AMS Spring 2023

Project Silkworm Plugin Seeks to Redefine 3D Printing and Design Via G-code

6K SmarTech

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s1There are so many aspects of the 3D modeling and printing process which are continuously improving. Whether it’s modeling software which is easier to use, enabling amateurs to design without a background in CAD, or the printer specifications themselves, the industry has made tremendous strides over the past couple of years.

One area which has not changed very much when referring to Cartesian-based desktop 3D printers, is how the machines receive and then translate G-code from a model into actual movements of the extruder along the x, y, and z-axes. G-code, for those of you who are not aware, is a numerical control programming language which is responsible for each and every printing movement. Primarily, this part of the 3D printing process has remained relatively the same for years. Once a model is translated into G-code via a slicing program, editing is a thing of the past.  Also, the way in which slicing works, severely limits printing capabilities. With this said, most designers probably don’t even realize what they are missing out on because of these limitations.

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An Initiative called Project Silkworm, launched by Adam Holloway, Arthur Mamou-Mani and Karl Kjelstrup-Johnson, looks to do away with these limitations by providing a new revolutionary technique to manipulate a printer’s G-code.

A typical G-Code for a 3D printer will look something like this: G1 F100 X15 Y12 E0.02. ‘F’ represents the speed of the extruder, ‘G’ is a movement command, ‘X’ and ‘Y’ are the coordinates, and ‘E’ represents the extrusion flow. What Silkworm allows one to do, is manipulate this G-code movement while still using the CAD software, allowing for customizable input, translating Grasshopper and Rhino geometry into the G-Code needed for the print. By doing this, designers now have the capability of controlling the flow from the extruder, equating to thicker or thinner extrusions, as well as better controlling the exact paths of deposition and speed.

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“Now additive processes can be manipulated through data driven logics programmed directly by the designer,” states the creators. “Silkworm offers the designer a vocabulary to choreograph these processes and develop the way the printed object is conceived.”

For instance, if a designer wants to control his/her printer in order to create intricate weaves, using varying extrusion widths and print speeds, this is all very possible with the Silkworm plugin. If a designer wishes to create various contours such as a grainy wood look, or a single layer spiral going up the z-axis, these projects would also be possible.

Project Silkworm promises to change the way, we as designers, interact with our 3D printers, providing additional tools for 3D printing which I’m sure many individuals will use their creative minds to take advantage of. The plugin is available for free download, but note that it is still a work in progress. Silkworm is open source and made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Have you downloaded the plugin? What do you think? Discuss in the Project Silkworm forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out some larger examples of what Silkworm is capable of below.

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