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The sky is the limit for new low-cost 3-D printer

Tower of Babel will break the record

Umea University

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IMAGE: Torbjørn Ludvigsen, the inventor of the HangPrinter, is surveying his 3-D printer in action. view more

Credit: Linnéa Therese Dimitrou

A new type of 3D printer has been demonstrated at Sliperiet, Umeå Arts Campus. Suspended on thin fishing lines, 'Hangprinter' is currently making a Tower of Babel as part of the +Project innovation initiative. The machine's innovative spiderlike set up does not depend on a box, frame or rails; the printer can instead be attached to any stable surface, opening up a number of opportunities.

The Tower of Babel already measures almost three-and-a-half metres - not only the tallest object made by the Hangprinter so far, but much taller than the scope of any commercially available large format printer.

"As far as I know, the HangPrinter is the only 3D printer of its kind. There are parallel cable-driven robots and other cable-driven 3D printers, but the HangPrinter is unique in that all the parts except the energy source are mounted on the mobile device, and that it can use existing structures - in this case the walls - as a frame," says Torbjørn Ludvigsen, inventor of the HangPrinter.

Torbjørn Ludvigsen started working on the HangPrinter while still a student at Umeå University, and the initial motive for designing a hanging printer was to bring down production costs:

"The frame or box was almost half the cost of the final 3D printer, and I thought I could do without it."

Torbjørn Ludvigsen proved its feasibility with a first prototype last year and has been improving the method and device ever since. The printer can be put together for around EUR 200, a fraction of the cost of other large format printers.

"With a 3D printer unconstrained by a set frame or box, prints can become as tall as whatever it can be suspended from, while the horizontal print area is unconstrained by a set frame," says Linnea Therese Dimitriou, Creative Director at Sliperiet. She immediately saw the potential in the device and suggested printing a Tower of Babel to test it on a larger scale.

"I find this technology very exciting as it gives us new and increased flexibility. Opportunities include printing over vast areas and printing large volumes - horizontally and vertically - without the need to build rails or frames. The setup could also be scaled up and adapted for other materials. Future versions of the device could be equipped with sensors for greater precision and outdoor use. The tower project at Sliperiet, where attachment points are moved along as we ascend, shows that this is a feasible idea," says Linnéa Therese Dimitrou.

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Read more: Sliperiet at Umeå University

Sliperiet on Instagram: @sliperiet

Blueprints for the Hangprinter are available for free download via: https://github.com/tobbelobb/hangprinter

+Project is a cross-disciplinary EU-funded research and innovation project coordinated by Sliperiet, Umeå University and focusing on large scale and experimental digital fabrication and 3D printing with biobased materials.

Umeå University is located in the north of Sweden characterised by strong research conducted in a vast number of fields, and many of our researchers belong to the global elite in for instance global health, epidemiology, molecular biology, ecology, plant physiology and Arctic research. Umeå University is one of Sweden's largest teaching universities that offers a wide-spanning and attractive selection of courses and programmes, and stimulating environments for working and studying for the over 4,300 employees and 31,000 students.

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