Helping answer the question “what’s next for 3D printing?” is a team from Townsville, who are set to unveil an all-in-one manufacturing solution at Australia’s first 3D printing expo this month.
Though not a 3D printer per se, the Bajtech Positional Control System is designed to harness additive fabrication – as well as some older, subtractive manufacturing methods – to create something that could be especially handy for workers in far-flung locations.
“Right now the drama is, when I go out and talk to people and I ask the question, ‘what would you do with a 3d printer?’ they look at you blankly and say ‘what’s a 3d printer?’” offered Frank Hall, who is assisting with Bajtech’s project.
“And I say ‘don’t worry about that, just answer the question.’ The range of responses you get! I’ve had people who thought they were something that printed those pictures you look into and they come out 3D…”
Hall, a draftsman by trade, believes – like many others – that once 3D printing becomes more commonplace, the amount of uses that it’ll be considered for will grow as people start to innovate around the technology and its potential.
First of all, Hall wants us to know that what Grant and Casey Bajema have built is not exactly a 3D printer.
“Can I use a computer analogy? You know you’ve got your Microsoft Windows, or Microsoft Operating System. That’s the system, if you buy an Acer, you get Microsoft 8. You buy an IBM, you get Microsoft on it,” he told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
"And where that varies from 3D printers is by selecting a configuration a bit like a print driver you can turn a device from a plastic printer into a router or turn it into an engraver or plasma cutter or laser cutter, these sort of things. So instead of having to buy a machine that does your laser cutting, another one that does its engraving, and one that does your milling, and your 3D printer, our device can control the carriage that moves around and can be any one of those devices, you just select the configuration you require, the carriage will then move in such a manner that will suit the head that’s attached to it.”
Hall said the system works in five axes at the moment, and could potentially handle up to ten, can be moved by two people though is heavy enough to function as a miller, and can – if they prove it – retrofit other machines.
A portable, all-in-one integrated system could be of enormous benefit, especially in remote environments. On a mine site and wanting to mill things, lathe things, print things, extrude things, cast things? Maybe a part in a vehicle has broken. No problem: print it out of ABS plastic.
“Ultimately all those machines work on positions within space,” said Hall.
“So they will ultimately, I believe, combine that to a single machine.”
The two young engineers/programmers behind the positional control system, Casey and Grant Bajema, are the brains behind the operation, Hall insists. The Bajemas have gained attention in their local media for a project to make a portable, affordable, user-friendly CNC machine with Tony Carty from HyCut Australia.
The Bajema’s control system was beta tested at James Cook University, where both graduated. They and Hall hope to eventually bring their device to market, and displaying it at the Mackay 3D Printing Expo this month is a step along that path.
“The commercialisation issues, the cost, the set-up to get the machine designed to all the appropriate standards and then marketing, market exposure,” said Hall of what’s next.
“That’s the commercialisation route, I suppose, it’s a) creating an understanding of what can be done, and b) servicing that and the way we hope to do that is by producing a machine in the interim.”
Slider image: http://www.3ders.org/
Other image: http://www.southsmackay.com.au/3d-printing-expo/