Going Pro


To The Brink and Back


Issue 3, September 2017

It’s rare that you come across a great new Aussie-developed piece of hardware, but Stephen Brinks at 3DBRINK is an exception to the rule, thanks to his highly accurate Delta 3D printer.

Stephen was an electronics engineer in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) but soon moved into robotics and radiometry. The 3DBRINK delta printers were born after countless prototypes and evolutions. The first thing you’ll notice about these two fantastic printers is their size - they are BIG! Currently, the smallest model has a build size of 220(Dia.) x 400(H)mm, while the larger model is a monstrous 400(Dia.) x 600(H)mm! They’re highly accurate down to a fine 20micron layer resolution, and they’re powered by a Raspberry Pi with Touchscreen, and feature an integrated webcam so you can monitor your printing remotely! We caught up with Stephen to see how 3DBRINK all came to be.

The 3D printing industry is in a constant state of change. It can’t be easy to come up with new products for this market, but we’re constantly amazed at the innovation that’s emerging. What made you decide to develop your own 3D printer?

I love robotics and had been building small robots to show at job interviews. A 3D printer is basically a robot, and when I first started seeing them they were simple machines so I knew I could make them better.

Bringing robots to job interviews? Why didn’t we ever think of that? One major claim your printers make is that there’s no bed-levelling required. There are some machines which automatically level their print surface on startup, while others still require a manual calibration; but to have no levelling required at all? How did you achieve this?

I chose a more advanced system called a Delta. The bed does not move on a Delta 3D printer so when it is built the bed is bolted in. Typically this would cause another problem, where the user can only print at one layer height, but I overcame this issue by having a box where the user can change the starting height of the print in the software, thus allowing for any layer height without adjusting the already-level bed.

Dleta printer
One of the delta printers.

You’re certainly getting some great accuracy, which is usually very difficult with large-sized printers. Was there a reason for using belts over leadscrews?

Leadscrews were very expensive and slow at the time. The belts work flawlessly in combination with the guide rails, and absorb backlash and vibrations which allowed me to use the Delta geometry for greater speeds.

Sounds like it’s been well-considered. We notice you’re using Raspberry Pi and Touchscreen - it’s a great elegant control platform. What led to that choice?

I was developing my own software to run on a touchscreen but then the Raspberry Pi came out and they just kept getting better and better. Now they allow my machine to operate over WiFi and have a built in webcam.

Powered by Raspberry Pi
Powered by Raspberry Pi
Printed hand
Precision makes many things possible.

A built in webcam? That’s awesome! Remote printer control (with vision) is definitely a great feature for printing. I think all of us have come back to a large print that’s been going overnight, only to find a blocked nozzle, or worse - a mess of filament everywhere. What’s the coolest thing you’ve printed with one of your printers?

A stormtrooper helmet! But on a more useful note I actually used my first 3D printer to prototype and print parts for my new 3D printer.

That’s brilliant! When you started developing your printers, did you have a commercial intention, or was it an unintended outcome of the prototyping process?

It was a result of realising I had a great design. While everyone was (and still is) making simple Cartesian 3D printers, the Delta geometry has huge advantages in speed and positioning accuracy.

From RAAF engineer to entrepreneur, that’s fantastic! Any advice to anyone else looking to create something and take it to market?

I started building 3D printers in my garage. You can build and invent whatever you want to. Today we have advanced electronics and the internet, so add a 3D Printer and the sky is, literally, the limit of what you can create.

Sounds like great advice. It literally is at everyone’s fingertips!