Monday, January 23, 2012

I am still waiting on new Stepsticks (the first ones that I ordered couldn't handle 1/16th stepping) so I thought that I would do a short report on one of the nicest machines that I have seen for a while.  There have been a number of new printers that have appeared over the last few months but this one uses a unique open-source linear bearing system and is a truly elegant design.

It is called the Quantum ORD Bot and was created by Barton Dring who also created and sells the Makerslide linear bearings.  First, here's some info the bearing system:

Makerslide Rail
The system is basically a 20mm x 40mm aluminum extrusion along with a set of  parts designed to work with it.  Any parts that fit standard 20mm extrusions can be used and, in addition, Dring sells V-notched wheels that run along a pair of V rails integrated into the extrusion.  The wheels are designed to accept standard 5mmx16mmx5mm bearings as hubs which are simply press fit to install, and various spacers are available to mount them to flat stock. 

Makerslide standard carriage with wheels mounted

V-wheels with standard 16mm skate bearings
The Makerslide store sells a set of standardized parts like the carriage that can be integrated into your designs or you can buy the wheels and mount them to your own carriage.  The parts can be ordered at the Makerslide Store and he will even cut it to your order prior to shipping.

The whole purpose behind this is........ well, I'll let Barton explain it himself:

"The biggest design, cost and fabrication hurdles in a new CNC design are the linear bearings. There are a lot of commercial and DIY solutions out there, but none support an easy, low cost and rapid fabrication philosophy. I want to create a solution to this. The idea is to use a method that seamlessly integrates into standard aluminum extrusion systems. 

The basic bearing concept is not new. I have used it for years in my own designs and many high end commercial systems use it. It is the V wheel running on V rail. The problem with the commercial systems is that they are expensive, require a lot of accurate fabrication to integrate and don't seamlessly integrate into standard extrusion systems. 

MakerSlide is a V rail integrated into a standard extrusion profile. Since it is based on a standard profile from several sources."

He financed the project through Kickstarter.  The parts are inexpensive and the cost of the rail is currently set at 1 cent/mm (or about $3.00/foot).  That is an incredible bargain in the world of precise linear control.   Makers with a supply of Makerslide rails and parts on hand could prototype their designs extremely quickly

Of course the next thing the world needed was a 3d printer designed around the Makerslide components and Mr. Dring took care of that as well.  Behold, the Quantum ORD Bot!

Quantum ORD Bot

It's a nice little 3d printer that uses the Makerslide as both structure and linear bearing system in all three dimensions.  The usual rat's nest of wires is run inside the extrusions so it has a very clean look to it.  Information on this machine can be found on Thingiverse or on his Buildlog blog posting.  The prototype has a small build area but it has already undergone a redesign to address that issue.

The best thing about this is that the parts can all be purchased for a very reasonable cost.  The worst thing about it is that there is increasing demand for the Makerslide extrusion as word spreads so it sells out very quickly every time a batch arrives at the store.  Still, this is a clean, elegant machine with a very stiff chassis.  It might be worthwhile taking a look at it if you haven't settled on a design yet for your next project.

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