Large scale 3D printed sculpture with RoboSculptor

The continual testing of the RoboSculptor has finally yielded its first large scale print. There were several failed attempts during the initial trials after glitches were encountered in several parts of the system. Apparently key components that I previously held infallible were not appropriate for larger print runs, but the problems were rectified and now the system is ready for some serious work.

The first large scale print almost maxes out at 18 inches high. The width and length floated somewhere within the 13.5 x 15 inch XY plane.

Slicing the model has been problematic with most of the open-source slicers. The model has 588,544 polygons and the STL file is 28MB in size! I had problems with memory allocation with Skeinforge and Slic3r was unstable. Cura seems stable and it completed without apparent errors, though it was slow and unresponsive at times. The best solution was to use  the commercial slicer Simplify3D.

Repetier-Host and Printrun have been my favorite hosts, but both are heavily burdened with such large files. Printrun develops memory buffer errors and is unstable. The best solution was to use Simplify3D as the host as well..

3d printed sculpture robosculptor 01

Of course with the support material that is generated, the print becomes even larger and this in turn uses more filament. 3 rolls of 1kg semi-transparent orange PLA was required.

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This is the longest print run to date. The entire print time for this sculpture was 3 days and 14 hours!


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Once the print was finished, the support was pulled away from the sculpture. Most of it released easily, though the use of pliers were of great help.

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The finished piece can now be lightly sanded and painted.

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The sculpture was printed with a 0.4mm layer resolution. This would normally be  considered a low resolution surface for a smaller print in the 50 to 80mm range, but is actually fairly uniform and unobtrusive for an object in this size range.

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An interesting feature about the the semi-transparent filaments is the effect that is achieved when light is shown through the object.

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The internal structure of the infill in combination with the layer texture creates a beautiful surface that has to be seen in person to grasp the three-dimensional effect.

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RoboSculptor makes its first print!

Today I finally found the time to get the RoboSculptor up and running. I made a couple basic print runs utilizing the typical 20mm x 20mm x20mm calibration cube.


The first print run was sliced with Skeinforge. The print was successful, though some tweaking of the slicer profile is necessary. There are some thin layers due to inadequate filament feed.


The second print run was sliced with Slic3r. The filament feed seems adequate, though the nozzle was calibrated too far from the print bed and the first layers of the cube are distorted.


Also I may have a problem with my Z axis. There may be too much wobble due to my design of the Z axis. Though, there may be other issues at hand, this will have to be investigated in the future. Overall, a great start!


During the past seven months or so, I’ve been designing and building a new 3D printer that I’m calling the RoboSculptor. It boasts a large build volume of 340mm x 380mm x 470mm (13.5″ x 15″ x 18.5″). This is slightly bigger than the Makerbot Z18 which has a 300mm x 300mm x 457mm (11.75″ x 11.75″ x 18″) build volume.


The RoboSculptor’s mechanical and electronic systems have been finished. The  enclosure components have yet to be installed.




There is easy access to the electronics by lifting the floor panel. Inside contains the power supplies, stepper drivers and controller.




The RoboSculptor works by moving a build platform along the Z axis. An XY gantry above remains stationary.


The print head is moved along the Y axis on a linear rail which is than carried along the X axis by way of round rod and bushings. This allows for full movement at any point on the build platform.


Further testing and all print runs will be recorded by blog entry at


WhiteAnt 3D Printer Build- Final Update

This will be the last overview of modifications I’ve made to the WhiteAnt 3D printer. The system has been running well and needs no more improvements. It’s been a great machine to use for experimentation of various mechanical and electronic systems, but it’s now time to move on.

The first major modification I’ve made has been with the electronics:


I’ve swapped out the RAMPS 1.2 board for a 1.4 version which allows me to use a Geetech LCD 2004 smart controller. I’ve added a temperature monitor for the build space and I’ve replaced the Makerbot v3.3 stepper drivers (based on the A3977 chip) with the open source designed AVR-Based microstepping bipolar chopper stepper motor driver. This utilizes the National Semiconductor’s LMD18245T 3A, 55V DMOS Full-Bridge Motor driver chips. It’s a robust driver and completely built without surface mounted parts. This gives it an advantage over most drivers because it’s easy to repair. The design can be found here.

I’ve replaced the 6mm T2.5 belts with 9mm T5 belts and 12 tooth pulleys. This, I believe creates a better system for the movement of the XY axes. I also re-designed the pulley system for the X axis.



Last, I’ve created a partial enclosure of the build volume. This allows me to keep some of the heat generated by the build plate and hotend within the build chamber. Now, that I’m in winter months and the ambient temperature of my shop has lowered, this has been important.



Here are a series of sculptures printed with the WhiteAnt. They are 150mm, 100mm and 50mm tall.3d-sculptures-1-1024x579 3d-sculptures-2-1024x767

Notice the difference in the surface detail between the three models:

Close-up of the 150mm sculpture. The radial pattern is more defined in this largest model.


Close-up of the 100mm sculpture. The radial pattern begins to fade.


Close-up of the 50mm sculpture. The radial pattern is barely discernible.


Here’s a video of the WhiteAnt printing the largest version:

Blog Legacy

During December 2011, I decided that a logbook was needed to keep track of my 3D printing research and progress. I decided that the best route was to take important highlights and post them on a blog.


These posts are located at They cover the earliest experiments of building my first 3D printers and the discovery process of what is possible with this technology.