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Design

Spiral Printing on Robox

By | Chris Elsworthy Design Blog, Design, Printables, Software Updates, Stuff and Things | 4 Comments

If you’ve downloaded the latest version of AutoMaker then you may have noticed that we’ve activated Spiral Printing for you to play with. Robox is particularly good at spiral printing as it offers the highest ranges of wall thickness without having to remove and replace the nozzle.

Below is a quick guide on how to best use this new feature.
There are a number of things that you should be aware of when trying this feature.

  1. Only place one object on the bed at any time.
    Because of the nature of spiral printing the flow of material from the nozzles does not stop and start. Placing more than one object on the bed means that the models would be impossible to print in one continuous extrusion.
  2. Ensure that your print has only one continuous island from bottom to top.
    This is for the same reason – multiple islands on any layer means that the flow of material has to stop and start. Spiral printing is designed to avoid this.
  3. Consider how thick you want the base to be
    This is one of the few controls Automaker has for spiral printing, the number of layers you choose and the layer thickness will equate to your base thickness before spiral printing starts. The first layer is always 0.3mm and as a guide I would ensure that this is the minimum filament width to ensure good adhesion to the bed. The sequence layers heights are controlled by, yes you’ve guessed it, ‘layer height’. So for example if you’ve chosen a layer height of 0.2mm and 5 base layers your spiral print with have a 1.1mm thick base. (0.3mm + (4 x 0.2mm))
  4. Think about what wall thickness you want
    After the base of your part is completed the system moves to the spiral printed section, continuously moving up as it orbits the perimeter of your design laying down a single line of filament. The wall thickness is controlled by the perimeter width and because its only going to be done in one pass you may want to increase it and use the larger 0.8mm nozzle to create wall thickness of up to 1.2mm. As a guide I’ve found that the ratio between layer height and wall thickness should be between 2:1 – 5:1, the thicker the wall and the smaller the layer height the more likely overhangs will be printed perfectly.
  5. The part must be solid, not hollowed out with a wall thickness
    Because we are using ‘Solid layers at Bottom’ and perimeter thickness to control the thickness of your part the part needs to be a solid to start with. If you want an inner and outer shell, and don’t mind a hollow centre you can use an idea I had when designing the is thermal mug: add a very thin cut down through the part to make each layer a single perimeter again. On the photo below, you can see that the sequence of printing is outside surface of the bowl -> half the handle -> inside surface of the bowl -> half the handle -> outside surface of the bowl… and so on…Thermal MugSpiral Mug Section Small
    6 . Your design is less than 99mm tall
    Robox has a 100mm Z-build height, but because of the way Cura adds the Z move to every move on the layer sometimes the sliced part will come out slightly above 100mm. The post processor will throw this out as impossible print, so to avoid this scale your part to ensure it is less than 99mm high.

Robox_spiral_cup_iso

You can download the cup above from this link. robox_spiral_mug.stl

Robox_spiral_lee_hand

Or the Vase with Support engineer Lee’s face on it by clicking the image above. LeeVase_Mk2.stl

Why pay when free software can do the job?

By | Design, Robox User Blog, Stuff and Things | 4 Comments

A key driver of desktop 3D printing technology adoption over the last few years has been the proliferation of completely free 3D modelling tools that are, crucially, user-friendly and extremely high quality. Since these tools are such powerful enablers of 3D printing technology and, during meetings with customers, I often end up sharing my thoughts on the merits of various 3D modelling software tools anyway, I considered I should offer a short summary of tools I use personally and would recommend for use with any 3D printer.

Each tool listed here performs distinct tasks in the 3D modelling process so there’s no overlap of functions between them. The purpose of this list is purely to inform of the tools that I use personally, not to offer any kind of comparison. Some more advanced users may scoff at my 3D modelling arsenal, but I’d ask that they bear in mind my non-engineering background. Despite my novice experience and skills, I’ve found that the following tools work very well together to do pretty much anything I want to do – from designing high-precision mechanisms to personalising Xmas gifts. All of these software tools are free to use because, like most people, I don’t like spending money when I don’t have to.

1. 3D Builder

I use this tool from Microsoft all the time to edit 3D models as it has the cleanest, most user-friendly interface of any 3D modelling tool I’ve used. It looks and feels great, especially when I use it to demonstrate how easy it is to customise and personalise any one of the thousands of free 3D models available from online repositories such as Thingiverse or MyMiniFactory (the latter is integrated into Robox’s AutoMaker software). While 3D Builder is in its element when used to emboss text, logos and other images, it’s equally superb in other areas such as splitting and resizing large models into smaller parts.

3D Builder

2. 123D Design

This is another free tool that I use all the time, but for creating 3D models rather than editing them. 123D Design is made by Autodesk and, as a result, it’s clean, simple and easy to use with a range of features that satisfies virtually all of my modelling needs. While it lacks most of the advanced features found in 3D modelling software tools such as SolidWorks or Autodesk Inventor, it does boast a key feature not found in most expensive 3D modelling tools – the ability to save to the cloud.

I frequently recommend 123D Design since it’s completely free and offers versatile, powerful functionality with an interface suitable for novices and professionals alike. Its high quality is thanks to it being made by one of the best 3D software development companies in the world, which also happens to make the next 3D modelling tool on this list.

123D Design

3. Meshmixer

Meshmixer is my tool of choice for touching up 3D models. The thing I like most about Meshmixer is the way that models can be sculpted naturally by pulling and pushing on surfaces or cutting parts of a model away. Packed with a wide range of versatile, powerful features which perform extremely useful functions such as smoothing and distorting a surface or hollowing out a model, Autodesk’s Meshmixer is an essential tool in my box of freebies.

An important point to note is that Meshmixer is used to edit organic, rather than geometric, models. An organic model consists of natural, flowing curves and shapes whereas a geometric model is one that comprises perfect, uniform shapes that don’t often appear in nature. The model created in 123D Design above, for example, from geometric shapes such as rectangles, triangles and circles wouldn’t edit well in Meshmixer. However, models captured from 3D scans, such as the duck below, are perfect for editing with this tool, which brings me to yet another Autodesk product…

Meshmixer

4. 123D Catch

The final free 3D modelling tool on this list is, without a doubt, the most accessible 3D scanning tool out there. Again, it’s completely free but, unlike the other software listed here, it’s designed to be used on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet computer. 123D Catch is an extremely cost-effective (free!) and convenient alternative to dedicated handheld 3D scanning equipment, which starts at around £300 and typically looks like something airport security would get out if you set off a metal detector. I’ve used the app to scan people, objects, buildings, you name it. The app is easy to use and can produce good quality scans, which can be improved further and touched up using Meshmixer. The only drawback to this app is the length of time it takes for photos to be uploaded to Autodesk and processed. It can be a little frustrating – especially if you have poor mobile phone signal! – but I understand frustration to be a feature of all current handheld 3D scanning technologies to a greater or lesser extent.

123D Catch

I did consider adding a fifth 3D modelling tool to this list since 4 is an unusual number to end a list on, but since these four tools take up around 95% of my 3D modelling time I didn’t feel it was appropriate to add another. Tinkercad would most likely have been the fifth free tool , which you can see in action below:

The combined value of this small collection of tools is considerably more than the sum of its parts. When used together, these apps can transform any 3D printer from a novelty to magic. Although I’m currently experimenting with more heavy duty 3D modelling software such as SpaceClaim (I’ve received a free trial) and may end up adding more software to this list, for now I think I’ll be sticking with the free stuff.

Please note: CEL has no commercial ties with Autodesk. They just so happen to make a great suite of free 3D modelling tools.

CEL Robox in Ashlyns School

By | Design, Education, Robox User Blog | No Comments

“Sir, is that a 3D printer?” I enquired, “Yes Al, let’s unpack it and see if we can get it working. Are you free after school?” That was the start of it. We took the Robox out of its packaging followed the quick start-up guide and 3D printed our first ever product in under an hour. The product itself was a very small pyramid from the sample files but it was a very definite, very successful start. I’m liking this already!

Like most D&T departments in state schools, the acquiring and implementation of new technologies and equipment is something that has to be carefully managed and justified in budgets. One of the first markers for whether a piece of equipment is worthwhile is the question of impact. On Open Evening Al chose to run the Robox for 4 hours producing a much larger and more complex model. The interest from prospective students, current students, parents and staff was incredible. The feedback sheets from the evening consistently noted two amazing things seen at Open Evening; the brand new sports hall and the 3D printer in D&T.

Stage one, impact, tick!

“Stage two Sir?”, “Yes Al, stage two”. Can I use it in class as a useful piece of equipment in the Product Design students’ tool box? The department already has a small laser cutter and a vinyl cutter that are used relentlessly. In order to test this out Mr Nicholson ‘gave me the keys’ to take it for a proper spin, designing and making. I’m on the AS D&T Graphic Products course and I’m at the design stage of a project to design and model an ‘outdoor’ classroom to be set in the school grounds. I downloaded a free copy of Autodesk-123D and set about the scale model. The bed of the Robox is about A5 and my card model was considerably bigger. The 3D print would be too small if I made it fit the bed so I chose to use the 100mm Z axis and the A5 bed as a start point. I split the model into 8 pieces, 6 of which were doubles (keeping the design modular really helps when you’re using CAM!). I ran the Robox all day and overnight, carefully removing the pieces from the machine’s bed. I used a 10% infill for the blocks so that they would be rigid but not use up too much of the PLA filament. I could stick them together to form the completed model but it’s more useful at the moment for me to have them in smaller blocks so that they fit in my school bag!

I’m not used to D&T being quite this straightforward!

At the point where a number of schools were considering the future of their D&T departments, for financial reasons, Ashlyns were determined to keep the breadth of curriculum and the enrichment that D&T offers. The subject was allied into a Faculty structure with Computer Science and Business Studies. The cross-linking between these three quite different subjects is growing by the day and at its heart is creativity and enterprise, ably assisted of course by control technology, software and CAM. The Faculty’s results have gone from strength to strength as the interest builds and the ‘newer’ technologies are introduced and take their place alongside the traditional. I use the word ‘alongside’ for various reasons. Can I afford a whole class of 3D printers? Would I want to? The answer to both is no. Firstly, I could have bought 10 Robox machines for the price I paid for the laser cutter but then students make so much use of the laser cutter, so quickly and with such a variety of materials. Secondly, every new piece of technology adds another dimension to the subject and doesn’t need to replace anything, older methods often employ a more appropriate level of technology.

However, ask me the question “Would I like more Robox machines in my classrooms?” the answer would be 100% “Yes!”

Most D&T A’ Level courses still have a 50% restriction on how much of the final work can be manufactured using CAD/CAM. Possibly to make sure that traditional skills are still developed or to enable a more level playing field for students from different socio-economic backgrounds, the restrictions are there and may well still be there after the introduction of the new specifications. Has that stopped us from using other forms of CAD/CAM in the past? Of course not, life without the laser cutter doesn’t bear thinking about and as the necessity to increase the students’ exposure to newer technologies for example through the NC 2014 it will need to become part and parcel of what we do. With the NC 2014 in mind, the opportunities to develop some designs based on biomimicry is next on my list!

Before getting the Robox I used to trot out a number of reasons why the department wouldn’t need a 3D printer, mainly based around speed, size restriction, cost but the truth is that you just need to be a bit creative with how it gets used and as always the D&T community is full of ideas and ways forward. The following are a few that have sprung to mind. Firstly, everyone designs and then the class vote for which one gets made (and sometimes those still interested can come back at lunchtime or after school to get theirs made!). Secondly, smaller multiple designs that can fit on the same machine bed. Thirdly, increase the number of machines. I already have systems in place to help replace cookers and sewing machines so I just need to add them to the list and buy half-a-machine per year (or ask the school association!). Lastly, the Robox is a very portable machine and has already been at home with me.

The rapid set-up and zero clamping means that the files just need to be left to get on with manufacturing!

It has to be said that the efficiency of the material consumed is financially useful and the outcomes even on draft resolution are easily enough to portray the detail required. With new materials coming online, that go beyond the already available plethora of colours, such as rubber and dissolvable media, the future is brightly coloured and very flexible!

Ashlyns_school_logoMark Nicholson and Al Cox
Ashlyns School
Berkhamsted

Congratulations to Aurora – ESERO UK CanSat Team 2016

By | Competitions, Design, Education, Robox User Blog, Stuff and Things | No Comments

Congratulations to the Aurora team for 2nd place with a very ambitious (and successful) design which went way beyond the requirements set for the challenge. The team, consisting of 4 students aged 17 (S6), used a huge range of skills to design and develop their competition entry with prototypes and the final design printed on their Robox 3D printer.

cansat

Some details about the team from their excellent website www.aurorasat.space

Who are we?
We are a CanSat 2016 team from Glasgow, Scotland. The team consists of four pupils from Hutchesons’ Grammar School. Our supervising teacher is Dr Walker, and our sponsors are Pulsion Technology and CEL Robox.

What is CanSat?
A CanSat is a simulation of a real satellite, integrated within the volume and shape of a soft drink can. The challenge for the students is to fit all the major subsystems found in a satellite, such as power, sensors and a communication system, into this minimal volume. The CanSat is then launched to an altitude of a few hundred metres by a rocket or dropped from a platform or captive balloon and its mission begins: to carry out a scientific experiment and achieve a safe landing.

Why do it?
CanSats offer a unique opportunity for students to have a first practical experience of a real space project. They are responsible for all aspects: selecting the mission objectives, designing the CanSat, integrating the components, testing, preparing for launch and then analysing the data.

Team

Rishabh Manjunatha
Team Leader
Electronics Engineer

Cheryl Docherty
Mechanical Engineer
Design Engineer

Jack Leslie
Software Engineer
Online Administrator

Wan-Ian Tran
Mechanical Engineer
Aeronautical Engineer

Guidance from
Dr Walker
Mr Walker
Mr McCormick

Primary Mission

Measure air pressure and temperature. Minimum 1 result per second transmitted to ground control/computer.

Secondary Mission

• Our can will split into two parts, and will land in two different areas on the ground.

• The can will split horizontally; the top part will land using a parafoil to glide to the ground, and the bottom part will land using a quadcopter-like motor/propeller system to navigate to the ground.

• The aim of the mission is to successfully demonstrate the splitting of the can, demonstrate two different landing systems and demonstrate the prospect of comparing two separate sites on one mission.

Optional – Targeted landing to both sites using high accuracy GPS and autonomous movement.
Optional – Rover on ground to pick up two capsules and return them to team base.
Optional – Implement camera to capture splitting of cans.

Challenges overcome:

Small space to fit 2 satellites. Designing a modular system to access parts easily and still retain a strong structure was challenging.
New pyboard with very little online guidance or information, we had to program and wire everything based on our own knowledge.
Brushless motors and ESC’s are fiddly to set up and get going.
Designing and constructing a stable Para-foil.
Programming in a new language and programming electronics and understanding how they function together.
Learning how to use inventor and rendering the simulations of the satellite.
Using a 3D printer, learning how different plastics behave and how best to print small scale intricate models.

CAD software used:

Autodesk Inventor Professional 2016
AutoCAD 2016

Other software / programming tools used:

Python IDE
Arduino IDE
Command Line Tools

Robox made the following possible:

Printing of our satellite using ABS and PLA plastic. The Robox support team helped us to with recommendations and settings to ensure each part was accurately printed.

Other resources used:

Technology department supplied the majority of the equipment used, including soldering irons, hobby drills, glue guns, desktops.
Our other sponsor Pulsion supplied us with the £500 budget we had to stick to.
Physics department supplied digital callipers and high accuracy balances.

The Robox 3D printer we have was purchased by 3 of our Arkwright Scholars and is kept in the Technology department for students to use on request.
The Scalextrics club, which is aimed at younger years, design and build model rc cars. They have already printed one model.
The Formula 1 club also uses the 3D printer.

The printer will be used for further competitions. (possibly the Google science fair or other independent projects)

A link to the competition website:

https://www.stem.org.uk/esero/cansat
http://www.aurorasat.space/

A note from the team leader:

I would like to thank you once again for not only sponsoring us and helping us when we had problems using the 3D printer but also for your kind words throughout. You have motivated us and kept us going when certain aspects of our project didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. Your quick and informative responses have aided us greatly. – Rishabh

Robox DM Locking Ring

By | Design, Printables, Prototype Build | One Comment

This part is the locking ring which twists onto the dual material reel holder axle to lock it in place. The small black cylinder in the main image above.

On it’s own it is not particularly useful unless you lose yours. This one will print nicely on it’s end. I expect someone will use this model as the basis for a 3rd party reel holder which can be clamped onto Robox. Please link your reworked files in the comments and we will add them to the main post if they are worthy.

roboxlockingring_POLYPC

Above is printed in Polymaker PCPLUS polycarbonate.

Download .stl here

Robox ® launches first dual-material 3D printing head

By | Chris Elsworthy Design Blog, Design, Exhibiting, News, Press Release, Prototype Build | 12 Comments

At last we’re delighted to announce the launch of our dual-material printing head that will allow users to print in two different materials simultaneously for the first time. The new 3D printer head is available for pre-order today to both new and existing customers as an upgrade option.

Loyal customers who pre-ordered the new head months ago will be the first to receive this new technology.

The new 3D printer head retains the same form-factor as the existing Robox head and uses CEL’s proprietary needle-valve system, allowing it to start and stop printing better than any other printer head on the market.

This latest addition to CEL’s market-leading Robox 3D printer means users can print designs that were previously unprintable, as well as creating models using two different colours or even two dissimilar materials.

This also means the Robox can now print a softer scaffold material around a harder material, allowing users to print items with, for example, a small footing or complex designs that would have been previously impossible. Users can therefore print items such as plastic lids with rubber seals, coloured logos, light pipes, flexible watch straps with pins, or axles with bearing surfaces.

Many other printers have lengthy and material wasting processes in place to stop cross infection of materials, but the Robox system shuts off the material flow without the need for wiping, retracting or cooling the heads. The existing nozzle technology prevents ‘ooze’ or ‘stringing’, ensuring speed and quality of the print whether you’re printing in different colours, different materials or both.

The dual-material head uses two completely separate melt chambers and 0.4mm nozzles for optimum balance between speed and accuracy.

Both material reels can be hung on the side of the Robox device, with the addition of a simple adaptor, allowing the printer’s intelligent reel system to still recognise exactly what material it’s working with. This, in combination with the Robox’s closed-feedback loop and dual-pinch wheel extruder system makes sure that each filament is fed to its respective nozzle evenly.

Chris Elsworthy, CEO of CEL, commented: “3D printing has the potential to change the way we design and create products and the launch of our dual-material head means another step change in the complexity of items our users are able to print with Robox.

“We’re really excited to be able to offer this new 3D printer head to our customers and allow them to create new prints they never could have dreamed of 3D printing before! Users will still get all the reliability and quality they have come to expect from a Robox printer, but now with the ability to print in two materials at the same time.”

To hear Chris talk about the dual material head in more detail at this year’s CES show in Las Vegas, watch the video below:

RBX01-DMKitExisting Robox customers can upgrade their printers for £199.00 +P&P.

 

We’ve also launched a new pair of service options for customers wanting to get their Robox printer checked over and upgraded to the latest specification. These options start at £79.00 +P&P for single material printers and £99.00 +P&P for those that purchase the new dual-material head.

TOP 10 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

By | Design, Robox User Blog, Stuff and Things | One Comment
  1. Can I design things in AutoMaker ?

AutoMaker is our software for controlling the robox hardware; it allows you to send your design to the printer and set any parameters you need to get your design made. You can change the size, quality and strength of the print you’re about to start but currently you can’t design an object from scratch.  AutoMaker in also integrated with the world’s largest library of proven 3D printable designs – ‘My Mini Factory’.  You can download and place some of the millions of objects contained in the library and even customize some of them before printing in the material and colour of your choice.

  1. What will I print ?

Anything you want or desire!! I know, this doesn’t really help when you’ve been given a space age box of tricks. We would suggest browsing one of the online libraries to see what kind of things other people are printing – this can give you inspiration about how you can use your 3D printer to fix problems around the home, make toys, fashion items, decorations, replacement parts and so much more… 3D printed parts can be practical or just plain fun, the material is cheap so don’t be scared to have a play and print something just for fun.

  1. Where do I download things to print ?

There are lots of online libraries of parts to download and print, some these can be customized before you download them and all can be tweaked when you’ve got them. Our favourite repository is ‘My Mini Factory’ because they print all the items before uploading to make sure they are printable.  Not all libraries do this so there will be some downloads which aren’t specifically designed for 3D printing.

  1. What setup is required out of the box ?

To get 3D printing with Robox all you need to do is install the AutoMaker Software, unpack and connect the Robox to your PC and install the filament. Everything else will be done by the hardware itself. (a short video here)

  1. What ongoing maintenance is required ?

For normal users there is no maintenance other than keeping the Robox clean and tidy. For heavy users we include some high temperature oil that should be applied to the Y and X rails if the Robox makes an unusual noise while moving.

  1. How much does it cost to print ?

There is nearly no wastage when using Robox,  apart from a very small purge before a print, when swapping types of material and if you elected to use support material to make difficult shape objects. Cost is dependent on the type of material the Robox is consuming but typically it costs around £0.042 per gram and the cost of an object can be measured by the weight of material used. For example, a print case may use 18g of material so its cost to make is 18 x £0.042 = £0.77. The cost of electricity is less than a light bulb so even long prints will be extremely low cost. (all the different types of filament)

  1. Why do I need a 3D printer ?

If you are someone who enjoys making things rather than buying stock items, or if you want to find a solution for something you really need, 3D printing is for you. With a 3D printer you can easily realize all the designs you’ve been storing in your mind. Unlike all other skilled ways of making objects because the design is created on a computer using computer Aided Design(CAD) software you can improve your design every time you make it.  And unlike any other process, there are no additional costs involved so you can change and improve designs as many times as you want.

  1. What can a 3D printer make ?

You will often hear that “3D printers can make anything!!” and this is true, but the easiest things to print are those that have been designed for the process. Like any manufacturing technique the thing you want to make has to be designed in such a way as to take advantage of the process. There are things that 3D printers can make that some other manufacturing processes find impossible and there are aspects of designs that 3D printing struggles to do, with this in mind it’s important to understand the process so your designs aren’t restricted by your tools.  But to give some tangible examples of what desktop 3D printers can make, you could print door hinges and knobs, cutlery and cake cutters, pen pots and school homework accessories, bespoke decorative items for the house, gifts for loved one, the list is endless.

  1. What if the thing I want doesn’t fit onto Robox’s bed ?

You will be surprised what will fit into a Robox.  And most things around the house can fit into the palm of your hand, and will therefore fit onto the Robox bed.  A good way to find out what you can print inside a Robox is to make a cardboard box with the internal dimensions of 210 x 150 x 100mm.  Place any object you imagine you’d like to print into the box and you’ll discover that most things will fit.  If you do find something that won’t fit it’s very easy to cut the model into several parts and print each part next to each other or in separate jobs. Free software such as Microsoft Builder can easily cut up your models. We are soon going to include this function into our AutoMaker Software.

  1. Why isn’t it sticking to the bed ?

Prints that don’t stick to the bed are the most common reasons for failed prints. Even though we have a revolutionary ThermoSurface to remove the need for any preparation, if the head height isn’t calibrated correctly the type of bed surface can’t help. There are a few steps you can take to make sure your prints stick; use the supplied wipes to remove any finger prints or debris from the bed; ensure you head is calibrated; and the filament you are using is kept dry and in the sealed bag when not being used. If you still have trouble with first layer adhesion there are software options to increase the contact area of your part with the bed.  Brim, raft and support will add material to the first layer and thus improve adhesion. (more info. here)

Not the right order I’d say, but they are definitely the questions I get asked a lot…