Machines Building Machines [MBM]Public Deposited
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Advancement in the field of soft robotics depends on the ability to consistently manufacture soft components. This process is difficult since Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers can print materials with a minimum shore hardness of 50A, silicone injection models do not allow for rapid prototyping, and hand-poured silicone molds are subject to human error. Silicone elastomers come in a wide variety of hardnesses, however, printing systems cost thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible for most labs. In contrast, our newly developed printhead is capable of FDM printing silicone parts by integrating with the existing E3D ToolChanger system for under $250. This print system was purpose-built in software, design, and wiring to only require an hour or two of setup and basic 3D printer knowledge. This is possible because the pump design of the printhead has one stepper motor which can be commanded in the same manner as the extrusion stepper on a traditional FDM printer. Despite a 10% flow rate inconsistency in our pump system, the printhead produced successful prints with similar properties to traditionally molded silicone, with a shore hardness of 00 35.
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