DIY : This Modification Turns an Ordinary 3D Printer into a Manufacturing WorkHorse
3D printers are very versatile machines that are capable of making an almost limitless selection of parts, but there is a reason the process is generally referred to as “rapid prototyping.” Using a 3D printer is fairly labor intensive, which makes it more suitable for making prototypes than for high-volume manufacturing. That’s mostly due to the fact that a human has to remove a printed part before the next one can be made.
Over on Hackaday.io, Swaleh Owais has project which addresses that limitation by automatically removing printed parts. Owais’ delta FFF 3D Printer, the WorkHorse, accomplishes by replacing the traditional print bed with a conveyor belt. Parts are printed on a roll of film (possibly a polyimide film), and when the part is done the conveyor moves it to the edge of a roller where it’s ejected.
Theoretically, the WorkHorse 3D printer can keep running 24/7 and print out part after part without the need for human intervention. To control the ejection process, Owais has written a custom software interface to manage the print queue. It can be setup to either print a single G-code file repeatedly, or to rotate through multiple files. The whole system appears to work well, and could dramatically increase the viability of 3D printers as true manufacturing tools.