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I am currently a junior studying mechanical engineering. I have been wanting to start a personal project focusing on 3D printing/printers for a while, yet I have been struggling to develop a course of action.

Some topics that I've been thinking of addressing include:

  1. Speed and sound: work to create a printer that is fast, but does not sacrifice low sound levels for higher speeds. I feel as if this is simply a motor optimization problem.

  2. Experiment with 4 or 5-axis printers: Probably one of the most difficult options, but it sounds like people want the higher-axis/higher degree of freedom printers to be more commercialized.

  3. Large print volume: 'nuff said!

How do you all feel about these ideas? Would you suggest other topics or ideas? I am seeking any guidance I can get, as I really want to make an impact.

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    $\begingroup$ "I feel as if this is simply a motor optimization problem." Yes, motor optimization is a big part of it. There's nothing simple about it. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Sep 27, 2023 at 9:37
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    $\begingroup$ I really want to make an impact in what respect? For your personal development, or in the 3D printing field? Maybe first build a regular 3D printer first (enough challanges to make a proper printer) before you endeavour into the exotic options. P.S. I think most options are already been explored. 1. There is a printer with linear maglev motors, 2. this is industrially common, using existing robot arms, 3. also done before, but remember the bigger the more issues with heating, sticking and big products take very long to build. $\endgroup$
    – 0scar
    Sep 27, 2023 at 11:40

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Most of all, I would ask yourself what you want to get out of this. Is it just engineering experience, or something you'd actually make good use of (moreso than a printer you could just buy), or some combination of the two?

While more-than-3-axis printers are very cool, I would lean against that option unless you really want this to be a software project too. The big reason they haven't taken off isn't that the engineering is hard (although it does have some challenges), but that the slicing software is not there to take advantage of them, so you end up having to either do the gcode "by hand" or hack together a primitive slicer whose output is so much worse than just living with 3-axis but all the modern path generation of mainstream slicers.

I think I agree with your assessment about low-noise. Also, for high speeds, with most materials you need heavy cooling, which is a lot louder than motion system noise.

Large build volume could be interesting, especially if it's something you could use. So many of the large build volume projects I see are not really well-engineered, just scaled up with no consideration for how that affects rigidity/accuracy. Making a large form printer that prints at high quality and decent speed is a fairly hard engineering problem, and one that you might enjoy and learn a lot from.

There's also an option to try different kinematic systems, which have a lot of different engineering tradeoffs in:

  • BOM (parts) size/cost/complexity
  • Rigidity
  • Sensitivity to inaccuracies in build procedure
  • Speed and acceleration capabilities
  • Ease of enclosure
  • How motion component sizes scale with desired build volume

etc. etc. etc.

Beyond whatever ideas you might get from folks here on SE, in my experience, some of the best communities for getting ideas and feedback on custom printer designs are the Rolohaun and Annex Engineering Discord servers. The former is more novice hobbyist/DIY geared while the latter is more extreme performance geared, but both are friendly to this kind of activity.

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