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Future Tool Ideas

(When someone succeeds in building one of these tools, move it to RepRapToolHeads).

If you have a great idea that is not directly tool-head-related, drop it off at FuturePlans or Ideas to place or the FirmwareWishList.

Polymer granule Extruder

The advantage of a polymer granule extruder is, of course, that all thermoplastic polymers are available in bulk at very low cost in granules - it's the standard form. Getting 3mm filament (which is what RepRap currently uses) is not difficult - many companies will do it - but it does add slightly to material costs.

More information on the Granule Extruder

Support Filler Extruder

The support filler extruder allows parts to be printed with overhangs that would otherwise not be possible to print with just a plastic extruder. Pump a syringe full of putty, then you can make even more intricate objects. It adds another layer of design challenge however. But thats a software issue ;)

More information on the Support Filler Extruder

Drawing / Plotting Head

main article: Plotting

This head is actually quite simple. It consists of a pen or marker as a drawing tip and a mount to hold it, It can be used to draw stuff in 2 dimensions. the third dimension becomes more of an "on the paper / off the paper" movement, and there is even no control board required for the head itself! One very useful aspect of this is that certain common art pens are etch resistant and this head can be used to make PCB masks directly on the copper board. It can also be used for pen calligraphy, or as a signing machine.

currently, there are no software tools that can directly convert an image into usable gcode.

A more complex variation would use multiple colors, like commercial plotters. These designs would require the 4th axis motor and control board, as well as firmware/software modification, in order to select the color.

More information on the Drawing / Plotting Head

Painting / Brush Holder

Similar to the drawing, but with a paint brush. Watercolor or ink would be easiest, perhaps with a stepper driven syringe to deliver paint/ink to the brush. Fast Z axis movement would also be helpful for altering width of painted lines, perhaps with a stepper driven rack-and-pinion mount for the brush.

Painting would require significant software/firmware development.

Milling / Drilling Head

A milling drilling head would bridge the gap between additive manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing. on early and basic versions, it would only really need to support lightweight materials such as wood (MDF) and copper clad boards (PCB milling). These two materials would allow the machine to have the best of both worlds and also the potential to vastly simplify the circuit board creation process.

More information on the Milling / Drilling Head

Metal deposition head

So called freeform fabrication is basically an industry terms for printing especially in full strength materials. Main page: Metal deposition print head. There are a large number of ways to deposit metal including just taking a micro TIG welding setup but the main problem right now is the thermal stresses that develop although you can still do it and get useful parts it is a standing problem. You could then follow it with a milling process or something to get finished parts. There are ways to deposit metals at low temperatures, and the parts could also be annealed afterwards to relieve the stress.

Laser Etch Tool

Consisting of a laser and a system of mirrors to redirect the beam, a laser etch tool could be used for a variety of purposes. With a low powered laser, the tool could simply be used to mark designs on a printed object or with a higher powered laser it could even used to do laser sintering to make objects from a high strength metal.

More information on the Laser Etch Tool

Solder Paste Syringe

A solder place syringe would be a very useful addition to the Fields Metal syringe and the PCB Mill head. It would allow the machine to put solder down in places ahead of time to ease soldering of components after the fact. It would even make it much easier to use surface mount parts on RepRapped board.

More information on the Solder Paste Syringe

Fields Metal Syringe

Similar to the extruder, a fields metal syringe would be a syringe with a heating element that would be able to melt and extrude Fields Metal, a special metal with a low melting point. This material has a wide variety of uses in making fabricated circuits.

More information on the Fields Metal Syringe

[email protected] Print Head

The [email protected] project has created a very nice syringe based print head that can extrude a variety of materials. It would theoretically be very simple to mount it on the RepRap robot frame and then have at it. Currently both projects are blissfully working away in their own separate worlds, but due to the open nature of both projects, collaboration has a very bright future.

More information on the [email protected] Print Head

Pick and Place Tool

More of a pipe dream than a solid idea, but a pick and place head would make RepRap one step closer to hands free circuit board production. Consisting of a simple grabber that would grab and place components in place on the circuit board, the print head could dramatically reduce time and effort required to build a RepRap.

More information on the Pick and Place Tool

Soldering Tool

Also more of a dream than a solid idea, it would be used in conjunction with the solder paste syringe and the pick and place tool, a soldering tool would be able to make the physical solder joint to join the component to the board. It would probably take the form of a heated tip of some sort.

More information on the Soldering Tool

Hot Wax Syringe

Nearly identical to the fields metal syringe, a hot wax syringe would be used to produce objects with wax. These objects could then further be used in a process called lost wax casing to produce parts out of metal such as aluminum. This would allow the RepRap project to produce its own custom metal parts.

More information on the Hot Wax Syringe

Ceramic Print Head

A ceramics extruder would be extremely useful. It could produce a variety of objects that could then be fired. These objects would have interesting and desirable properties such as hardness, insulation, non-conductivity, etc. For example the extruder barrel could be insulated with a ceramic part printed by a RepRap.

We know this is possible, because someone has already modified a RepRap to do Ceramic Extrusion. Is there documentation somewhere on how exactly this or some other clay extruder was built?

More information on the Ceramic Print Head

-- Main.ZachSmith - 11 Feb 2007

water ice extruder

For mass-produced ice sculpture, individualized ice lolly, etc.

More information on the IceRap

Electrochemical Milling / Drilling Head

An electrochemical milling drilling head would mill away any conductive material. The tool head is the cathode, and the workpiece is the anode. There is very little tool wear and the objects milled in this way are not distorted. This would allow the RepRap project to produce its own custom metal parts.

More information on the Electrochemical Milling / Drilling Head

-- Main.EnriquePerez - 13 Aug 2008

Electrochemical Printed Circuit Board Head

An electrochemical PCB head would be designed to mill away copper from copper clad boards. The tool head is the cathode, and the board is the anode. This would be another way for the RepRap project to produce its own circuit boards.

More information on the Electrochemical Printed Circuit Board Head

-- Main.EnriquePerez - 04 Dec 2008

laser Milling / Drilling / Printing Head (SLS)

Selective laser sintering of metal is a mixed picture, its good on non reflective metals for example steel (98% energy transfer on steel) but unusable on reflective metals e.g. can not penetrate Aluminum at all, as is totally reflected by metal surface.

More information on SLS Printer and working prototype (for wax) on the SLS Wax Printer page.

Electron beam Milling / Drilling / Printing Head (EBM)

Let's print metal! can be used on all common metals, current printer design at MetalicaRap

More information on a Electron beam Milling / Drilling / Printing Head

two-part epoxy

Starting with some A+B two-part epoxy, is it possible to use one syringe to put down a thin layer of A and another syringe to put down a thin layer of B, alternating A and B until we have a complete 3D object? (Perhaps using the epoxy to bind grains of sand in a Support Material#powder bed printer?).

Hot Wire Cutter Head

Could use a loop or rod of hot wire extending from the extruder nozzle to create a sort of CNC machine for styrofoam. Use RepRap for subtractive manufacturing with an easy-to-work with material. Could possible use the heat from the extruder nozzle itself to heat the hot wire that cuts the styrofoam or use some other power source.

Comparison of Tool head processes

Discussion of Advantages and Disadvantages of different Tool head processes.


tool head changer

If a single machine can switch between multiple, independent tool heads, it can do things that would be very difficult to do, even with the same identical tool heads, carrying a part back and forth between single-tool machines. For example, Shape Deposition Manufacturing.

Even a first step towards this goal -- making it easier for a human to pop out one tool head and snap in a different one -- would be useful.

-- Replacing the fasteners currently used on the extruder with magnets glued in place (on both the extruder and the pulley) and tweaking the connection between the stepper motor on the extruder and the cable leading to it so it is vertical would allow you to remove the toolhead in an upwards movement. Of course, holes would need to be drilled for the magnets and all toolheads would need to use the same connection. SarahMiller 00:41, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Multiple tool heads

Attaching several independent tool heads to one machine gives most of the capabilities of a fully automatic tool head changer, and seems easier to implement.

The Hydra-MMM Prototype has made a lot of progress towards implementing this idea.