Learn how the team at Cultivate3D designed their Elevator 3D printer with its massive build volume, guaranteed no Z wobble, and how it reduces print time and waste.
Meet the Team:
Back in Issue 11 (May 2018), we introduced you to industrial engineers and programmers Josh Mamo and Dan Herlihy who developed a seriously amazing 3D printer called The Beast V2, which they launched successfully on Kickstarter.
The Beast V2 was a large format, fully functional printer boasting a 500x500x690mm build area. It could be used with up to four hot ends for synchronous or mutli-material printing, with print resolutions between 100 to 800 microns.
Based on feedback from customers, the Cultivate team have developed their Elevator® FDM printer with Medusa multi material printing system. With its impressive list of features, we wanted to catch up with the team again to learn more about this impressive printer.
Thank you for speaking with us Dan. Before we discuss your new Elevator 3D printer, please introduce our readers to the Cultivate team.
Cultivate3D are an Australian manufacturer and developer of FDM 3D printing technology focusing primarily on large format kit build 3D printers. We’ve been around since 2012 and became an Australian company in 2015. We started selling smaller kit Prusa style printers before cutting our teeth in the large scale market with “The Beast V1 and V2” and now our third large format release “Elevator”.
It looks like your Beast models were very successful for you. What was the motivation to supersede those with the Elevator?
Customer requests and customer feedback. We were continually turning away customers who wanted larger build volumes than what the Beast V2 offered. We needed a design which could be easily scaled to suit customer requirements.
By removing the lead screws and going entirely belt driven allows us to easily scale the printer, while greatly improving the vertical surface of prints due to absolutely no “z wobble” (a common unwanted artefact in the surface of a 3D printed object produced by lead screws or ball screws, typically used for the Z axis motion) – something difficult to achieve on large format 3D printers.
Sounds like some significant improvements. What are some of the Elevator’s key features?
SCALABLE DESIGN: It can be scaled to specification in our workshop or scaled easily by the end user. Basically longer 3030 extrusions, extend wires accordingly and a longer open end GT2 Belt is all that’s required.
MEDUSA HOTEND: This is our own invention. Something we believe sets a new standard in Multi Material printing. Medusa switches materials almost instantly, while blocking the out of use hotend to prevent filament ooze. This means around 14g of filament can be saved per 1cm of Z height by not requiring a purge block or wipe shield. On top of this, anywhere from 6-60seconds per material change can be saved compared to existing IDEX or 2/1 Multi Material systems. Over a 1000 layer print, our invention will save up to 420g of otherwise wasted purge block/wipe shield and between 1.6hrs and 12.5hrs in print time.
Further, Medusa is easy to slice for. No need for repeated hit and miss test prints, identifying the best wipe shield locations. Just slice as you normally would for a single material print.
How does the Elevator compare to similar printers on the market?
Far less expensive, higher end components such as Genuine Slice Engineering Mosquito Magnum hotends and Bondtech BMG extruders, scaleable build volume, and unlike others who offer Multi Material solutions, we’re proud enough and confident enough in our Multi Material technology to actually show our users live how well it works - no one does this.
Very impressive! Can you tell our readers more about the Medusa Multi Material Printing
Medusa is a rotary switching system. A servo actuates the hotends to rotate on and off a blocking mechanism as they are required during printing. The system is adjustable to allow differing nozzle shapes and sizes. When both hotends are in a neutral position this exposes our highly accurate and more importantly reliable z probe as the lowest point allowing for Mesh bed levelling – something super important for a printer of this scale.
Does print time vary as a result between single and multiple filaments, and what filaments are supported?
Material use and print time is the same as with a single material process.
The Elevator can print all the common materials, ABS, PLA, PETG, Nylon, ASA, PVA, HIPS as well as all the filled filaments such as carbon fill, wood fill.
And without needing a purge block?
Correct. There is no need for a purge block or wipe shield.
That must save a lot on wasted filament. What led the decision to use a Bowden extruder over the direct drive?
Weight. This printer is fast. Max Travel moves are 500mm/s with everyday print speeds between 60-200mm/s depending on the feature being printed. Further, direct drive would make the Medusa switching system incredibly weighty, requiring and unreasonably large and heavy servo.
Does the Bowden system have any issues printing flexible filaments?
Nothing that can’t be addressed in a similar fashion to how it’s addressed with Direct drive – slow down! Our printer features high tolerance Bowden tubes and Genuine Bondtech BMG extruders. When printing in soft filaments, we recommend not using our own spool holders and using a (printed?) bearing spool holder placed on top of the printer near the extruders. This reduces the friction between the spool and spool holder and hence propensity of the filament to stretch as it is pulled off the heavy spool, greatly improving the chances of success.
Great advice. What's the benefit of removing the lead screws and going entirely belt driven?
The main benefit is the complete eradication of troublesome Z wobble in vertical printed surface. For those experienced in the industry, unless they’re incredibly lucky, chances are they will have experienced this difficult to rectify, unwanted artefact at some stage. This problem is generally more common with larger printers given the length of the typically used lead/ball screws. Long lead/ball screws are difficult to manufacture and ship perfectly straight and further require very delicate handling in order to remain perfectly straight.
Can you tell us more about the Bondtech BMG extruders, Slice Engineering Mosquito Magnum Hotends, and how it avoids heat creep blockages.
In short, both the Bondtech BMG extruders and Slice Engineering Mosquito Magnums Bondtech are a massive reliability improvement over the existing E3D Titan and V6 architecture.
Bondtech invented the BMG extruder to provide greater grip on the filament than existing e3D Titan style extruders. Having two driven points of contact on the filament (instead of one) results in better pulling power with less required idler pressure. This is really important when using high tolerance Bowden tubes as over tightened idlers can deform the filament beyond the diameter of the Bowden tube; causing blockages.
The Slice Engineering Mosquito Magnum hotends are specifically designed to address Heat creep through the clever use of metals with differing thermal conductivity. Most importantly, heat creep issues are significantly reduced resulting in a more reliable and frustration free printing experience – especially when printing in a heated enclosure. They’re lightweight, have a small form factor and don’t rotate like the slotted V6 hotends (potentially throwing out your hotend offsets). This makes them perfect for use with our Medusa system.
We see you have two Elevator models listed on your website. Is the only difference with the Naked model is that it doesn’t include the enclosure?
That’s it. Just the enclosure and a fancy gas-lift-strut top door. An enclosure provides greater flexibility with material choices. The enclosure keeps the build volume nice and toasty and prevents cold drafts from causing warpy materials such as ABS to do what they do best – warp.
Elevator has been specifically designed with no external protrusions from the frame. This means that those looking to scale their printer to a larger size or those looking to save $ with the Naked version, can simply cut rectangular panels from whatever material they desire to either fill the holes created by scaling the printer or create their own enclosure for the Naked version.
We also noticed that you don't include a build surface with the printer. Is this to reduce shipping costs?
We’re all about keeping costs down where it’s smart to do so. Shipping a big, 20kg Aluminium build surface around the world costs a fortune, and given our experience with big printers there’s a good chance something that big would arrive damaged or bent anyway. For this reason it’s much smarter for the end user to have the platform cut to size via their local aluminium supplier.
You have gone simple with the bed levelling and are just using a microswitch. Have you got any data to quantify how much more reliable this is over traditional induction sensors?
Russ Gries research provides much of the information used to base our decisions in this regard. It's older from 2017 but still very relevant. FYI we are using the 547C Microswitches as part of Medusa: https://diyode.io/040russ
Also, Thomas Sanladerer has done some very good research in this field, more specifically comparing inductive and microswitch sensors across a range of surfaces and temperatures: https:/diyode.io/040thomas
Thank you for sharing the links and video. We’ve turned them into short links for the publication. Your Kickstarter campaign for the Elevator would have finished by the time we publish this. You have used Kickstarter a few times?
Yes, it finished on October 10. This was our 3rd campaign on Kickstarter. It’s unlikely we’ll use their platform for future releases. Our previous campaigns got plenty of exposure as they featured our products on their front category pages and in “projects we love”. This time, they gave us absolutely no additional exposure. This is despite the fact Elevator is undoubtedly a better product, much more innovative and better for the environment than anything before it– apparently all things KS say they want to see. In our opinion, it seems KS are more interested in promoting cheap “me too 3D printers” with absolutely no innovation and more mass market appeal than sticking to their advertised moral mantra. Regardless, the project is successfully funded at this stage and we’ll continue to offer our technology through our website cultivate3d.com post campaign. As always, get in quick. First in, first delivered.
Great news. Finally, tell us how our readers can get in touch with you if they are interested or have more questions?
Thank you for your time Dan. We are sure the Elevator is a tremendous success for you.
Standard Build Volume: 1000w x 660d x 500h (mm)
Extruders: 2x Bondtech BMG
Hotends: 2x Slice Mosquito Magnum
Multi Material System Medusa: Motherboard, Bigtreetech GTR
Positional Accuracy X Y: 6 Micrometer (160 Steps per mm)
Positional Accuracy Z: 4 Micrometer (240 Steps per mm)
Firmware: Marlin 2.x
Controller: Touch Screen and native Marlin
Connectivity: SD Card, USB, Wifi (optional)
Resume on Power Out: Yes - UPS required to park printer
Filament runout sensors: Yes
Automatic Bed Mapping: Yes, Unified Bed Leveling
Heated Bed: Yes, Supplied (SSR Software Controlled)
Build Platform: No - Not supplied
Stepper Motors X: 1x Nema 17
Stepper Motors Y: 2x Nema 17
Stepper Motors Z: 1x Nema 23
Power: 110/240v 250w
Power Heated Bed: 110/240v 3500w *Duty cycle reduced to 1500w
Assembly required: Yes. Full assembly and wiring
Support: Yes. Unlimited free support