Printerference

The files for this post are available here

In my previous experiments, I’ve used co-processing to add various components to my 3D printed parts as they have been printing to either improve or modify the parts. Co-processing so far has been defined as “Modifying and adjusting a 3D printed job as it is being manufactured to produce content that could not have been created easily otherwise”, and using that definition I have created some pretty interesting and unique examples. But there are two components that I have yet to introduce into the field of co-processing that I will explore in this post. One of them is energy. By adding stored energy to the system, we are no longer dealing with static print jobs. We can make our print jobs move with minimal interaction. Check this out:

My print removing itself from the build plate.
My print removing itself from the build plate.

The other component of co-processing that I will now introduce, as you may have seen from the above GIF, is the use of the printer itself to trigger events during the print. To start out, I needed some energy storing materials, so I found a spring that suited my needs, which you can purchase here. I co-processed the print and placed each spring loop over pillars that held the spring in place. After resuming the build, the pillars were closed off so that the spring could not slip off the part.

The spring has been placed into the print job, and can no longer be removed.
The spring has been placed into the print job, and can no longer be removed.

As you may notice from the CAD file of the part or in the video, there is a small rectangular piece that prints off to the side while the whole mechanism is printing. This is my buffer piece, and it’s purpose is essentially to stall the extruder head in a specific location for a while. The next modification that I need to apply to this print is to load the spring and cock back the trigger mechanism. Once everything has been printed apart from the buffer, I can break both the trigger piece and the hook piece off of the build plate while the print is paused without snapping the center piece off. I can then rotate the hook piece around the printed hinge and notch the trigger clip into the groove at the bottom of the hook piece. The spring is now loaded, ready to be released.

The SolidWorks CAD model of the build plate climber
The SolidWorks CAD model of the build plate climber.

After the main section of the print has printed, the buffer piece is really just stalling for time. It is oriented with respect to the rest of the print job such that the extruder head will not get in the way of the now primed job. If you look at the CAD file, you will notice that on top of the buffer piece there is a small line hovering from the buffer piece to the rest of the print job. This component of the CAD file is what activates the climbing mechanism. The next co-processing step involves pausing the print, removing the hook and latch pieces from the plate, cocking the hook piece back to load the spring, and snapping the latch piece into the groove on the bottom of the hook piece. By doing this, I have made the trigger mechanism taller than the height of the extruder head. When the extruder head draws the hovering line that you see in the CAD file, it bumps into the trigger piece, knocking it back, and releasing the spring. The line, as you may see from the CAD file, is .02 inches, which is thin enough for MakerBot Desktop, my printer’s slicing software, to tell the printer to only “draw” one line to create the hovering extrusion.

By slipping the latch piece into a groove on the hook piece, I have now primed the climber.
By slipping the latch piece into a groove on the hook piece while the print is paused, I have now primed the climber.

The hook has been designed to wrap around the linear slides of the extruder head, so once it has a hold on the slides, the motion of the extruder head after the print does the rest, lifting the piece off of the build plate and leaving it hanging.

The printed part is now hanging off of the printer.
The printed part is now hanging off of the printer.

For a video on how to do this, please watch below. If you have any ideas for designing some build plate climbers, feel free to experiment!

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