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A Microscope-Inspired Extruder Design Could Add Fine Detail To 3D Prints

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If you’ve ever used a microscope, you’ll recognize the C.E.M. Crown Extruder.

The brainchild of German engineer Cem Schnitzler, this specially designed head can twist to bring hot filament in contact with multiple styles of printing head, allowing you to lay down different diameters of 3D-printed plastic. A system of motors and pulleys controls the head position and can turn to the proper extruder as needed.

“When you use a microscope and the resolution is not enough, you turn the head and get a better resolution,” said Schnitzler. “So why we don’t develop [an] extruder like this principle?” He goes on to describe the system on his blog.

The various head sizes will allow users to print large gauge plastic for the structural parts of a 3D print and thinner filament for the finer parts. This improves the resolution of the outside surface while improving stability for the inside parts. When the head spins it can cut off the hot filament for a moment and then extrude it after it heats up. This could add a little time to the printing process, but it’s definitely a cool idea.

Why is this important? Because this sort of printing, called fused deposition modeling, though expanding, is highly limited in terms of resolution and speed. There are far better ways to print out there, but FDM is the cheapest and this could both save time and filament as it extrudes fat lines where things can be messy and fine lines when high-resolution detail is needed.

Plus it looks like an old high school microscope.

Schnitzler posted his design and is asking for help building the thing. He’s best known for his efforts to build a 3D printed water distiller for third-world countries.