For those of you who have not yet inspected a part printed on Ember in person, you now have the chance.
Last week, we invited members of the media and the greater Autodesk community to check out some experiments we've been working on in the Ember lab.
During a yearlong studio lead by Professor Guvenc Ozel, students at UCLA used Python scripts to generate complex architectural structures and printed them on Ember. After exploring numerous additive processes, the students were able to finally bring the - otherwise difficult to print - creations to life with Ember.
Using Fusion 360, teams from Minneapolis, Boston and San Diego designed a handle that attaches to the top of the Ember printer, making it easier to transport. Essential to the design of this handle were the collaborative tools in Fusion, which allowed designers to easily share and modify their iterations across the team. The teams used a combination of T-Splines, direct editing and parametric modeling to create a simple and effective solution for taking Ember on the go.
Ember is a printer for individuals and businesses that require the utmost precision in their parts. As such, we have created a way that allows Ember users to make exact adjustments to their machine’s image scaling. This ensures that the parts created on Ember are sized exactly as intended.
I just returned from CES in Las Vegas where I spent three days working with artists who used Wacom tablets and displays to design models to print on Ember. Observing the designers work enlightened me to new workflows for producing 3D models, especially in the creation of sculpted parts. Through a combination of software like Sketchbook Pro, Maya and Mudbox, designers like Craig Barr modeled lifelike characters with a degree of detail that made Ember the perfect machine to bring them to life.
CMYK + W resins for the Ember 3D Printer are now available, giving you the ability to mix and match resins to customize your color palette.
Today, we're taking the third step in sharing Ember. Ember's electronics and firmware are now open-source and are available for you to download, inspect, modify, and make improvements. The electronics are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, the same license under which we've shared Ember's resin and mechanical designs; the firmware is licensed under GNU GPL (see the source code itself for the full details).
Most of Ember’s electronic components are located on two PCBs. The main board integrates a clone of the BeagleBone Black and an AVR-based motor controller. The major changes from a stock BeagleBone are the addition of a USB hub (to support the included WiFi adapter), double the flash memory (8GB), and improved power management. A satellite board in the front panel controls its OLED display and ring of LEDs using a second AVR. The Sitara and the AVRs communicate via I2C.
The electronics are available here in three different packages for each of the four boards:
1) the design files
2) the schematics and PCBs
3) the bill of materials, approved vendor lists, and assembly drawings
Ember runs custom firmware in the main (Sitara) processor as well as in the AVR controllers for the front panel displays and the motors that drive the build head and resin tray. The architecture of the Sitara firmware is shown below.
The print engine controls the printing process by sending commands to the motors and slice images to the projector. It uses a hierarchical state machine and reports state changes to an event handler that notifies UI components to update their screens. The event handler also responds to user input (button presses and commands), and motor and timer events, by notifying the print engine to make the appropriate state changes. The web client sends status to emberprinter.com and accepts commands from it. A web server provides an interface for desktop applications using a USB or network connection.
Fully opening the design of a precision tool as complicated as Ember is uncharted territory for us. And, we know this isn’t necessarily easy - Ember’s main electronics are a 6-layer board and the design files are in the format of a professional tool. While it might also be difficult to run the firmware without direct access to Ember itself, we have provided a link to the SD card image that could be used on a stock Beaglebone Black for development. However difficult it might be to come along, we hope you’ll recognize our commitment to an open platform and commitment to making the entire field of additive manufacturing better.
A year ago, we announced Spark and our intention to design and manufacture a 3D printer. At the time, we didn't even have a name for the printer, but we did have a vision for providing an extensible platform and sharing the source of our work to inspire others to create new approaches to 3D printing software, hardware, and materials. Today, we're taking another step on that path, and I'm excited to share Ember's mechanical design files.
The Ember 3D printer ships with 2 liters of our Standard Clear Prototyping resin. We affectionately call it PR48, which stands for polar resin number 48. Like WD-40, is this our 48th try for a polar resin formulation? Close enough. Today we're sharing the formulation of PR48 under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, the same license Arduino uses to share their design files. We're explicitly inviting you to understand, remix, and remake our resin.
PR48 is for sale on the Ember website. Buying it from us will probably be the easiest way to get more, but if you want to make your own for any reason (and are experienced with resin formulation, or perhaps just chemical handling) you can do so.
We're open sourcing our resin for a couple of reasons:
- We have an open approach, and encourage the use of 3rd-party materials in our printer and the development of new materials on our platform. We include 3rd-party materials in the defaults for Ember's online model preparation and slicer, and are adding more as we optimize their settings for Ember: you can check them out at emberprinter.com. (You don't actually need an Ember to use the site.) This Instructable describes how to test new resins.
- Autodesk is thinking differently about 3D printing, and sharing under an Attribution-ShareAlike license reflects our commitment.
- Open sourcing our resin formulation is only the first step in the journey of opening our 3D printer and our Spark 3D printing platform.
We think PR48 is a pretty good resin: it properly adheres to the build head, photopolymerizes at a reasonable rate, clouds Ember's PDMS window significantly less than other resins, and generally works for most prints. But it's a starting point, and not specially optimized for anything. We're inviting you to understand how it works, make changes, make it better, and share those changes. Maybe you can make something awesome in fewer than 48 tries?