3D Silicone Printing Open Access
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The goal of this design project was to complete the assembly of a 3D printer with the proper modifications to allow it the capacity to print silicone structures. The subsystems of the silicone 3D printer include the main printer, the heater wings, and a syringe pump. In an effort to reduce the total cost of the printer and its subsystems, an open-sourced syringe pump was designed and manufactured. The pump design consisted of a stepper motor coupled to a ball screw to push the syringes at a desired rate. To control its speed, an Arduino Uno was programmed and connected to an easy driver motor controller. Evaluation and testing of each of the subsystems was completed following the design and fabrication in order to assess the performance of each subsystem. The pump evaluation and testing confirmed that the pump could apply the necessary force of approximately 600 N to the syringes while maintaining a steady flow rate of silicone into the print head. The printer assembly was able to be completed, with all of its requirements met, and testing of the motors and programming was also successful. Less successful, however, was the assembly of the heater wings circuitry, which is a crucial component of the silicone 3D printer kit. Due to issues properly wiring the electrical components that control the fans and cartridge heaters, the heater wings were not functional which proved problematic for overall print quality and effectiveness. Several recommendations were made for this design going forward to improve the quality of prints, ease of use, and simplicity of the overall system.