July 5, 2014

Last month, we reported that Columbus, Ohio based Sculptify has introduced David, an innovative 3D Printer that works directly with pelletized materials. Many projects, such as Filabot, or the Lyman Filament Extruder have attempted to turn plastic pellets into filament for your printer. But some companies and makers are claiming that they could bypass this process completely.

Leonard Dodd, a designer, engineer and fabricator, has developed an innovative 3D Printer that works directly with granules of plastic. Dodd's ErectorBot (Bot that erects) uses the gantry design similar as the other desktop 3D printers. The design allows him to utilize the entire length of the machine with a gantry that travels the entire "Y" axis. When the model grows or collects weight, the dynamics do not change and therefore no additional stress or vibrations as the result.

In order to print directly with pellets, the ErectorBot operates with two versions of Erectostruder: one is Erectostruder- pellet max and another is a smaller but powerful version the "Erectostruder-pellet micro". On the Erectostruder the head of the hopper receives a vacuum tube connected to the "blow" portion of the vacuum where you fill it with pellets. The end of the hose has a laser on it and it senses the level of pellets. When it runs low, it sends more pellets.

First practice test with the extruder

"The extruder has a shift able planetary gear set to allow the extrusion of any medium one can get to hold a shape," said Dodd, "and the extruder was designed to run very efficient even with small nema17 motor to prove the point. Integrates to any system with ease."

Another angle of the practice test

In addition, the Erectostruder doubles as a "Filament extruder" also, with a change of the tip. An Arduino Micro driven kit is provided for this alternate function. "It runs from the smallest of tip sizes all the way up to 2mm with ease." Dodd said. "It was important for the extruder to be able to have the exact same ability's as the standard extruders out there. I would always recommend having both but for a different purpose. To mix unique materials such as the flex, or dissolvable etc. These are not currently sold in pellet form so need a way to maintain the use of them."

Dodd has also used a stationary bed which allows for less or no calibration between prints. Dodd's stationary beds can be added and/or deleted in a modular fashion to allow larger platforms and or stepped configurations for unique and large models. It allows users to add additional axis and rot able turret construction. And it also allows for more viscous applications due to no vibration with the stationary bed. Dodd further explained:

The bed reaches 100 Celsius with ease, gypsum base, wire element grid, glass insulated. I've seen hotter temps but stable at 100. I've found that (heat drafting eliminates the need for "the box" and other heating methods). I generally print ABS on 70-90 and get nice adhesion. The bed can actually get a lot hotter by bumping the Volts/ Amps around. I ran a large PLA piece the other day and didn't even turn it on. :) Or you can cook on it :)

Originally from the motor city, Dodd was raised in a very intense profession as a master metal model maker. He was contracted to go to the west coast in 1991 and later opened a design studio to develop prototypes and high end replacements for companies, including Ford Motors. "We were on the cutting edge of what was hot. As fun as this all was." Dodd told 3ders.org. Dodd had designed the gantry system to be a light weight alternative to the common cast iron styling bridge systems, and it proved to be a very accurate robust design. The gantry design he used in the 3D printer allows for more traditional CNC methods to be deployed in conjunction with printed builds, such as light milling function, plasma function, weldments, laser cutting and best of digitizing.

Talking about the gantry design of ErectorBot, Dodd said,

"This setup was developed out of necessity over the years as began its infancy for the build of the Shelby Series One sports car. We needed a light weight styling bridge that we could use to no only develop the prototype model but to also double as a digitizer. All along wishing we could motorize the apparatus to do the refined model. Over the years we have added rollers and continued to abuse the "styling bridge".


At the beginning of this year I had just finished a very successful windmill project that I deployed the arduino with great accuracy. One month later I was contracted to design and build an electric car for a foreign government. IN 30 DAYS!


It was at that point I had made the decision to not only covert our gantry system into a full cnc. As so I would never have to "hand model" and "hand developed" for my clients again. This is a very athletic event to say the least. Hence the Erectorbot line was born. Worth mention, the Erectorbot built the Shelby Series One for Carol Shelby in 1996. Technically :)."

The car components Dodd designed and developed

"Our needs were out growing the mechanical possibility of current market standards. So we developed the erectostruder." Dodd explained further. "Our general direction is to offer a line of machines that actually build things that are of mixed mediums. And to use processes they would not be able to without special tooling or process. In our case, to fairly build a supercar the hard way not in pieces."

The ErectorBot is made to order, Dodd said they can manage their dimensions to suit any specialized needs.

"These machines are aimed toward the builder that wants to progress his craft and have the ability to intervene with their model all through out the build." Dodd explained. "Everyone has such a vast variety of process and methods they want to integrate with the "the new way of doing things". I wanted to provide something that can be flexible enough to get the true value from it and lend itself to new undiscovered process. Thinking out of the box."

The ErectorBot comes fully assembled and ready to run. Currently the price range is from $11,500 to $35,000, below is a breakdown example of the pricing structure of various ErectorBots.

Base machine costs ($): (Custom sizes available)
3x2x2 = 11,500
4x3x3 = 12,500
6x4x4 = 13,500
8x4x4 =15,500
8x6x4 = 17,900
10x4x4 = 17,900.
10x5x5 = 19,500
20x7x6 = 35,000

As to the delivery time, Dodd said that they "have extrusions and electronics ready for a machine at all times, but currently need to order, ball screws and rails at time of order placement, due to size / lengths and so on. As we cannot anticipate the next size that will be wanted. 4 to 6 weeks is the turn around time." As part of the process they allow camera feeds to "ErectorBot" consumers to watch their machine being built, "as to keep the end user part of things as if they were making it their selves. Very important part of the experience."

    Dodd's plan is to 3D print this traditional Le Mans LMP1 configuration. "I had widened the canopy for two." Dodd said. "And I am currently lofting our "Trade Dress" into the equasion similiar to how the Saleen S7 evolved. Intended is a completely diffrent suspension design. The pan will start the print on a 1/4 inch extruded sheet of ABS that is locked down to the heat bed. Then we will stop the print at critical junctures to "pre-load" critical componets and metal bosses etc. As to assemble as it grows up. Wont be printing the windows. I intend to leave the printed texture as this type of surface has proven to create less drag similiar to the "golf ball effect". The ability to make use of the diffrent types of infill makes this a dream build to do build things in a way that is just jaw dropping. This one will be way cool. :)"

The ErectorBot's next options will include 4 axis and Metal Inert Gas Filament for metal printing. Stay tuned. Dodd said if they gets 10,000 likes on the ErectorBot Facebook page, they will publish their Erectostruder .stl files and a step by step tutorial on how to build as open source. "I feel this is the best way to express that we are supportive of the 3d printing community and is our way of giving back." Dodd said.


Posted in 3D Printers

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