Towards More Automated Printers

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Towards More Automated Printers

3D printers can be used in a manufacturing context. This might be surprising for anyone who has waited hours for their low-poly Pokemon print, but for low-volume plastic parts, you can actually run a manufacturing line off a few 3D printers. The problem with 3D printers is peeling the print off when it’s finished. If only there were a conveyor belt solution for a bed that wasn’t forgotten by MakerBot.

[Swaleh] may have a solution to the problem of un-automated 3D printers. He’s designing the WorkHorse 3D
, a printer that uses a conveyor belt as a bed. When the print is finished, the conveyor belt rolls forward, depositing a printed part in a bin. It’s the solution to truly automated printing.

The use of conveyor belts to automate a batch of 3D prints isn’t a new idea. Way back in the Before Time, MakerBot released the Automated Build Platform
, and used it in production to print off parts for Thing-O-Matics. This bit of Open Hardware was left by the wayside for some reason, and last year saw the invention of a new type of conveyor belt-based printer, The Infinite Build Volume Printer
(for lack of a better name) from [Bill Steele]. This printer angles the print bed at 45 degrees, theoretically allowing for prints that are infinitely long. This idea was turned into thePrintrbot Printrbelt, and theBlackbelt 3D printer was made public around the same time.

[Swaleh]’s printer is not of the infinite build volume variety. Instead of concentrating on creating long beams, most of the engineering work has gone into making a printer that’s designed to just push prints out. The conveyor belt bed is flat — and may unfortunately infringe on the MakerBot patents — but if you want a printer that’s designed to dump parts out like a very slow injection molding machine, this is the design you want.

The print queue application
for this project is just a simple desktop app that serves as a buffer for G-code files. The app sends one G-code file off to the printer, rolls the bed forward, and queues up the next part. It’s simple, yes, but there aren’t too many things that do this now because there aren’t too many printers built to be factories. It’s impressive, and you can check out a few videos of this printer in action below.

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Towards More Automated Printers

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