Back in March we announced that we’ve been developing what might just be the coolest thing to hit 3D printing in a very long time, our tool-changing motion system! We opened up the opportunity for you to reserve a place in the queue and have been overwhelmed by the many hundreds of you that have expressed your interest in a project that we were unsure would be anything more than an internal E3D passion. Hopefully this blog post answers most of your questions but as always we know that you will be eager to find out more, therefore we will be hosting a live Q & A session at 5pm UK time 31st August, ask your questions here. So, without further ado, let us update you on what's been happening over these past few months.
The most significant overall change is that we’ve rearranged how the machine assembles in order that we can more easily ship it partially assembled. This means you will receive the X-Y motion system completely pre-assembled as a single unit, along with the Z axis as a separate self contained assembly.
Assembly will be vastly simplified. No tramming, aligning or tensioning of belts as this will all be done for you. Just bolt the upright extrusions to the X-Y Motion system and the base plate to those and you’re done. We’ve chosen to do this to lower the barrier to entry, reduce the likelihood of mistakes and generally improve the user experience.
Minor Technical Changes
The amount of technical change is modest but important and has mainly revolved around optimising the machine for manufacture and assembly. We’ve also made a number of bug-fixes and improvements.
- Earlier versions shown in some videos had 2x 12mm rails which have now been replaced with a single double wide Z axis rail. This makes Z smoother and simpler.
- The stiffness of the connection between rail-carriage and bed has been improved with a machined part and more optimal bed design that is very stiff indeed.
- The Z-motor is now mounted to the Z-axis extrusion with a bracket allowing us to assemble the entire Z-axis as a self-contained unit.
- The Z-axis integrated leadscrew-motor has been improved with axially pre-loaded bearings to stiffen Z further and improve repeatability.
- The new Z-axis takes up much less space in X, leaving more space for larger tools - this should enable direct extruders to be used instead of bowden where desired.
Wide rail, thicc machined bracket and refined integrated Z leadscrew-motor
- Instead of using plain flanged bearings as idlers, we’re now running on genuine Gates idlers. Where the smooth backside of the belt runs over the idler we’re using smooth idlers and where the toothed side of the belt runs over the idler, toothed idlers are used. This gives smoother more accurate motion and longer belt life.
- The carbon-fibre X-member is made from an even stiffer carbon-fibre laminate.
- The cantilevered idler posts are now stiffer and use larger M4 threads allowing for higher belt tensions.
Genuine Gates idler pulleys
Enhanced Carbon-Fibre X axis
New idler posts and pulleys
- Tweaks in X, Y and the shape of the Z axis have provided an additional 33% more space for tools. This should give us enough space to create direct-drive extruders and generally more capable tools.
- Instead of being an intrinsic part of the motion system it now neatly bolts onto it. This means that you can use the motion system without the tool-changer if you want, and lets us supply the tool-changer separately to the motion system.
- Much stiffer, with higher load carrying capacity, this should also allow the design of more capable tools.
- Machined construction instead of laser-cut plates, generally much more badass, stiffer, and easier to assemble.
- All contact surfaces between the tool and the grabber are now hardened steel, this will give higher load carrying capacity, longer life, and more accurate coupling.
- The servo we’re using is more capable with higher torque, and metal gears.
Affix your Tool-Changer here
SLA prototype of what will be the final machined aluminium Tool-Changer capture plate
Manufacturing starts now
We appreciate both your patience and support with this project, and with plenty of orders we are now committed to bringing this project to life. Forgive us for taking slightly longer than anticipated to get this blog post out, a few things held up the process, mainly the decision to go with partial assembly and increased modularity. We have now achieved design lock for the machine and as I write this blog post the orders are being placed for the first 30 machine Beta run. We anticipate having these in hand within 8 weeks.
Our plan is to first manufacture 30 machines and offer these to early adopters and trusted Beta testers. We do not anticipate having to make any substantial changes to this design as it is thoroughly design reviewed and tested. However, we think it prudent to start with a small run to ensure everything meets expectations.
Once we have verified the design we will start to order in batches of 250 machines, and we will offer these to those who have reserved machines, in the order that they have reserved them. We will ship these out on a rolling basis as they become available to us and we hope to be putting the first production run machines up for order 15 weeks from now.
We still don’t have firm final pricing, but we’re getting closer as we start making the parts for the machines. Please take the following as indications, not final pricing:
- Motion-System, X, Y and Z axes including frame, partially assembled: £1250
- Tool-changing Mechanism + 4 docks, bolts directly to motion system: £250
- E3D-v6 Tool: £125
These modular parts will be sold separately so you can order precisely what you want and need. If you just want to buy a motion system without the Tool-Changer to make a very fast precise single extrusion machine you can do that. If you want to just buy the Tool-Changing mechanism and tools to add to your own existing machine that is fine too.
Other parts which are yet to have their design and price finalised:
- Duet electronics & Wiring Kit
- Laser cut back & side panels
- Other tools
The purchasing process
The next big question you’re probably all wondering, how am I going to purchase my tool-changer? We are of course as eager as you guys are to starting sending these out as soon as we possibly can and are working hard to bring this project to production. We will not be taking final orders for machines until we have them in house, built, tested and ready to ship. Once the machines are ready to ship, and when it comes to your place in the queue you will receive an email with instructions on how to place your order.
Can I be a Beta tester?
Yes, but spaces are limited and we will be selecting testers based on merit not queue position, we need the best quality feedback in order to bring this project to life. If you would like to volunteer as tribute to receive a beta unit from the first 30 unit production run then please fill in the following Google Form.
While we’ve tried to answer as much as we can, we are sure that you guys will still have many more questions. We have created another Google Form for you to fill out and ask your questions, these will then be answered during a live Q & A session at 5pm UK time 31st August 2018.