Feb 2, 2017 | By David

As useful as 3D printing is proving to be for a wide range of different fields, the technology doesn’t always work as it should in practice, and filament stoppages are one of the more common problems affecting its functioning. Although there are a number of products already on the market aimed at fixing this particular issue, the latest solution by independent inventor Chris Robertson looks like one of the most convenient ones yet.

Filament stoppages can come about for a variety of reasons—a jammed extruder, grinding extruder gear, stalled extruder motor, clogged nozzle, or an empty filament spool. When the filament used to produce a 3D object from a printer stops running, the print risks being ruined, wasting valuable time and resources. Hoping to prevent this from happening, Robertson has designed a Filament Roller, which uses an infrared sensor to detect whether the filament is moving. As soon as it stops, a 100dB alarm is sounded, the printing is paused using a simple switch signal, and the user can fix whatever might be causing the stoppage.

The Filament Roller has a number of key advantages that set it apart from existing products with a similar function. Other filament monitors, rather than using a movement sensor, tend to use a mechanical rotary switch. The switch itself will eventually run out and require replacement, whereas Robertson claims that the sensor in his Filament Roller will outlast the printer itself. The longevity of his product therefore seems to be much greater, and moreover it retails at almost a third of the price of monitors currently on the market. Other filament monitors also require a tensioner to grip the filament in order to detect when it is stopped. What this means is that they increase friction, and the extra stress can actually end up causing more filament stoppages.

According to Robertson, the Filament Roller is relatively straightforward to set up (and modify). It can run off a 24-volt external power supply, or alternatively it can hook up directly to the power source of the 3D printer itself. The control knob allows users to easily adjust the alarm delay and adjust the sensor according to the speed of the printer. Robertson claims that his product is designed to be equally suitable for hobbyists, novice printers, or people running a large-scale manufacturing process. In any situation or any size of operation or length of print, it allows the user to simply start the printer and not have to constantly check for stoppages, and the Filament Roller itself has a flashing LED so its own functioning can be checked at a glance. A broad range of different print setups are compatible, from Raspberry Pi to OctoPrint to self-built RepRap systems. The mechanical designs have also been made available for free to download with step-by-step instructions and videos, so users will be able to modify the sensor for their own printing set-up.

Crowdfunded through Kickstarter, Chris Roberston’s Filament Roller project has so far raised $1,500 of its $11,250 goal, with 28 days left. Interested backers will be able to receive the sensor board alone for $38, the Inline Kit for $41, or the Spool Kit for $44. Although he lacks a proven track record, Robertson looks to have all the bases covered with this product, and a promising first few days suggests he will be able reach his target.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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