The Solidoodle 3D printer is selling for only $499, which means that it is within my budget. So that got me to thinking that maybe I should abandon laser cutting in acrylic and instead go with 3D printing in ABS plastic. An hour or two of tweaking in Sketchup (which is compatible with Solidoodle, I understand) yielded the above design.
This is the part that would actually be printed:
And this is how it compares sizewise with the laser-cut grisbot body:
Now, there are a lot of things to consider here. The part as shown has some overhangs, and I don’t know if Solidoodle can handle that. I’ve given the walls a default thickness of 3 mm, but I don’t know if that’s realistic or not. And at over $20 a pound for ABS on a spool, can I afford to make this at a reasonable price to the market? And just how long would it take to print out this piece?
The part has a footprint of 60 x 30 mm, and at z-axis resolution of .1 mm, a thickness of 3 mm would require 30 layers. So at an extruder speed of 50 mm/sec, I calculate that it would take 20 minutes to print the base. How that would translate in printing everything else, I’m not sure. But let’s say half an hour.
In a sixteen hour day, then, I could print 30 of these. If I make $5 on each robot sold, then I would get enough profit to pay off the investment in the printer in less than a week.
These are all seat-of-the-pants calculations, but it seems conceivable that Solidoodle is the answer to my robot-enclosure problem.