014

Plan B open source 3DP powder based 3d printer with detailed construction guide

Let the powder revolution begin!!!

Plan B is an open source 3DP printer and it prints with gypsum powder and a special binder. It is developed by Yvo de Haas (22 years old). 3DP printing requires no support material and prints at higher resolution than FDM printing. Printing in powder has the potential to be cheaper than most techniques, though more research into materials is needed and current objects printed on Plan B have a rougher surface. Models can be further strengthen with glue

Powder 3DP printing has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to FDM process:

Advantages over FDM printing:
  • Higher accuracy due to finer and more controllable nozzles. Even old and dated cartridges have a higher resolution (>96DPI, 0.26mm) than most FDM printers;
  • No support material is needed. All parts are always supported by the powder from the previous layers;
  • Excess material can be reused;
  • 3DP has the potential to be faster than FDM. 3DP prints with more nozzles with simpler movements than FDM. Plan B isn’t yet though;
  • 3DP offers a few unique materials and options for 3D printing.
  • It has the possibility print full color in gypsum and powdered sugar;
  • It can print in ceramic powder that makes models that can be fired in a kiln;
  • By binding in stainless steel powder a model can be created that can be infused with bronze in a kiln;
  • It should also be possible to bind graphite powder into a model that can be infused with epoxy, making graphite (carbon) parts;
  • 3DP can print in almost any material that can be supplied as a powder.

  • Due to the powder, 3DP printing is messy;
  • Parts require post processing. Before processing, the parts are weak and brittle;
  • Powder printers need to be filled completely to work;
  • 3DP can only print in one material at a time;
  • Hollow parts need escape holes to evacuate excess powder;
  • Thin walls and rods are weak and might break during cleaning.

Plan B technical specifications:
  • Build box dimensions: 150mm x 150mm x 100mm (l x w x h)
  • Layer thickness: 0.1mm to 0.25mm
  • Inkjet resolution: 96DPI (HP C6602)
  • Build material: Currently only Zcorp Gypsum and binder without color (this list will expand)
  • Step accuracy (X/Y): 0.05mm
  • Speed: 60mm/s (higher with future firmware)
  • Printing speed: Up to 30mm per hour (higher with future firmware)
  • Power consumption: Up to 160W (around 90W average)
  • Printer dimensions: 550mm x 350mm x 450mm (l x w x h)
  • Printer weight: 16kg
  • Frame material: Aluminum and 3D printed plastic
  • Linear guides: LM8UU on 8mm steel rods
  • Number of motors: 6 x NEMA 17 stepper motors
  • Other features: LCD screen, Keypad with rotary encoder, SD card reader
  • Price of materials 1000 - 1300 euro

Plan B currently prints only in Zcorp gypsum powder with no colors. Here are possible future materials that could be used in it:
  • 3DP printing gypsum, a fancy mix of gypsum and different powders bound with a binder that contains mostly water and some unknown chemicals
  • Ceramic powders with Maltodextrine added, bound with rice wine or vodka [source];
  • USG hydroperm or other high quality dental plasters, bound with rice wine [source];
  • Sugar and some form of binder.
I'm still not fully clear on what is the binder used in this project, it looks like some mixture of water, glue (which one?) and alcohol (what type)?

Plan B hompage:

Detailed instructions on how to build Plan B and operate its software:

Plan B powder DIY 3d printer

Plan B is improved machine when compared to Focus powder 3d printer made by the same creator or its previous iteration the "3DP Printer". Improvements over Focus are:
  • Dual feed hopper design and driven spreader increase the speed of the new layer process significantly;
  • The motors are removed from the moving parts, giving the gantry a higher speed and accuracy;
  • The aluminum frame is stiffer, thinner and makes the frame heatable (all fragile parts are thermally insulated from the frame);
  • Better piston guidance gives the Z-axis more accuracy and reliability;
  • The frame can be manufactured on a laser cutter or a flowjet

Plan B is work in progress, probable future improvements on it will be:
  • Different cartridges. The HP C6602 cartridges used on Plan B are not used because they are the best, the cheapest or the easiest to control. They are used because there is nothing else, it is the only Arduino controllable cartridge. At 96DPI and 12 nozzles, it is about the simplest a cartridge is going to be. There are plenty of other cartridges available, such as Piezo inkjet cartridges, which give great control over droplet size, The HP C51640, which has roughly the same type of control, only at 300DPI and around 100 nozzles, and CISS (continuous ink supply system) cartridges, which store the ink in an external tank, making it easier to replace the ink and refill it during printing.
  • The firmware lacks (among other things) acceleration. Motors are either on or off. The only place where the printer uses acceleration is when accelerating the X-axis for printing. Motors could easily move at double the speed when all axes had acceleration, while not really affecting the printing quality (inkjet doesn't lose resolution when printing at high speeds).
  • The software is a temporary solution right now. It works, but it is far from perfect. New software needs to be written that slices a file directly from an STL file (is under construction).
  • The printer should be isolated. The pistons heat up, but all of the walls are made of aluminium, acting as a giant heatsink. By insulating the printer, it will use a lot less energy heating the powder. It will also heat the powder more evenly, since it doesn't drain any of the heat at the walls.
  • Add a rough layer to the pistons. The pistons are based on FDM printbeds. This is wrong for 3DP. 3DP needs rough surfaces to grip the powder. At thin layers, the powder will actually break up when the spreader moves over.

Looks like 3DP powder machines are mature and here to stay. I welcome this new developments and healthy synergies with FDM. I hope this project will motivate other to develop new powder based 3d printers.

PS: you will have to disassemble, clean and refill with binder an inkjet cartridge (HP C6602). The details are the instructions. On a personal note: I HATE inkjet cartridges and the business model so it is a good use for this stupid product.

Here are some objects printed on Plan B: