Delta 3D Printers

When I was demonstrating the various types of 3D Printerers while creating the STEMulate Learning and SOLID Learning “stones” for the Project Egg sculpture, educators and young learners always found individual designs that caught their fancy.

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All of these stones were creating using white-colored ABS and PLA thermoplastics as requested by the artist, although we have printed many different colors using the same printers which are Freeform Fused Fabrication (FFF) type 3D printers using thermoplastic filament melted and extruded one layer at a time to build up solid objects according to computer controlled patterns.

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The Makerbot and MendelMax 2 printers are Cartesian-format printers, which use three motion axes to define locations within an (X,Y,Z) defined space. Many gantry cranes in industrial settings use the same mechanics of movement as these types of pritners. The green area represents the volume within which an object can be built on a Cartesian-format printer.

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Other formats of 3D printer include Polar designs which operate around a circular build volume surrounding a central axis.

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The MORGAN 3D Printer designed by South African inventor Quentin Harley is a semi-circular Polar 3D printer which uses two motors to define the radius and angle of a ray measured from the central axis to define a location in (X,Y) planar space above a plate that descends to provide the Z axis required for full three-dimensional objects. Some may recognize this type of movement from SCARA pick-and-place robots used in industrial settings. The green area represents the volume within which an object can be built on a Polar-format printer like the RepRap MORGAN.

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A final format of current 3D Printers is the Delta printer, which uses three motors moving along fixed rails and a set of moving extensions connecting to a central effector to generate (X,Y,Z) movement within a triangular or circular build volume.

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Delta robots like this Rostock Max are fast in all three dimensions, unlike both the Delta and Polar configurations which are slower in Z-axis traverse, and are commonly found in pick-and-place applications in industry. The green area represents the volume within which an object can be built on a Delta-format printer.

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Because of its speed and the constant motion of all three linkages, even when moving the extruder in a flat plane, the delta printer has been described by workshop participants as the most fun to observe in demonstrations. So, we are building delta-style printers for upcoming workshops using the 3DR model created by my co-author of the “3D Printing for Dummies” book, Richard Horne, who is also well-known in the RepRap development circles by his handle “RichRap”.

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I will discuss the process of creating our 3DR printers in later blog postings as our workshop participants have time to build their own printers using the open-source RepRap model for now, the participants have just started trying out different variations of the 3DR design.

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