Project Description

The goal of this project was to create a binder jetting 3D printer that would be able to print metal parts suitable for aerospace applications. The printer would use a Xaar 128 inkjet printhead in order to create metal matrix composite (MMC) parts. The printer was run using a Raspberry Pi as the main computer, and an Arduino Mega to control the motors.

Binder Jetting

A binder jetting 3D printer works by the use of a metal powder and a liquid binding agent. For each layer of 3D print, a thin layer of metal powder is distributed over the build area and the binding agent is distributed by the printhead, joining the powder particles together to create the desired shape. Once this process is finished, the “green part” is placed in an oven and the metal powder sinters together to create the finished part.

Printer Rebuild

We received the skeleton of the printer from USC. Our task was to clean up the printer and alter it for our own needs. This involved replacing the existing printhead with one that was higher resolution and more reliable. We also replaced the DC motors with stepper motors because we believed it would be easier to code. The original code for the printer was not available to us, so we redid the electronics and coded it ourselves with the help of some code we found online.

Printhead Mount

In order to use our own printhead, I had to design and 3D print a mount that would slide on the existing rail. To ensure that the printhead would be the correct distance above the print bed, I made it so that the height of the printhead could be adjusted on the mount.