America Makes and Michigan Tech Release Free Software for 3D Motion Control

Introducing Franklin – a new open-source, web-based 3D controller developed by Michigan Technological University as part of their America Makes project.

“This open-source software, Franklin, enables a user to control their 3D printer or any other 3D device from any web connected device – a cell phone, tablet, or laptop from anywhere in the world.” says Joshua Pearce, Michigan Tech professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

The free software and firmware were written by Bas Wijnen a PhD candidate at Michigan Tech as part of an America Makes project to develop low-cost 3D metal printers. Previously, the project has demonstrated metal printing for under $1200.

“Franklin has the ability to recover from communication problems that we encountered when using low-cost welders to print steel and aluminum,” explains Wijnen.

The Michigan Tech 3D printers are open source, where the design (i.e. CAD files, schematics, bills of materials, PCB layouts, etc.) is made freely available following free and open source software principles. Anyone can download the plans to build their own printer and as the Michigan Tech team describes in a new study in the Journal of Open Research Software now you can download Franklin and control any 3D robot for free as well.

The software earned its name from a compelling section of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, which explained why he refused patents on his inventions like a more efficient stove: “That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”

Wijnen further explains, “Franklin was developed as a software platform. It is scriptable – it is not a single-use piece of software. It can easily be integrated into anyone else’s projects. It makes your computer a general purpose machine that can help you make anything you can think of.“

Pearce adds, “As this is open source any one in the world is welcome to build off of it to improve their own applications. For example, we have used it for plastic 3D printing on Cartesian and delta machines, laser welding, PCB micromilling, digital microscopy, vinyl cutting, plotting, food printing, embroidery and of course weld-based metal 3D printing.”

A technical paper can be downloaded here: DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/jors.78

Attribute to: Wijnen, B., Anzalone, G. C., Haselhuhn, A.S., Sanders, P.G., Pearce, J. M. Free and Open-source Control Software for 3-D Motion and Processing. Journal of Open Research Software, 4: e2, 

The Franklin software itself can be found here:https://github.com/mtu-most/franklin 

Metal 3D printing plans are available here:http://www.appropedia.org/Open-source_metal_3-D_printer 

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