Sunday, November 16, 2008


Multiple materials

The Java host software is now set up to handle objects made from any (reasonable) number of materials. If you load an STL file, select it with the mouse, then load another the system keeps the relative position and orientation that the two had when they were created. Thus you can design something in several materials, save each as an STL, and then load them all together.

As you can see, the sectioning software distinguishes between the two and creates the correct outline and hatch patterns for each.

So far I have tested this on an Arduino-controlled RepRap with LEDs in the place of the extruder motor and valve (because I only have one extruder here at the moment). The LEDs all seem to light up and go out at the right times.

This is cheating slightly, as the Arduino only has enough pins for one extruder, but if you have two, one of which just needs a motor like our plastic extruder, and the other of which just needs a valve, like our prototype paste extruder, then you can control both.

Next I'll update the paste extruder design and get that working again, and see what we can make.

Then I'll upgrade the Sanguino (more pins...) software so it can genuinely handle two extruders.

This, of course, will allow us to use different support materials, and also fun stuff like silicone rubber and Field's metal.

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Nice work.

Have you decided how you might provide distributions of multi-material objects?

Might I suggest if you have not that it simply be a zip file, with a simple file name convention? I believe there are several open source zip file libraries to make working with them very easy.

That way, for example, if you were to load the zip file "" into the application, and the zip file contained the following files:


then the application would automatically treat this as if the user had individually loaded Part1, Part2, and Part3, and assigned the material PLA to Part1, HDPE to Part2, and a conductive material to part 3?

This way, distribution of complex parts would be very easy.. Just supply a zip file with all the parts, labeled with the appropriate materials.

Of course, something would need to handle unrecognized or missing material, but should be relatively straightforward -- print in a default material and/or prompting the user to select from materials available.
Yes - we have already thought about this, much along the lines you suggest. See:
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