Monthly Archives

June 2015

Where is my Dual Material Head?

By | Design, News, Prototype Build | 7 Comments

UPDATE! Check this one out http://www.cel-robox.com/dual-material-robox-upgrades/

Sorry…

At the beginning of the year we estimated that we would be shipping the Dual Material Head at the end of Quarter 2, 2015, and many of you have pre-ordered your heads so you can take full advantage of all the extra functions Robox brings to 3D printing; for this we wholeheartedly thank you.

We are truly sorry for the delays so far, but development of new technology is an unpredictable business and we really want to make sure that we give you the best product possible when it is finally released.

What has been done so far?

We are over 90% on our way to seeing the Dual Material Head enter mass production, but as most of you will know the last 10% is the trickiest part of the whole process.

We have been working very hard to ensure that when the new technology is released it is as near to perfect as possible, to ensure our customers enjoy a smooth and faultless experience, so we are not about to rush the last 10% when we are so close to achieving something very special.

Even before we had released the first version of Robox we had already started on the dual material system ensuring as much of the work was included in the original unit as possible.  We had to ensure the Robox had the potential to be a multi-functional platform from the very beginning.  So we included the location features for the second extruder, a path for the filament to reach the head and all the electronics to drive the system.

Robox then exploded onto the market and we have spent the last 8 months making sure we could provide the necessary support to our customers, getting all appropriate systems in place and ironing out the few teething troubles which should be expected with the launch of any new piece of technology.  To say the last few months have been somewhat of a whirlwind, while very exciting, is an understatement.

We are now at the point where we think Robox is the best machine on the market, and feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive.

During this time, work on the Dual Material Head has continued, and we are almost at the point where we can give the nod to the production lines to get started – almost, but not quite.

There are 4 distinct areas that need finishing before the Dual Material Head can be released; the head itself, Cable and Bowden tube management to the x-carriage, the second SmartReel reader and holder, and the firmware and software to handle all this.

  • The head; we’ve designed, manufactured and tested 2 new ways of sealing the needle valves into the head; we’ve temporarily abandoned one of these designs as although it showed great promise it requires a much longer development time; the second is a more subtle change to the existing system which is now being life-tested to ensure smooth continued operation.
  • Cable and Bowden tube management; this has been designed to ensure it is backward compatible. Stage 1 samples have been made and tested and we are now waiting for the production parts to be built and tested.
    Cable Managment
  • The second reel holder; on the surface this seems the easiest of tasks but has been the cause of some delay. The mechanics are simple enough but some of the electronic parts required have a very long lead time and even samples of them are taking a long time to procure. The factory is now making prototypes and we should see them at the end of the month.
    Dual Material Reel holder
  • Firmware and Software; the firmware only needed subtle tweaks and is all but complete. The software is more than 50% of the entire task, not only do we need an intuitive way of allowing the users to select and assign extruders to objects or tasks, but the structure to enable these to be processed into the final Robox commands. Our two senior software engineers Tony and Ian have been diligently integrating all the features required to support 2 materials into the interface, working closely to ensure that the gcode generator and post-processors have all the variables required to create the correct Robox commands. This has been completed to testing level and we now have a development version of AutoMaker with material assignment, Dual Material Head support. Ian has taken this opportunity to scratch-build the post-processor to improve its output and to handle multiple extruder support. This is the final part of the software development required to start multiple material printing.

What’s not finished yet?

Testing, testing, testing.  As you can see from the above, in essence the Dual Material Head is virtually complete and we are at the point where we could press the button on the launch of the head.  But we want to be at the point where we are very confident about performance and life, and as such we are spending the next 8 or so weeks undergoing a rigorous testing process.  This includes driving the heads with the software as a user would, testing the production samples of the cable management system, and testing the latest version of the dual reel holding designs.

In addition we will conduct final testing of the software to ensure we’ve covered all possible scenarios, and while the gcode creation is well into its development we need to make sure it has all the functions and stability essential for final release.

So what is the new ETA on the Dual Material Head?

So the good news is that while we’ve not met our early estimated date, we are confident the new head will be released to the public in November 2015.  But please note this is an estimate, what we don’t want to do is promise an exact date and then find we’re a few weeks out. As well as the immense amount of testing we have to allocate time for tooling and production.

Why is it worth the wait?

At this point you need to remember why you invested in the Robox in the first place – this all comes back to the reason why Robox fills a gap in the current 3D printing market.  Robox will be the ONLY 3D printer out there capable of additional functions such as dual material printing, paste extrusion, drag knife cutting, laser cutting and more. The Dual Material Head is the first of many heads we intend to release.

You’ve already bought a 3D printer which arguably produces better prints than anything else on the market in a similar price bracket, or even at a higher price point.  And soon you’ll be able to produce prints in different colours and with different materials which expands the range of what can be printed enormously.

Printing in different colours means you can print coloured logos, patterns, light pipes and more, the list is endless!
2 yoyo2

Creating parts with multiple materials which have different properties allows you to print items that have a hard core and a soft over-mould; for example, a bottle cap with a rubber seal or axles with bearing surfaces.

The Dual Material Head greatly expands the range of replacement objects you can print, such as buttons, phone cases, handles, chair pads, screws, plugs, watch straps, hinges, hearing aids, over-moulds etc.

And perhaps most importantly, users will no longer have to consider whether the design they have found is suitable for 3D printing – you’ll be able to download any model from repositories online and be confident of the final print.

Printing with two different materials – such as ABS and HIPS at the same time – means you could have support material which is more easily removed as it is different to the material used for the actual design.

Robox hardware doesn’t have the same caveats that others do; we don’t need to retract, cool or wipe the nozzles, we don’t have to build time-consuming, wasteful towers or shields to reduce cross contamination of materials.

The needle valve system ensures that only the material being printed is coming out of the nozzles. The needle valve system is good on single material prints as it allows multiple nozzle sizes but truly shows its potential during multiple material prints.

The user will not have to consider every aspect of a multi-material print, the interface we’ve designed is intuitive and the workflow simple to use; even handling situations where the material attached to the hardware doesn’t match the project. A simple change to the extruder which will be released very soon will introduce the ability to print a more diverse selection of materials, and as such, prints.

In conclusion, the Robox will be able to produce the best multi-material prints of any FFF printer in the market, development is well under way.

Thank You…

This all said, some of you have already placed your pre-orders for the Dual Material Head and are getting impatient.  We totally understand, and hope that this explanation on our part helps to put your mind at rest and retains your confidence in what we are trying to achieve. We’re extremely excited about what the Dual Material Head brings to the Robox – the wait will definitely be worth it.

UPDATE! Check this one out http://www.cel-robox.com/dual-material-robox-upgrades/

3D Printed Springs

By | Robox User Blog | 3 Comments

3D printing has become a critical tool in product development and the increased availability of high-strength, dependable materials has enabled the use of 3D printing in areas that have not previously been possible. The open-minded thinking of the maker community has helped drive this advancement. Companies like Taulman and ColorFabb have made materials readily available for any fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printer that have strength, durability, and stiffness far above the basic PLA and ABS materials commonly used. One of these new materials is PET, a polyester based thermoplastic commonly used in water bottles for its chemical stability, strength, and durability. Taulman released T-Glase, a PETT variation of the basic material, and ColorFabb followed with XT, using a proprietary Eastman-Kodak formulation called Amphora. Both materials offer better strength and rigidity than PLA, hydrophobic properties, and ease of printing. I started using T-Glase to get away from ABS due to the fumes and the curling and warping that occurred in many of my prints, rendering some of them completely unusable. I added XT because of the opaque colors and found that it is the easiest printing material in my inventory.
Several months ago I was contracted to help a local company solve a problem with one of their products. They needed to release a latch to open a spring-loaded drawer. It seems like a simple problem on the surface, but they also needed the system to run on a 3VDC battery with very low current draw. The solution they were using was a solenoid and due to the low voltage and current draw the solenoid did not generate enough mechanical force to overcome the friction between the latch and its mating catch. Compounding the problem was the available volume; the entire device is about the size of a smartphone and is abou5/8 of an inch thick. The area reserved for the mechanism, battery, and controller board is about 2.5 inches long and an inch wide. The battery and controller took up close to 2/3rds of that space, leaving only about an inch by inch by half-inch volume to work with. My initial solution was to use a miniature gear motor purchased from Pololu for a robotics project. This was coupled with a steel leaf spring with a formed latch feature. A cam on the motor pushed on a brass pin, in turn pushing the spring to release the catch. For a single prototype this worked very well, but when more than one was needed several problems became apparent; the most challenging being the difficulty of forming the integrated spring and latch. The hardened and tempered spring steel worked great for one unit but the cost and complexity of developing more than one was considerable.

3D Printed Springs

On a whim I started looking at using T-Glase as a spring. I had noticed that when printed in thin, solid sections the material was flexible without breaking. A few trials later I had what would become the final prototype design. The latch, spring, and cam follower were integrated into a single 3D printable part.

3D Printed Springs2

The cam follower pin became a pivot pin and the Pololu motor was replaced with a smaller, cheaper planetary gearhead unit with lower current draw. The motor came with a 6-point spline interface, so a cam head was designed and printed to slip over the existing interface unit. The cam head provided another challenge; the first set of prints were made with PrintedSolid PET+ and have not been repeatable. The PET+ material provides many of the properties of ColorFabb XT but with a more rubbery, flexible characteristic. It was chosen only because it was what was in the printer at the time. Subsequent attempts with T-Glase and XT have failed to print without voids due to the thin areas on the part, or have not been able to hold the tolerances required to mate with the motor interface, requiring extensive hand finishing. In production, this will be an injection molded part; for now it isn’t a problem as I printed more than enough to cover the needs of the project.

3D Printed Springs3

Extensive testing with this design showed the longevity of the spring – over 20,000 latching cycles were recorded without a failure of the spring and with only a slight loss in stiffness. The first spring was printed with clear T-Glase and after about 12,000 cycles fine cracks were visible at the root of the leaf spring arm. Subsequent parts were made from black XT and show no such cracking. This may also be due to a slight lengthening of the leaf spring arm as well. The gray PET+ did not have enough stiffness to properly latch.

The success of the design encouraged me to look further into replacing torsion and compression springs with 3D printed leaf-style springs. The same company came to me with another project; they wanted to use the same technology to make a firearm trigger lock. The idea was to allow the user to bypass the key lock with a control system using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), enabling the lock to be triggered between the locked and unlocked states based on proximity or a command signal from the user’s smartphone. As with the previous product, only a small volume was available. My customer wanted to modify an off-the-shelf lock and just integrate the BLE system while keeping the keyed operation so the user could choose between unlocking methods. The trigger lock presented a larger challenge as the force required to keep the lock dependably closed is relatively large – on the order of 4-5 lbf. In the key-only design this was accomplished with a compression spring. Due to the force limitation of the motor, a smaller force had to be used for prototyping with the assumption that the design would be changed to ensure proper retention of the lock. The prototype for this product involved replacing much of the volume occupied by the compression spring with the controller board and adding additional volume by extending the height of the unit. To fit the space and to provide optimal use of the available motor force, the linear spring and latch was replaced with a pivoting latch and an inward-curved leaf spring, as opposed to the outward curve used on the previous design. The inward curve provided a large increase in force, matching or exceeding that of the compression spring, in about the same space as the compression spring. This was too much for the motor to handle, so the force was reduced by changing the radius of the spring curve
and the amount of deflection. Several trials were made until a balance between the available force from the motor equaled the force required to keep the lock latched during product development and initial user testing.

3D Printed Springs5

A similar curved spring was used on a subsequent project. This third project was to develop a cabinet lock. The lock mechanism required the use of a serrated rod mounted to the cabinet door that interfaced with a spring-loaded locking unit mounted on the cabinet frame. When the door was closed, the rod slid into the locking unit and an internal latch caught one of the serrations on the probe. The desired size of the latching unit was cuboid and 1.25 inches on a side. As with the previous two projects, the restricted volume prompted the use of a small stroke spring. By integrating the spring into the latch slider, the part count was reduced and the assembly of this complex mechanism was simplified.

3D Printed Springs6

The key to utilizing 3D printed springs in production prototypes is to maintain the design to allow the printed spring to be replaced with a metallic spring with a minimum of redesign once the unit goes to production. Some products may be able to maintain the use of a plastic spring when the parts are being injection molded, but it will depend on the material used and the expected life of the part. For prototyping, 3D printed springs can enable rapid manufacturing of customized spring units and can integrate what may have been several separate and sometimes tiny parts into a single larger part. The technique can enable rapid testing and trials to enable the proper operational force to be determined; data that can be used later in the development cycle to properly size replacement metallic springs.
For more information on the products described here, please visit www.smartarmortech.com

CASE STUDY: KITRONIK

By | News | No Comments

This week we have been talking to another of our Affiliated Resellers Kitronik – a company which specialises in targeting the education market predominantly, but also the hobby market. Kitronik chose to invest in the Robox above all other 3D printers on the market, read below to find out why.

Tell us about Kitronik – when did you set up the company and why?

We (Kevin Spurr and Geoff Hampson) started Kitronik in 2005. At the time we working at the same company designing wireless alarm systems after graduating from Loughborough University, where we both studied electronics related engineering degrees. Geoff was designing electronic kits in his spare time to use at a ‘Scout Technology Camp’ he helped run each year. At the time Geoff couldn’t find that many interesting projects on the market so he decided to design his own. Some teachers took an interest in them and their clearly written instructions.

What are you better known for selling to hobbyists and teachers?

The majority of Kitronik’s sales have been into the education market. We sell to many UK schools and in addition to this we have distributors selling our products in lots of countries around the world. We are increasingly seeing more sales into the hobby market. Our simple instruction and resources mean that anyone can have fun learning about electronic circuits.

We have tried to create a range of products that students or hobbyists would want to use once they have built them. For example we have a wide range of amplifier kits that you can use to make your own speaker dock. Our newer amplifier kits use modern ‘Class D’ amplifier ICs and can be powered using a micro-usb power supply (which you get with most mobile phones).
fernwood 1

Kitronik is a unique brand, as it supplies directly to 3,000+ secondary schools in the UK, in addition to selling online. What are your relationships like with the schools / how closely do you work with them?

Kitronik has now sold to over 3,000 schools in the UK. The education market has a particular set of needs. Products need to be supplied quickly and in the kind of format that is needed for a classroom environment. Key to this is having well written support material, which we have for all of our products. This material includes the vast majority of what a teacher would need to deliver the project in a classroom and can easily be tailored to their particular needs.

The way the products are designed is also very important. The need to be easy to assemble and parts need to be well spaced. As we design our own circuits we can use teacher’s feedback to make improvements to our designs.

When teachers do come across something they don’t understand it is important to have staff who can support them straight away so they can quickly get back to teaching.

Why did you decide to enter the 3D printing arena?

Design and Technology is a fast moving subject. When we started Kitronik most students made the cases for their project using hand tools. Then laser cutters and milling machines started to become really popular. In recent years 3D printers have started to become more popular as the cost of these units has fallen. As a result we started to get asked about how to use them with our range of Kitronik kits, so we thought it was probably a good idea to start selling one.

The Robox is the ONLY 3D printer you stock, why is this?

We looked at lots of printers before selecting the Robox. It had all of the features you would expect from a 3D printer, but it also had a few key ones that we thought were essential for schools.

The most important of these was the fact the case locks while it is printing. The nozzles and bed get very hot during the print process and we didn’t want an opportunity for students to get injured if the printer was left unattended.

In addition to this the automatic features such as bed leveling and filament recognition mean teachers and students can produce prints with minimal input (and time).

How do you think the Robox compliments your existing range of products?

By adding the Robox to our range we can now offer a complete project solution to our customers. They can design / build a circuit and then design and print a case for that circuit all using products from Kitronik.

What are you trying to achieve as a reseller within the 3D printing arena? 

We want to use 3D printing as a medium for allowing users to be even more creative in the way they house our range of kits. 3D printing should allow users to create fantastic looking products that are unique to their own requirements and style.
kitronik pics

What can you offer a customer / teacher / student / hobbyist that other resellers can’t?

Kitronik will be providing a wide range of resources and support material specifically designed for use with our products. We aim to supply 3D CAD models of our kits so that the user can use these as a starting point for their design. We are also looking to create a number of ‘inspirational’ designs that will hopefully show users what is possible. In addition to this we will tailor a range of resources to fit the requirements of the school curriculum.

We have just hired our own CAD designer so that we can create a large range of printable models based around our kits.

In addition to this we have been working with My Mini Factory to create a range of printable designs based around our kits. You can find these models at https://www.kitronik.co.uk/3dprints

You are currently in the process of putting together a 3D Printing Kitronik University course – tell us more about what the course will entail –

We are currently putting together a set of 3D Printing resources that will form a ‘Kitronik University’ course. This will explain subjects such as how 3D printers work and how to create designs that can be successfully 3D printed.

Part of the reason you attended the Robox Affiliation Programme is because you have a great relationship with your customers, and provide after-care support. What other resources do you have on offer aside from your product offerings?

In addition to the ‘learning’ resources that we are creating we also wanted to create some Robox specific tutorials and guides. The resources we have created so far (more to come) can be found at https://www.kitronik.co.uk/3d-printing.html

We are always happy to speak to customers and help them out with any questions they might have, both before and after purchasing.

What would be your one piece of advice to anyone considering buying a 3D printer?

I would start by looking at what you want to use a printer for, where it will be used and who by.

For example if you want to leave it unattended around children then a looking case is probably a must have feature. If you have lots of different users using the printer then auto setup features are helpful. Lastly if you don’t want to just be stuck printing PLA material then a heated bed and enclosed case are essential. These are just a few examples and price doesn’t always relate directly to quality.

To watch Kevin Spurr demonstrate the Robox visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HiHUDqqtek

To get in touch with the Kitronik team:

Tel: 0845 8380781
Email:  sales@kitronik.co.uk
Web: www.kitronik.co.uk
Address: Kitronik Ltd, Unit 3a, Shipstones Business Centre, North Gate, Nottingham. NG7 7FN.

Robox Press Coverage – May 2015

By | Press | No Comments

26.05.15 – Most Innovative Gadgets
Gismodo UK

20.05.15 – Top 5 things to do at TMRW
Manchester Evening News

15.05.15 – Ed Stone prints
Guido Fawkes

14.05.15 – An Interview with Chris Elsworthy
Fabbaloo

11.05.15 – Robox and the Election
3diot.net

08.05.15 – The Solution to your Pigeon Problem
Brick Underground

08.05.15 – 3D Printed Owls
Carbonated TV

05.05.15 – 3D Printing Hacks that will change your Life
Entrepreneur

05.05.15 – 3D Printed Hawks and Owls
6sqft

CASE STUDY: 3D PRINTWORLD

By | Education | No Comments

Today we’ve been talking to Allen Cosby from 3D Printworld, one of our Affiliated Resellers and earliest advocates of the Robox 3D printer.  3D Printworld specialise in selling within the 3D printing arena, but are also focussed on educating interested people on the benefits of the technology, and as such host regular workshops in Milton Keynes which allow people to gain a better understanding of additive manufacturing.

The next seminar will be held Saturday 6th June at 9.30am at the Harben Conference Centre, Newport Pagnell, Milton Keynes.  If you are interested in attending the workshop, click here to find out more and register – http://www.3d-printworld.co.uk/events

Tell us about 3DPrintworld – when did you set up the company and why?

The background to 3D Printworld is rooted in our technology and engineering consultancy. Since 2007 we have been managing complex development projects for a range clients in the public and private sector.  Over recent years we have seen our clients increasingly use additive manufacturing (3D Printing) to help with rapid prototyping and overcome other production and manufacturing challenges. Having become increasingly involved with these projects it quickly became apparent to us that additive manufacturing and ‘3D Printing’ was an exciting, fast moving and dynamic technology, and something we wanted to be involved in.

In addition to working with our commercial clients we also started to become ‘makers’ ourselves, experimenting with our own desktop 3D Printers to really get a feel for the technology.  From this passion 3D Printworld was born in 2013.

What are you trying to achieve as a reseller within the 3D printing arena? 

We really want to add value.  Anyone can go online and buy themselves a 3D Printer. We want to be a supplier with a human face, focusing on our local region to help guide companies and individuals through the confusing minefield that purchasing a 3D Printer can sometimes seem. We want them to end up with a product that is right for them, and add value by supporting them with training, guidance and maintenance services.  As well as selling 3D Printers to the local area, we are able to offer online support too for those customers who buy directly from www.3d-printworld.co.uk

 How many 3D printers do you currently have in your repertoire?

At the moment we have 2, we sell both the Robox and the Ultimaker. We are currently looking at launching other brands / ranges, but we want to keep it to a maximum of 3 or 4 brands. This is because we want to build a close working relationship with all of our suppliers, to make sure we understand the products and can really add the value to our customers with our tailored training and support.

How does the Robox fit into your repertoire of 3D printers – how is it different?

The Robox is our ‘go to’ printer. It combines a high spec and a range of unique features, with usability that caters for all levels of proficiency. It a good looking product and is built to a high standard so it’s a printer we are happy to be associated with. Another key point is the fact that the Robox is designed in the UK. The UK has always produced some of the world’s best Engineers and Product Designers.  Chris and his team at Robox have carried on that tradition, and we are keen to support that, as are many of our customers who react extremely positively when they find out that it’s a UK design.

In addition to your affiliated reseller status, you are also a little different to other resellers because you also run seminars about 3D printing, tell us why you started running these seminars?

We think that the levels of interest in 3D Printing are so high at the moment because the possibilities really fire people’s imagination. Whenever we demonstrate one of our printers all kinds of passers-by are immediately drawn to it. They find watching the process fascinating and are always keen to find out more about how it works and what it can do.  We wanted to give as many people as possible the chance to see 3D Printers in actions and learn about the possibilities they offer. So many people see 3D Printing in the press and on television, but feel it is not accessible to them.  We decided to stage these free events to allow people to engage with us, and come along in a no pressure environment to learn more. So far the response has been outstanding.

When and where is your next seminar going to be held, and how to visitors attend?

The next event will be staged in Milton Keynes on Saturday 6th June, from 9.30am.  You can find out more and register to attend by visiting www.3d-printworld.co.uk/events.

What will people learn about if they attend your next seminar?

The lecture will cover:

  • How does 3D Printing work and what are the different methods
  • How is 3D Printing used today and what is the potential use for the future
  • How the technology has become accessible through the introduction of ‘Prosumer’ desktop 3D Printing
  • A demonstration of the process: 3D Design to slicing in Automaker, then printing on a Robox.
  • Types of desktop 3D Printing – Which printer for which application?
  • Open discussions – How could you use this technology at home, at work or in the classroom.

What type of people usually attend your seminars – are they usually full of geeks and nerds (?!), or are you appealing to everyone, regardless of age and knowledge base?

We have a very diverse mixture of people who attend our lectures.  At our last event we had teachers and students, engineers, artists and designers.  They ranged from the enthusiasts who were building their own 3D Printers at home to those who had heard about it in the press or from their children, they were simply curious and wanted to learn more about this exciting technology.

 At the seminars, what are some of the strangest questions you have been asked?

We had quite a few innovative ideas such as tactile boards for those with visual impairment, and archaeological artefacts. I think the strangest thing I have been asked is if the printer can print oversize celebrity heads for a white collar boxing match!

 Have you had anyone attending your seminars who already own 3D printers?  If so, what are they printing?

We have had a few people who had made them out of kits, and they were very impressed by the Robox. One of these home makers was currently in the process of printing a second 3D printer for his wife.  He brought the printer along to the event so that was interesting to see!

Have you seen a shift in the types of people wanting to purchase a 3D printer over the past 12 months?

We are definitely seeing a bigger pickup from organisations rather than individuals. Educational establishments and SME’s are realising that they must embrace the technology or risk being left behind. I also think more people are seeing the value of buying a high quality product like the Robox that prints ‘out of the box’, rather than risking building their own from a kit.

What would be your one piece of advice to anyone considering buying a 3D printer?

Our best bit of advice would be to really think about how you are going to use your printer and what you need it to do for you or your business. It’s easy to be seduced by a cool brand or by a particular feature, but think about what your printed models need to do and choose your printer from there. And of course, seek advice from the experts if needed to help you make the most of all the information about the current 3D Printers and market.

To get in touch with the 3DPrintworld team:

Tel: 07815 108233

Email: info@3d-Printworld.co.uk

Web: www.3d-printworld.co.uk

8 Pyms Stables
Milton Keynes
MK16 0FG
England