3D Printer – It lives!

Mini Kossel printing a trilobite head

Mini Kossel printing a trilobite head

The 3D Printer is up, running, and calibrated! My wife and I have been having a blast with it so far and its been running non-stop the last two weekends. Its been quite a learning experience figuring out how to calibrate it precisely. Delta style printers like the Mini Kossel are really robust and fast but due to the trigonometry required to converted x,y,z coordinates to tower movements the calibration can be a bit tricky. There is a fantastic blog post HERE that walks you through step by step how to calibrate your printer.

Now for a little show and tell. Here are a few of the things we’ve been able to print so far and a video showing the printer at work!

A few of the things we've printed

A few of the things we’ve printed

More to come as we keep printing and learning about building our own 3D Models!

3D Printer Control Concept

ScuttleBot TFT – 3D Printer Interface Concept

ScuttleBot TFT Concept Design

ScuttleBot TFT Concept Design on my EasyPIC Fusion board

Recently I’ve been working on a 3D Printer Interface concept tentatively called ScuttleBot TFT. It started when I was looking for an interface for my upcoming Mini Kossel 3D printer build. I saw several multi-line character displays but not much in the way of color graphic or touch screen interfaces. So I struck out to make a color touch screen interface concept on my MikroE EasyPIC Fusion board to see what I could come up with and how much interest people would have for something like this.

The cool thing is that this can run on MikroE’s mikroMedia for PIC32 board which is compact and at $99 falls under the all important $100 price point (barely, but still makes it). It also includes a MicroSD card slot to read STL files from for computer free printing. It would be pretty easy to mount the board to a printed enclosure and attach it to the frame somewhere. The MikroMedia and my EasyPIC Fusion have the same hardware so the port from one to the other is super easy.

Front and back of the MikroMedia for PIC32 board

Front and back of the MikroMedia for PIC32 board

The concept code is done using MikroElektronika’s VisualTFT and MikroC Pro for PIC32. My initial concept is mostly interface design and screen navigation. I haven’t gotten very far in to the communications interface code with the firmware on my Ramps controller board yet but I have some ideas outlined on how to do it. One of my design goals is to make it user selectable from the touch screen whether to use SPI or I2C. Giving the option to use both would allow for maximum flexibility with other addons user might have.

The other part of this is figuring out exactly what should go on the screen. I am unfortunately still waiting on my last package for my printer that happens to contains the printed frame parts and motors (sitting in US customs, boo!) so I have yet to really experience the process of calibrating and using a 3D printer on a day to day basis. Without that its rather hard to know what should be on the screens, what should be most accessible, and what is mostly frivolous information that would just be in the way. Hopefully I’ll cure that soon but for now I’m trying to get a framework built to make it easier to move things around and communicate information to and from the print controller board.

We’ll see where it goes and how interested people. Even if I find there is already a cheaper color touch screen interface out there I didn’t come across in my initial search I figure the knowledge I gain by building this project will help me substantially in understanding the specifics of 3D printer control and firmware.

MikroMedia for PIC32: http://www.mikroe.com/mikromedia/pic32/
VisualTFT Software: http://www.mikroe.com/visualtft/
MikroC Pro for PIC32: http://www.mikroe.com/mikroc/pic32/
EasyPIC Fusion v7 dev baord: http://www.mikroe.com/easypic-fusion/


3D Printer Building!

The first round of parts for our 3D printer is here!


My wife and I have decided to build a 3D Printer together for a fun couples project. That and who doesn’t want a 3D printer? I did a lot of research trying to find which printer we wanted. These were my criteria:

  • Had to be a kit or from scratch build
  • Had to be unique in some way (just for the cool showing off factor)
  • Had to be open source and easily modable/hackable
  • Preferably the base designs had to come from a reputable source

The design we settle on was the Openbeam Mini Kossel (Link)
The kossel is a part of the delta bot family of printers. Meaning that instead of moving the parts strictly in Cartesian coordinates the printer works by moving shuttles on three vertical drive towers to achieve the movement of the print head in the standard X, Y, Z planes. It makes for a solid design and also a very unique and fun looking build!

The Mini Kossel is an open source design originally created by Johan Rochel. Currently their aren’t any places that sell completed kits for the kossel so it has a very active and welcoming community of users who have created one with their own twists and methods. We decided to go with the standard mechanical build to start with that uses linear slide rails for the tower carriages. The modable part I want to start working on is a touch screen interface for running the printer computer free. I’m toying with VisualTFT software from MikroElektronika and a PIC32 MCU to drive the touchscreen and SD card reader. We’ll see where it goes!

If you’re interested in building a Mini Kossel, here are some links to start with:
Mini Kossel RepRap Wiki Page
Make Magazine review of the Mini Kossel prototype
Openbeam blog and parts
BuildA3DPrinter (They offer build instructions and some parts kits)
DeltaBot Printer Google Group

Hoepfully I’ll be back to finishing my Lego Power Functions tutorial soon. I got sidetracked with the mini kossel. Coming soon!

Finally, here is a picture of a completed Mini Kossel from Make Magazine to see what we’ll hopefully be ending up with!