Making Ideas Real. 3D Printer Technology From TI!

3-D printing technology has exploded over the last few years! It seems as if every other day you are hearing a new story where 3-D printing is taking the lead. Just recently, I read about the first 3-D printer in space. NASA hopes that 3-D printing will one day provide a resource for printing spare parts on the go and creating many of the materials necessary if we ever hope to colonize another planet. 3-D printing would allow an isolated station or outpost the ability to use its limited resources wisely, instead of planning ahead for every worst case scenario. This flexibility is one of the keys ideas driving 3-D printing.

Now, I am not going to get into the details of 3-D printing. That is a conversation for another time. If you want a deeper background on 3-D printing I suggest giving this article a good read.

Instead, today I’ll give you some insight on how TI fits into the 3-D printing revolution. We decided what better way to do so than build our very own 3-D printer? The end result was a 3-D Printer Controller TI Design based upon the LaunchPad + BoosterPack configuration that utilizes a broad array of TI devices. Many of these devices were designed to make life easier when designing your own 3-D printer system.

TI Design: 3-D Printer Controller

Let me give you a brief rundown on each device and its purpose in the 3-D printer.

  • DRV10983: Most 3-D printers utilize some sort of cooling fan for the either the extruder heater or the electronics themselves. Many cooling fans utilize a 3-phase BLDC motor, which while efficient, does require some work to spin properly. The DRV10983 makes 3-phase BLDC simpler by integrating a sensorless control scheme to get your motor spinning in minutes. To learn more, check out this blog on the DRV10983.
  • DRV5033: One key requirement in 3-D printer systems is to precisely know the location of each axis. This can be accomplished in many ways, but one of the most common utilizes stepper motors with limit switches. Oftentimes, designers will utilize a mechanical limit switch but we wanted to take the next step and go contactless. The DRV5033 Hall sensor detects when a magnet has reached within a certain proximity to the sensor. The DRV5033 then signals to the MSP430™ microcontroller (MCU) that the axis has reached the end of its track. With this, the MCU now knows the absolute position of the axis and can use the stepper motor to maintain an exact position of the axis.
  • CSD18534Q5A: The three power MOSFETS in our design are used as load switches to drive the extruder heater, hot bed heater and an external fan. This power MOSFET, while like many others, gives you quite the bang for your buck. A high-power MOSFET in a compact package can be crucial in these sorts of applications where board space and heat sinking is limited. Another feature of the CSD18534Q5A is the ability for it to be driven directly from the MCU, saving you even more precious board space.
  • UA78M33: While never in the spotlight, no system is complete without a trusty LDO. The UA78M33 takes the main power supply for the motors/heaters and regulates it down to 3.3V for the MCU and sensors.
  • DRV8846: The backbone of the 3-D printer, the stepper motor driver. Without these guys, we aren’t getting anywhere. Most 3-D printers utilize stepper motors to move the extruder in addition to each axis. The four DRV8846s make stepper control simple with their adaptive decay current regulation scheme that automatically adjusts for your specific motor. To learn more about the DRV8846 you can check out this blog.
  • MSP430F5529 MCU: If the stepper motor driver is the backbone, the MCU is the brain. The ultra-low-power MSP430F5529 MCU lets you take control of your 3-D printer and starting bringing objects to life. With integrated USB support, the MSP430F5529 can easily interface with a host PC, or you can look to load designs from another storage medium such as micro-SD. The wide array of peripherals allows you to easily command the various subsystems of the 3-D printer while still maintaining the low-cost nature of the MSP430 MCU family.

If you wish to learn how else TI is impacting the 3-D Printer Revolution you can visit these pages:

and check out our additional 3-D Printer reference designs:

Well that’s all the time we have for today. It’s time for you to get out there and starting designing your own 3-D printer! If you have any questions or want more information, you can visit the TI Motor Driver Forums or check out the TI Motor Drive & Control Home Page.


Nick Oborny, Motor Applications Team, Texas Instruments