Sunday, May 08, 2005


Sucrose structures

Sucrose melts at 180C-190C, and so might have promise as a sturctural material for supporting overhangs during deposition. After construction is complete the sucrose can simply be washed away. I have a dishwasher and I'm not affraid to use it.

One could then use the RepRap to manufacture novelty confectionery, displays at weddings etc. Add a little more heat, sodium bicarbonate and a little tartaric acid for a tasty caramel honeycomb centre!

Vik :v)

Love it! Just a nudge under 200 deg C is a bit hot though; why not use icing sugar paste at room temperature, possibly dried and set with hot air. It's clear from the things that people do with cake decoration that it can pick out the finest detail. My aunt's Christmas Cake icing had an impact strength that would split a healthy molar...

- Adrian
Seems reasonable, provided the washing process doesn't damage the electronics. I can just imagine trying to clean sugar water from between the leads of a surface mount chip. Maybe something that can be dissolved using alcohol would be a bit kinder to cicuitry.
The paste idea sounds good. An automatic cake icer :) I believe chefs use a small amount of glycerine to improve the plasticity.

Water itself isn't bad for electronics - as long as you get it out before turning them on. Residue is avoided simply by using lots of water - I've put keyboards through a dishwasher before with no detergent.
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Good point. As long as you can get rid of all of the sugar, the water itself isn't much of a problem. And I have to admit that the idea of a prototyping machine that can also turn out confectionery is very appealing.

(later) I was just discussing this with my wife and the thought occurred that this device is essentially a protoyping machine with three depositor heads. They don't necessarily have to be the same three heads on every project. All you need is a standard, snap-in interface and you can mix and match according to the needs of the project. It could be:

- plastic, metal and support
- two colors of plastic, plus support
- three colors of plastic (if you can manage not to need a support material)
- three colors of icing
- chocolate, marzipan and creme filling

Since people will be able to make the three heads required for replication with this machine, they'll also be able to make additional heads for non-replication purposes.
Steve's multiple swapping heads idea is something we've anticipated. The servo-axis design will be started with this in mind, and will have parking places for the heads so they can be swapped (semi) automatically. As Steve points out, one of the nice things is, of course, that the machine itself can make extra heads as required.

We are also thinking of making it so it can swap between a powder-printing mode (like the Z-Corp machine) and an FDM mode - both need a gradually-descending Z axis and the ability to scan in X,Y above it...

- Adrian
I was wondering about the pratical aspects of putting all the heads on one platform. If they'd all go on a Z-axis beam which just slides along to move the appropriate head over the work table, that would be nice.

Need more heads? Add another beam.

Personally, I have this gut feeling that minimising head movement is a good idea. Dunno why; it's not a scientific opinion.

I do fancy trying to squirt chocolate at some point though!

Vik :v)
I had pictured it pretty much the same way. Something like three heads, side-by-side, on the same arm. Some sort of target etched on the platform to allow x/y calibration before a run. A set of adjusting screws to even out the z positions of the heads.

I had also assumed that the head, while interchangeable, would have to be connected and adjusted manually, rather than pulled from a parking bay. The picture I have in my head is some sort of snap-in head interface that includes an electical connection. I figure most materials could be deposited with heads that have a standard set of I/O lines:
- depositing motor power
- a rate feedback pulse
- heater power
- thermostat feedback
- a material low warning line

On a side note: It might be possible to deposit clay, with wax as a support material. The result could then be fired, hardening the clay and melting the wax.
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