This project is to design an open source embroidery machine. Current embroidery machines are very expensive and the average consumer can only afford a cheap version that really a modified home sewing machine.
3d printers have show that a community of people can develop a low cost and easy to build version of very expensive commercial machines. An embroidery machine is very similar to these commercial 3d printers. They have a moving XY bed, and needle assembly. This is not very different from 3d printers with an XY bed and extruder.
My goal is to develop an open source mechanical design, electronics and software so that people can build an embroidery machine in the same manner that people are building 3d printers.
Well we are starting to make some slow progress. We are currently working on sourcing parts for an off the shelf embroidery machine which we will combine with 3d printed parts to try and for a modular embroidery head. If you are only interested in a single needle design you can get the parts needed to build that. Or you can get several sets of parts and build a multi-needle design. It is slow going, but moving forward.
I am still looking for some people who would like to actively help with this project. I have since purchased a cheap brother embroidery machine and every time I use it I think about an open source option.
I have the tool to fabricate parts and test, but I dont have the time to do the design work.
Anyone interested in collaboration on this project. I dont have enough time to do it all myself. I have access to a lot of the equipment to make prototypes but not the time to test and work on the design.
I would like to assemble a team of people and start making steady progress on the design.
The part that I am struggling with right now is to figure out the needle assembly and how to either build my own or finding a suitable replacement part that I can hack. Below is link that show the mechanism while the needle plunges.
I have been told that they call the needle assembly an Embroidery Foot. It seems like it should be reasonable to find a replacement foot for an embroidery machine. There are quite a few industrial companies out there so the trick would be to find one that will work for this project. So I am currently looking into finding a suitable source for these parts.
Also it seems like there are really two styles of embroidery machines. The home user one style and the commercial style. The main difference as far as I can tell is that the home user one is basically an upgraded sewing machine and can only ever do 1 color of thread at a time. I think if you were to try to build this style you could just get a cheap sewing machine and hack it together.
The commercial versions look a little different. I think this is the design that makes more sense to try and build as an open source design. It can support many more needles at the same time and if you could develop an open source design you could make it modular and scalable. You can start with a single needle and over time add more. So this is the design I am gonna work toward building.
I also learned a little bit about the software. Almost all embroidery machines accept the DST file format. So the software should be able to accept this format.
I also did some reading and the design should allow for a cap attachment, so you can embroider on round objects. Shouldnt be too hard If we keep that in mind from the beginning.
This is the beginning of the project. I am currently investigating the details and develop the specs of what this machine will need to do. I am not exactly sure how embroidery machines work beyond having seen one or two running. But I see this project as being split into 3 main areas.
The mechanical design will consist of a frame, xy table, and needle assembly. I believe the needle assembly will be the most complicated mechanical assembly. While building one from scratch would be ideal, it might be possible to find replacement parts for an off the shelf machine to start with.
The electrical should be fairly similar to a cnc mill or 3d printer. A microcontroller to run everything, some stepper motor drivers, possibly a dc motor for the needle, some encoders on the needle, and perhaps a few other bits. Options include using an arduino mega with RAMPs board, Smoothie board, Beagle Bone Black, or some other board. It is probably quite easy to use any of these and make it work.
There will need to be some digitizing software to take an image file and convert it into the standard format for embroidery machines. I would like to be compatible with current standards for embroidery machines. The software for embroidery machines is quite expensive. If the machine firmware can read the standard format, then you could generate the code using any method you like. This allows the user to generate the code in whatever method you like. If someone has a old embroidery machine but doesn't have the software then they could use the open-source software to run their machine. It just makes sense to follow the standard format.