RogerBW's Blog

I have a 3D printer 26 July 2015

I now have a working Fisher Delta additive manufacturing device, or "3d printer" if you prefer.

I bought the beta version: it's feature-complete, but still subject to change (in particular the assembly instructions haven't been finalised).

Assembly took me about ten hours of part-time work; I suspect someone better at this sort of thing could do it faster, and indeed I'd do it faster if I were doing it again. I'm very glad I got it as a kit: having put it together myself, I know just what goes where, and how to get it apart if I need to. Do read the list of required tools before building; the 2.5mm drill is a bit obscure and I had to fake my way round it.

I won't include the full set of assembly photos (which I took mostly for my own reference in case things went Horribly Wrong), but I'll hit some highlights.

The box is packed full of bags of hardware: many nuts and bolts and such like, cables and electronics, laser-cut acrylic pieces, and oddly-shaped 3D-printed components (green, in this case).

The general approach is to use standard metal parts, and mount them into the 3D-printed plastic bits which can easily have nut-shaped inserts built into them.

Three motors move clamps up and down the vertical rails; this positions the effector head in three dimensions within the triangle.

The effector head itself is one of the most fiddly bits, perhaps because it includes acrylic and 3D-printed parts as well as screws and laser-cut wood.

The whole thing is controlled by the RepRapPro "Duet" board, a 32-bit ARM Cortex microcontroller (basically an Arduino). It presents an AJAXy web interface over ethernet, which allows direct control (heater temperatures, zeroing the axes, etc.) and accepts GCode files for printing (slicing still has to be done beforehand).

It is… ALIVE!

Some higher-resolution pictures of my first test prints (in PLA). The robot is supplied as GCode with the printer's firmware as a recommended test; the snail is from Thingiverse, and I scaled it down to 15% before slicing and printing. (Note that, like any tool, the Fisher doesn't do everything: these have had some cleanup already, largely gentle filing, and would get more if I were planning to do more with them.) Not perfect, certainly, but getting there.

Plans: miniatures for naval and other wargaming, replacements for broken cooker knobs and similar bits of plastic that cost twenty quid plus postage if you order them from the manufacturer, storage for X-Wing miniatures, card stands for Firefly, a camera bag insert that holds lenses in place, etc.

And yes, I'll run stuff off for mates in return for the materials/power cost.


  1. Posted by John Dallman at 09:58am on 26 July 2015

    What 3D formats can you start from?

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:30am on 26 July 2015

    I'm using slic3r to convert from 3D to tool movement commands. That will import STL, OBJ and AMF directly. Beyond that, I have a fair bit of experience converting 3D files, though it's with programs like 3DS Max rather than industrial software.

    Apparently one of the big problems with importing meshes that weren't designed for manufacturing is small topological errors that might not be visible in a screen render but make it difficult for the slicer to work out what's inside and what's outside.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 12:28pm on 26 July 2015

    You don't have a 2.5mm drill bit? Oh dear oh dear, whatever next. I know exactly where and on what shelf my metric drills 1.0 to 10.0mm in 0.5mm increments set is. And if I broke that drill, I could probably come close with my imperial bits in 64ths of an inch collection (loose bits from clearing my grandad's shed when he died years ago). I have found it invaluable having drill bits in fine increment diameters, makes it so much easier finding the right size for clearance holes or pilot holes for screws. 4.5mm gets a lot of use.

    My dad has a full set of number and letter drill bits. Those are old fashioned engineering sets, something like 0 to 60 and A to ZZ.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 12:49pm on 26 July 2015

    No, I have integral mm only; I've never had a need for half-mils before. I could have gone out and bought one, but I managed to improvise.

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