Living on the Cutting Edge with Dualstrusion

Posted by on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

Hopefully by now you’ve heard about MakerBot’s newest 3D printer, the Replicator 2X.  While 3D printing opens up a new world of possibilities, being able to print with a second plastic extruder at the same time takes it to another level entirely.  There are a lot of things that become possible with a dual extruding 3D printer that are simply not feasible by any other means.

  • Colors
    • The most obvious, and by far the simplest, use of dual extruders is to enable two color printing.  Although a single-color object could be painted, there are times when painting a particular object would require a great deal skill or be very time consuming.  While printing a plastic sushi set for my daughter I used dualstrusion to add black plastic “soy sauce” to white plastic dishes.  Sometimes, painting an object might even be impossible.  Imagine an object such as a bottle, vase, or an egg where you want to have an image or design inside.  While it might be impossible to paint inside such an object, the interior image could be printed inside the object as it is being created.
  • Dissolvable Support
    • Dual extruders allow for printing with a dissolvable support material like PVA.  Being able to print with a water soluable material means your robot could print entire mechanical devices complete with moving pieces.  PVA is still very experimental and fussy as an extruded material and at the extreme forefront of dual material printing.
  • Varying Densities
    • With two extruders it would be possible to create an entirely solid plastic object with a customizable density.  This could be used to make trick dice, a balancing toy, a toy that can’t be knocked down, a toy that can’t be stood up, or maybe a boat that is difficult to sink.
  • Mechanical Properties
    • Different extruded materials, such as ABS and PLA plastics, tend to have different physical and mechanical properties.  ABS tends to be more flexible and PLA tends to be more rigid.  A 3D printer with dualstrusion can combine the two plastics into a single object that is both flexible and rigid.
  • Simultaneous Dual Printing
    • One of the more exciting developments with dual extruder printing was a recent contribution by Thingiverse user thorstadg.  Thorstadg created a method for operating both extruders simultaneously – allowing the printer to print two objects, one with each extruder, at the same time.
  • Variable Resolution
    • Two extruders means you have two nozzles at your disposal.  However, there is no particular reason for both extruders to have the same size nozzle aperture.  With one very fine nozzle aperture and one relatively large nozzle aperture, a single object could be printed with quick printing coarse features and very high resolution features that take more time.
Tagged with , , , 8 comments

8 Comments so far

  • Tim Owens
    January 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    “Being able to print with a water soluable material means your robot could print entire mechanical devices complete with moving pieces.”

    I really hope more can be done on the software side of dualstrusion and this is a perfect example. Simply being able to say “I have support material in my left nozzle and PLA in my right” and having the slicer handle the legwork would be amazing. Slic3r has this option now but I’ve never been able to get it to work on the Replicator and other scripts on the Thingiverse never worked well and were hacked solutions. In order for dualstrusion to be any more than a “this could be cool” feature needs much more support on the software side. It’s easy to throw a second extruder on the machine (ok, maybe easy isn’t the right word 😉 but much harder to actually support it with meaningful interactions on the software side.

  • John
    January 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Is there going to be an upgrade kit for the replicator 2 for dual extruding PLA? That would be a nice add on for it. I am not as much interested in ABS but 2 color PLA would be nice.

  • MakerBlock
    January 9, 2013 at 1:22 am

    @Tim Owens: There is still a lot to explore with dualstrusion. Tony’s example of a mechanical gear with PVA support above involved a design where he specifically built the support into his designs.

  • Spencer Nelson
    January 9, 2013 at 2:09 am

    I agree with Tim. If there was a means to have the support material be automated and told only to use the extruder with the pva then the replicator 2x would make it an amazing option for many users. I know it would be for my university. I work in my universities digital fabrication lab and I have been trying to persuade them to purchase some makerbots for students to get some hands on experience and the ability to have the dissolvable support automatically generated would be a big selling factor.

  • Horace
    January 9, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Nice, I was going to ask if you would upgrade the replicator 2 to print in both ABS and PLA. And I guess you did it without me asking.

    now, the next question is, would you upgrade the printable size as well ? Something around 16″x 8″x 8″ would be nice.

  • Robert H. Morrison
    January 11, 2013 at 6:42 am

    Skeinforge could always do this automatically for support.
    All that you have to do is specify the proper commands in the support.start and support.end gcode files to switch between the extruders (plus the extruder offset).

  • David Celento
    January 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    The improvements are most welcome (have had a lot of jamming problems on two Replicator 2 units — and recovery is too time consuming and complex).

    Confused about dual extrusion capabilities. Talked with MakerBot on Jan 10 asking if MakerWare, during tooling, would be able to indicate dissolvable support material (PVA) in one head and build material (PLA or ABS) in other head.

    Some confusion over the answer, but eventually I came away with the understanding that this would be the case. However, above, others believe this will not be the case? Help…

    ** MakerBot — clarification about this important issue would be great — and help me decide whether to order one today! 🙂 **

  • andres
    January 13, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    I must say that while I love 3D printing, and have been a fan of your products since the beginning, I find this post almost offensive.

    First off, you talk about this machine like it’s something completely new and different from all your previews models, when in fact, it’s just an upgrade from the original replicator.
    Dual extrusion was introduced over a year and half ago with the replicator. So basically all you say in the post is as new as something that you have been selling for almost 2 years.

    Now lets see:
    “Dissolvable Support”
    Again this has been available for a long time and it is still EXPERIMENTAL, there is no profile at the time that let’s you choose PVA as a support material. So if you plan on talking about this feature, how about actually making
    it work as a standard feature and not an experimental poorly documented feature?

    “Varying Densities”, “Mechanical Properties”
    Both features inherent to dual extruder machines, NOT a new feature.

    “Simultaneous Dual Printing”
    Again this an old feature that, by the way, only lets you print very small objects side by side, due to the fact that the extruders are so close together.

    “Variable Resolution”
    Really? Come on! you guys do not even sell different size nozzles for any of your machines. So, while in theory this could be done, where do I get the parts for this feature to be available?

    People, I like your machines, I really do, but this marketing scams a la Apple, just get under my skin.
    Focus on bettering your existing products, not on coming with a new one with a different paint job every 6 months.
    Your current software is buggy, and you still have to rely on good old replicatorG to get features like support and dual extrusion to work
    Shame and all of you, and shame on the person that wrote this post.


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