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MIT’s ‘Smart 3D Printer’ uses a 3D scanner that locates objects on the print bed and then print on them

MIT’s ‘Smart 3D Printer’ uses a 3D scanner that locates objects on the print bed and then prints on them

When it comes to unusual 3D printers and materials, MIT takes the proverbial cake. Students and researchers from the prestigious institution have designed printers that can print food (The Cornucopia and the latest machine to print ice cream), robots (Origami Robot), and even composite bones (CPU optimized designs of soft and stiff polymers).

Now researchers have designed a prototype 3D printer that is capable of locating and printing on objects that are positioned on its printing tray. Trying to print on an object usually involves ‘eyeballing’ the location or using specialized camera equipment to get the precise location. MIT’s solution was to combine the printer with a 3D scanner, making the job a heck of a lot easier to do, especially on irregular surfaces. Not only that, but it works for previously stopped printing projects that would otherwise become useless preformed objects destined for the trash.

Line laser and camera positions in the SoliDoodle 3D printer housing

Line laser and camera positions in the Solidoodle 3D printer housing

From this...

From this…

To this.

To this.

The 3D printer features a print head that’s coupled with a laser line, which becomes distorted when it hits the object on the bed. The distortion shows the height of the object, which it does over the whole surface of the object. A webcam attached to the Solidoodle frame continuously scans the laser line distortions to gain accurate data on that surface before the print begins. This means that the system can accurately continue to print on previous projects that were unfinished. i.e., no more waste of costly filaments.

Cube printed on top of a partially printed pyramid demonstrating the precision a few simple add-ons can accomplish

Cube printed on top of a partially printed pyramid, demonstrating the precision a few simple add-ons can accomplish

Follow the video for more:

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The one-man ace engineering wrecking crew – If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find me, maybe you can hire… the Cabe-team


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