Open5x: Accessible 5-axis 3D printing and conformal slicing

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This is the most affordable 5-axis 3D printer built into an existing desktop 3-axis 3D printer!

To be presented at 2022 CHI conference Late-break-work

Detailed article of the work can be found in the link: https://arxiv.org/abs/2202.11426

The common layer-by-layer deposition of regular, 3-axis 3D printing simplifies both the fabrication process and the 3D printer’s mechanical design. However, the resulting 3D printed objects have some unfavourable characteristics including visible layers, uneven structural strength and support material.

To overcome these, researchers have employed robotic arms and multi-axis CNCs to deposit materials in conformal layers. Conformal deposition improves the quality of the 3D printed parts through support-less printing and curved layer deposition. However, such multi-axis 3D printing is inaccessible to many individuals due to high costs and technical complexities. Furthermore, the limited GUI support for conformal slicers creates an additional barrier for users.

To open multi-axis 3D printing up to more makers and researchers, we have designed a cheap and accessible way to upgrade a regular 3D printer to 5 axis. We have also developed a GUI-based conformal slicer, integrated within a popular CAD package. Together, these deliver an accessible workflow for designing, simulating and creating conformally-printed 3D models.

We want to have more hobbyists and makers on board with 5-axis 3D printing

Prusa i3 MK3s was chosen as the base printer since it is arguably most popular/common hardware for FDM desktop 3D printer with large user community. We also appreciate the openness of the Prusa i3 which made it much easier to work into.

This work was inspired by the latest additive manufacturing research and various other creative 3D printing techniques shown in personal fabrications. This project shows how a popular off-the-shelf 3-axis 3D printer can be upgraded to 5-axis 3D printing.

Our [GitHub repository] contains details of all the mechanical parts and 3D printing files required to build the hardware. The repository will also contain the development versions of the conformal slicer. (It would benefit much from more user contributions!)

Hardware schematics of the 5-axis (blue is 3D printed part and grey is commercial part)

Conformal slicer and G-code simulator based on Rhino and Grasshopper

Supportless 3D printing

Various multi-material conformal 3D printing