Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Interesting Russian project

Here's the website in Russian, and a Google translation to English (click on the "Constructor Kulibin" link). I found this referenced from MAKE Magazine. This is a very interesting project.
They have a great-looking XYZ stage built from a CNC kit. They lower a heating element onto powdered raw material, sintering the raw material as the CandyFab does, except their heating element is a length of nichrome wire instead of a jet of hot air. It gets hot enough to glow, and on the web page they mention that they can work with any powdered material with a melting temperature from 100 to 300 Celsius, including sugar, wax, "Plexi" (plexiglass?), and mixtures such as plastic and sand, plastic and metal powder, powdered paint and sugar powder. Like the CandyFab, each layer of fresh material is laid down on top of the previously worked layer (and I hope that process is automatic as it sounds tedious otherwise) and then you scribble a cross-section on the new layer with the heating element, and then it's time to put down another layer.

The nice thing to this kind of approach is that the unmelted/unfused material provides mechanical support for the built structure. You can build shapes that RepRap and Fab@Home can't make, such as bridges or inverted cones, because any bridge-like part that will go over empty space is built with stuff under it to support it.

This made me curious to start looking around at CNC kits, which could nicely jump-start any fabber project. The XYZ machinery for a fabber is called a "gantry" in CNC language, and there is a very active hobbyist CNC community. Here is a video for a CNC gantry kit that somebody was selling for $195 on eBay. The video itself is for sale ($20) so this is just a teaser.

Here's a few interesting CNC links.

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