Curiosity is the beginning of innovations, the design of our filament holder

Posted by Andy on May 23, 2016 Tags: development design thinking

We've always been curious about something we don't know. When I noticed some new technology, I want to know how that is doing behind the scene. And curiosity also applies to our product development.

Curiosity makes us thinking

Innovations are not natural; they do not just jump from nowhere. Thinking is the input of the innovations. And curiosity makes us thinking. We're curious about whether there are other solutions about the designs? Curious about are there better methods? 

Filament holder designing story

The first design

As you know, our printer, Sophia, is a Delta printer, not like most of the 3d printers out of markets. We want to build a great printer that is a really consumer product. The filament is the material of the 3d printer. Lots of the printers put the filament separated from the printer. We thought that was not our approach. We wanted the filament is just on the machine. To reduce the effects to the appearance of Sophia, we must keep the filament looks great when on the machine. That decision added lots of difficulties to us. 
The first version of our design is very simple. Just one spool of filament lay down in the upper part of Sophia. Just like the picture below.

This solution is very elegant; a self-designed bearing hold the filament, so the filament is free to rotate, will not add too much friction to the extruder.

But soon, we realized that the first design was not perfect. Because if Sophia has two extruders, one spool of the filament will not be enough. The curiosity of adding more filament rose up.

The second design

Adding another filament's space was very hard. To make two spools of filament installed in the machine, we must change the orientation of the spools. Laying two spools horizontally is not practical. There is no space to stack up two spools. And even there is enough space, that will very inconvenience to operate two spools for you. The picture below is the design that we came up with. 

The filament holder is slid down to the box so that nobody will notice there are two filaments. When we want to change filament or install the filament, we can pull up the handle, and replace or install the material. We can slide it back to the box. It's simple; I think you already got the idea.

The Final idea

Maybe you already noticed that the second design has some drawbacks. 
First, we must pull up the two spools even we just want to change one of them. 
Second, we must pull them up a little higher to let the spool can be moved out from the right or left slide. 
Third, the sliding mechanism is very hard to design and assemble. 

So we must change the plan again. It's still possible to improve the second version to alleviate the above problems. But we need to add a mechanism to achieve a compact fold and unfold system. That's too complicated. 
After a long time thinking and sketching, we finally came up a great idea to solve all the issues.
Here is our idea's simple diagram.

The main idea is by updating the second design's one handle to two handles, located on the left and right side of the machine. We can pull up one of them to install or change the filament. And the spool holder can be laid down, so we can free our hands to operate.