Some of the team are experimenting an automated hot-end tool changer as a proof of concept (PoC). The is still a PoC and experimenting is on-going. We welcome anyone to add ideas or even help with the development. Just email email@example.com with subject "3D printing"
This simply means automatically swapping the the hot-end with another hot-end which has a different material or colour.
There's a lot of good ideas already on the market for example using tiling heads - such as the very nice looking 3D delta printer from Spiderbot.
However, we didn't want to be restricted to just a few different materials but wanted a solution where we could switching many materials in a carousel. Perhaps even also switching different type of heads - such as a conductive ink cartridge for printing PCB circuits directly onto the part, CNC machining head or even chocolate 3D printing head. At least we didn't want to be limited in what we can 3D print.
We also wanted to tryout some other ideas simplification ideas, such as making the Effector plate somehow "intelligent" and reduce the number of wires coming from the main 3D printer controller.
One solution was to have an embedded microcontroller on the Effector plate which is controlling the fans, thermocouples, LED lighting, height sensors for automatic bed leveling, and controlling the power going to the heater elements.
[Further details are currently being added]
The Effector Plate will have magnetic balls to connect the delta arm rods This will hold a ring gear to lock and unlock the hot ends. A servo will be used to for the gear clamp mechanism. Other ideas are using magnets but the clamping forces may need be very high and we didn't want to incur to much force on the delta mechanism.