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Automatic Infinite 3D Printer

The Automatic Infinite 3D Printer (i3D) gives anyone the power of a factory.

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3D printing has the potential to democratize manufacturing. Since 3D printers are easy to use and low cost, they allow anyone to make incredibly complex things. I'm confident that anyone reading this has seen something cool made on a low cost hobby grade 3D printer. The technology has opened up new doors to makers and hackers.

However the capabilities of 3D printers are limited by requirement of human operation. The need of manual part removal prevents 3D printers from being used for mass production purposes. Therefore, the purpose of this project is to build a fully autonomous 3D printer. A 3D printer that can print a continuous stream of parts without user interaction. The finished machine is capable of independently ejecting and starting print jobs. Additional, the 3D printer's conveyor belt mechanism allows it make infinitely long prints. The Automatic Infinite 3D Printer (i3D) allows any small business, organization, and person to leverage the power of a factory.

**NOTE: If you are  hoping to get a quick overview of this project, please watch the videos list under Figure 1, Figure 2, and  Figure 3.

[Figure 1: Demo of Automatic Infinite 3D Printer Mk. IV]

[Figure 2: Demo of Automatic Infinite 3D Printer Mk III]

[Figure 3: Purpose of Project with Automatic Infinite 3D Printer Mk III]

The Problem

Even though 3D printing is a newly emerging technology, it has rapidly became mainstream in education, manufacturing and many other industries. 3D printers allow anyone to easily produce complex parts.

However, these machines have one critical flaw. After a 3D printer has finished printing a part, a person must physically go to the printer and remove the part from the print bed. A 3D printer cannot start its next print job, until the previous part is removed. This constraint cripples the productivity of 3D printers. If 3D printers could automatically eject their print jobs, then they could print out a constant stream of parts. The efficiency of the machine would drastically increase.

Many businesses already use 3D printers to manufacture products. Currently, their manufacturing capabilities are constrained by the need to manually remove/start print jobs If this task was automated, it would be easier for more companies to use 3D printing for volume manufacturing.

Personally, I work in a 3D printing lab that prints hundreds of parts for my fellow university students. From my position, it is obvious that this constraint significantly limits the number of print jobs our lab can complete per day.

[Figure 4: Problem Pitch Video]

The Solution

The purpose of this project is to build a fully automated 3D Printer: The Automatic Infinite 3D Printer. The Automatic Infinite 3D Printer has a conveyor belt module that autonomously ejects finished print jobs from the printer. With this novel feature, the 3D Printer is able to print a constant stream of print jobs without human intervention. This is a breakthrough for the 3D printing industry. Automatic part ejection will improve the functionality and capability of 3D printers. Within the next decade, autonomous part ejectors will be as ubiquitous to 3D printers as paper ejectors are to paper printers. 

Furthermore, the custom conveyor belt allows users to print infinitely in the y axis. This allows users to make a much wider variety of parts. The Automatic Infinite 3D Printer monitors print jobs with a computer vision program and a series of webcams. In the unlikely event that a print jobs fails, the machine will autonomously eject the failed print and restart the job. 

I have built four successful prototypes of the Automatic Infinite 3D Printer (Mk. I, Mk. II, Mk. III, Mk. IV). The features of Mk. IV are detailed below. Mk I, Mk II, and Mk III are discussed in the Previous Prototypes section.

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MK_IV_ASS.stp

Mk IV Assembly Step File

stp - 6.32 MB - 10/22/2018 at 12:41

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WORKHORSE_MK3.stp

Mk III Assembly Step File

stp - 3.30 MB - 07/19/2018 at 23:20

Download

  • 6 × NEMA Stepper Motors
  • 1 × Arduino Mega
  • 1 × 24 V E3D V6 Hotend
  • 1 × 24 V PSU
  • 50 × M5 T Slot Nuts

View all 17 components

  • New Design Iteration

    Swaleh Owais10/22/2018 at 12:31 1 comment

    Here is the fourth iteration of the Automatic Infinite 3D Printer. 

    In future iterations, I hope to explore computer vision applications that automate 3D printing.

  • Testing Automatic Ejection

    Swaleh Owais05/29/2018 at 01:11 0 comments

    [3D Printer Automatically Ejecting Print Job]

  • Test Print with WorkHorse 3D Printer Mk. 3

    Swaleh Owais05/25/2018 at 05:18 0 comments

    I have managed to print quite a few parts with the integrated conveyor belt. Next up, I'll tinker with the infinite build capabilities.

  • Ejecting Parts from WorkHorse 3D Printer Mk. 3

    Swaleh Owais05/23/2018 at 05:51 0 comments

    I have finished making the belt of the WorkHorse 3D Printer and I ran a few quick 3D printing tests.

    I need to make multiple adjustments to the firmware to finalize the machine. For example, the y axis movement is not proportional. The printed object should be circular.

    I would also like to give  a shoutout to the Deltesian project. The Deltesian is an open source 3D printer designed by a crew of extremely knowledgeable and friendly hackers. I've spent a lot of time communicating with the team on advice and queries about 3D printing.

    https://github.com/bornity/deltesian-part-files

  • WorkHorse 3D Printer Mk. 3: Mechanical Construction

    Swaleh Owais05/17/2018 at 01:24 0 comments

    I have finished building most of the WorkHorse 3D Printer.

    I have a solid frame to test this design with. The last major component to build is the belt. 

    The next steps involve me making new firmware for the 3D Printer and then testing:)

  • CAD of WorkHorse 3D Printer Mk 3

    Swaleh Owais04/28/2018 at 17:39 0 comments

    I have finished a rough CAD mock up of my third prototype autonomous 3D printer.

    [Figure 1: WorkHorse 3D Printer Mk. 3 Rough CAD]

    The printer features a hybrid delta-conveyor belt design. The linkage system provides the X and Z Axes movement and the Conveyor Belt provides the Y Axes movement. The design change greatly reduces the complexity of the mechanism.

    I plan to allow the printer to print at an angle to provide infinite build volume functionality.

    A common aspiration of open source 3D printers is to be able to print all the components required for a printer. This allows the machine to be self replicating. With the new prototype 3D printer, hackers will finally be able to print long structural extrusion pieces.

    Image result for long aluminium extrusion[Figure 2: Prototype Should be Able to Print Structural Pieces as Seen Above]

    References

    [2]RoverCNC. (2017). V-Rail Aluminium. Barrier, Ontario. [Electronic]. Available: www.rovercnc.com/ 

  • Revisions for WorkHorse 3D Printer Mk3

    Swaleh Owais04/24/2018 at 20:43 0 comments

    I am currently developing a third iteration of the WorkHorse 3D Printer.

    In this revision, I am placing a special emphasis on building an industry grade machine. NO MORE DUCT TAPE! I am still working on the new design, but I am quite happy with how I simplified many of the components.

    To pay for the high quality machine, I am hoping to be able to use the Hackaday Funding.

    So if I am lucky enough to have a judge read this post, I implore them to consider the below details while selecting the top 20 candidates.

    • Is this a unique solution to a particular challenge facing the world today?
      • 3D Printers have the potential to democratize manufacturing. Currently, mass production technology is only within the reach of large factories and businesses. Most hackers/makers lack the financial means and technological aptitude to use automation machinery. 3D printers are inexpensive and easy to use. Providing 3D printers with the ability to automatically eject/start print jobs would allow anyone to setup a small scale factory. Empowering tinkerers with this ability is sure to generate exciting and innovative hacks.
    • How thoroughly documented were the design process & design decisions?
      • I understand that this project is more likely to succeed with the help of the hacker community. Therefore, I am being completely transparent during project development. I am posting all notes, designs, and software online so that others can critique and improve my work.
    • How easily can this design be implemented by other people in future projects?
      • The project is completely open source. This will make it easy for others to incorporate my automatic print job ejection mechanism into other 3D printers. Furthermore, I am committed to making my automatic print job ejection mechanism into a single modular unit that can be easily attached to any 3D printer.
    • How complete is the project?
      • At this point, I have completed two successful prototypes of the WorkHorse 3D Printer and a robust software application. Both prototypes were able eject a consistent stream of print jobs automatically. My software application provides users with a simple interface to send print jobs to the printer. By my no means is this project complete, but I am satisfied by my progress to date. I strongly believe that my next prototype will exhibit the drastic usefulness of automatic 3D print job ejectors. Being a university engineering student, I do not have the largest budget to spend on this project. I am hoping to use the Hackaday Prize money to pay for expenses. I would know exactly how to spend the prize money, since I already have a refined parts list for building Mk. 3. 

    Also, I would like to thank everyone that liked my Hackaday entry for helping support this project.

    During the robotics module contest, I will attempt to turn my mechanism into an independent module.

    My next post will be on the CAD and design changes for Mk. 3.

  • Mass Production Test with Y-Axis Conveyor Belt

    Swaleh Owais04/15/2018 at 01:44 0 comments

         I printed a queue of parts on my integrated conveyor. The parts all printed and ejected successfully, but there were still some issues.

    [Figure 1: Printing Queue of Jobs with 3D Printer]

        I am currently printing on a roll of duct tape. While the print surface is fine, duct tape cannot withstand the high temperature of the nozzle. If the hot end touches the duct tape, the tape melts and fuses with the extruded plastic. This adhesion makes it more difficult for the part to be ejected later on.

    [Figure 2: Duct Tape Belt Damaged by Hot End]

        I plan on replacing the belt with a stainless steel shim.

  • Using Conveyor Belt as Y-Axis

    Swaleh Owais04/13/2018 at 06:53 0 comments

    I am now focused on simplifyng the design of the printer.

    I have moved from a Delta Design to a Cartesian Design. I am using the motion of the conveyor belt as the y axis. This design change reduces the number of motors needed for the mechanism.

    [Figure 1: Integrating Conveyor Belt Demo]

  • Revisions and Improvements for WorkHorse 3D Printer Mk. 2

    Swaleh Owais04/08/2018 at 02:09 0 comments

    I am now working on the second iteration of the WorkHorse 3D Printer. The new prototype will have several fundamental changes that should greatly improve the effectiveness of the design.

    I will be switching from a Delta design to a Cartesian design. I will replace the y axis linear actuator with a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt will be controlled by stepper motors that will provide y movement. This modification will simplify the design and reduce the number of separate mechanisms.

    Additionally, I will improve the software application and provide a G-code tool path viewer to users. I will also add a widget that allows users to send single lines of G-code through the interface.

View all 26 project logs

  • 1
    Laser Cut and 3D Printer Specified Components

    Lasercut and 3D Print all specified components founds in the Mk. IV cad directory.

    While 3D printing, I recommend using print settings of: 0.2, 10%, and PLA.

  • 2
    Machine Specified Components

    Machine the above three components as seen in the engineering drawings out of 6061 Aluminum.

  • 3
    Assemble Base Frame

    Using M5 bolts, assemble the base frame aluminum extrusion pieces as seen below.

View all 11 instructions

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Discussions

John Erkhenhast wrote 12/06/2018 at 21:43 point

Could you elaborate on your process for the Kapton tape belt? The Components page specifies a 600mm X 1000mm roll of Kapton tape but your Instructions page lacks details on turning that roll of tape into a functional belt with a build area of 6 inches..

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D1plo1d wrote 11/27/2018 at 23:01 point

Hello, I've been developing a open source, secure 3D printer networking software built around this exact print queue concept for the last year and full time for the last 2 1/2 months. I was inspired by the Makerbot Conveyor almost a decade ago and back then I was the guy who modded ReplicatorG to included a build queue. I want to work with y'all on this. Can we set up a meeting to see if we can work together to make this even more awesome?

https://github.com/tegh/tegh

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[this comment has been deleted]

Benjamin.dalton96 wrote 11/22/2018 at 08:27 point

Scam! 

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Crowlee117 wrote 11/19/2018 at 19:52 point

I'm planning on modifying my first printer in your MK IV's Likeness. 

Where can I find your workhorse Print Queue software? It does not seem to be included in your Files tab nor in your Logs or Details tabs.

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CameronLamont wrote 10/31/2018 at 11:55 point

I've downloaded the .step file, but i wasn't 100% clear on some of the materials or if I have everything

In the first set of steps 

"Lasercut and 3D Print all specified components founds in the Mk. IV cad directory." 

Wondering where the cad directory is or what its referring to? (looks to me you could also teardown a CR-10 as per the cad names)

Also what is the belt itself made of? is it literally just Kapton tape?  Needed something flexible that can handle the heat.  Wasn't sure which side was the sticky side of the tape? and guessing it sticks to itself to make a loop? (for the belt)

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santiago.serrano.occofer wrote 10/31/2018 at 07:42 point

Hi! First of all, great project! I've been thinking in something like this in the last time, and I really appreciate the excellent work you made. I have experience with the design of 3D printers and would like to make something similar for my personal use here in Argentina. But I don't know if  I am able to use the software you use, is it posible? If so, is there any way of using it without  the laptop connected to the printer? I mean, using something like octoprint? Thanks in advance and I would really appreciate your answer! Greetings from Argentina!!

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Benjamin.dalton96 wrote 10/31/2018 at 21:17 point

If you want something like his workhorse print queue software for octoprint, the blackbelt 3d printer people have made an octoprint plugin called "octoprint print queue". https://github.com/michaelnew/Octoprint-Print-Queue

I have yet to try it myself but I think it would work great

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mydragons28 wrote 10/30/2018 at 14:48 point

You can help me make one of these printers.
Please.

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mydragons28 wrote 10/30/2018 at 14:44 point

hi.

I wanted to make your project.
Will you give me that program?

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Keova wrote 10/30/2018 at 11:16 point

Is it possible to buy one from you? 

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Benjamin.dalton96 wrote 10/30/2018 at 12:37 point

Since Makerbot holds the patent on belt printers this printer probably can't be sold. Maybe it could be but I'm not sure how that would go. And Swaleh isn't exactly set up for production of these. 

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abdou_char wrote 10/29/2018 at 19:57 point

how do I get the workhorse software please

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Benjamin.dalton96 wrote 10/30/2018 at 12:49 point

Actually yeah, I would love to use this software as well at my university. We don't have a belt printer (yet) but I would use the gcode script to display a message on the printer and wait for a button press. I'm looking into the octoprint plug in as well but I'd like a dedicated solution. 

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jeffmoss1999 wrote 10/29/2018 at 03:40 point

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Benjamin.dalton96 wrote 10/29/2018 at 13:35 point

Well for one, printrbot is now a dead company. For 2, this printer is unique in that it can print in both the normal XYZ of most 3d printers, allowing you to use normal slicing methods. Along with that, it's transformable to the printrbot/blackbelt 45 degree printing method for infinite build volume. Oh, and you can build it yourself, you don't have to pay through the nose 😅

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wapata.31 wrote 09/10/2018 at 16:50 point

Hi !

This printer will be my next printer ! I'm in 3d printing since 2012, Cartesian and Delta. This one that is mixing the two world seem a really good idea ! Is there a name for this type of printer (I mean with the dela x/z part) ?

Bravo for the work done until there !!!

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whoismezero wrote 08/10/2018 at 15:14 point

Have you had any success printing with the printer set up at the 45 degree angle?  Most other angled/belted 3D printers I've seen use a "standard" X-Y motion system and use the belt as their Z axis.  That makes slicing pretty easy since you could still use your usual slicing program and just rotate the part 45 degrees in the Y axis and then run the resulting gcode through a script to realign the layers to work for the belt (William Steele from Polar 3D created this script: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2358314).  Or you could use the forked version of Cura that BlackBelt has created (https://github.com/BlackBelt3D/Cura) which comes with a few extra features specific to "angled" printing.

But with this printer it's a little more complicated since the belt is used as the Y axis.  Which means for every Y move that a "normal" printer would make, your printer (in the 45 degree configuration) needs make a Y AND a Z move.  Have you been able to solve that yet?  I'm sure you could create a script that translates the Y moves of a "normal" printer into the Y and Z moves for your printer, but it's going to take some more math than a simple layer shift script.  I'm very interested to hear any progress you've made on this because having a printer that could do "normal" prints onto a conveyor belt AND/OR do "angled" prints with an infinite build volume would be awesome!

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whoismezero wrote 08/10/2018 at 14:49 point

Have you thought about using OctoPrint and use the Print Queue plugin (https://github.com/michaelnew/Octoprint-Print-Queue) with this printer?

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akshaygs wrote 07/20/2018 at 09:24 point

Hi,
I have some experience in Design and 3D Printing.
Can I help out Somehow. I feel this is the best project that the community need to have.
I am extremely excited!!

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taitny wrote 07/05/2018 at 16:19 point

I was pondering building an additive extruder, when a friend  showed me this link.  I believe there is market value in a printer that can can print continuous components.  In my case, it would be for architectural replacements of moulding and trim for old houses.  Hopefully someone out there will help you commercialize the system, and take it to market!

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lukewebdev wrote 06/14/2018 at 04:29 point

Would love to help test/prototype this on a prusa i3 type printer I have.

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lahav svorai wrote 06/09/2018 at 14:57 point

Hey,

Love the project!

can you please write me a links for the several belts you have been used?

can you tell me what material did you use one the belt?

I would like to try it my self!

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Swaleh Owais wrote 06/12/2018 at 19:07 point

Thanks!

I ended up making custom belts. The logs detail the process.

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Sergey Osaulenko wrote 06/08/2018 at 22:52 point

hi

If it possible, on your rules I want to come to your project and start working on it. I have some skills for making 3d printers. Hope for your positive respond

  Are you sure? yes | no

Swaleh Owais wrote 06/12/2018 at 19:09 point

Hey!

This is a community driven project and I would love collaborating with others to develop it!

I sent you a PM. 

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bencooper96 wrote 06/08/2018 at 19:01 point

Is there a BoM or any stl/cad files? I'm having trouble finding them.

This looks like a really interesting project nice work!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Swaleh Owais wrote 06/11/2018 at 16:52 point

Hi, I'm making a fourth prototype right now and I'll post CAD files for it soon. 

Just need to finish my exams first though, which will take a couple of more weeks :)

And thanks!

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bencooper96 wrote 06/11/2018 at 17:01 point

Sounds good. Thanks! Good luck on your tests!

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