Z-Corp Printer, Function & Aims

The Z-Corp Spectrum Z 510 is a powder-based 3-D printer. It features a typical X-Y axis but includes two Z axe. The Z bed to the left is full of powder which serves as source material for the print. Powder from this area is rolled onto the second Z printing bed area in even and thin layers (down to .0875mm,) excess powder is deposited on the far end of the print area. As the print cumulates layers, the source bed (left) raises in sync as the print bed (right) lowers. A binder is deposited through inkjet heads onto the powder. The printer is also equipped with a full range of color inkjet heads for the printing process, pigmenting the powder in real-time. When the print is finished, it is excavated from excess powder, which is then recycled for other prints.

Here is the basic process in-action.

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The Co-Lab class this semester focuses on a developing a working 3-D printer that utilizes a bio-cementation process. Currently, we are running experiments to create a reliable workflow and process for the bio cementation process. Once this is completed, we will replace the powder in the printer with the silica sand, and potentially use the inkjet heads to deposit our media. It is likely that we will have to create and use additional  printing hardware  designed specifically for this process.

 

The motors of the Z-Corp are a combination of both steppers, servos, and DC brush motors.

XY axis

The XY axis of the Z-Corp uses DC brush motors, which only act when a current is put through them. Their inputs are 19V/24V and are in the range of our output.

 

Z axis

The Z-axis motors are both bi-polar stepper motors, which means the polarities change with the direction; the inputs become outputs and outputs become inputs. On top of this, the powering of these motors are values (4V and 10A)  that are out of range of our intended RAMBO board, which can only output a minimum of 6V. To counter this issue, we intend on using a Pololu breakout board, which outputs a voltage range suitable for the motors. This board, however, does not output the correct amperage. Another add-on, the Tarocco, outputs the correct 10 amps but has a minimum of 6V for its motor output.

 

The Future at MICA

Once completed this project will be utilized and maintained by the future students in biofabrication based courses. It will provide an economic and eco-friendly alternative to 3-D printing with PLA, powder, and stereolithography. The process of the project will be open-source and available to the public. The ability to 3D print in stone has a significant amount of practical and conceptual possibilities. The waste material of this process will be minimal and non-toxic. The potential of building unconventional forms out of a sandstone-cement can provide solutions to unconventional problems. Ultimately it will be a new in-depth tool for digital fabricators at MICA.

About the author: Dan Langston

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