Friday, April 13, 2012

WhiteAnt 3D Printer

When I originally formed my plan to build a 3d printer, I had purchased the recently published book "Printing in Plastic: Build Your Own 3D Printer" by Patrick Hood-Daniel. The book details how to build a 3d printer called the WhiteAnt. It's construction consists of mostly wood and parts commonly used in CNC machines.

I decided not to start with this build, partly for the reason that most of the information about the printer was to be found only in the book, little help was to be found elsewhere. Even now, (6 months after I have acquired the book) I haven’t been able to find much information online. Because of the abundance of websites devoted to the reprap project and the amount of experience available in active forums, I decided that building the Prusa Mendel 3d printer would be the easiest and fastest way to learn.

Now that I have built a reprap printer and have a strong understanding how a  basic 3d printer system works, I’m ready to experiment with building a larger machine, and I think, going with my initial plan of building the WhiteAnt is a good way to accomplish this.

Here's a list of where I’ve sourced out all the  parts for the WhiteAnt:

Almost all the hardware was ordered from
The barrel nuts, Simpson Strong-Ties and threaded rods are from Home Depot
The v-groove bearings are from VXB Ball Bearings
The other bearings, precision threaded rod, collars, couplings, etc. are from
The NEMA 23 stepper motors were purchased used from an eBay seller
The “small red washers” I had a hard time finding, but eventually found them at McMaster-Carr
The timing belts are unspecified, but I decided to use T2.5 belts and pulleys. I purchased them directly from the factory in Tianjin, China through

I don’t plan to use the specified Makerbot Gen 4 electronics and ReplicatorG software… I’m going to use  RAMPS 1.2 electronics  with Pronterface software.
I also don’t plan to use their build version of an extruder and Makerbot hot end. I’ll use one of the  systems I already have which is designed for the reprap machine.

Once I have the specified structure built and operating, I plan to expand the X-axis at least twice as long… if not more. This will give me a long build envelope which I’m characterizing as a landscape printer. 

I think the WhiteAnt’s basic wood design with the added power of the NEMA 23 stepper motors will provide an adequate testing machine for a larger build envelope and also for later experimentation using a dual extrusion system. I didn't document my Prusa Mendel build since there seems to be plenty of this information online, but I will with this printer. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

DAVID Laserscanner

Even though I don't plan to use 3d scanning as a primary source for my content,
I'm still intrigued by the technology of a DIY system. Of the 3d scanning systems
available, I’ve chosen to use a product developed in Germany called DAVID LaserScanner. My main reason is cost and it has a strong support system through
it’s website forum.
The DAVID system is offered as software only or as a kit consisting of software,
a basic red line laser, web camera, and calibration panels. I plan to assemble
my own hardware and use their software. A later blog entry will cover in detail
my setup (consisting of upgraded components) as soon as they arrive from various

DAVID LaserScanner setup

Scanning Egyptian cat sculpture.

In the interim, I’ve constructed a basic rig which holds a HD web camera and a
red line laser attached directly on a NEMA 17 stepper motor controlled by an
Arduino  Duemilanove. Attaching the laser like this is not going to give good
results, but it's better for experimenting than moving the laser by hand. The
software is the free edition of DAVID LaserScanner, which means the scans are
saved at a lower resolution and DAVID ShapeFusion (the program which stitches
the scans together) is saved prohibited.

Depth View of Scan 800x600 @ 15fps

Fully enclosed object suitable for printing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Google SketchUp

Now that I have a 3d printer running, I’m ready to explore different means of
creating content for printing. The first program that I’ve decided to use is
Google's free edition of SketchUp. I have no experience with CAD or 3d graphics
programs, yet I found SketchUp to be an easy program to absorb quickly after watching a series of videos from
With a little trial and error, I was able to make some pieces that I need for a camera/laser rig for 3d scanning.

Laser cradle.

Tower brace.

Stepper motor mount.

Completed system with printed parts and devices.

The free program does not export to .obj or .stl files but with a free plugin
I was able to save my designs as a .stl and view them for problems with another
free program called Meshlab. I really don't foresee using SketchUp very often, but for fabricating parts for future projects, I am amazed when I think of the possibilities.