It has been a little while since we last updated you on where we are with the dual material head, but I hope we can be forgiven for the lack of communication – especially as the real reason for this is that the entire CEL team have had their heads down testing the latest prototypes for faults, fact finding, and future proofing.

But we feel an update now is timely, as we are getting so close to being able to launch the new head to market; we really are almost at the end of what feels like a very long development journey.

RBX01-EX_2_EXTRUDERS_side

Software Update

RBX01-EX_2_EXTRUDERSSoftware is the biggest challenge as there really isn’t a good dual material system on the market to use as a template and both the slice engines we currently use aren’t able to deal with dual material prints in a consistent manner. This means we essentially had to start from scratch creating innovative software for this particular hardware development.

Before we get deep into the dual material system progress it’s worth mentioning what we’ve done to the software in preparation for this momentous task.

For the release of AutoMaker 1.02 we spent a good amount of time restructuring and developing the post processor.  We gained a much better understanding of where and how to open and close the needle valves, how to integrate the material the needle ejected into the model and how this is going to affect dual material printing.

For the upcoming version of AutoMaker we’ve actually recoded the post processor from scratch, our new level of understanding was restricted by our previous work. This updated thinking has gone into the current version of AutoMaker and is the backbone of dual-material capable AutoMaker version 2.

 

Right back to dual material and where we are now….

There are a lot of new requirements needed to take a multitude of models and turn them into a multi material print. We wanted the ability to take a 3D model, break it into individual parts and Dual Material AutoMakerallow the user to easily select which part was going to be assigned to which material.

Because most models which require multiple materials will need two or more separate parts, we wanted to add Group/Ungroup and model splitting. The Group/Ungroup and model splitting all have to be combined with the original transform functions so that we keep the parts’ relative position.

Dual Material AutoMaker bAfter we started to look closely at the model files  AutoMaker was expected to handle we found a very high percentage had imperfections – not normally a problem as the slice engines do some simple repair work – but a bigger problem if you’re trying to bisect the data and then add back in the missing vertexes, polylines and faces. We’ve not fully finished this aspect of the software and currently only warn users of the imperfection in the models that may cause problems later.

We now have a software tool that allows us to perform all of the above functions and it’s helping us finish the development of all the hardware.

The development of the software will continue up to and beyond the date you receive your new hardware, but for the first version of AutoMaker which is capable of doing dual material prints we have tried to keep the functionality to a minimum so that we can ensure stability.

 

RBX01-R2_adding_reel

Hardware Update

After a few false starts we’ve now got working dual material heads and an innovative second reel holder complete with reader. We are also taking a very close look at the management of the Bowden tubes and cables between the x-carriage and chassis.

RBX01-R2_LOADING_REEL

We were worried that the differing flexibility in filaments would affect the homing accuracy and thus distort the mapping of the bed giving poor first layers. We’ve made a fancy new cable chain to take the data and power cable and slightly constrained the Bowden tubes which now both reference the X-rails rather than the carriage.. (sorry if this is too geeky), basically we have more stuff to help improve probing and tidiness.

Another thing that only the people in the know would notice is that we have added a USB socket into the build chamber. It’s been there from the beginning – hidden away in the centre of the reel – but we’ve never got round to exposing it. We thought as we were designing a new PCB for the dual reel holder we would add the missing plug so you can start playing with it too.

The needle valve system has been extremely important in the quality of printing that Robox can achieve when talking about single material prints, removing all the stringing from one island to the next. When you use this innovative system with a dual material head it starts to become even more impressive.

All the dual material prints we’ve seen from other manufacturers have to include some sort of wipe tower, ooze screen, long cool down / heat up period, or purge sequence. None of this is necessary if your print head can stop the flow of material at its nozzle tip like the Robox can. Our very first print from the new system was one of the best we’ve seen. So now we’ve worked out how the system works, we’ve got working samples, and we are producing great print results.RBX01-DM_2HEADS_1OPEN

The final step is to ensure that all materials will flow through the new hardware smoothly, tidy-up the interface and test, test, test… I can’t tell you how big a chunk of work this last section is. We need to try every single combination of user input and output and not just once, on one machine. This needs hundreds of times on many printers by many different people to ensure that all the logic we’ve put into the software and hardware doesn’t crumble when given to a user who hasn’t been involved in the development.  With this in mind we’re now at the stage where we’re asking some of our customers who have placed pre-orders to beta test the first batch of hardware from the final production line.

So all in all, we’re really, really close.  If it sounds like we’re no further forward than last time – bearing in mind we finished our last update by saying we were “testing, testing, testing” – please be assured we are.  But after testing comes tweaking, and then more testing!

RBX01-DM_side_&USB_internal

RBX01-R2

So the final date is……???

We can’t say for sure, at the moment things are looking great and we hope to be able to launch the dual material head end of November, as per our last post.  If not then, early December.  But to reiterate the sentiments we made last time, we will only release the head if we’re confident it’s going to produce excellent results for everyone.

 

And lastly….

THANK YOU once again for your unwavering support, stick with us, as in just a couple of months the Robox 3D printer will make its mark as something completely different from anything else out there on the market – and we want you there with us to enjoy the ride.

RBX01-DM_internal_&cablechain

Oh you want a picture of a dual material print? Well….here is a sample of what we have to come.

dualmaterialprint_spiral_cone

Profile photo of Chris Elsworthy

About Chris Elsworthy

CEO, Design engineer, Family man, started product development company, best known for pitching CEL in BBC Dragons' Den. Robox and POWER8 workshop inventor. Portishead, Bristol · cel-robox.com

28 Comments

  • Profile photo of alfredanil alfredanil says:

    Will AutoMaker version 2 support .3mf or .amf format for multi materiál printing? Any plans for integrating Netfabb engine?

  • Hi Alfredanil, not on the first release but if you can convince use there is a need we can work on it for later releases. We thought about it but were adviced that AMF was all but dead and 3MF will be a Microsoft only thing. We are going for OBJ and multiple STL files placed at the same time to start with. We’ve added a basic Group and Ungroup to make keeping these models relative position to each other correct.
    We are talking to Microsoft about intergeneration into Windows 10, which also has raised the API for Netfabb, which we are very interested in using, but this wont help anyone of other OS’s. The Windows 10 inbuilt slice engine is limited to say the least and anything we need to add needs to be re-codded in C++, so there is a huge body of work their, so its gone on the list of to-do for now.

  • Profile photo of alfredanil alfredanil says:

    Hi Chris, I disagree with the advice that was given to you on the AMF format. SolidWorks, OpenSCAD and Ansys SpaceClaim have already implemented this format. I use SpaceClaim for STL/OBJ editing much like Magics does. AMF format has the curved triangle/curved edges option, which reduces the number of mesh elements for a curved surface. It also solves the resolution issue when scaling an STL/OBJ file. There are more useful features in AMF than in 3MF format. AMF can be sliced in Slic3r, Netfabb and CURA (future plugin). I have some AMF files but no hardware to print. Not really sure which CAD software currently support 3MF format but I do know that Ansys SpaceCalim will have it in their next release.
    Regards
    Alfred Anil

  • Ok, thanks for the info. I’ll get Ian to take a look at the format and see how much work there is in including it.

  • Profile photo of Fprint Fprint says:

    Thank you for the detailled news ! I preordered in february, and I look forward to receive this new head once everything is done.
    I would like to ask some questions:
    -Do you plan to add some remote controlling features to Automaker ? for instance: cancel a print via internet, or see the printing area with a webcam.
    -Were you able to remove/improve some weaknesses -seals- on the new dual head ?
    -On the second last pic, I see the carriage has been improved. The cable carrier is now connected to a metal part. Will this part be included in the upgrade kit ?

    My comment about AMF and 3DMF formats: I use Geomagic Design (ex-Alibre), which is a software from 3D Systems -yes the big manufacturer-. It doesn’t export AMF nor 3DMF,only STL’s.

  • Hi Fprint, We are planning a remote control for robox’s, We’ve already tested some ways out and on of the last major software updates included a lot of features that will be need to disconnect robox control from the GUI.
    We have worked hard to improve as many areas of the new head as possible, and the seals were the focus of a lot of this work. We still don’t have a definitive answer if we’ve but we’ve look at all the options for this area and done our very best to improve reliability. (we’ve not had any failures in testing)
    Yes we will be including these parts in your DM upgrade.
    AMF and 3MF are not top of the list right now, there is just so much we want to do and so little time in each day.

  • Profile photo of Edmond Dyogi Edmond Dyogi says:

    This is great news! I pre-ordered this last Dec 2013. 2 years of waiting is just around the corner for me.
    Will the filament extruder mechanism have the improvements to be able to hand more abrasive filaments like glow in the dark and more flexible filaments?

  • Profile photo of Dr. Woo Dr. Woo says:

    What’s the intended use of the shown USB receptacle? Web cam for inspection? Pleeeease… 🙂 If so, please use a proper CCD, IR lights and if possible a HQ zoom lens. I’m currently using a EUR 60 Tenvis web cam, which allows me to check if the printer is still working and if all objects are still bonded to the PEI bed, but other than that, it’s pretty blurry and useless on the close distance.

  • Profile photo of Fprint Fprint says:

    Will the RBX01-TW Tip Wipe Blade be included in the upgrade kit ?

  • Edmond, The new extruder are almost the same as the original with two important improvments, the filament loaded switch is now stainless steel, as we saw wear with abrasive material on the original and we will be including a small new part that stops soft material from wrapping around the hobbed gears, so yes.
    Dr Woo, we have left the USB open for using with any USB device with low power drain. The robox hardware does not directly interface with this ports its attached to a hub that the robox is also on a separate channel of. The idea being that you can use any input device including a webcam of your choice. The function of these extra devices can be linked to the robox through the controlling device, currently your PC, but in the future the any network enabled device. We have plans to release our own USB powered hardware in the future but we may as well all the use of the port until then

    • Profile photo of Dr. Woo Dr. Woo says:

      So, do I get you right in that I could immediately after installing the Dual Material upgrade plug in a USB cam sitting within the closed print chamber which then can be accessed from the attached Mac/PC, just as if Robox and cam would connected to the same USB hub?

      Also could you shed some on light on whether the parts required to revise 1st gen KS edition Roboxes in order to be fully compatible with the Dual Material option are included in the kit? I ordered and paid the dual head option 20 months ago, and would be a bit miffed if I’d be forced to make an additional payment for the extruder upgrade parts.

  • Profile photo of Dr. Woo Dr. Woo says:

    Typo correction: „ … and paid the Dual Material option 20 months ago …“ Totally tech-saavy BTW, so no problem dis- and reassembling the extruder or replacing any other part on the printer.

  • Hi Dr. Woo, Yes your understanding is perfect, the new USB socket in the Dual Reel holder can be used exactly as you describe.
    Although I have not personally fitted the kit to a KS edition I seen no reason why it wont fit.

  • Profile photo of Dave Dave says:

    Do you have any updates as to when we can expect to receive pre-ordered dual material kits please?

    • Profile photo of Pete Pete says:

      We will be announcing the release of the Dual Material Head for Robox at CES 2016 at the start of Jan. We are inspecting the production line now to ensure the first parts are correct and up to standard and the first public testers are already using the prototype hardware and software. The first batch of DM Kits will be shipped as soon as they arrive, this should be very soon.

  • Profile photo of Flow Flow says:

    when will the dual material head be avalible for regular purchase? waiting for it since it bought my robox.

    • Profile photo of Pete Pete says:

      The DM head is in production now. There have been delays in manufacturing the first large order recently. Up to that point we were doing a slow release to ensure the design and manufacturing process was correct, there are some people using the DM heads already and we expected to have more out a few weeks later. The ship date is not confirmed at this point but the problems are with supply chain rather than flaws in design and construction so should be resolved soon.

  • Sebiss says:

    Hello , is this the wifi ? If no: Would it be built someday? His would be really helpful . Thank you , Seb

    • Profile photo of Pete Pete says:

      Robox will be wifi connected using our Root product which is in development. The price will be very attractive, I expect most Robox users will make use of this. We hope to have some demonstrations in the next few months.

  • John says:

    Any date on the release yet?

  • mexmain says:

    Can you give us some news regularly , because we are all eager to buy these developments. 🙂

  • Els Meulendijks says:

    Hello,

    I ordered the DM a while ago (3th batch). Any update on the expected delivery date yet?
    Thanks
    Els (Netherlands)

  • Profile photo of alfredanil alfredanil says:

    Just recieved Dual material kit which was ordered almost 3 years ago 🙁 anyway, better late than never. I was wondering if the is some instruction video or manual to assemble this kit.
    Regards
    Anil Kumar

  • Ache says:

    Has anyone else received a dual material head for the robox or just Anil & Els (above)? Is it realistic to believe I could receive one before Dec 2016 if I ordered now (batch3)? Thanks.

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