Are we going to have 3d printers made from cardboard soon? This project is a sure sign we will!
Gestalt and the Modular Machines that Make are a hardware-software framework duo that will enable whole new level of scalability, cost effectiveness, development speed and availability for anything related to digital fabrication. Beside its practical applications, it is the first step towards presenting a real alternative for dominance of archaic g-code since it doesn’t use it.
With it you can rapidly construct and program any type of CNC machine. Be it plotter, 3d printer or positioning machine. You can also make application-specific digital fabrication machines with very narrow and specialized purpose, like scientific or school lab equipment.
How does it achieve that?
This new framework has three main components: the modular machine parts, Gestalt node and Gestalt framework.
Modular machine parts are a single axis linear rail and single axis rotary stage modules. The low cost comes from the fact that they are built from 0.15mm cardboard that can be laser cut. Cardboard is cheap, easy to shape and glue so you can make many mistakes and experiment with it.
The two modules can be connected in many configurations so they can form any type of arm, gantry, multiaxis machine or movement type. The modules are powered by leadscrew integrated stepper motor and stiffened by two aluminum shafts. The cost of a single stage is under 70 USD and it goes down if you build more than one.
Here are the parts of the rail stage:
Here are some examples of possible configurations:
Gestalt node is a small electronic control board that can be easily networked and connects via Fabnet USB to your computer and to the steppers. It looks like it is not yet commercially available but you could make it yourself if you are experienced with electronics (Gestalt Node GitHub). Some forums suggest that this setup could be replaced by Arduino, stepper motor drivers and GRBL combination.
Gestalt framework is a high level Python code that powers it all, you can see it on Gestalt GitHub. As I went through the complex description I could only understand that the user will use it via “Python interface consisting of function calls to procedures and a remote interface to make procedure calls through http requests”. So you will need to know Python programming and the Gestalt will move your machine by using the Gestalt nodes without g-code. I listened to videocast of one of the authors in the past and they criticize g-code often as an ancient artifact not suitable for modern needs. Will this solution be more user friendly and will it grow? Only the future will show. The competition of current software solutions using g-code is incredibly large and advanced with established user base.
When you connect everything together you can get results like this drawing machine:
You would just need to add z-axis stage with a simple extruder and you would get a very simple 3d printer.
The project is developed by Nadya Peek, Ilan Moyer, James Coleman, Rebecca Li, Lin Pease and Elena Byun inside the Center for Bits and Atoms at the MIT.
For more details and data you can visit the project homepage: http://monograph.io/james/m-mtm
On the personal note: I hope this project becomes very successful especially in developing alternative to the g-code. More choice is always better and the competition pushes the technological advancement.
Credits for all images and graphics: mMTM