In the 3D printing community, Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized $35 mini-computer are often being used by hackers to free laptops from their 3D printers. Usually you need to tie up your laptop whole night long to control the 3D printer, but with a Raspberry Pi and a web interface you can simply handle some basic instructions to 3D printer.
Engineering student Owen Jeffreys owned a PI. "[I] wanted to do something useful and unique with it which would help people who dismiss the PI to realise that it is capable of a lot more than they could possible imagine." notes Jeffreys. He came up with a Raspberry Pi 3D printer which he claims to be the world's first.
"If you Google (or Bing!) Raspberry PI 3D printer you will find several people who claim to have made "Raspberry PI *Powered* 3D Printers", but if you examine them in detail, they are not actually *powered* by the Raspberry PI at all." explained Jeffreys. "These people use the standard firmware which comes with the 3D printer and replace the PC interface with the Raspberry PI - hence the PI is not controlling/powering the printer at all, but simply sending buffered GCODE commands to the pre-built printer and acting as a neat user interface to display print progress etc."
But Jeffreys' 3D printer is not like those. "The 800MHz PI actually controls every part of the machine including, but limited to the motors, heaters and temperature sensors."
It took him approximately eight months to complete the project, and almost every part of the 3D printer was made from scratch, including the circuit board, the aluminium framework, the drive system and the C++ program to run on the PI.
The PI can be hooked up to a HDTV or laptop to display the print progress and other information, and it can also run completely stand-alone. "The 3D printer runs at around ¼ speed compared to a typical, hobby 3D printer (e.g. RapMan, Cube or Touch), taking around 25 hours to print a 60mm high chess piece – the speed only limited by the stepper motor choice and gearing." explained Jeffreys.
But this project is not entirely complete yet. Jeffreys is still trying to improve his device, such as faster print speeds and a dual print head. "One such improvement which is underway is to modify the interface board used to connect the PI to the 3D printer from a hand-etched, double-sided PCB to a compact 'shield' which will stack neatly on top of any PI," explained Jeffreys.
This video below outlines the building and testing of this unique, home-built, 3D printer which uses a Raspberry PI as its "brain" or CPU. Check it out:
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