today is Feb 01, 2023

[Call Me Swal] wanted to experiment with large 3D prints. So he took a Hornet 3D printer and  designed a lot of 3D parts to convert it into an “infinite” conveyor belt printer. It looks like — as you can see in the video below — that all the parts are 3D printed but you will still need to buy material for the actual belt.

Of course, you may not have a Hornet, but the idea would be applicable to just about any similar printer. You’d have to, of course, adapt or redesign the parts.

If you haven’t encountered belt printers before, you might think it is as simple as putting a conveyor belt in place of the heated bed. Some early belt printers worked that way, and they were mainly meant for printing normal parts and then dumping them into a bin so you could print again without operator intervention.

However, these newer belt printers combine the belt with a print head canted at an angle. This allows you to print very large prints — at least in one axis. Each layer, then, is a slanted slice of the built volume instead of a slice parallel with the build surface.

That’s important. Suppose you want to print a 2 meter-long sword and the actual conveyer belt surface was 25 centimeters square. Printing the outline of a traditional layer would require the print head to trace the entire 2 meter length. The outline would collapse as soon as it left the bed. There would be no way to bring it back on the bed to continue printing in that area, plus the filament would surely just be a pile on the floor.

With the angled layers, each 45 degree slice of the sword is complete before the belt moves forward. Presumably, the sword is self-supporting as it is complete and the parts hanging off the bed never have to return for more printing.

Obviously, some parts won’t work like this, but for the ones that do, there are some interesting mechanical properties to having the plastic deposited at an angle, as the video explains.

This isn’t the first conversion we’ve seen. We’ve even seen belts combined with arms to make a very fast printer.