Category Archives: Technology

3D Printing: 90° Overhangs without Support Structure with Non-Planar Slicing on 3-axis Printer

Updates:

  • 2021/03/08: slicer4rtn at 0.2.4 (still unreleased) resulting in better prints, blog-post linked at hackaday
  • 2021/03/05: 95° and 100° overhangs are printable too, more bug-fixes in slicer4rtn
  • 2021/03/04: fixing various bugs in slicer4rtn as disovered printing more complex pieces, supporting prusa-slicer as well aside slic3r, pushing the limits with overhangs
  • 2021/03/02: documenting my findings, a few photos, some early conclusions (not even one day old), conic sliced and tilt sliced.
90° Overhangs without support structure on 3-axis 3D printer

Introduction

It has been target of many efforts to print 90° overhangs without support on 3-axis 3D printers as with ordinary Z slicing, each layer requires a support underneath; hence, every overhang then needs a support structure if the model itself doesn’t provide it.

But if . . . one slices non-planar? That’s what I thought about for a couple of years and kept it in the back of my mind. In January 2021 I came across Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN) aka RotBot as developed by ZHAW University of Applied Sciences Zurich (Switzerland). I began to design my own approach of the printhead and then started to code my own conic slicer (slicer4rtn), as the paper which might explain it wasn’t published yet by ZHAW.

While reflecting on the output of the 4-axis conic sliced models, I thought what if I simply make the cone angle flatter than 45° but 15-25° so the vertical nozzle can print it?

Overhang model conic sliced at 25° angle
slicer4rtn --angle=22.5 sliced overhang model, meant for 4-axis printer, but printed on 3-axis printer

Conic Slices Simulation

A simple overhang model (nr 3) conic sliced at 25° for 0.4mm nozzle, 0.2mm layer height:

Tilted Slices Simulation

The same overhang model (nr 3) tilt sliced at 25° for 0.4mm nozzle, 0.2mm layer height (like with belt printer):

Conic Slices Print Tests

And on the afternoon of March 1st 2021 I ran my G-code for the first time on an ordinary 3-axis printer, a cheap CTC DIY I3 Pro B (Prusa-i3 like), in the attempt to print 90° overhangs, with a conic sliced overhang model:

Wow – it seems to have worked! There were still some issues, like the nozzle without extrusion moved into the print as I forgot map linear motions without extrusion also to conic coordinates as well, and some other minor things.

You may consider this a “backport” of 4-axis slicing procedure back to a 3-axis 3D printing procedure.

Next Day Attempts

Conic Slices

The print is still pretty ugly due to the obvious under-extrusion, but the geometry seems to work overall. The overhang on the left-front isn’t evenly, as the outer wall print speed is still too high.

Tilted Slices

Very clean print so far but the overhang is limited to one direction (see below of overall considerations).

Findings

Well, it works, but here are some limitations of using non-planar slicing:

Conic Slices

  • conic sliced overhangs need to be going out- or inward from a central point
    • more complex pieces need to be volume decomposed or segmented, e.g. some sub-volume sliced ordinary vertically Z-wise, others conic sliced where needed – this is part of my research on 4-axis and 5-axis printers; and I was hoping some of the findings can be applied to 3-axis 3D printer as well (as this post shows)
  • the printhead geometry with heatblock sock, part-cooler, LED light they quickly come into way with larger pieces and larger overhangs
    • this might look minor, but part coolers play significant role for quality prints, so they need to be optimized for non-planar printing
  • cone angle
    • 15° works, sufficient space around the nozzle, but on the edge for overhangs
    • 20° works better, layers more stable beneath the overhang
    • 25° works too, but is the limit on my E3D V6 clone

Tilted Slices

  • single direction angled slice like with belt-printer
  • only one direction overhang possible, but good quality
  • tilt angle:
    • 25° works good, yet, the heatblock comes into the way rather quickly with my sample overhang model

Conic vs Tilted Slices

Issues to Resolve

  • more tests
  • more beautiful prints
    • fine tune extrusion rate: the current slicer4rtn does a simple/poor interpolation causing rough top surfaces (under- vs overextrusion)
    • fine tune outer wall of overhangs, slow them down
      • --slicer.external-perimeter-speed=10% (Slic3r)
  • support more slicers
    • Slic3r: supported since slicer4rtn 0.0.1
    • Prusa Slicer: supported since slicer4rtn 0.1.2 (0.1.1 was broken)
    • Cura Engine: not yet
    • Print3r: not yet (coming soon)
  • support skirts (again): due the slicer algorithm the skirt must omitted before pre-processing but be added at last stage or post-processing
  • redesign my part cooler so I can test print larger overhang pieces
  • find collision algorithm (along with given parametric printhead geometry), that’s part of the 4-axis and 5-axis slicing procedure

Gallery

2-sided overhang model nr 4 (conic sliced)

Trying out an overhang model which extends -Y and Y (as side-ways the part-cooler comes into the way)

There are still inconsistencies with extrusion calculation, but the prints getting cleaner.

4-sided overhang model nr 6 (conic sliced)

Sample print comes soon as I need to redesign my part cooler so I can print this piece.

1-sided long 4mm thick overhang model nr 3 (conic sliced)

Long 40mm overhang, just 4mm thick extending nose . . .

1-sided long 2mm thick overhang model nr 3 (conic sliced)

Long 40mm overhang, just 2mm thin extending nose, let’s push the limits of what’s possible:

OK print so far, better than anticipated, but still a way to improve it.

1-sided short 2mm thick 95° overhang model nr 3 (conic sliced)

Just trying more overhang, let’s see.

Obviously there is more than 95° overhang possible, so let’s try …

1-sided short 2mm thick 100° overhang model nr 3 (conic sliced)

Even steeper overhang, let’s see.

This is truly promising, up to 100° overhangs printable with vertical nozzle as mounted on most 3-axis 3D printers . . .

Test Protocol

Note: the protocol shows old settings of slicer4rtn pre 0.2.0 as they have changed by now, I keep them for my own reference for a couple of weeks and remove or replace them with newer prints and settings.

Short overhang (conic sliced)

25° cone sliced overhang model nr 3 printing on 3-axis 3D printer

slicer4rtn-0.1.0 --angle=25 overhang3l-refined-center.stl ---slicer.max-fan-speed=50 --slicer.bed-temperature=50 --bed-center=80,60 --slicer.layer-height=0.2 --flow-rate=1.5 --slicer.retract-length=4 --output=o3l.gcode --zoff=-0.2

  • max-fan-speed reduced as there is no heatblock sock anymore
  • layer-height=0.2 gives faster speed than 0.1, 0.3 output is too rough
  • flow-rate needs further experimentation
  • angle=25 seems the max, otherwise the hexagon on the nozzle will touch existing print

Short overhang (tilt sliced)

25° tilted sliced overhang model nr 3 printed on 3-axis 3D printer

slicer4rtn-0.1.0 --angle=25 overhang3l-refined-center.stl -k --axis=3 --slicer.max-fan-speed=50 --slicer.bed-temperature=50 -v --bed-center=80,60 --slicer.layer-height=0.2 --flow-rate=1.5 --slicer.retract-length=4 --output=overhang3l-axis=3.gcode --zoff=-0.2

  • axis=3 tells slicer4rtn there is no rotating tilted nozzle, so slice only tilted into one direction (by default -Y direction)
  • heatblock geometry matters with this tilted sliced print much more than with conic sliced print above, print looks better than conic sliced mainly I haven’t had time to fine-tune conic sliced printing yet

Short bi-direction overhang (conic sliced)

25° conic sliced overhang model nr 4 printed on 3-axis 3D printer

slicer4rtn-0.1.0 --angle=25 overhang4l-refined-center.stl -k --slicer.max-fan-speed=50 --slicer.bed-temperature=50 -v --bed-center=130,60 --slicer.layer-height=0.2 --flow-rate=1.5 --slicer.retract-length=4 --slicer.fill-density=10 --slicer.external-perimeter-speed=10% --output=overhang4l.gcode --zoff=-0.2

  • slicer.external-perimeter-speed=10% makes a significant difference with better overhangs (slower printed)

Long thin 2mm overhang (conic sliced)

slicer4rtn-0.1.0 --angle=25 overhang3l2mm-refined.stl -k --slicer.max-fan-speed=50 --slicer.bed-temperature=50 -v --bed-center=130,70 --slicer.layer-height=0.2 --flow-rate=1.5 --slicer.retract-length=4 --slicer.fill-density=10 --slicer.external-perimeter-speed=10% --output=overhang3l2mm.gcode --slicer.nozzle-diameter=0.4 --zoff=-0.1 --slicer=slic3r

  • very good print

(slicer4rtn-0.2.3) print3r --printer=y3228-rtn print overhang3l2mm.stl --subdivide=5 --erate=0.8 --random-placement --layer-height=0.3 --fill-density=5% --print-speed=20 --infill-speed=20 --perimeter-speed=20

  • better surface, no stringing anymore
  • faster print speed but also more geometric inconsistency like bending up
  • underside is more uneven but also cleaner than all the previous (pre- 0.2.0 of slicer4rtn)

Long thin 4mm overhang (conic sliced)

slicer4rtn-0.1.0 --angle=25 overhang3l4mm-refined.stl -k --slicer.max-fan-speed=50 --slicer.bed-temperature=50 -v --bed-center=130,70 --slicer.layer-height=0.2 --flow-rate=1.5 --slicer.retract-length=4 --slicer.fill-density=10 --slicer.external-perimeter-speed=10% --output=overhang3l4mm.gcode --slicer.nozzle-diameter=0.4 --zoff=-0.1

  • rough surface still, on top and beneath overhang, need to review my extrusion transformation
  • some layers hang a bit under, either over-extrusion or lack of cooling

Shorter 90°+ thin 2mm overhang (conic sliced)

Both overhang3l2mm95deg and 100deg were printed with

slicer4rtn-0.1.5 --angle=25 overhang3l2mm95deg-refined.stl -k --slicer.max-fan-speed=50 --slicer.bed-temperature=50 -v --bed-center=130,70 --slicer.layer-height=0.2 --flow-rate=1.5 --slicer.retract-length=4 --slicer.fill-density=10 --slicer.external-perimeter-speed=10% --output=overhang3l2mm95deg.gcode --slicer.nozzle-diameter=0.4 --zoff=-0.2 --slicer=slic3r

Tuning 3-axis 3D Printer

Following changes are recommended (for now just for myself as slicer4rtn isn’t released yet):

  • increase Z axis speed: within the start G-code the line M203 Z.. (replace .. with an actual number) to increase speed of Z-axis
    • depending on the pitch of your Z-lead screw or threaded rods, you may set it to Z4, Z6, or higher, so the motion speed comes close to X- and Y-axis to improve print quality
    • if it’s set too high, your stepper motor will block and not move at all
      • my setup with M6 threaded rod for Z (200 full steps = 1mm): M203 Z8 lead to block of Z motion, trying now with M203 Z6, 6mm/s => 6 revolutions/s => 1200 full steps/s
  • slow down perimeter (overhangs): use --external-perimeter-speed=10% or a bit more, it prints overhangs better, leave it at 50% if prints look good

Models

References

That’s it.

3D Printing: Conic Slicing for Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN) / 4 Axis

State: early draft, mostly simulations with a few tests with 3-axis printer only

Conic sliced overhang model, printing with Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN) 90° overhang structure without support
structure

Updates:

  • 2021/03/08: slicer4rtn 0.2.3 reached (still unreleased), better prints, documenting various settings in more details
  • 2021/03/05: added proper ZHAW reference in the introduction and a few notes
  • 2021/02/27: removed some redundant illustrations and remade some of them, outside-cone vs inside-cone mode & printing
  • 2021/02/26: added inside-cone printing example for inner overhang mode, also early information of slicer4rtn; more animations to observe details of produced G-code, using now also OpenSCAD to simulate G-code and actual nozzle position
  • 2021/02/24: better tests with 20mm cube and overhang structure, included two short G-code simulations as videos, added 20mm sphere and 3D Benchy and discover first issues with volume decomposition and overhang recognition
  • 2021/02/23: first write up, pseudo code and first attempt to conic slice 20mm cube

Introduction

The main idea is to utilize existing 3D printing slicers but create conic slices for the Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN) 4 Axis Printer. ZHAW published in their announcement in 2021/01 something about utilizing existing slicers, but the details remained concealed and later published as a paper but I did not want to wait and pondered on the problem, and came up with a solution. In its current state it’s purely theoretical and untested for now (2021/02) barely tested yet.

Michael Wüthrich confirmed my solution is comparable with their solution. ZHAW planned their paper to be published sometime 2021. So, the main credit goes to ZHAW and the researchers (Prof. Dr. Wilfried Elspass, Dr. Christian Jaeger, Michael Wüthrich, Maurus Gubser, Philip Bos and Simon Holdener) there, I was just impatient and tried to find a solution with the information available.

I also adapted some of the notions Wüthrich introduced in the Novel 4-Axis 3D Printing Process to Print Overhangs Without Support Material paper, e.g. “outside-cone” and “inside-cone” printing as featured in an earlier blog-post already.

Non-Planar Conic Slices

The 4-axis Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN) physical setup implies its slices are of non-planar conic shape, allowing to print overhangs without support structure, such as:

Conic slices of an overhang model

I also like to master the conic slices properly as they promise to become a subset of 5 axis printhead (PAX) features too – so it’s worth the effort even if the RTN itself might be too limited in its application with its fixed tilt – we will see.

Theory

In a nutshell the steps are following:

  1. sub-divide faces of the model (fine-grained)
  2. map model to inverse conic space
  3. send to slicer
  4. remap G-code to conic space
  5. adding Zrot to G-code

Conic Space Mapping

(x1,y1,z1,rot) = conicSpaceMapping(cx,cy,x,y,z,dir);

whereas

  • cx, cy are the conic axis coordinates
  • x, y, z are the input coordinates
  • x1, y1, z1 are the output coordinates
  • rot the rotation angle x,y vs cx,cy
  • dir is either direct (default) or inverse
function conicSpaceMapping(cx,cy,x,y,z,dir='direct') {
   dx = x-cx; 
   dy = y-cy;
   d = sqrt(dx*dx + dy*dy);
   rot = atan2(dy,dx);
   return (x,y,dir=="direct" ? z-d : z+d,rot);
}

Pseudo-Code

The entire procedure goes like this:

m = subDivide(loadModel("cube.stl"),5);
cx = m.minX + (m.maxX-m.minX)/2;
cy = m.minY + (m.maxY-m.minY)/2;
for(i=0; i<m.vertices.length; i++) {
    m.vertices[i] = conicSpaceMapping(cx,cy,
       m.vertices[i][0],m.vertices[i][1],m.vertices[i][2],'inverse');
}

writeSTL(m,"temp.stl");
exec("slicer","temp.stl","temp.gcode");

foreach(line of read_file("temp.gcode")) {
   if ma = line.match("G1 Z([\-\d\.]+)")   // new layer
      z = ma[0];
   else if (x,y,r) = line.match("G1 X([\-\d\.]+) Y([\-\d\.]+)(.*)") {
      (x1,y1,z1,zrot) = conicSpaceMapping(cx,cy,x,y,z,'direct');
      puts("G1 X${x1} Y${y1} Z${z1} A${zrot} ${r}");
   } else
      puts(line);
}

Note: the pseuco-code is incomplete as extrusion E is not yet taken care of, as soon I found a definitive solution I will write it up.

Examples

I implemented the pseudo-code with some more details like taking care of G-code E extrusion as well and fine-step linear extrusion – here some early tests using OpenSCAD as STL & G-code viewer and Slic3r as actual slicer:

20mm Cube Conic Sliced

Snapshots of progress of conic sliced 20mm cube:

20mm cube conic sliced G-code
20mm cube conic sliced with rotating tilted nozzle simulation

Overhang Conic Sliced

Snapshots of progress of conic sliced Overhang:

Conic sliced overhang model
Conic sliced overhang model including rotating tilted nozzle simulation

Gallery of Conic Sliced Models

Using Cura as STL and G-code viewer only:

Issues to Resolve

  • test actual G-code in real life
    • verify Axxx / Zrot , verified with G-code simulator coded with OpenSCAD
    • verify Exxx interpolation
  • find good pre-processing face sub-division strategy
    • in its current form the algorithm requires fine-grained sub-divided faces otherwise inaccurate G-code is created which cannot be recovered
  • slice more complex parts
    • 3D Benchy: requires more thorough examination, e.g. volume decomposition to segment roof apart:

  • document all details
  • release source code to public

Close-Ups

Some close-ups of conic sliced models:

Outside- vs Inside-Cone Printing

As pointed out in the previous blog-post, the RTN has two main modes of operation, outside-cone and inside-cone printing to cover outside overhangs and inside overhangs – the slicer must recognize those and switch operation mode. Further, these two modes cannot easily be mixed, and need to be segmented or separated, hence speaking of volume segmentation.

This poses significant grow of complexity from just planar slicing, the 4 axis RTN provides features to print 90° overhangs without support structure, but only when the part can be properly analysed and segmented so that those operational mode can be applied.

The difference between inside- and outside-cone printing is to change the order of conic mapping for the model and post slicing:

outside-cone mode

  1. map model inverse conic
  2. slice model
  3. map G-code direct conic

inside-cone mode

  1. map model direct conic
  2. slice model
  3. map G-code inverse conic, Zrot + 180°

Slicer4RTN

The pseudo-code turned into an actual application I named slicer4rtn and is a command-line tool, slicing STL into G-code:

USAGE Slicer4RTN 0.2.3: [<opts>] <file.stl> ...
    options:
       -v or --verbose      increase verbosity
       --version            display version and exit
       -k or --keep         keep all temporary files (temp.stl, temp.gcode)
       --subdivide=<n>      set midpoint subdivisions (default: 2)
       --mode=<mode>        set cone mode, either 'outside' or 'inside' (default: 'outside')
       --output=<fname>     override default naming convention file.stl -> file.gcode
       --axis=<axis>        set axis count of printer: 3, 4 or 5 (default: 4)
       --angle=<angle>      set angle of cone (default: 45)
       --center=<cx,cy>     set conic slicing center (default: 0,0)
       --bed-center=<cx,cy> set bed-enter, only affects output G-code (default: 100,100)
       --fixed-rot=<angle>  set fixed rotation angle, usable if --axis=3 but 4-axis or 5-axis printer is target
       --zoff=<v>           define z-offset, will be added to G1 … Z<v>
       --erate=<f>          define extrusion rate (multiplier, default = 1)
       --efmin=<v>          define extrusion factor minimum, (default = 0.01)
       --efmax=<v>          define extrusion factor maximum, (default = 3)
       --motion-minz=<v>    define minimum Z level for motion (without extrusion) (default = 0.2)
       --max-speed=<s>      define maximum speed (default: 0)
       --recenter           recenter model X- & Y-wise
       --core-slicer=<slicer> set slicer (default 'slic3r')
       --slicer.<k>=<v>     add additional slicer arguments, e.g. --slicer.fill-density=0
       --<k>=<v>            all other arguments not for slicer4rtn will be passed to the core slicer (slic3r)

 examples:
       ./slicer4rtn sphere.stl
       ./slicer4rtn overhang.stl --output=sample.gcode
       ./slicer4rtn overhang.stl --axis=5 --output=sample.gcode
       ./slicer4rtn overhang.stl --axis=3 --output=sample-belt-printer.gcode --fill-density=5

and actual usage looks like this:

% slicer4rtn cube.stl 
Slicer4RTN: processing 'cube.stl'
Slicer4RTN:    #1/5 read stl
Slicer4RTN:       #1/2 subdivide (44 vertices)
Slicer4RTN:       #2/2 subdivide (188 vertices)
Slicer4RTN:    #2/5 map vertices
Slicer4RTN:    #3/5 write temporary stl
Slicer4RTN:    #4/5 slice stl
=> Processing triangulated mesh
=> Generating perimeters
=> Preparing infill
=> Infilling layers
=> Exporting G-code to temp.gcode
Done. Process took 0 minutes and 0.570 seconds
Filament required: 706.4mm (5.0cm3)
Slicer4RTN:    #5/5 remap gcode to 'cube.gcode'
Slicer4RTN: done.

I gonna release slicer4rtn eventually, in its early version the model currently can only be sliced for outside-cone or inside-cone printing, so the volume decomposition or segmentation needs to be done separately. For now it helps me to verify some of the 4-axis and 5-axis printer designs I work on.

Ashtar K RTN printing conic sliced 20mm cube (close up, animation)
Ashtar K RTN printing conic sliced overhang model without support structure (close up, animation)

Mode

Defines the outside- or inside-cone mode printing/slicing:

  • outside (default): for outside going overhangs
  • inside: for inside going overhangs

Note: currently you need to define those manually, there is no auto-detection which is where (aka volume decomposition/segmenting).

Subdivide

By default the STL is midpoint divided 2 times (iterations), you may disable it with --subdivide=0 or increase the value which will generate a lot of triangles. In order the procedure to work a fine-grained model is required, especially for very simple models like a cube.

Axis

By using --axis=3 the resulting G-code is non-rotating nozzle yet tilted, like a belt-printer setup, for targeting 5-axis / Penta Axis (PAX) choosing --axis=5 and it sets the G-code B45 (Trot = 45°) for each G1 statement.

Angle

By using --angle=30 the slicing cone angle can be changed:

It might help to experiment to print with ordinary vertical nozzle (non-tilted) to print 90° overhangs, something like this:

--angle=22.5 or a bit less with --axis=4, but printing on a vertical nozzle

As soon I tried it in real-life I will document using slicer4rtn with ordinary setup as well.
Update 2021/03/03: first tests are promising, actually a breakthrough printing 90° overhangs with a vertical nozzle – the most common 3-axis 3D printer setup.

Center

Unlike with ordinary slicers, conic slicing requires to set a center of the conic slicing, it may not be necessarily in the center of the model, but offsetted, this is done with e.g. --center=50,10 as to the STL file; by default --center=0,0.

Note: not all STL files are properly centered, they may be off already; this directly affects the conic center position. Use --recenter switch to force the STL to be centered X- & Y-wise.

Print3r & Slicer4RTN

As of print3r 0.3.2 or later slicer4rtn is supported as well:

  • .config/printer4/printer/<yourprinter>.ini and make a copy like .config/print3r/printer/<yourprinter>-rtn.ini add following lines:
display_update = off
slicer = slicer4rtn
external-perimeter-speed = 10%

and alter the start-gcode line with increasing Z motion as well, e.g for my Prusa-i3 clone it has a M6 threaded rod, which means one revolution (200 full steps) 1mm Z motion, hence

start-gcode = ".....\nM203 Z6\n...."

increased Z motion speed to come close to X- and Y- speed, it creates more even extrusions, nicer prints.

Actual use with print3r goes then like this, my Prusa-i3 clone named y3228-rtn now:

% print3r --printer=y3228-rtn --random-placement print overhang4l4mm.stl
% print3r --printer=y3228-rtn --layer-height=0.3 --fill-density=5 print overhang4l4mm.stl
% print3r --printer=y3228-rtn --scad print 'sphere(10)' --fill-density=5

it slices and forwards the G-code according your setup.

Test Prints

As soon I built the RTN printhead on one of my printers I will post photos of the first prints. For now (2021/03) I only printed conic sliced pieces on a 3-axis 3D printer.

References

As I progress I will update this blog-post.

With conic sliced G-code there are many first layers . . .

That’s it.

3D Printing: Ashtar Series Printhead Options 2021/02

The past weeks (2021/02) I worked on various printhead designs, to summarize and provide an overview by mounting them on Ashtar K:

Also improved the display controller to simulate Marlin firmware and list heads and tool selection (MSE), coordinates (IDEX) or rotation angles (RTN & PAX).

So far all options are available for Ashtar C, D and M as well, but currently (2021/02) are just in draft and mostly untested.

RTN and PAX promise printable support-free overhangs, yet no public available slicing software exists to really take advantage of those two designs, as new algorithms of volume decomposition, sub-volume sequencing, collision detection are required and mostly debated in scientific papers as 2021/02 and only few companies, e.g. HAGE and VSHAPER, implemented new 5-axis 3D printing procedures, and DotXControl advertises a 5 Axis Slicer.

That’s it.

3D Printing: Penta Axis (PAX) / 5 Axis Printing Option – Draft

Status: very early draft, inverse kinematics resolved

Updates:

  • 2021/02/28: added animation PAX printing a 4-axis/RTN sliced overhang model
  • 2021/02/17: added two brief animations of inverse kinematics
  • 2021/02/08: inverse kinematics working, printhead mounted on Ashtar K as draft
  • 2021/02/06: machine vs nozzle coordinates, forward/reverse transformation requirements, heatsink fan and part cooler added
  • 2021/02/04: starting with collecting ideas and first drafts

Introduction

After I saw 5- and 6-axis printers at Formnext 2019 and particularly seeing the belt printers able to print 90° overhangs in one direction without support, and then RotBot by ZHAW, a Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN) printer, where the 90° overhangs in different directions (given some conditions) can be printed without support – so it was more natural to consider to make the tilting nozzle angle (trot) flexible as well, 0 – 180°.

  • 0°: nozzle looking down, ordinary orientation with Z sliced layers 3D printing
  • 45°: belt printer or rotating tilted nozzle (RTN) printer, printing 90° overhangs in one or more directions *)
  • 90°: printing horizontally outward
  • 135°: printing upward 45°
  • 180°: printing upward entirely

*) Rotating Tilted Nozzle capability printing 90° overhangs depends on location and symmetric alignments, no slicing software yet available.

Flexible Tilting

2 Axes with NEMA 17

Let’s look at bit closer to the new rotating axes implemented with direct drive NEMA 17 stepper motors:

  • Z rotation (aka Zrot) with
    • NEMA 17 39/40mm long (45Nm) or
    • NEMA 17 25mm/180g (13Nm)
  • Tilt rotation (aka Trot) with
    • NEMA 17 20mm/140g (16Nm) or
    • NEMA 17 25mm/180g (13Nm)

both provide 1.8° (or optionally 0.9°) resolution per full step, or

  • 8 microsteps (20% force) 0.225° @1.8°step (0.1125° @0.9°step) per microstep
    • Z rotation 9 Nm (or 2.6Nm)
    • T rotation 3.2 Nm
  • 16 microsteps (10% force) 0.1125° @1.8°step (0.0565° @0.9°step) per microstep
    • Z rotation 4.5 Nm (or 1.3Nm)
    • T rotation 1.6 Nm

For now, for sake of simplicity, both axes are in direct drive – if precision requirements dictate a simple reduction gear 1:4 or 1:5 (see below for some more details).

Taking Advantage of 5 Axis

In 5 axis CNC context there are multiple configurations possible such as table/table, head/head and table/head – as I came from the Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN) the extra 2 axis are added to the head, hence head/head configuration.

Tilt rotation 0 .. 180°

The Trot of 0° is the equivalent of ordinary 3D printer with top/down oriented nozzle, the 45° the belt printer or RotBot/RTN, and 90° printing vertical walls with the nozzle perpendicular, and 90-135° printing up-side down – I’m not sure if 135-180° is that useful, perhaps making underlying structures really smooth. For now I keep the tilt rotation from 0° to 180° even though I think I’m going to use 0-135° in real life application when the actual print procedure is developed, planar or non-planar slicing.

Mathematics

5 Axis Kinematics

LinuxCNC 5 Axis kinematics describes the notations and provides a starting point and I realized quickly that in CNC context the 5 axis operations is quite thoroughly explored, but much fewer focus on 5 axis additive manufacturing yet (see below at References).

In order to reflect the rotation per axis, the notion A, B and C are adopted, which can be described in OpenSCAD as

translate([X,Y,Z]) rotate([A,B,C]) ...
X,Y,Z (tool coordinate) and I,J,K (tool vector)

Further the CNC notion I, J and K are used as tool vector, the way the nozzle points away. G-code supports natively G1 X Y Z I J K which is machine independent. The machine specific firmware then computes the machine coordinates and rotating angles so the machine tool tip reaches those coordinates with that particular tool vector.

Tool/Nozzle vs Machine Coordinates

Absolute coordinates X, Y, Z of the nozzle tip and angles Zrot, Trot and given the Z rotation arm there is a mapping required to Xm, Ym, Zm with same Zrot, Trot.

The forward transformation in OpenSCAD:

translate([Xm,Ym,Zm]) rotate([0,0,Zrot]) rotate([Trot,0,0]) translate([0,0,-45]) sphere(0.1); // nozzle tip at X, Y, Z with I, J, K
45mm vertical offset of tilt axis to nozzle tip

or expressing it as a list:

  1. at 0, 0, 0 (origin)
  2. translate([Xm,Ym,Zm])
  3. rotate([0,0,Zrot])
  4. rotate([Trot,0,0])
  5. translate([0,0,-45])
  6. at X, Y, Z

The -45 is the 45mm vertical offset of the tilt rotation to the tip of the nozzle.

In OpenSCAD it’s the reverse order, and enumerate matrices (used further below):

  1. at X, Y, Z
  2. translate([0,0,45]) aka M1
  3. rotate([-Trot,0,0]) aka M2
  4. rotate([0,0,-Zrot]) aka M3
  5. translate([ Xm, Ym, Zm ]) aka MR, by inverting matrix the Xm, Ym, Zm can be extracted
  6. at 0, 0, 0 (origin)

Each transformation can be represented by a 4×4 matrix, the sequence of transformations are the multiplication of such, and when multiplying symbolical a single 4×4 matrix will result. When keeping the symbolical notion the inverse transformation can be obtained with one operation and getting Xm, Ym, Zm from X, Y, Z, Zrot, Trot, and that very computation needs to be done in the firmware and controller in order to process X, Y, Z, Zrot, Trot as G1 X.. Y.. Z.. A.. B.. and the internally Xm, Ym, Zm is processed to achieve that tool coordinate; A = Zrot, B = Trot .

G-code

G1 X.. Y.. Z.. A.. B..

Firmware

Zrot = A
Trot = B
Xm, Ym, Zm computed via reverse/inverse transformation on the controller

Numerical Inverse Transformation

Just for sake of confirming the reverse/inverse transformation utilizing m4.scad:

include <m4.scad>

Zrot = 45;
Trot = 45;

M1 =       [ [ 1, 0, 0, 0 ],
             [ 0, 1, 0, 0 ],
             [ 0, 0, 1, 45 ],
             [ 0, 0, 0, 1 ] ];

M2 =       [ [ 1, 0, 0, 0 ],
             [ 0, cos(-Trot), -sin(-Trot), 0 ],
             [ 0, sin(-Trot), cos(-Trot), 0 ],
             [ 0, 0, 0, 1 ] ];

M3 =       [ [ cos(-Zrot), -sin(-Zrot), 0, 0 ],
             [ sin(-Zrot), cos(-Zrot), 0, 0 ],
             [ 0, 0, 1, 0 ],
             [ 0, 0, 0, 1 ] ];

MR = m4inv(M1 * M2 * M3);
// or MR = m4inv(m4tr([0,0,45])*m4rx(-Trot)*m4rz(-Zrot));
echo(MR);

which outputs

ECHO: [[1, 0, 0, 0], [0, 0.707107, -0.707107, 31.8198], [0, 0.707107, 0.707107, -31.8198], [0, 0, 0, 1]]

so MR contains the inverse matrix of the previous transformations, so I can extract the translation vector, the 4th column [ MR[0][3], MR[1][3], MR[2][3] ] or m4trv(MR) to compensate X, Y, Z, Zrot, Trot -> Xm, Ym, Zm:

Testing Inverse Kinematics (IK)

PAX printhead on Ashtar K, inverse kinematics tested: X=150, Y=0, Z=0, Zrot=0..180°, Trot=0..45° (animated)

Perhaps it’s worth to actually calculate symbolical forward and inverse transformation matrix using e.g. Matlab or alike to have transformations in one operation instead multiplying three matrices and inverting it – depending what hardware is used as controller multiplying individual matrices is faster than trying to have a complex single step matrix construct.

Although Marlin firmware supports Delta printer with complex delta inverse kinematics, not sure I can add mine as well, or I have to go with Duet RepRap firmware which seems more suitable (see notes below).

Nozzle Precision from Trot

The 45mm offset of the last rotation massivly contributes to the loss of nozzle position resolution:

s = 2 π * r / 360 = section length per degree

s = π * 45mm / 180 = 0.785mm/° which means:

  • 8 microsteps with 1.8° full step: 0.225°/microstep => 176.7μm/microstep
  • 16 microsteps with 1.8° full step: 0.1125°/microstep => 88.3μm/microstep
  • 8 microsteps with 0.9° full step: 0.1125°/microstep => 88.3μm/microstep
  • 16 microsteps with 0.9° full step: 0.0565°/microstep => 44.4μm/microstep

so the direct drive using the shafts of the NEMA 17 will provide OK resolution, but for anything a bit more serious, a reduction gear might be worth to use.

G-code & Firmware

As I likely will generate machine independent G-code as G1 X Y Z I J K, the slicer stage will likely operate in X, Y, Z and Zrot and Trot as well – so we end up with a data pipeline like this:

  1. Slicer: X, Y, Z, Zrot, Trot
  2. G-code: G1 X Y Z I J K
  3. Firmware: X Y Z I J K => Xm, Ym, Zm and I J K => Zrot, Trot

Alternatively, instead using I J K notion use the G-code A and B as two rotational axes as Duet RepRap Firmware offers G1 X Y Z A B then it’s a bit simpler:

  1. Slicer: X, Y, Z, Zrot=>A, Trot=>B
  2. G-code G1 X Y Z A B
  3. Firmware: X Y Z A B => Xm, Ym, Zm and A=>Zrot, B=>Trot

Reviewing existing slicer/printing software to see which notion is more suitable, and perhaps cover both to stay flexible.

From Xm, Ym, Zm, Zrot, Trot to X, Y, Z

Issues to Resolve

  • Bowden tube- & cable management: properly resolve it, guides etc.
  • Develop the transformation/inverse kinematics X, Y, Z, Zrot, Trot <=> Xm, Ym, Zm, Zrot, Trot as well X, Y, Z, I, J, K <=> Xm, Ym, Zm, Zrot, Trot as required for slicing, and firmware stage, done
  • Calculate the precision of X, Y, Z in relation of Xm, Ym, Zm and Zrot, Trot, whether or how the motor resolution affect axes => getting a grasp how the overall precision of the final setup
  • Direct drive mechanical precision with 8/16 microsteps, repeatability, and heat dissipation from motor (see tweet)
  • Slicer/print software supporting 5 axis nozzle
    • Duet RepRap Firmware: supports ABCD rotational axes
    • Marlin firmware capabilities, as it support Delta printers, inverse kinematics (IK) calculations seem supported well, question is how simple to add my own custom IK as well
    • printing: recognize model features or base design on seams or boundaries, like OPENCASCADE (STEP/IGES support)
    • printing: use vertical slicing as fallback, given no other printing method is suitable
    • explore different print modes like RotBot/RTN
      • recognize rotational objects: print from inside out like with a lath but adding material
      • detect steep overhangs, find proper way to print them
    • collision detection, e.g. tilt rotation becomes available at a certain Z level as below the upside looking nozzle will touch the build plate with the opposite end – the slicing/print software must be aware of the printhead geometry to calculate what’s possible to print and how

Considerations

Pros

  • many new ways to print in (almost) all directions
  • hopefully print 90° and more overhangs without support at all

Cons

  • significant mechanical complexity
    • mechanical limitations arise with new freedom of rotation of printhead
    • collision detection becomes essential which in Z sliced layers is not an issue at all
  • significant software complexity, no current 3D printing software available to take advantage of 5 axis printing

Ashtar K with 5 Axis (PAX) Printhead

Experimental mounting on Ashtar K to see how it looks, including display showing rotations of Zrot (A), Trot (B) too.

Note: the display shows original tool coordinates, whereas the firmware does tool translation aka inverse kinematics as shown in the screenshots with the display readable.

PAX printhead on Ashtar K with virtual Marlin firmware display (animated)

With all the freedom to angle the nozzle, all of the sudden the part cooler air nozzle shape becomes an issue, and has to become narrow as well; and overall geometry of the printhead becomes quite relevant when planning print sequences (collision detection).

PAX can operate in 4-axis mode, e.g. printing a conic sliced (4-axis RTN) overhang model (without support structure) in 4-axis Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN) mode (45° titled nozzle):

Ashtar K PAX printing 4-axis/RTN sliced overhang model (animation)

PAX Tilt 180 vs 90

The PAX which tilts up to 180° will be referenced further as PAX or PAX 180, the 360° Z rotation is implied then too, as comparison of PAX 90 tilting to 90° only with shorter arm:

As the slicing strategy isn’t determined, it’s not yet clear if tilt 90..180° is required or not. In case only 0..90° is sufficient, the Z rotation arm can be shortened.

References

5 Axis

4 Axis

As I progress I will update this blog-post.

That’s it.

3D Printing: Multiple Switching Extrusions (MSE) – Draft

Status: playing with ideas; early draft with rotary Z 4 printheads and rotary Y 2 printheads

Updates:

  • 2021/02/09: matured Rotary Y MSE dual with a servo
  • 2021/01/31: added more drafts and formulated Pros and Cons for Rotary Z MSE, post published, with part cooler
  • 2021/01/29: starting with collecting existing solutions and consider my options, Rotary Y (max 2 printheads) and Rotary Z (max. 4 printheads) design started

Introduction

Since I dedicated some time for the IDEX upgrade on all the 4 Ashtar Series: K, C, M and D, I realized one of the main advantages of IDEX is to have the non-active printhead aside and not moving over existing prints and certainly not oozing over it.

There is another way to achieve such, by having multiple printheads mounted on the X carriage and mechanically switch them so only one nozzle actually touches the Z plane to print, all other printheads aside and sealing their nozzle with anti-oozing measure like an underlying metal sheet.

Existing Solutions on Thingiverse

As I like to have my own solution in OpenSCAD source, so let’s dive into the design process:

Multiple Switching Extrusions (MSE)

Design Goals

  • 2, 3 perhaps 4 heads switching, only one printhead/nozzle at Z printing head
    • share one heatsink fan
    • share one part cooler setup and fan
  • simple adjustable calibration of X, Y, Z repeatability
    • ideally interchangable between
      • E3D V6: proven reliability
      • Micro Swiss / CR 10 clone: single screw to set Z distance
  • inactive printheads non-ooze with shield
  • keep it simple, don’t overengineer, keep construction simple and light

Drafts

Rotary Y-Wise

Rotating around the Y axis, suitable for 2 printheads only, as 3 or more printheads use up too much in X space:

Simple design, shared fan is difficult, as I like to go with Micro Swiss as it’s very compact, I likely end up with dedicated heatsink fans as all printheads in use will be heating and the heatsinks require fanned air. The ooze-shields are easy to attach.

  • 132mm / 20°: tall (not good), narrow X space (good)
  • 120mm / 24°: still ok
  • 110mm / 27°: extending X space usage
  • 100mm / 35°: low but extending too much in X

So let’s combine most narrow with a common fan approach, for a compact dual switching printhead/extrusion sacrificing as little X space as possible:

The actual axis of rotation can be moved lower by becoming an arc or swing, which will make the construction more complex, but likely more reliable as the servo cannot be trusted to keep position exact enough – so a spring to keep the swing in either two position, or constant force to push to a left or right limit in dual extrusion setup – for now I use a small SG90 servo to push toward the mechanical stoppers, either left or right hence only usable in dual setup, and using a 1mm wire to connect the swing with the servo.

Rotary Y 3 using too much space

The Rotary Y approach definitely is only suitable for dual extrusion setup, as anything else, as seen on this comparison, uses up too much X space for my consideration.

Let’s explore another idea . . .

Rotary Z-Wise

This design is heavier with NEMA17 motor, and with the focus of more than 2 printheads but 3, or 4 printheads, inspired by the Rotating Tilted Nozzle:

I first went for 9 sided regular polygon, and then switch to 360°/9 angle and only make a connector where the heatsink/printhead is mounted to.

I could tilt the other way and regain some of the Y offset, but the Bowden tube and cable of the printheads would clash with the mount – the same problem arise when I would position the full circle with printheads, it looks nice but doesn’t work with Bowden tubes:

So for the moment I stay with 360°/9 angle and explore further on the details with 4 printheads/extrusions.

Ashtar K with Multiple Switching Extrusions (MSE)

Rotary Z with 4 printheads mounted on Ashtar K to see how much space X and Y is sacrificed or otherwise fit with existing design – so far it looks good:

This design is more flexible and extendable, the ooze shields are mounted on the “nose” underneath using metal sheets.

And the Rotary Y with 2 printheads (MSEY2) mounted looks good so far, sacrificing little X space as well:

Issues to Resolve

Rotary Y with Servo

  • mature draft to something actually promising, done with SG90 servo
  • strength to hold angle, likely use servo to constantly push toward a mechanical limit, dual mode: left/right limit, tripple mode some kind of spring the servo has to overcome
  • reposition reliability, some kind of spring mechanism, and servo is only used to “jump” to new position
  • mount to X carriage, servo clashes with belt mount, resolved
  • press-fit 625 ZZ bearings based switch axis
    • sufficiently narrow play/margins for printing? tests needed

Rotary Z with NEMA 17

  • early draft, untested
  • mount heatsink fans, done
  • rotary angle calibration at start, position/tool #0 (0 .. heads_n-1) => tool number (e.g. T2)
    • either mechanical homing of the rotation to position/tool #0 or
    • end stop switch to home rotation position
  • ooze shields. mounting for metal sheets prepared & illustrated
    • heat creep toward the “nose”?
    • do ooze shields add to cross-contaminating when changing tools
      • paying attention to details how to bend metal sheets
  • mount to X carriage, done
  • part cooler, will be tricky as, resolved
    • above mount won’t work due Bowden tubes cross through
    • mount via “nose” where the non-ooze metal sheets are mounted, done
  • Marlin firmware tool changing Gcode support with NEMA17 rotating?
  • Bowden tube guides, ensuring smooth rotating of Bowden tubes & wires
    • rings around NEMA 17, in particular around the edges
    • combine tubes & wires above the motor

Considerations

Rotary Y 2

Pros

  • simple mechanical setup incl. ooze shields
  • fast switching of extruders

Cons

  • servo SG90-based: only suitable for dual setup (not extendable to 3 extruders)

Rotary Z 4

Pros

  • fast switching of extruders
  • heavier than a servo, but more reliable holding position
  • simple design, as this design mounts on all of Ashtar Series (K, C, M & D)
  • 2, 3 or 4 printheads/extruders mountable, more flexible than IDEX which only has 2 printheads and requires more modifications

Cons

  • additional moving weight on X axis (NEMA17)
  • loss of build volume in X space ~5-10mm left and right
  • optional loss of build volume in Y space, it can be compensated if printer is used with MSE option only, otherwise some Y space sacrificed as well ~20-30mm
  • ooze shields may contaminate material to rotating nozzles, needs to be tested
  • all nozzles are heated even when not currently selected but will be used during the print
    • some people still print a purge block to purge material from the nozzle newly selected – fast switching material should be ok, long wait between switches may require purging of material – tests needed

Requirements

Rotary Y

  • 1x SG90 servo
  • 2x 625ZZ bearings
  • 1x M5x25 screw
  • 1x M5 nut
  • 50mm x 1mm wire, bend as hinge

Rotary Z

  • 1x rotating motor (NEMA17 20/25/39 mm) with motor driver
  • per additional printhead (given there is a single printhead already installed)
    • an extruder (incl. NEMA17)
    • motor driver on the mainboard
    • printhead (heatsink, heatbreak, heatblock, heat cartridge, nozzle, push fit adapter for bowden)
    • heating driver on the mainboard
    • thermistor input on the mainboard

So for

  • 2 printheads: 2x additional NEMA17 (1x rotating motor + 1x additional extruder), 2x 40W = 80W power
  • 3 printheads: 3x additional NEMA17 (1x rotating motor + 2x additional extruders), 3x 40W = 120W power
  • 4 printheads: 4x additional NEMA17 (1x rotating motor + 3x additional extruders), 4x 40W = 160W power

Obviously you need a mainboard with sufficient heating drivers or (1 digital output and MOSFETs per hotend) and thermistor inputs (ADC), the motor drivers can be added to 2 digital outputs (STEP & DIR) and external motor driver. More detailed informotation will be added later.

Gallery

Very early draft to see how MSE4 looks mounted on Ashtar K, C, D and M:

  • Ashtar K has sufficient space for extruders
  • Ashtar C may have more extruders, not sure where beyond 4 extruders
  • Ashtar D reaches its limits with 4 mounted extruders, unless the controller/display is moved away
  • Ashtar M might not be the best candicate to have a heavier X carriage as it will affect print quality at higher Z positions

I keep updating this blog-post as I progress.

Comparison Dual/Multi Color/Material Extrusions

blue = relevant positive
red = relevant negative

Independent Dual Extrusions (IDEX)

  • complex setup
  • moderate cost
  • non-mixing
  • dual nozzles
  • dual heatblocks
  • dual heatsinks
  • normal retraction
  • no purge block 1)
  • no oozing over print
  • no inactive nozzle traveling
  • reliable 2)

★★★★★

Dual Hotends 2-in-2

  • simple setup
  • low cost
  • non-mixing
  • dual nozzles
  • dual heatblocks
  • dual heatsinks
  • normal retraction
  • no purge block
  • inactive nozzle oozing over prints
  • inactive nozzle travels over print
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Chimera 2-in-2

  • simple setup
  • clone: low cost
  • original: high cost
  • non-mixing
  • dual nozzles
  • dual heatblocks
  • single heatsink
  • normal retraction
  • no purge block
  • oozing of inactive material
  • inactive nozzle travels over print
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Cyclops 2-in-1

  • simple setup
  • clone: low cost
  • original: high cost
  • mixing
  • single nozzle
  • single heatblock
  • single heatsink
  • normal retraction
  • purge block required
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • clone: unreliable

★★★★ (clone)

Cyclops NF 2-in-1

  • simple setup
  • low cost
  • non-mixing
  • single nozzle
  • single heatblock
  • single heatsink
  • complex retraction
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Diamond Hotend 3-in-1

  • complex setup
  • clone: low cost
  • original: high cost
  • mixing
  • single nozzle
  • single heatblock
  • 3 heatsinks
  • tricky retraction
  • purge block required
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Multiple Switching Extrusions (MSE) 2-in-2, 3-in-3, 4-in-4

  • moderate complex setup
  • requires additional servo or motor
  • extendable 2, 3, or 4 colors/materials
  • low cost
  • non-mixing
  • multiple nozzles / heatblocks / heatsinks
  • normal retraction
  • no purge block 1)
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • no inactive nozzle touching print
  • reliable 2)

(rating comes later)

Y Splitter x-in-1

  • simple setup
  • extendable 2, 3, or 4 or more colors / materials
  • low cost
  • non-mixing
  • single nozzle
  • single heatblock
  • single heatsink
  • complex retraction
  • purge block required
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Footnotes

  1. in theory no purge block, but if ooze shields are shared among switching extrusions (more than 2 extrusions) there may be cross-contamination between colors/materials
  2. the printheads individually are proven to be reliable

Hints:

  • single heatblock = same print temperature
  • dual heatblock = different print temperatures possible
  • dual nozzle = different nozzle sizes possible

That’s it.

3D Printing: Rotating Tilted Nozzle 4th Axis Option – Draft

Status: just collecting information and start a simple design

Updates:

  • 2021/03/01: added brief animation of simulated print of conic sliced overhang model
  • 2021/02/23: added brief animation (Zrot=-180° .. 180°)
  • 2021/01/31: maturing printhead with heatsink fan and part cooler
  • 2021/01/28: Outside/Inside Cone printing explained with example, Considerations (Pros/Cons) added
  • 2021/01/27: more detailed illustrations and slicing renderings, published as a draft
  • 2021/01/22: adding conic slicing examples
  • 2021/01/21: first version with rotating bowden printhead

RotBot by ZHAW School of Engineering Zurich

RotBot by ZHAW School of Engineering Zurich (2021/01/13), rotating tilted nozzle

As featured on Hackaday January 16, 2021 and other sites, a “Novel 4-Axis 3D Printing Process to Print Overhangs Without Support Material” by ZHAW School of Engineering (Zurich, Switzerland), from the abstract of the paper:

[..] a novel 4-axis FDM printing process with a newly designed printhead, for the printing of overhangs without support structures. With conventional FDM printing, overhangs of more than 45deg–60deg must be supported.

For this novel printing process, the printhead is rotated 45° around a horizontal axis and equipped with a vertical, rotational axis. The printhead no longer follows layers parallel to the build platform, but moves on the surface of a 45deg cone. The printing cone increases in diameter from layer to layer. With this cone-shaped layers, the printable angles increases by 45°, which leads to printable overhangs of up to approximately 100°.

New slicing strategies for this printing process have been developed to slice the parts for the novel printing process. The feasibility of the concept has been prototypically demonstrated. The novel design achieves the advantages of higher speed and quality with lower cost at the same time.

A brief video sequence of printing (YouTube) shows the machine movement. Unfortunately, as of 2021/01 not much more details have been published by ZHAW except a paywalled paper [sigh] which contains useful overview of their research. I contacted ZHAW and Michael Wuethrich mentioned that they are in negotiations with different companies to develop a product (2021/01) and eventually release the details of their slicing approach with pre- and post-processing while using an ordinary slicer.

Update 2021/02/27: I started with a 4-axis conic slicer.

Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN) Option

I thought to try my own implementation of this Rotating Titled Nozzle 4 Axis option. The main idea to keep the entire hotend in Bowden style and rotate that around only once (non-continuous) with all wires, that would simplify things greatly:

The challenge is the +/-180° position when the nozzle opening looks forward, where the printhead bowden tube (and all cables) comes most close to the X beam. As a consequence only -180° to +180° rotation is allowed and not multiple revolutions.

It would also mean, once the printhead reaches -180°, and it has to rotate to +180° and decrease from there again to fulfill 360° rotation – whether this is suitable has to be seen, this likely creates a seam there.

The main advantage of this simplified 4 axis approach is to use existing pieces plus just an additional NEMA 17 motor.

Update 2021/01/26: Wuethrich from ZHAW mentioned that they started first also with a full printhead rotating but then switched to the more complex continuous rotating printhead to avoid a seam, have direct drive extruder, faster prints as simpler decision making to change rotation direction and no start/stop of rotation and de/acceleration when reaching -180/+180° position.

Single Revolution with Rotation Shadow

As I pondered on the limits of single rotation approach, there is a range where the bowden tube (and all wires with it) is touching and bending on the X carriage or printhead holder – let’s call it the rotation shadow – ideally it would be zero or slightly sub-zero to have a bit overlap to conceal a possible seam with “ironing” the section (move nozzle over section without extruding).

E3D Volcano

My first attempt is modeling with E3D Volcano hotend like the RotBot by ZHAW:

Micro Swiss / CR 10 Hotend

And as alternative the smaller Micro Swiss / CR 10 printhead which gives significant more space for the bowden tube (and all wires with it) to bend or flex near -180/+180°:

Comparison Volcano vs Micro Swiss

At this point I continue with the Micro Swiss option, as the smaller heatsink gives me more space to make full 360° turn with -180° to +180° and have ~0° rotation shadow, perhaps even sub-zero as of overlapping.

Slicing for Rotating Tilted Nozzle: Conic Slicing

I had to visualize the novel conic slicing approach as mentioned in the article and in the video:

f(Z rot, C height, R) ⟹ X, Y, Z

X = sin(Z rot) * R
Y = -cos(Z rot) * R
Z = C height / sqrt(2)

Z rot = atan2( -Y, X )
R = sqrt( X*X + Y*Y )
C height = Z * sqrt(2)

A single conic slice is covered by Z rot, C height and R, whereas slices are separated by increasing Z offset to C height, forming conic slices on top of each other:

Let’s inspect the motion of a single layer: it’s curved – obviously – in X, Y and Z – this means, the Z axis has way more motion than in cartesian XZ Prusa-Mendel setup where the Z axis only changes once a layer is finished, here with cone-slicing every trace or track all traditional 3 axis are in motion, plus the 4th – the tangent on that conic trace.

Planar vs Conic Layers
Multiple solids sliced planar and in conic manner

See more details on Conic Slicing for Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN).

Different Print Modes

The 45° tilted printhead allows three print modes:

  • non-rotation nozzle with planar Z layers (with ordinary slicer), acts like belt-printer in one direction: overhangs in one direction without support
  • rotation nozzle with planar Z layers (requires dedicated slicer), might support near 90° overhangs of a certain length in all X/Y plane directions as well – but needs to be tested
  • rotation nozzle with conic Z layers (requires dedicated slicer or pre- and post-processing while using ordinary slicers)

And by choosing the position of the “axis” of the conic slicing within the model and the cone direction matters then as well:

The last piece with inside and outside looking overhangs requires a switch of nozzle direction, e.g by default the sliced cones are ordered ▲ (outside-in or outside-cones) where outward overhangs work, but for inward overhangs the opposite direction of the nozzle looking outside is required ▼(inside-out or inside-cones), like this piece:

So the slicing software needs to recognize this, and the sliced cones switched either ▼ or ▲ according Z level.

These aspects opens a whole new range of considerations how to orient a piece and where to position the newly introduced slicing axis, and which kind of cones need to laid at which level.

Issues to Resolve

  • Heatsink fan mount: needs to be mounted for both variants, Micro Swiss and E3D Volcano ideally
  • Part cooler:
    • have the part cooler rotate on Z axis as well? yes for now
    • using a flexible pipe to blow air near the nozzle instead

  • Z rotation calibration:
    • alike with X or Y stop, but a trigger rotating from one direction only and then set a angle offset
  • Z rotation motor mount adaptable for different kind of printheads
    • keep it modular
    • ensure the nozzle end is centered (allow simple center calibration)
  • Properly document design and features of Rotating Tilted Nozzle as there isn’t much detail information available
  • 3D printer firmware support
    • Marlin: support for 4th axis?
  • 3D slicing software support

Considerations

Pros

  • conic layers: printing 90° overhangs without support, given some conditions are met:
    • overhangs must be horizontally or vertically rotational symmetric and aligned with the cone axis to switch from outside to inside cone printing or vice-versa (to do: more use cases explored and documented)
  • conic layers: stronger pieces as layers cross X, Y and Z in non-planar manner, mechanical forces distribute further than just planar layers
  • planar layers / rotating nozzle: perhaps close to 90° overhangs (speculative) requires new overhang algorithms in slicer

Cons

  • additional mechanical complexity
    • fine-tuning nozzle center calibration
  • additional slicing software complexity
    • new slicer software supporting different printing modes (conic layers, planar layers w/ rotating nozzle)
    • conic layers: more things to consider (preferably recognized by the slicing software):
      • overhangs must be horizontally or vertically rotational symmetric and align with cone axis to take advantage of it (complex compartmentalizing of different cone-direction per overhang and newly introduced seams between those)

Ashtar K with Rotating Tilted Nozzle (RTN)

The additional Y offset is about 20mm, and losing apprx. 50 mm in Z build volume in its current form:

Ashtar K RTN (animated)
Ashtar K RTN printing conic sliced overhang model (animated)

I will update this blog-post as I progress or find other people with alike ideas and summarize the findings.

References

See Also

That’s it.

3D Printer: IDEX for Ashtar K, M, D and C (2021/01)

Updates:

  • 2021/01/31: added comparison regarding Multiple Switching Extrusions (MSE)
  • 2021/01/18: added IDEX Features with Pros/Cons, Ashtar Series Genealogy, Comparison Dual Material approaches, and brief Hardware Requirements
  • 2021/01/15: first version with overview side-by-side

Mid of January 2021 (01/12 – 01/14) I added IDEX (Independent Dual Extrusion) option to 4 designs, all still in early draft stage – here as a summary side-by-side:

Ashtar K IDEX has been fairly easy, as I was using an improved “old” design of the X motor mount for the 2nd motor and 2nd belt, and since Ashtar M IDEX is using the same XZ frame, it was a matter of a few minutes to port that option as well.

Ashtar D IDEX with Classic XY belt routing was more tricky as there was little space left to add another motor, so I realized I need to utilize what’s there and take advantage of it – result is a very space saving solution, but it needs to be verified in real life first.

Ashtar C IDEX with Core XY with an additional X motor was easy, I just reused a slightly altered X motor/pulley mount of Ashtar D, so that was done fairly quickly as well, yet the challenge will be the firmware support, as currently (2021/01) only Duet RepRap firmware supports the CoreXYU as my design falls under.

Features of IDEX

Pros:

  • double printing: duplicate or mirror mode
    • double printing volume at same duration
  • two materials with different melting points
  • two colors (non-mixing) with
    • more reliable than dual nozzle setups, as inactive nozzle does not run over existing printed piece often
  • possibly different nozzle sizes
    • dedicated nozzle for infill vs outline

Cons:

  • slightly reduced build-volume in X-axis
  • added complexity

Comparison Dual/Multi Color/Material Extrusions

blue = relevant positive
red = relevant negative

Independent Dual Extrusions (IDEX)

  • complex setup
  • moderate cost
  • non-mixing
  • dual nozzles
  • dual heatblocks
  • dual heatsinks
  • normal retraction
  • no purge block 1)
  • no oozing over print
  • no inactive nozzle traveling
  • reliable 2)

★★★★★

Dual Hotends 2-in-2

  • simple setup
  • low cost
  • non-mixing
  • dual nozzles
  • dual heatblocks
  • dual heatsinks
  • normal retraction
  • no purge block
  • inactive nozzle oozing over prints
  • inactive nozzle travels over print
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Chimera 2-in-2

  • simple setup
  • clone: low cost
  • original: high cost
  • non-mixing
  • dual nozzles
  • dual heatblocks
  • single heatsink
  • normal retraction
  • no purge block
  • oozing of inactive material
  • inactive nozzle travels over print
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Cyclops 2-in-1

  • simple setup
  • clone: low cost
  • original: high cost
  • mixing
  • single nozzle
  • single heatblock
  • single heatsink
  • normal retraction
  • purge block required
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • clone: unreliable

★★★★ (clone)

Cyclops NF 2-in-1

  • simple setup
  • low cost
  • non-mixing
  • single nozzle
  • single heatblock
  • single heatsink
  • complex retraction
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Diamond Hotend 3-in-1

  • complex setup
  • clone: low cost
  • original: high cost
  • mixing
  • single nozzle
  • single heatblock
  • 3 heatsinks
  • tricky retraction
  • purge block required
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Multiple Switching Extrusions (MSE) 2-in-2, 3-in-3, 4-in-4

  • moderate complex setup
  • requires additional servo or motor
  • extendable 2, 3, or 4 colors/materials
  • low cost
  • non-mixing
  • multiple nozzles / heatblocks / heatsinks
  • normal retraction
  • no purge block 1)
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • no inactive nozzle touching print
  • reliable 2)

(rating comes later)

Y Splitter x-in-1

  • simple setup
  • extendable 2, 3, or 4 or more colors / materials
  • low cost
  • non-mixing
  • single nozzle
  • single heatblock
  • single heatsink
  • complex retraction
  • purge block required
  • no oozing of inactive material
  • moderate reliability

★★★★★

Footnotes

  1. in theory no purge block, but if ooze shields are shared among switching extrusions (more than 2 extrusions) there may be cross-contamination between colors/materials
  2. the printheads individually are proven to be reliable

Hints:

  • single heatblock = same print temperature
  • dual heatblock = different print temperatures possible
  • dual nozzle = different nozzle sizes possible

Hardware Requirements

  • 1x NEMA 17 42-45Nm with wire, extra stepper motor driver on motherboard
  • 100-110cm long 6mm wide GT2 belt
  • 1x pulley and 1x idler
  • 1x hotend (nozzle, heatblock, heat cartridge, heatbreak, heatsink), extra heating connector on motherboard

That’s it.

3D Printing: Ashtar C IDEX (Independent Dual Extrusion)

Status: just a draft

Updates:

  • 2021/01/14: quick start with a rough draft

Introduction

Well, after the IDEX option designs – still as drafts – worked for Ashtar K (Prusa i3), Ashtar M (Moving Gantry) and Ashtar D (Classic XY), I thought, why not also target Ashtar C (Core XY).

Ashtar D IDEX is definitely a narrow design, so I thought to reuse two parts of it for Ashtar C as well, and hopefully the A and B belts route around – and well, it seems mechanically to work out.

On the firmware part it seems this CoreXY plus additional X motor is called CoreXYU and supported by Duet RepRap firmware – but details need to be researched in more depth. On the first glance the “traditional” CoreXYU setup routes the U belt off the X beam and not place a motor on it as I do, but routes at the end of the frames so the motor is stationary – definitely something also to look at.

Draft

Gallery

Issues to Resolve

  • Firmware supporting CoreXY IDEX:
    • E1: X & Y provided through CoreXY by motors A & B
    • E2: X provided by X motor, Y provided by CoreXY where X=0 remains (both motors A & B have to operate to provide X=0 while Y is moved)
    • Duet RepRap firmware provides CoreXYU support, and it seems it would cover my use case here
    • Marlin firmware as of 2.x does not support CoreXYU yet
  • Moving the X motor – or U motor as in CoreXYU context – off the X beam and route a much longer belt and place the motor stationary like the motors A & B of CoreXY
  • Ooze prevention (same issue as with Ashtar D IDEX)

As I progress I will update this blog-post, and summarize also the developments in the Ashtar C project page.

References

  • CoreXYU: Dual Head for CoreXY, another more complex approach where 3rd motor is also stationary

That’s it.

3D Printing: Ashtar D IDEX (Independent Dual Extrusion)

Status: just a draft

Updates:

  • 2021/01/14: starting the draft, very experimental

Introduction

After just few hours working on IDEX option for Ashtar K and Ashtar M, I thought to try myself on doing IDEX on the very delicate Y carriage on Ashtar D – and after an hour roughly I realized, perhaps it is doable.

The main idea is to reuse the NEMA17 shaft as axis for the idler of the 2nd belt, and use 3mm diameter shaft with 5-10mm length as extension, and stabilize the extension in the idler itself likely the shaft seems long enough by itself – the most space saving option:

If possible, rotate entire X motor mount / carriage and mount it on the other X side.

Draft

I had to color the belts and V modules, as I otherwise get confused while fine-tuning the design within such narrow margins:

  • X1/E1 in green
  • X2/E2 in red

I just love symmetry!
I just love symmetry!

Gallery

Issues to Resolve

  • X motor-mount isn’t fully Y symmetric yet, it’s off by a few mm; needs some further fine-tuning until X2 motor-mount mounting holes align with V module, resolved
  • V module belt mount for X2 needs be adapted, as I can’t mirror it as that “back” mirrored is the “front” side where the printhead is mounted and occupied already, a new piece is required which mounts within the V module
    • dedicated piece ad_xcarriage_beltmount(idex=true) required
  • ooze prevention in rest position: some sort of metal sheet close by where the printhead’s nozzle can rest
  • mature Ashtar D design sufficiently beyond draft stage

As I progress I will update this blog-post, and update the Ashtar D project page as well.

That’s it.

3D Printer: Ashtar K IDEX (Independent Dual Extrusion)


Status
: just a draft

Updates:

  • 2021/01/19: improved 2nd X motor mount
  • 2021/01/15: removable/replaceable ooze prevention
  • 2021/01/14: Ashtar M (Moving Gantry – Draft) also with IDEX option now
  • 2021/01/13: ooze prevention at rest position added, mechanical conflict resolved
  • 2021/01/12: starting with a first draft, one mechanical conflict to be resolved

Introduction

I have been pondering on a dual independent X axis upgrade or option for a while, but the other designs of the Ashtar Series I wanted to do first (Ashtar D and Ashtar M) those matured by now (2021/01), so I decided to get back to IDEX upgrade for Ashtar K:

For now I like to keep single 2020 V slot alu extrusion for the X beam where the X carriage rides, and route the 2nd belt above for the 2nd X carriage – and this was a quick solution as earlier version of Ashtar K had the belt routed above the alu profile so I just reused the old pieces again.

“Above routed belt” option with its pieces are weaker and possibly need enforcement improved the strength, so it’s a fast start – just took me 2 hours – but needs definitely some fine-tuning. Alternatively the 2nd belt could be routed at the back of the X carriages, but fastening the 2nd X motor would be challenging.

For now I use the same code base of Ashtar K and introduce IDEX = true flag, and enhance a few existing pieces in parts.scad and optionally add those new pieces when rendering printer-ak.scad.

As I progress with this option or upgrade I update this blog-post.

Draft

Issues to Resolve

  • X carriage #1 belt mount conflicts mechanical with belt 2: redesign xcarriage_beltmount_2020 piece, make it shorted in Z or fasten it inside V module: resolved, shifted 2nd belt a bit Y off, and shorten xcarriage_beltmount_2020(idex=true) by 2mm.
  • “Above routed belt” pieces are weaker: enforcement required, resolved: piece strengthened (2021/01/19):
    • xcarriage_short_hmount_motor_2020 which is the base piece which routes the belt within the 2020, with idex=true option provides idler holder on top
    • X motor #2 is mounted on a x-mirrored version of xcarriage_hmount_motor(20,"left",idex=true) but definitely needs reinforcement, added ooze prevention in case of idex set
  • Nozzle drip prevention:
    • using a piece of sheet metal which the nozzle moves over when in rest position left or right, first attempt done (see below)
    • and/or use purge box with brush to clean nozzle after and before use
    • make extending “nose” detachable/replaceable as it’s expected to break or overheat otherwise entire X motors mount needs replacement, resolved
      • xcarriage_nose-idex-left and xcarriage_nose-idex-right with 10mm wide sheet metal insert
    • how dealing with long resting hot nozzle?
      • drop temperature by 5-10C in rest position, and heat up when in use again
      • heat creep possible weakening extending printed nose – heat insulation required attaching sheet metal

Gallery

Ashtar M IDEX

And since Ashtar M (Prusa i3 Moving Gantry – Draft) shares much of the Ashtar K design it took me a few mins to add the IDEX upgrade option as well:

References