Thursday, August 27, 2015

New and Improved (or at least it will be)

Well I've decided to start work on the V2.0. There are several improvements that I want to make.

The first thing I'm going to do is get an Arduino controller. This will simplify my software workflow by letting me use the Creation Workshop software. With Creation Workshop I will be able to add supports and slice then run the printer directly from my PC. My previous workflow was a royal PITA and one of the main reasons that I put the project on the back burner for so long.

I also want to improve the vat to one that uses a stretched Teflon film. I have seen others get excellent results with this and it is much easier to replace than the Sylgard coating I was using. I will have to re engineer the vat.

Lastly, when I built the first one my only concerns were that it be inexpensive and that it work. Unfortunately, it is not compact or attractive. I'm going to have to give some thought to reducing the footprint on my workbench. That real estate is just too valuable. If I can make it more aesthetically pleasing in the process, all the better.

I've ordered the Arduino controller and I'll start thinking on how I can make it smaller.

Stay tuned for updates.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snips & Snails

What are little printers made of?

In case anyone is curious, I worked up a list of materials and what I paid for them (to the best of my recollection) or what they would cost now.

Materials: About $500-$600 total
   It depends on how much you have to pay for shipping and what you can scrounge up for free. (I did it for about $375 with scavenged/recycled materials and some leftover stuff from previous projects). Since I spread out the spending over 2 years it really didn't seem like much at the time. The projector was the single most expensive item but if you watch eBay you can usually find one for a reasonable price. If you want to have a build envelope larger than 4x6 you might want to look into a higher resolution projector (with a higher price tag).

  • Projector – Mitsubishi XD430U (1024x768, 230W UHP bulb) $150 from eBay
  • 1 Stepper motor for Z axis – Scavenged from old equipment (about $10 surplus from
  • 1 Stepper motor for shutter (optional) – also scavenged from old equipment (about $10 surplus from
  • 2 axis bipolar stepper driver – I had one, (it was about $40 from eBay a few years ago) obviously if you only use 1 stepper you can get away with the cheaper 1 axis controller
  • AC relay board - to control the air pump. $18 from
  • Basic Breakout board – Had one of these too, ($10 from
  • 24V Power supply – Had an extra one. ($20 from eBay) or convert a pc supply.
  • Aquarium air pump - $14 from Walmart
  • Switches – assorted mechanical and optical, had a bunch of these scavenged from old equipment.
  • Parallel printer cable and assorted wire from my Box ‘O Stuff

DIY Z axis :
  • Scrap MDF / Pine 2x4 – Free?
  • 1” Steel angle bar stock – about $16 from Home Depot
  • 1” Aluminum angle bar stock – Had some from a previous project (about $5 from Home Depot)
  • 8 roller skate bearings - $5 from eBay
  • Assorted Nuts, Bolts, Washers and Corner braces – about $10 from Home Depot
  • Acme threaded rod - $19/3ft from (I only used 16” so really $9.50)
  • Coupler – Had one of these too ($15 from
  • DIY leadnut – You can make one for next to nothing, if you have the Delrin, or buy one (about $20)

Resin Vat:
  • HDPE Cutting board material 1” - $17 from I could probably have used MDF if I wanted to go extra cheap.
  • HDPE cutting board material ½” - $9 from I could probably have used MDF if I wanted to go extra cheap.
  • 2 Hinges – medium/small brass from Lowes $4
  • Glass – $10 for a 12”x12” piece of double thick (5mm) glass from (I cut 3 windows from this so I have a few extras ready for quick replacement)
  • Bolts, threaded inserts, washers – about $8 from Home Depot
  • Sylgard 184 – $50 / .5 Kg from eBay. That’s probably enough to coat 20 or more 4x6 pieces. It’s really a consumable but I’ll include it in the build cost.
Build platform:
  • More scrap wood
  • HDPE scrap from the vat construction
  • Cheap cutting board - 3/8" thick about $3 from Walmart
  • Aluminum angle left over from the z axis
  • ¼” 4x6 Aluminum plate – about $5 from
  • More corner braces - $5 from Home Depot. I could have cut these from scrap wood and glued them in place but I got lazy.
  • Scrap MDF, Plywood, Melamine shelving
  • Scrap steel for projector mounts and front supports – from an old server rack mount
  • Even more corner braces - $5 from Home Depot
  • Red Plexiglas for door and projector shutter (optional but nice) - $30 from local supplier
  • Drawer pull, hinges and magnetic cabinet latch – Had these in my parts box. (About $7 from Home Depot)
  • Misc screws/bolts – from workbench

I'm already thinking of ways to improve/simplify the design and will undoubtedly recycle most of the parts for the MkII

Monday, January 6, 2014

For your viewing pleasure

In case you are interested and have about 8 minutes to kill, here is a video I shot while the Dalek was printing. I have a float on a lever in the resin tray (on the left side) that blocks an opto interrupter. Every 10 layers the printer checks the sensor and if it is unblocked it triggers a relay that turns on a fish tank air pump. Air is pumped into the resin jar and forces resin up the tube to the vat. the hissing sound is a pressure relief valve (a small hole in the cap) on the jar. Without it the resin kept flowing for quite a while after the pump stopped. You can see I eliminated the power tilt and went with a passive design. The tray is hinged on one side and allowed to lift and fall back by itself. The thud is the sound of the tray dropping back down. Interestingly, You see that after the first few layers there is almost no movement of the tray. Once the build platform gets some distance from the floor it doesn't have the suction when it lifts. Exposures with small surface areas release so easily that the tray often doesn't lift at all. Unfortunately that also makes it difficult to tell if there has been a printing failure, such as the part separating from the build platform. I changed the front of the resin tray to clear so I could spot a failure before it made a big permanent blob and ruins the Sylgard.

The first couple layers get a longer exposure (about 9 seconds) to stick it to the build plate. After that the exposure is 5.5 seconds per layer. The Z axis lift is also higher for the first few layers. I found that after about 5 layers I only had to lift about 1/8". That helped cut some time off the total print run.

 I also changed the vat floor. My first floor was a piece of 1/4" Plexiglas with a Sylgard 184 coating. I have since switched to regular double thick glass. Nothing special just plain glass. By using glass I can heat cure the sylgard in a toaster oven in about 40 minutes instead of waiting 24 hours for it to cure at room temp. I made the Sylgard layer a little thicker and so far it has held up well, 5 or 6 prints with no noticeable degradation. Also added is a red plexiglas filter/shutter that blocks the lens before and after printing to eliminate accidental exposure during set up and clean up. you can hear it being moved out of the way just before the projector comes on the first time.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Doctor! Doctor! Give me the news.....

Here are some things I have printed with my completed DLP printer. I'm still trying different resins and pigments to find the right combination of performance and cost.

There is a limit to the printer's ability to produce really small details. surface details like the lettering on the call box print ok but details that extend away from the larger body like the door handle or the posts around the light  don't get enough energy from a tiny dot of light to cure the resin.


The Dalek came out really well. The TARDIS and Dalek were both from I printed them both hollow to conserve resin. I used MakerJuice subG+ Orange resin from It works pretty well but I did notice some over curing of the layers. I think I need to add some more pigment. I'm also not a fan of the translucent orange. It doesn't photograph well and it looks awful. The orange does do a good job of blocking the wavelengths that the resin is sensitive to. I'll try adding something to make it more opaque and less fluorescent tangerine.

The Dalek took about an hour to print. 470 layers @ 5.5sec exposure + z axis cycle time (about 2 sec) and pauses to top off the resin level.
Here are some tests I did with the MakerJuice SubG+ Black resin.

My first  attempts to print more "mechanical" stuff.
You can see the over curing problem on the undersides of the bolts.

This one came out really well. The problems I am having with the over curing don't seem as noticeable on more organic shapes. It's only the hard edged overhangs where it is noticeable.
I wanted to see how small I could go.
This was my first successful print. I set it up so there were no supports needed. I used Spot-A GP unpigmented resin with a mix of black and white pigments. I was going for a neutral grey similar to the Form1 resin. I like the more opaque pigments, it is much easier to see details. The spotA resin cures faster than the SubG+ but is more expensive.


Friday, April 19, 2013


Wow, I don't know where to begin. Where did the last 18 months go? I made the mistake of putting this project on the "back burner" and then forgot all about it. It's not that I didn't intend to get back to it, but somehow I never found the time or motivation.

The good news is that I finally dusted it off and finished the build! There were a few small changes to the design.

The active tilt mechanism with the springs and stepper motor has been replaced with passive tilting. Now the tray is hinged on one side and is allowed to lift on one side as the build platform is lifted. The problem I had with the springs was there was too much play in the vat location. If I tightened it down so it didn't "wiggle" then it wouldn't tilt smoothly. I tested the passive tilt with some resin and it seems to work fine. If I lift the platform 1/8th inch the resin separates from the vat floor and the vat falls back to the level position (isn't gravity great!). For the vat floor I'm using a piece of 3/16" Plexiglas covered with a thin layer of Sylgard 184. I don't know how long the Sylgard will last so I have the frame set up so I can swap out the floor easily. I'll probably go ahead and make several  from glass so I can scape off the Sylgard and re-coat as needed.

Since I no longer needed the stepper and axis for the tilt, I used them to add a red filter between the projector and the vat. It's just a piece of transparent red plexi that swings in front of the projector lens. This is useful because before I start the VB script Macro in Mach3 the projector is showing the Mach3 interface. Also, when the script is done it goes beck to a mostly white screen that would expose a lot of resin. I tested the filter and it seems to block all of the wavelengths that my resin is sensitive to. I also used a large piece of the red plexi to make a door for the front so I don't have to worry about ambient room lights.

I'm still tweaking the control macro and need to reposition the home and limit switches but the dry runs look good so far.

I promise it won't take another year for me to post some more. I've already started playing with some resin and should have some results soon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Where does the time go?

I can't believe the Summer is over and winter is just around the corner. If you haven't already guessed, I have way too many interests and find myself too easilly distracted by the project of the moment. The good news is that now that the weather is turning nasty and it gets dark early, I'll be working on indoor distractions (like the 3D printer).

I'm going to try and force myself to stay focused and actually finish this project before I flit off to the next one. I have been thinking on some changes to the Z axis design. I would like to be able to buy a precision linear stage but the cost is prohibitive. I'm pretty certain I can build something that will be "good enough" but I'm still working out the details. There are a few other changes I want to make to my original design concept. That often happens when my concepts meet the reality of fabrication.

Once I work out the Z axis It shouldn't take too long to assemble. I hope to have a prototype ready for testing by the end of the year.

Thanks for checking back, I'm sorry for staying away for so long.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Now with Real Tilting Action!

I've been working on the resin tray. I needed a way to be able to test different coatings/coverings for the glass at the bottom of the tray. To that end I have made a frame that will hold the glass. I can prepare glass pieces with different coatings and change them easily. I do feel that I cheated a bit as I used my CNC to make the frame. I probably could have made it with my table saw and router table but the CNC was faster and much neater.

The tray will slide into a holder that floats on springs. It can be leveled by adjusting the bolts at the corners. The holders were made with much more mundane tools. A hacksaw for the aluminum and a table saw to cut the HDPE blocks. A drill press was used for the holes. What you don't see is the threaded inserts I found at the hardware store. They screw into the MDF and the bolts are threaded into them. The blocks slide up and down nicely on the bolts (I found some that had the top 2/3 unthreaded) but I found that I needed to open up the holes on the underside of the blocks so the bolts could "wiggle" a bit . Otherwise they would bind up when only one side was pressed down.

Here you see the finished assembly with a stepper motor to provide the tilting action. There is a eccentric (off center) wheel that presses down on a lip on the back side of the tray. The tray will be tipped between layer exposures to help separate the cured resin from the vat floor. Then the Z axis gets raised slightly before the next slice is exposed. I may need to relocate the stepper so it won't interfere with the Z axis.