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Focus SLS printer

by dragonator, published

Focus SLS printer by dragonator Feb 10, 2013

Description

--Discontinued--

Focus is a 3D printer that is designed to print using Selective Laser Sintering. Focus can also be adapted for FDM, 3DP and lasercutting/engraving.

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hi, sorry I can´t find cut list on 0.3 version...
Hi. I tri everywhere to buy powder for this printer and no luck please help with link

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License

Focus SLS printer by dragonator is licensed under the Creative Commons - Attribution license.

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Instructions

EDIT:

Focus has been completely discontinued. Focus will no longer be updated or improved.

It was too slow, to unreliable and the piston design was constantly jamming. Also afters seeing that inkjet printing in powder works really well, I decided that Focus was too slow for further experiments. A 5x10x20mm print took over an hour.

Now I haven't given up on this technique. I am currently building a new, faster printer purely aimed at 3DP printing. I have learned a lot from Focus an have implemented a lot of improvement in the new design. It should be running full speed around march 2014. I will make a post on thingiverse, but I might host the files and instructions somewhere else.

End of edit.

youtu.be/Jg1QVDSkoII

youtu.be/6hust59wrUo

Right now, Focus is a work in progress. I have been working on it since october last year. Since then a full design has been made. The printer and electronics have been built and a complete pack of firmware has been written. The firmware has been built from scratch because SLS and FDM just differ too much. The firmware handles normal FDM Gcode, and uses the E axis to determine if the laser has to be turned on or off.

Focus prints using a focusable 1500mw 808nm laser that sits on 2 axis. Both pistons move with a 64 step 1:64 geared stepper motor. The Gcode is stored on a SD card. The printer is stand alone and is controlled with a 4x20 LCD screen and 8 buttons. The printer is built using 3D printed parts and MDF.

The printer can be built for less than €600 (, or about $800), if you source the parts right.
(Edit, A rough parts list with prices for the printer have been added to the downloads)

Right now I only have engraved with the printer, but every system is about ready to start actual printing. I will post videos and pictures of this as soon as I have the process under control.

A short video of the printer engraving its name in to cardboard:
youtu.be/atUDSc9cXCk

Full instructions of how to make this printer will be uploaded as soon as the project is capable of full printing.

Feel free to ask any question you have.

Updates

17-02-2013:
Time for my first weekly (and with weekly I mean whenever I have news) update. I have spent last week collecting good materials to print. Thus far I have tried Candelillawax and E-PVC. To both powders I had to add carbon to make it absorb light. White powder reflects too much of the IR light.

The wax melts very easily, but doesn't actually make a nice line. There are much interruptions in the line. In order to make a continuous line, I needed to melt way too deep in the wax, which would cause catastrophic shrink. The E-PVC, being PVC, gets burned even without a good reason. I have yet to melt it with the laser, without actually burning it. I added a picture to show what the E-PVC looks like once I lasered it. I will do some more tweaking. I may have some PA coming my way, but I don't know that for sure yet.

Expect some delays in this project. I need to completely redesign all of the pistons. Turns out the motors I used because they were cheap, were cheap for a reason. What pointless engineer would design a motor that fails after a few hours. I will post updated parts after I finished designing them.

27-02-2012
Expect no changes on this project until the beginning of April, I have been working on this for over five months and I have taken a break and started working on a small side-project. You will see the results of this project in the next few weeks. After that, I will resume this project at full speed, making necessary changes and repairs, and have more experiments. I promise I will post most parts, software and schematics in the course of April.

20-03-2013

I finally finished my project (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:61796). I have not yielded the desired result, but I have got a result that I'm proud of. If you have an instructables account, and feel that my project is awesome, I would like you to vote me in the UP! (and in the lamps and lights) contest. Make my month count.

I will slowly resume work on the sls printer. I have already designed and printed replacement parts for the Z axis. Good news: The electronics are now fully Ramps compatible! The design has evolved to full ramps compatibility. I will post schematics, cut lists, BOM and plans in the following weeks.

27-03-2013
I finally started uploading more files to build focus. All files are in the complete build package. Don't let the name fool you, it is far from complete. It is all of the files I have right now. Included in this version of the package are: A pdf describing most of the current things about focus (this will be updated after each new build package), the firmware, A cut list for focus, and all of the parts, including a few modified parts. I am working on detailed BOM's, exploded views and assembly drawings.

Now that Focus is RAMPS compatible, I require your help. My programming skills are limited. I ask anyone with proper programming skills to convert an existing firmware for use with focus. If you want to help, contact me and I can give you a list of requirements. You will be fully credited for any work you do. Many thanks in advance.

10-04-2013

Yes I am still alive and am very busy and guess what, I have ordered RAMPS electronics for Focus. This means that the next firmware update you will get is fully RAMPS compatible. I was a bit reluctant to buy RAMPS at first, not because I don't trust it but simply because it costs even more money. This project has been nothing but a hole that I can throw money in, and my finances have not been much in the green with the GlaDOS lamp and everything.

I will post an update when the full conversion to RAMPS is done, including more build files and more detailed drawings. I want you (everyone) to be able to build one on your own as soon as possible, so that there can be more experiments and SLS finally coming to the open source community. I can't do this on my own and I want you to help.

18-05-2013
After a busy month, I have an Even more busy month ahead of me. Schoolwork, schoolwork everywhere. I have uploaded a new complete buildpackage, V0,02. In this one, you will find schematics, diagrams and everything needed to build a Focus of your own.

Expect no new updates in the coming month, I am very busy with school work.


Disclaimer:
This project uses high power invisible lasers. I am not responsible for any harm or damage done to you or your surroundings.
hi, sorry I can´t find cut list on 0.3 version...
ok is a JPG
Hi. I tri everywhere to buy powder for this printer and no luck please help with link
hi

what type mW laser do you use? , what is the brand of the laser?
hey dragonator i couldent find a more direct way to contact you but i managed to get some shapeways pa2200 (strong and flexible) its their scrap with a higher than spec heat index but im going to try and cyrogenic grind some to reduce the size even more and possibly sinter it im going to try and build mine similar to yours but turns out mdf expands very little under heat so if i simply insulate the optics and print mechanism from the build chamber somewhat it should be able to sinter (im hoping) around 70 cel if you want to try some i found the scrap powder at filastruder for 24$ @ 8 lbs

keep up the good work
You can always PM me. I myself also have a batch of recycled PA2200 bought from another 3D printing service. Shapeways wouldn't sell me at the time.

Sintering PA is extremely hard and focus lacks vital hardware. The things it lack are:-Heated buildbox or external layer heater, -Oxygen free (Nitrogen) environment, -CO2 laser capabilities.

You need to heat the powder to just below melting point before you can start laser sintering. this is a problem for Focus since MDF does not handle heat that well. The oxygen free nitrogen environment could be made to encase Focus completely, but you do need it to stably print for long times. CO2 is an absolute must, Nylon can't really be sintered by any other laser, simply because it is too bright for all other wavelengths.

Focus has failed to prove itself for SLS printing, but has more than proven itself in 3DP (Zcorp) printing. I am currently working on a new printer that has a much better powder handling system made from aluminum. It can be used with CO2 safely and can be heated if necessary. The gas environment is not needed for me, so you'll have to solve that one on your own.
Sadly, my own SLS project have been postponed until further notice, due to complexity and other techniques that are cheaper and simpler to build (expect a dedicated 3DP printer in the next 6 months)
Awesome! But the skirt loops don't really serve a purpose. You should disable them.

Is any software needed aside from what one would use with a RepRap?
Skirt loops? Do you mean the light pieces of wood that rim the perimeter of the print surface, cause they serve a very real purpose.

Anyway, No other software is currently needed. You only need a way to convert STL into Gcode. All other work is done by the printer itself.
I think he meant the extra loop of material you pulled out at the end of the print. In plastic additive prints a skirt is printer around object for better adhesion to print bed. This wouldn't be needed for an SLS print?
great design! If I have some more time this will be my next project! Awesome!
I've been following this one for months. Dragonator- everything you have made has been absolutely fantastic, I cannot wait to see this one, I'll definately be building one too.
Why do you suppose that nobody else has really gone into SLS desktop printers yet? Is powder handling and management a health issue?
Even though the title says SLS, focus is convertible to 3DP (inkjet). Nobody has gone into SLS desktop printers because it is unknown, really hard and dangerous (high powered lasers). Powder management could be a health issue, but I think it is mainly this: no real prospect for usable parts in experimental printers and too many unknowns. (for SLS and 3DP)

I haven't had a single usable part, just some experiments. Everything I do is completely unknown.

I am currently planning to convert Focus to 3DP printer, because I need a break from the hell that is SLS printing. I need to rethink SLS before I will continue with that.
What do you mean by no real prospect for the parts?
To my understanding, SLS is really the only way to print with metals and high variety of materials, which although wont be as reliable or strong as injection molds, should still show a significant increase in options for what you can do with the parts.
I know the first concept printers will have a hard time getting precision and strength down right away, but are still important nonetheless.
Please share your opinions on the results youve found so far! I know it must be really tedious, but the feedback from the community should be really good for keeping projects like this in motion, everything learned and shared is still progress. ^^
Thank you for your efforts!
This is not about the prospect of the technique in general, it is about Focus' ability to print in said technique.

SLS is one of the most versatile techniques, but this is about the hardware available. I simply miss too many things on Focus (heated buildbox, scanner, inert gas chamber) to yield any results. The laser is too low powered and the carriage is too slow.

I cannot print in SLS because I have huge amounts of shrink, enough to displace previous layers and enough to warp a 3mm part 1mm. All hardware needed to have less shrink is not and will not be available due to the used hardware on focus. To properly sinter, I need scanners with galvo's, High powered laser that can melt without additives to the powder, heated buildbox and chamber.

At this point of the project it is way easier to convert Focus to 3DP. All hardware necessary is already there. I might design an SLS specific printer one day, but that is a €3000 project, and I lack proper funding and time for taht.
Thank you for the elaboration! It is very insightful. Either way it looks like it will be impressive! I cant wait to see where you take it. :)
What the nice work!!
could you give me step file ?
I`m trying do some change.please.
I just uploaded the STEP files of all the printed parts. Sorry it took so long (procrastination FTW).
What's the third picture? Is that lasercutting? SLS?
The third picture is supposed to be SLS (sintering) but it is more SLB (burning) The powder you see is a mixture of E-PVC and carbon powder.

The electronics were a custom way too complicatated set of boards, but is now an autonomous Ramps board. I am close to making a new update that will make this thing buildable for everyone (with all the information that accompanies that).
So the burned powder isn't actually bonded to itself, meaning the part crumbles?
That picture is of E-PVC, a small, horribly failed experiment when I had nothing better to do. I now use PA. It actually melts with barely any burning and creates parts with some structure.

I was busy the last month, but I am continuing this month with more experiments and parts.
Wonderful work, I'll try to print and run.
WOW!! Wonderful!! I will build one when it's ready!!

Just find another Open Source SLS printer which use WAX.
http://andreasbastian.com/3dp/3dp.html
I have read the full article when I started the project. The time in which he did it and his result is commendable, but I never full agreed with his result and terminology.

He is not sintering, he is simply melting, resulting in extreme amounts of shrink. He uses lasers and drivers that cost more than this whole printer and somehow no-one can get a roller to work, even though all the industrial powder printers use this.

Having said that, it is my first goal to replicate his results before proceeding with plastics. I have ordered a ramps and am making final modifications to start printing again. That GlaDOS lamp project took a lot of my time.
have you considered building a machine that uses an array of motorised mirrors at a distance from the bed in order to sinter the material. It means you'd be able to sinter a lot faster, but not so good for laser cutting...
I could, but even though the name suggests only light and the name literately says SLS, this is not just a SLS printer, it is an experimental powder printer platform. It can basically do every powder printer job.

Also the speed of the axis is not the limiting factor, the power of the laser is. When (if) I build one that uses a CO2 laser, I will design one that is faster, has more SLS specific functions and can handle a high power laser hitting it by accident.
wonderful design and build . All the blue parts what was the approx cost of these. The STL files can be used to reproduce these ? thanks
The blue was all printed and is roughly 1kg of PLA. The project has set me back between €800 and €1000, but that is because I have replaced some parts and bought for stock. This thing is buildable for under €600.

The STL files will only build you the printed parts. I need to update some parts in the pistons, so those will still change. I am working on cut lists, schematics and assembly drawings. The electronics are ramps compatible, even though I have got a custom piece of electronics to drive this thing.
I just worked it out about the cost of parts etc . Stupid question .
Thanks
Please schematics :-(
Very nice!!!

Thanks.
I am finishing up on the GlaDOS lamp right now. I am working on a small surprise on that. I already started on everything to make this thing completely. Expect those in the next one or two weeks. Until then, please be patient, I am very busy right now.
OK, no problems.

Thanks.
Any shots of the things you printed?
any chance of seeing the software to control this?
Touche. I am not sure the point of printing out these parts if there is no firmware we can use to control them. I think more people would be able to contribute to the hardware and firmware if it was made available.
I am currently very busy with a side project as a bit of distraction from working on this. I will see to it that firmware and schematics will be uploaded within the next few weeks. Until then please be patient.
Very nice work, thanks for your effort!
Looking forward to seeing the uploaded info.
I am particularly interested in using it on hard wax for Lost wax models that are printed without support.
That actually is the current goal
Super cool! I also am looking forward to seeing it work. Had you seen this SLS printer thing? thingiverse.com/thing:27794
I have seen it but I have never seen it work as a SLS printer, just as a 3DP printer.
Indeed, the Pwdr machine is not currently ready for SLS. The Focus machine looks pretty interesting, looks like they are family. I'd like to contact you for some more information, and maybe I can be helpful for your project
I really want to see this work!
It must be exciting to make something completely new. Its probably way to early for questions like this and don't take it as criticism. What kind of print speed do you think will be possible? I'm thinking that the laser has to go to all points that need to be hardened, meaning the same amount of travel as FDM. How slow does the laser have to go to sinter the material? I'll be interested to see your progress.
The engraving happens at a whopping 72mm/min and I already am powering the laser at 80% of the absolute maximum. The maximum travel this design allows is about 30mm/s. The design was never speed, it was proof of concept.

(Luckily you have never seen the pistons moving, compared to that the laser is racing over the printbed. If it reaches 1mm/s I would be surprised)
Very cool! Out of curiosity, could it be suped-up to make a laser cutter?
1500mw won't cut much, not sure if that's what you meant. I used a 1000mw laser to make a laser engraver for the Thing-O-Matic, thingiverse.com/thing:35790
Im sure it would take a better laser at least something that can cut at most 6mm acrylic theres other bots out there that can. I love the design of this and going follow development, the head very intresting for my purpose but need too build my prusa i3 first whats the bed footprint?
luckily for me, I only have to sinter material, which I hope happens with less laser power, It only seems logical that sintering (which happens at even lower temperatures than melting) happens at lower temperatures than evaporating materials.

The printbed is approximately 130mm by 115mm. The hight is currently about 100mm, but some of the changes I have planned for April will change that.
The 1500mw will not cut any metal, but considering that it only costs me about €50 per unit, I am not complaining. It will cut paper and it will (hopefully) most definitely sinter and/or melt stuff
The construction is designed for powder printing. Laser cutting, engraving and FDM are just things this machine is capable of doing. It is mostly for powder printing. The laser might cut through thin sheets of plastic, but that remains to be tested.
Hi dragonator. The files given in above in thingiverse are latest and is it working fine?? I want to make it. Please reply if you are still updating on thigiverse. else give some other contacts of yours where we can talk to you
Hi,

It is a pretty awesome project. Where did you source the laser? Seems like the crucial part of the whole machine.

Laszlo
Surprisingly, the laser is just available from ebay, the harder part is the driver, which I had to make myself. Also, somehow, it is easier to obtain high power lasers from the internet than laser safety glasses.
Cool stuff! Could you provide a link to the optics you are using?
I tried to search lasers on ebay, but your exact specification (1500mW and 808nm) didn't give any usable result, nor for the driver.

Also safety glass is really high priority once I start working with lasers.
I do not know if this link will last, but:

ebay.com/itm/261007928485?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&;_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

is the laser diode I used. The driver is a home made one using two LM317's. One for regulating the voltage and one for regulating the amps. It might not be efficient, but it is dirt cheap and does the job just fine.

If you do plan on experimenting with these kinds of lasers, be careful. I do not take any responsibility for any harm or damage. Even with all of the protection I have in place, I am still somewhat scared of the laser I use. It is invisible and VERY powerful.

I will share the driver (and other electronics) I used when I have progressed further with this project. I am currently searching for Waxes and plastics to print with and making the final adjustments to start printing in 3D.
What type of eye protection do you use with this type of laser? Which wavelengths do you need to block? Do you have any links to the glasses you use? Thanks.
I have glasses that block 190nm to 540nm and 800nm to 2000nm. they are not ideal for my laser because the 808nm I use is very close to the 800nm block. I only have a OD3+ (less then 0.1% transmittance). Good glasses have up to OD7 protection for the lasers that they are made for (less then 0.00001% transmittance). I do accept these glasses because 1,5W is relatively little compared to normal use for these glasses, and I reduce watching the laser burn with my glasses on to an absolute minimum.

I do not have any links to my glasses, but if you search the Internet or Ebay, you will surely find something. I did. Please do keep in mind that these glasses are relatively expensive and that they are NOT optional.
Awesome, can't wait to see the results!
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