Monday, July 21, 2008

3d printer project at Victoria University of Wellington School of Design

There was recently a design contest at VUW School of Design to create inexpensive 3d printers. Apparently Ponoko had some involvment, possibly a sponsorship. I found the prettiest printer to be the Equinox, which also was designed to be environmentally friendly, using a lens to focus sunlight to dry recycled paint as a printing process. I was going to say the printer itself looks like an astrolabe, but it really looks like an armillary sphere, a sort of 3D astrolabe.

There's a high-res photo (low-res version below) that shows some of the mechanics, which were laser-cut on Ponoko. I am very much hoping that the university and/or students will publish the plans for the Equinox. It's very cool that people can use a service like Ponoko to build their own printers.

Very slow progress on my CNC mill. I finally purchased the 3-axis Xylotex controller. It is my hope to connect it this evening and conceivably mill a piece of wood. So I need to move a PC to where the mill is, run a network cable, load the PC with EMC and configure it, and set up the shop-vac to collect sawdust. I'll mount the Xylotex board and power supply and fan on the side of the mill, but that's for later.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Penny wise, pound foolish

I got the idea that I should try to design and build my own electronics. I've done electronics design before, including microcontrollers and FPGAs and the like, but I have little experience with power electronics. That, and I'm impatient. The upshot is that after wasting about three weeks and a few hundred dollars in trying to control stepper motors, I'm not much further ahead. Here is the affordable pre-packaged solution (which had been recommended by the guy who sold me the mechanics) which I should have used from the start:
So I'll plan to pick up a 3-axis controller and run it with LinuxCNC. Apparently TurboCNC is also very popular but I'm not about to run DOS on any machine that could be running Linux.

The mechanics cost about $300 including shipping. The steppers cost $75 (I got them from RRRF). This stepper controller will run maybe $225 with shipping, so the whole thing is $600. That's reasonable. Obviously it doesn't include waste.

I'm thinking it would be fun to fool with Python code that generates G code and sends it to the CNC. I could develop a repertoire of programmatically defined shapes.