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Benes applies rapid prototyping principles to development of printer feeder table

In conjunction with the Mechatronics 4.0 project team, Benes was able to effectively apply rapid prototyping to the development of a high-accuracy printer feeder table and associated software. This technique makes it possible to test out and optimise concepts in a short period of time.

Sirris and Flanders Make used rapid prototyping techniques to develop a feeder table compatible with an existing printer system. They were commissioned by Benes, a company in Haasrode that distributes printing systems and accessories. Anje Van Vlierberghe, Mechatronics Programme Manager at Sirris, expains: "Techniques that go by the name of 'rapid prototyping' (RP) enable the rapid, inexpensive and efficient creation of a product prototype that is very close to the individually defined specifications of the end product. From there, it is a small step to scaling up to a fully-fledged industrial product."

Extended functionality

The existing printer configuration was only suitable for printing light materials on a roll, such as paper, textiles and films. Expanding the configuration to include an external, powered feeder table would open up new possibilities for printing on heavier materials such as flat panels.

Sirris and Flanders Make took a systematic approach in order to generate and optimise concepts on the basis of the design specifications. The final concept for the feeder table uses a spindle drive. For a complex connecting part 3D printing was used as a rapid prototyping technique. Rapid-control prototyping, in conjunction with an open source dsPic hardware platform designed by Sirris and Flanders Make, was used for the control hardware. This approach has two benefits. Firstly, the control code is automatically generated from a control programme developed in Matlab/Simulink. Secondly, the control can be tested out on a full feeder table prior to experimental evaluation. In addition, the performance of the low-cost dsPic processor is representative of the electronics that will be implemented in the final product.

In connection with the Mechatronics 4.0 project, the project team will continue developing the generic dsPic hardware platform and will also evaluate other rapid-control prototyping hardware.