mowerfeaturedIt never ceases to amaze me what types of new innovations come about due to 3D printing technology. 2014 was a year that provided the world with many tremendous examples of how this technology will play a major role in the future. Whether it is 3D bioprinting human organs, large scale 3D printer of entire buildings, or microscopic 3D printing, this technology will only continue to surprise us as more and more innovators use it in their creations and inventions.

Back in April, we covered a story about a South African man named Hans Fouche, who had developed a garage-sized 3D printer capable of printing very large objects at speeds which were leaps and bounds ahead of other 3D printers on the market today.

Today, Fouche unveiled to 3DPrint.com, a project unlike anything we have seen before. Using his “Cheetah” 3D printer, which is capable of these extraordinary high speeds, Fouche 3D printed a working lawn mower. Most impressive, however, is the fact that it only took about 9 print hours to complete on Fouche’s Cheetah printer. The only parts of the mower which were not 3D printed were the motor, which was taken from an old lawn mower, the blade, the handle (including the switch), and the shafts for the wheels. Print times for the individual pieces can be seen below (color coded to photo at right):mower-colorcoded

  • 4 wheels 45 min / wheel (blue)  – 180 min
  • Thin top fan cover wheel (blue) – 10 min
  • Frame incorporating the stone guard (red) – 190 min
  • Top cover (yellow) – 70 min
  • Motor cover (gold) – 90 min
  • Total print time – 9 Hours

“There are a lot of big 1 meter plus 3D printers, but they all are printing with 0.5mm nozzles, from filament,” Fouche tells 3DPrint.com. “It takes days to print (with these more traditional machines). We are using a 3mm nozzle, and we print from granules in hours, not days.”

While much of the speed is a result of the increase nozzle diameter, Fouche believes that it is not always necessary to use the smaller nozzle sizes like those on conventional FDM/FFF based 3D printers.

“The printing time is 12 times faster than on standard 0.5mm nozzle desktop printers,” Fouche tells us. “The negative side is the 2.5mm layer height versus the 0.25 mm layer height on a standard 3D printer, but does it matter on a lawnmower?”

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A lawn mower is a tool that does not require aesthetics by any means, so why should time be wasted on creating products like this with such small layer heights? It quite simply shouldn’t be.

In addition to the Cheetah’s ability to cut print times by a factor of 12, it also has the ability to save a ton of money. Instead of using spools of filament, like the majority of FFF based 3D printers do, Fouche’s printer uses ABS granules. In South Africa, where Fouche resides, a kg spool of filament costs about 300 Rand (approximately $25.60), while the ABS granules only cost around 30 Rand per kg (approximately $2.56). The lawn mower required about 5.6 kg of material to print, thus costing Fouche a minuscule 162 Rand (approximately $13.83).

mower1Fouche says that his company Fouche 3D Printing plans to eventually begin selling these large Cheetah 3D printers, which feature an incredible build volume of 1000mm x 1000mm x 1000mm, for about 125,000 Rand each (approximately $10,670).

The lawn mower isn’t the only thing that Fouche has printed using this 3D printer, however. He has also created other quite unique works of art as well as functional products. Be sure to check out some of the additional photos at the end of this article.

“I have been doing 3D printing for 18 years, first with superglue, then icing sugar, then chocolates,” Fouche explained to 3DPrint.com. “Then I bought a desktop 3d printer with a 0.5mm nozzle and got frustrated with it. [It was] too slow.”

The Cheetah 3D Printer

The Cheetah 3D Printer

Frustration is certainly something we hear a lot about within the 3D printing space. It can take days to print something the size of a basketball, and one little hiccup can cause the entire print job to fail. With Fouche’s Cheetah, this may be a thing of the past, at least if you don’t mind sacrificing some of the details in your design.

What do you think of Fouche’s 3D printed lawn mower. Is minimizing layer heights really a concern when 3D printing larger objects? Discuss in the Cheetah 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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