A special issue of the Rapid Prototyping Journal is out with an article by our very own Ben Weiss.   His paper entitled “Low-cost closed-loop control of a 3D printer gantry”  (Weiss, B., Storti, D. W., & Ganter, M. A. (2015). Low-cost closed-loop control of a 3D printer gantry. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 21(5), 482-490).   DOI


{ X Axis Sensor Mount Design. }


Purpose:   The purpose of this paper is to explore the improvements in speed and precision achievable using straightforward closed-loop control for the gantry motion in additive manufacturing machines. The authors designed and built an economically viable demonstration system to quantify the performance improvement.

Design/methodology/approach: The authors develop and evaluate a low-cost closed-loop controller for the X and Y axes of an entry-level three-dimensional (3D) printer. The system developed captures and compensates for the dynamics of the motor and the belt-driven stage and detects mechanical errors, such as skipped motor steps.

Findings: The system produces path-following precision improvements of 40 and 75 percent for two different sample trajectories. Correcting for skipped steps increases reliability and allows for more aggressive tuning of motion parameters; time savings of up to 25 percent are seen by doubling acceleration rate.
Research limitations/implications: The system presented provides an appropriate platform for further investigation into more complex, application-specific controllers and inclusion of more details of the printer dynamics that could produce still greater improvements in speed and accuracy.


Practical implications: The performance, low cost (40 USD/axis) and applicability to the majority of sub-2000USD 3D printer designs make this work of practical significance.

Originality/value: The CNC machining industry has for many years used similar approaches, but application to 3D printers has not been explored in the literature. This paper demonstrates the value of even a simple controller applicable to almost any 3D printer, while maintaining cost-effectiveness of the solution in a competitive market.


Acknowledgments: This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. DGE-1256082, which supported the lead author throughout the research process. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the insight of Matthew D. Sorensen, as well as the helpful comments of the reviewers.


{ Y Axis Sensor Mount Design. View from under the carriage, inside printer. }

The release of this material is exciting especially because the performance implications are substantial!   Great work Ben!


5 Comments on RP Journal: Low-cost closed-loop control of a 3D printer gantry

  1. Dave Z. says:

    “Sorry, you do not have access to the article.”

    How about posting a PDF here?

  2. Eamon McQuaide says:

    Yay! Thank you for delving into this Ben! With good firmware and hardware, shifting over to closed loop could be a huge leap forward in quality and speed of affordable 3d printers.

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