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BeagleBone integrates 3D printing interface

26 Mar 2014  | Nick Flaherty

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A low-cost 3D printing interface for BeagleBone boards is currently under development by a group of engineers, which is supported by TRINAMIC Motion Control in Hamburg, Germany.

The group has launched a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo to build a low-cost BeagleBone 3D printer add-on card. The add-on card provides the necessary motion control hardware to enable a complete controller for 3D printing, milling, laser cutting or other machine tool applications.

The T-bone cape handles real-time operation of five stepper motors that control three-dimensional movement of the printing head, as well as operation of the plastic extruder. The T-bone performs real-time calculation of motor velocity, direction and acceleration parameters, and communicates with its host BeagleBone (above) via an AM335x 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 microcontroller.

"The BeagleBone Black is a powerful processor board that can easily run a G-code NC interpreter, Linux O/S and user and Internet interfaces," said Jonas Proeger, TRINAMIC engineer and T-Bone project participant. The T-bone will augment the BeagleBone with the required motor drives and real-time control software to complete an affordable and highly functional 3D printer.

By offloading the complex and unique motion control processing requirements, the T-bone allows proven software and existing tools of the popular BeagleBone host to be used. Coupled with open source software, the T-Bone is designed to be the critical link between the $45 open source BeagleBone Black compute platform and an open-source Mendel 3D $520 mechanical printing head. With a T-bone, makers worldwide will be able to complete an entire 3D printing platform for under $700.

"We think the T-Bone cape will create a new, affordable entry-point for 3D print makers, tinkerers and experimenters. That is the fundamental goal of our project," said T-bone Chief Tinkering Officer Marcus Nowotny. "With TRINAMIC's engineering and production assistance, we hope to put 3D printers into the hands of hundreds of new users worldwide."

The Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign is aimed at building an initial run of T-Bone boards. With a minimum funding goal of $27,600, the campaign will be able to design a professional board layout and complete an initial production run of several hundred boards.

3D enthusiasts can join the campaign at with 89 for a completely assembled and tested T-Bone board. The funding campaign ends on April 19.

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