Sep 21, 2015 | By Kira

In a huge step forward for the open source maker community, Autodesk announced today that they are taking the third step in sharing Ember 3D printer by making its electronics and firmware open source and available to download, inspect, modify, and make improvements. The move is intended to demonstrate the power of a common, open 3D printing platform and raise the bar for the 3D printing experience.

Ember is Autodesk’s high-resolution stereolithography 3D printer, powered by their open, professional 3D printing platform, Spark. Ember’s electronics are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, the same one under which its Standard Clear Prototyping Resin and mechanical designs have already been shared. As for Ember’s firmware, it is licensed under GNU GPL.

The news came today in a blog post written by PhD and founder of Instructables Eric Wilhem, a long-time advocate for making technology accessible to everyone. As he explains, most of Ember’s electronic components are located on two printed circuit boards (PCBs). “The main board integrates a clone of the BeagleBone Black and an AVR-based motor controller. The major changes from a stock BeagleBone are the addition of a USB hub (to support the included WiFi adapter), double flash memory (8GB), and improved power management.”

The electronics can be downloaded directly from the website and are available in three different packages for each of the four boards: the design files, the schematics and PCBs, and the bill of materials, approved vendor lists, and assembly drawings. Wilhem also pointed out that Ember runs on custom firmware in the main (Sitara) processor as well as in the AVR controllers for the front panel displays and the motors that drive the build head and resin tray. The Sitara and the AVRs communicate via I2C, and you can see the architecture of the Sitara firmware below:

The firmware is also available to download directly via Ember’s blog. Despite their good intentions, Wilhem and the Ember team admit that Ember’s electronics and mechanical designs are intended for professional use, and open source adoption may not be as smooth and easy as other systems. “Fully opening the design of a precision tool as complicated as Ember is uncharted territory for us. And, we know this isn’t necessarily easy—Ember’s main electronics are a 6-layer board and the design files are in the format of a professional tool,” said Wilhem. Nevertheless, they are confident that a common, open source platform is the best way to go in and that dedicated users will be able to learn and benefit from the new, open source service. “However difficult it might be to come along, we hope you’ll recognize our commitment to an open platform and commitment to making the entire field of additive manufacturing better.

Currently, 3D printing technology is on the rise, proving its worth in nearly every industry, from medicine, aerospace and automotive, to fashion, leisure and design. However, proprietary technologies and fragmented processes from industry leaders and mega-corporations have limited innovation, stifling independent makers from experimenting with, improving, and adopting newer technologies. The open source movement, as exemplified by Spark and now Ember, is a way to address those challenges and inspire others to create new approaches to 3D printing software, hardware, and materials.



Posted in 3D Printers



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adam wrote at 10/12/2015 9:28:25 PM:

wow it's like the un-makerbot, travelling from closed to open source.

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