We're proud to announce that our very own Isis One Dual Extruder 3D Printer has been named among the Top 100 Finalists for the Chicago Innovation Awards! (Can you believe there were 552 nominees this year?!)
The awards celebrate the most innovative new products and services in the Chicago region across all organization sizes, sectors and industries. As a Top 100 Finalist, we've received a $2,500 scholarship to attend The Practical Innovator, a day-long executive education course on September 23rd led by top faculty who teach innovation at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. We're proud to join this amazing group of creators and entrepreneurs and can't wait to join 1500 business and civic leaders in celebrating the winners on October 30th at Chicago’s Harris Theater!
All finalists are in the running for the People's Choice Awards, so head on over and vote for as many products as you want! (No really, this is Chicago, after all!) We're in section 3, B2B products. You can also click over here to read the full press release, if you're so inclined.
In other news, we're temporarily suspending orders as we transition to an outsourced manufacturing process. We'll reopen orders when we're done, so stay tuned!
Our redesign is done, and soluble support, at long last, is here! After months of design work, redesign work, extruder drama, supplier drama, and several garbage bags full of failed prints, we've finally gotten it to work. We're saying it's in beta for now, given that the adhesion between PVA and PLA is not quite as good as we'd like it to be, but we're working on an entirely new support material, designed from scratch to solve this problem. More on that later. It's been quite a journey getting to where we are now, and we'd like to fill you in on it.
First, some background. Soluble support, or the lack thereof, has long been the single biggest factor holding back consumer 3D printers. Present in one form or another in enterprise-level FDM and polyjet machines, soluble support enables 3D printing to be freed from the constraint of requiring one layer to be built atop another beneath it, meaning you can actually print anything, not just objects with flat bottoms and no overhangs or unsupported features. It takes us a long way toward fulfilling the promise of additive manufacturing of designing without constraint. It's something we've been excited about for a long time, and we're thrilled to finally bring it to market.
There are a number of reasons soluble support has taken so long to happen, not the least of which has been a lack of will. The pack of consumer 3D printer companies, led by the esteemed competition in Brooklyn, has taught the world that 3D printers are toys, useful for making plastic trinkets and tchotchkes, an application that excuses the glaring lack of ability to create unsupported geometries. The technical hurdles were also formidable. Making soluble support work requires shrinking the extruder, increasing its reliability, solving the nozzle leveling problem while circumnavigating the Stratasys rocking extruder patent, and coming up with a suitable support material that adheres consistently to PLA. Thus far we've conquered all of these problems with the partial exception of the last.
The first issue is the design of the extruder itself. Although our initial idea involved a modification of the old Budaschnozzle to accommodate two separate channels, it became clear early on that this would simply be too hard to machine. We needed an extruder with a clean sheet design. It had to be more reliable (two extruders means twice the chance of failure), it had to be reasonably lightweight and compact, and it needed to be able to sit hot for extended periods of time without jamming. It also had to be minutely adjustable so as to be able to get the two nozzles absolutely level, so that one nozzle would not be dragged through the material laid down by the other.
We got really excited when we saw QU-BD's then new X-truder, a design featuring a small stepper motor geared down by 3:1, and geared into two separate feed wheels, but we were disappointed when we ordered one and found that it didn't actually work. It jammed left, right, and center. Its plates suffered from alignment problems, which ate up power from its already under powered motor. Its barrel, under siege from the notorious PLA swell problem, jammed consistently. And its poorly designed feed wheels wasted way too much of the motor's torque biting into the plastic. Still, the concept was sound, and we used it as a taking off point.
We spent October to January going through numerous iterations of our extruder, ending up with something that bears only superficial resemblance to the X-truder. We increased the size of the motor to a NEMA 17, adding 100 grams but tripling the power; we redesigned the feed wheels to have smaller but sharper teeth, such that they wasted less energy biting into the filament; we added spacers to fix the alignment issues; we lined the barrel with PTFE and tweaked its heat sinking to solve the jamming problem; we changed the mounting to accommodate our vertical X carriage; and we added a captive nut mechanism to permit precision adjustment of nozzle height. We've gotta say, the result is fantastic. It's the best thing on the market, bar none. Our new printhead never jams. The twin feed wheels hold the filament so tightly that it never slips or strips. True, nozzles still occasionally clog, but they're inexpensive and easily replaceable. We're releasing our design on under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International License; you can view all of the source files at downloads.isis3d.net.
The next problem was choosing a support material and making it work. There were two options already on the market: polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and high impact polystyrene (HIPS). Neither was ideal; PVA was expensive, and HIPS looked like a nonstarter, dissolving in limonene instead of water. Lacking the timeframe to develop something new from scratch, however, we tried both. Neither blew us away at first. More specifically, neither worked at all. Nothing adhered well enough to PLA.
After a month of fighting with settings and nozzle geometry, and a lot of time wasted barking up the tree of my brilliant (not) "blunt nozzle" idea, we got PVA working reasonably well. It's still not perfect. Most prints work, but in some cases the object will delaminate from its support, causing the print to fail. Right now, our success rate for soluble prints is around 70%, compared to 95+% for single extruder prints. Certainly we're not done yet, but when you consider that the industry average success rate for single extruder prints hovers around 70%, I'd say we're doing pretty well.
The next step, required to get soluble support out of the land of beta and into the realm of things that truly, reliably work, is to create a new support material. It needs to stick really well to PLA, it needs to be water soluble and nontoxic, and it needs to be cheaper than PVA. We're aiming at a retail price of $40/kg, the same as PLA. We've got some ideas, and we've begun work. Hopefully, we'll have something to market in the next couple months. Every one of our fabulous and patient pre-order customers will get a free kilo.
That's all for now. Check back next week for more, and as always, feel free to email us questions you'd like us to address here.
On Final Approach! Feb 18 2014
We have been working feverishly for the past few months to get this redesign done, and we are pleased to say we are finished! The Isis One now has two independently adjustable extruder/hotend assembles of a completely new design, and is capable of soluble support. We've also added dynamic bed leveling, which lets us get first layers absolutely perfect every time, even with two extruders. What started out as a relatively simple hotend redesign turned into a total overhaul of our machine, linear systems and all. It's been quite an adventure, and it's certainly taken quite a bit more time than we planned to spend, but we're very happy with the results we're getting, both in terms of print quality and reliability. We think you will be too.
Pictures, video, source files, and tons of other information is forthcoming in the next few weeks, as we formally launch the new design. We can't wait to fill you in on all the details, but in the mean time we are furiously busy with production.
We would like to thank our awesome, patient, and incredibly loyal preorder customers for bearing with us through the redesign. You've been wonderfully supportive, and we are more grateful than we can express. We have the first batch of our new printheads arriving from the machine shop on the imminently, and should have machines shipping shortly thereafter.
Thank you all so much! More to come soon.-Marc
P.S. The picture above is a test print of 160 mm (6") birdcage for a youtube commenter who was concerned about overhang on large objects. It came out beautifully and is a fun addition to the birdcage collection!
Thanksgiving Weekend Sale! Nov 28 2013
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
It's been an incredible year for Isis3D and we have so much to be thankful for: our customers, colleagues, collaborators, and supporters of all kinds. It's hard to believe that a year ago we were deep into research and building, though the final design of the Isis One was a long way off. Since then, we've designed a top of the line 3D printer, opened our doors for business, and recently, moved to a space three times the size of our previous one. As we reflect on the vast distance we've come and all those who have helped us, we are also excited to continue pushing the standards of state-of-the-art in 3D printing with our almost-complete dual extruder system, and many plans beyond!
In gratitude, we're offering the Isis One desktop 3D Printer at a very rare, very steep discount price of $1999, Black Friday through Cyber Monday only. There couldn't be a better time to secure your own Isis One Desktop 3D Printer, a fully professional-grade 3D printer for the price of a consumer model. Featuring unbeatable print quality and reliability, and a truly gigantic build volume, the Isis One is the best option for anyone whose work or play demands a superlative 3D printer.
Please note that new orders will begin shipping in February, 2014.
With gratitude from Chicago,The Isis3D team
Dual Extruder Update Oct 15 2013
A quick update on the dual extruder/soluble support front:
One thing has led to another, and our dual hotend project has turned into a somewhat more extensive redesign. Amazing how changing one thing necessitates changing half a dozen others, isn't it? If you give a mouse a cookie...
Anyway, we've been hard at work on this project for the past few weeks, and are pleased to report that (barring further occurrences of Murphy's Law of Engineering) we're almost done. We don't want to say too much about the improvements we've made until we're done testing everything, but they're substantial. It's a good story, and we'll do justice to it soon, along with pictures of the redesigned machine, video, and a few awesome prints with soluble support. Be excited!
Isis One Birdcage Print Video! Sept 24 2013
Hello, Isis3D fans!
Today I'm happy to share with you a video of the Isis One in action, doing one of our favorite prints, a 40 mm birdcage (the medium size pictured here). It's a great, fast print that really shows off the printer's overhang capabilities and resolution; my favorite part is the closing of the birdcage at the end. Enjoy, and be sure to share with your friends!
It's an exciting time at Isis3D, and we'll have some more updates to share soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, click over to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
The Isis One Linear System Design Story Sept 10 2013
Today's post will share the story of our linear systems: what we tested, what we discovered, and why our machine works so well.
Our experience began with the first scratch-built MM1.5 we made last summer. It used the old 8 mm rod/SDP bushing system off the Prusa. The linear motion didn't work well, and the bed was nearly impossible to level. We tried replacing this with a dual makerslide system involving laser cut wood, but this somehow managed to be worse rather than better. In January, we tried MTW's Igus rail upgrade kit. It was a huge improvement at first, although it still wasn't perfect. One central carriage in the center seemed a little insufficient. It seemed slightly less than rock solid, and the layer stacking was good but not perfect. We ran the machine for hundreds of hours in this configuration, and began to notice powder on the rail. The bearings were wearing down, and the slop was increasing. The bed began to wobble noticeably side to side. It developed this weird vibration we dubbed the "Igus shimmy," which manifested itself in horrible looking wobbly perimeters.
We figured that maybe the one central carriage was insufficient, and that perhaps the torsional loads on it when the bed reversed direction were too much. We switched to a dual rail system--I believe we were using the Igus WSQ-10 rail at first--so as to get better support closer to the corners of the bed. This helped the wear situation, but the layer stacking just wasn't great. There was too much slop. We ended up going through several other dual rail configurations on our Y axis--WS-10 and N27, with different combinations of standard, preloaded, and floated carriages. At this point we also tested a number of rail options on the X: single N27 (we were trying a Bowden extruder at the time), double N27, double N17, single N80, and the minirail from PBC. Nothing worked well, and everything was expensive.
At this point, we took a step back and looked at a number of commercially available products that involved linear systems. We looked at inkjet printers, scanners, and optical drives. We noticed that all of them--even DVD drives that had to read tracks spaced several hundred nanometers apart--used rod based systems. We figured that everybody couldn't be wrong, and that perhaps we, and the Reprap community in general, had been doing something wrong with rods.
The breakthrough for us came when we were repairing our old MM1.5's x carriage. It was binding terribly, worse than it had been before, and we were skipping steps way too often. We decided to replace the SDP bushings with LM8UUs (foolish in retrospect, but we didn't know) but since our only working printer was down and we couldn't print a new X carriage, we decided to make the smaller new bearings fit in the old holes by filling the gaps with hot glue. Hacky, I know, but desperate times called for desperate measures. Amazingly, though, it worked. Really well. The hot glue served as a float system, eating up the hundred or so microns of inevitable misalignment, and thus allowed the carriage to move freely and accurately.
The community moved away from rods in the first place because (I'm assuming) they were too flexible and they were prone to binding. Both these problems are fixable, however. If you use 12 mm rod, flexibility is not an issue on a machine the size of ours. If you use precision ground rod (available from McMaster) and SDP teflon filled acetal (quieter than sintered bronze, and going strong at 700+ hours) bearings, you have very smooth movement and no detectable slop. And if you use a float system whereby the bearings on one rod are fixed and the ones on the other are free to move a few hundred microns, the binding issue can be totally solved. The float system we use on our Y system uses a printed floated bearing holder (see the STL) that allows flexing in the X direction, but not the Z. On the X, we use the simpler expedient of putting the top bearings in short pieces of rubber tube. This does provide some Y flexibility, but gravity provides an effective preload that prevents this from being a problem, and this allows the printer to compensate for too-thin first layers.
Expect an update on the progress of dual extruder/soluble support project in the next few days. Our experiments have led us in a fairly different direction than the one we originally had in mind, but I think we've almost got it cracked.
Stay tuned! Team Isis3D
Hello World! / Soluble Support Aug 26 2013
It's been an exciting week. We've heard from all sorts of interesting people and organizations from all around the world, working on all manner of awesome projects. We've heard from architects, engineers, designers, artists, artisans, makers, educators, and entrepreneurs. We are humbled to be able to provide a machine that can facilitate such a broad and fascinating range of human endeavor.
We're starting this blog so that we can keep people posted on the latest developments and so that we can explain some of the engineering behind the Isis One for the benefit of the open source community at large. In the coming weeks we'll discuss our bed leveling system, how we got prints to stick reliably to the bed, why we like PLA so much, and why we think our linear systems are so great. But first we want to talk about support material.
In the past week, we've gotten a number of sample parts to print from prospective customers. Although for the most part our prototype Isis Ones are doing an admirable job, one problem has become clear: support material. Our KISSlicer-generated breakaway support makes use of a gap—0.5 mm by default—between the support interface layer and the supported surface. This is, on the whole, a pretty effective method, allowing for relatively easy removal. It is ideally supported to prints like Michelangelo's David, who's elbow and chin need just a touch of support, and it also works pretty well for prints like the velociraptor skull, although in this case support removal took a solid half hour. It's a huge improvement on the status quo of no support material at all. But for a number of the sample prints people have been sending us—curvy sorts of things with large supported areas—it's appearing to be inadequate, requiring too much effort to remove and leaving a messy surface.
This isn't good enough for us, so here's the plan: we're going to have a shot at making soluble support work over the next three weeks. If we can pull it off, we'll ship the new dual extruder Isis One at no additional cost for all pre-orders. Those of you who've already bought an Isis One will have the dual version free of charge, or keep the original design as ordered. We hope the new soluble support design will be hugely helpful to our customers and can set the new standard for extrusion-based printers.
The design we have in mind involves a single hotend of a novel design, featuring two separate nozzle orifices a few millimeters apart in the same heater block. The support material used will be polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which melts in a similar range to PLA, dissolves in water, and is nontoxic. Rather than removing support material manually, you'll simply take the print off the bed and soak it overnight in a bucket of water, in which the support material will dissolve. This will allow us to omit the support gap, allowing perfect supported surfaces and much more elaborate supported prints. Eventually, when we get the software updated, you'll even be able to print complex mechanical systems at once, the moving parts separated by thin layers of PVA.
Helping us with this new endeavor will be a newly hired mechanical engineer named Megan and a beastly new lathe (yet to be named)*. Megan met Marc a year ago on the BJ Scav team, where they worked together on item #111, for which they built a fully automatic pipette tip machine gun.
Stay tuned. This will be interesting, and updates will be available here.
That's all for now, Team Isis3D
*Update: The lathe has been named Rosie. :)