Over the years, we’ve seen Kickstarter campaigns for many 3D printers: some of them have been extremely successful, like Stacker’s S2 industrial 3D printer and the Snapmaker. Others, like the NIX… from NiXTEK, have made it to the finish line but only just, and some have spectacularly crashed and burned, like the Kickstarter-cancelled NEXD1 and the infamous Tiko 3D printer. Two Maryland residents, DoD employee Nick Lanham and recent University of Maryland engineering school graduate David Edelen, are the co-founders of AaronLouis Technology; after much 3D printing research and three years of design, development, and testing, the two just launched a Kickstarter campaign for their Dark Chip 3D printer series, and I hope it’s as good as it seems.
AaronLouis says its printers are the first industrial 3D printers with closed loop motor control that use open source software. The goal is deliver an affordable, closed loop additive manufacturing alternative, with plenty of features and controlled through open source software. Edelen and Lanham have been working hard to develop the software for the printers, called the AaronLouis Closed Loop (CL) 1720 and the AaronLouis Open Loop (OL) 1720.
“Our printers provide affordable options to address common issues that we experienced while conducting research as well as common feedback from the 3D printing community,” Lanham told 3DPrint.com.
Usually, closed loop motor systems are not cheap, and the required proprietary software isn’t either; in addition, the user isn’t able to modify or customize the software that comes with most of these systems. Several of the closed loop motor kits that have been developed for existing printers require a lot of testing and difficult tuning algorithms. But that’s not the case for the software that runs the CL1720 and OL1720 printers: it’s free and open to the entire 3D printing community, without any additional software license costs, and it’s a simple, turn-key design.
Lanham told 3DPrint.com, “We want to bring affordable, closed-loop printers to the industrial market that are based on proven open-source controller software that has been so frequently used by the maker community. This strategy will hopefully eliminate the need for expensive proprietary software applications to run closed loop systems.”
The all-metal Dark Chip 3D printers are reliable and strong, built on a very rigid aluminum frame, which is surrounded by 16-gauge aluminum sheet stock, giving the printer a clean, industrial look. The printers include high temperature, durable extruders, made from stainless steel and anodized aluminum and powered by NEMA11 motors. The extruders offer very precise control, and the OL1720S can reach up to 315°, while the high temperature OL1720HT and CL1720HT printers can get up to 400°, which makes them the perfect choice to extrude high-performance materials, like PEEK and PEI.
A durable, removable hotbed is another nice feature of the Dark Chip printers, based on two pieces of .25″ thick aluminum plates that hold three low-profile, high-temperature heating cartridges, which can reach up to 300°. Users won’t have to worry too much about warped prints, since the plate is so thick, but just in case, the printers do come with auto-bed leveling. Customers are able to quickly remove completed prints, thanks to the hotbed’s low-profile design. Additionally, another hotbed surface plate can be placed on top of the existing base plate, to cut down on wait time between print jobs. Independently controlled dual print heads allow for two separate colors for multi-color print jobs, or two materials for hybrid designs.
“Our main goal was to design an open-source, closed loop, high temperature, all metal printer for industrial applications,” Lanham told 3DPrint.com. “Our printers offer an all-metal infrastructure that allow higher temperature extruders and hotbeds in order to expand filament options to our customer.”
The high temperature, closed loop CL1720HT, designed for industrial applications, can regulate position and motor power in real time, so the motors are always in tip-top shape while a part is printing. When you want to increase print speed without reducing print quality, the motor current regulation adds power for stronger accelerations while also lowering the noise and heat. While not all of the Dark Chip printers are closed loop, all have a 12 x 12 x 12″ build volume. The high temperature, open loop OL1720HT is a nice option for a small business, due to its competitive pricing and ability to offer a wide range of materials, while the standard temperature, open loop OL1720S is a good entry level printer for makers and hobbyists.
All of the Dark Chip printers, closed loop and open loop alike, are easy to set up and use, and thanks to their open source software, users can check out multiple instructional YouTube videos if they need help.
According to the company, “With AaronLouis industrial 3D printers, you can run what materials you want, with what software you want, using a reliable printer configuration at a reasonable price. These printers perform as good as they look.”
To get a better look at how closed loop motor control can continually compensate for missed steps, allowing for high quality, continued print jobs, at high speeds, take a look at the Kickstarter campaign video:
Discuss in the Dark Chip forum at 3DPB.com.