Aug 17, 2015 | By Alec

Active members of the 3D printing community will doubtlessly recall the uproar caused a few months ago, when the Australian-made Gizmo 3D DLP printer was unveiled – the machine that could become the world’s fastest high quality 3D printer. It hit the web with force with a video illustrating its ‘Continous 3D printing’ DLP technique, and its crowdfunding debut in the fall of 2015 is still eagerly awaited. While development has been ongoing, creator Kobus du Toit has fortunately just revealed a lot more about his machine. Among others, the Gizmo 3D DLP printer is now capable of 3D printing objects as complex and detailed as teeth, while even featuring a much improved software package and options for embedding metal parts into to printing process.

To refresh your memory, the Gizmo 3D printer is one of the most exciting machines to adopt Direct Light Processing technology for 3D printing purposes in a long time. 3D printing in resin, this particular machine has become notorious for high speed printing, which is at least in part achieved by a top-down approach. ‘The walls on the objects are very thin and that allows the resin to flow over the previously printed layer very quickly so the build plate can move almost continuously,’ developer Kobus explained to us a while ago.

The video causing all this fuss.

However, this machine is also interesting for other reasons. For one, it is pretty big. The standard GiziMate 3D printer will feature a build platform of 400 x 200 x 200 mm, while the GiziPro model will feature on of 400 x 200 x 350 mm. The biggest version of the printer, GiziMax, even has a build area of 400 x 200 x 850 mm to work with – huge in resin terms. And size doesn’t really matter in printing time, as projection is always done in the same amount of time. Finally, a good resolution ties the entire setup together. ‘All printers can print at 35 micron XY (depending on setup and projector) and have a Z resolution of 1 micron,’ Kobus explained.

But a lot has been happing since that release, and Kobus was repeatedly approached about the potential of this 3D printer. ‘Some dentist companies contacted us asking if we can print teeth. And I thought it should be really easy because I can already print the skulls,’ he tells us. However, the code wasn’t quite up to the task of these very detailed body parts, so he has since implemented some improvements. He developed what he has dubbed the ‘Super Smooth package’ that allows the Z-axis to move as slow as 3 mm per minute to ensure a high quality result. ‘In terms of smoothness, we are referring to a layerless object, not injection molding quality - we aren't there yet,’ he admits, but that is still very impressive. ‘The Super Smooth package still didn't solve all of my problems. What I'm still seeing with continuous printing - the wall thickness needs to be really thin. he explains. To ensure the parts remain strong enough, Kobus also developed a honeycomb infill option.

However, a larger problem with the code used for the Gizmo 3D printer was that slicing wasn’t happening quickly enough. ‘The code was actually not executing fast enough because the teeth were too complex. The code at that point in time was slicing while it was printing, it was not pre-slicing,’ he explains. And with 3D printing going that quickly, he needed a special solution to keep the whole process going. ‘[Eventually] I found FFmpeg which is used to generate a movie from a lot of image files so I changed the code to pre-slice into PNG files and then generate a movie for the continuous printing part of the print,’ Kobus says.

Fortunately, more speed was also found by eliminating cloud slicing, something which can also ruin your day when you tend to suffer from power cuts. ‘I created what I call Distributed Slicing which means you don't have to upload your object to the cloud for cloud slicing, you can keep your object securely on your local network. This also means if you have power outages and your PCs are running on UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), you will be able to keep on slicing and printing,’ he explains. Having lived in South Africa, Kobus himself is no stranger to what happens to prints when the power is lost. Another advantage is that your bandwidth isn’t ruined – slicing at 1 micron creates a lot of data after all.

In short, the Gizmo 3D printer’s software package has greatly improved, which will doubtlessly improve the user experience as well. Aside from these practical changes with the code, MeshMixer and Meshlab have since also been integrated.

But perhaps more intriguing than these software upgrades, is the development of an additional 3D printing option for incorporating metal parts (or even carbon and other solid parts) into 3D prints during creation. While Kobus couldn’t say a lot about this technique yet – they will release a video of the process in the near future – he developed it while trying to bolt parts together. ‘I tried to bolt into the plastic, but it kept on splitting.  So I decided to print with nuts in the holders. I use this method now consistently to add nuts into printed parts,’ he explains.

So how does it work? Essentially, it revolves around the clever use of the preview manager for the print. Scrolling through the layers, you can add a pause at the last layer for the area in question. ‘The printing will stop and then you can add the nuts,’ he says, though the same principle can be used for any metal part. ‘When the printer continues it will close the nut and you can then bolt your plastic parts together.’

In short, there is a lot to look forward to with the Gizmodo 3D printer. Progress, we are told, is also on schedule. The beta machines have arrived last week, which will be thoroughly tested in the weeks to come. A crowdfunding campaign to fund production should hopefully then follow in November. ‘This will give the beta testers at least two months for testing. Since we have been testing the alpha machine for more than a year, we believe the beta testers won't find any hardware problems, there will only be software upgrades’ Kobus concludes. We here at can’t wait.


Posted in 3D Printers



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