If I had one of these I would be using it right now. Very cool idea and good execution– I like that the machine uses open source technology and creates a tool for others to get creative. – Becky Stern
Designing a tool for designers, and doing it from spare parts, open-source hardware and open-source software is endlessly satisfying to DIY enthusiasts. While we’ve only just begun to consider the power of easily repeated and potentially complex 2D and 3D wire bending, it’s clear that this project could enable all kinds of new designs to flow effortlessly from the mind of the maker and be widely shared across our well-wired community. – Rob Faludi
I once had a gig offered to me making custom hangers for a high-end clothing designer. There was a prototype hanger that the client wanted replicated, and the gig seemed simple enough- build some jigs, bend the wire: Profit! I discovered quickly that bending heavy-gauge wire, repeatedly and with precision, can be Very Hard. Hangers, frameworks for models, overly ambitious paper clips: there are a number of projects that would be cool, but projects that I have walked away from or put on the far back burner because of the imprecision and difficulty of bending wire. D.I.Wire is a great DIY project because it will spawn a multitude of other projects, just as DIY CNC plasma cutters and 3D printers have made innumerable impossible (or difficult enough to be highly improbable) projects real. – Hackett
The D.I.Wire Bender is a rapid prototype machine that bends metal wire to produce 2D or 3D shapes.
Wire unwinds from a spool, passes through a series of wheels to straighten, and then feeds through the bending head, which moves in 3 dimensions creating desired bends and curves. Vector files (e.g., Adobe Illustrator files), text files of commands (e.g., feed 50 mm, bend 90° to right…) provide DIWire’s instructions.
It’s essentially a 3D printer that describes lines, instead of volumes, in space, and it could be used for anything from prototypes to customized products.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Wire and rod forms come up often in our work, whether they are on furniture (chair legs models) or housewares projects (shower caddies) or even engineering parts (custom springs). Our 3D printer was ill-suited for this kind of prototype—it used more material for the scaffold than for the model itself, it was very slow, the max print volume was limiting, and the material was too weak for some thicknesses. Nor was modern CNC equipment helpful. CNC wire and rod benders have existed for many years, but only at the mass production level. That equipment doesn’t exist at model shops because it is cumbersome to program, expensive to own and it takes an expert to run. In our eyes, this was a hole in the market. We decided to create our own bender, with an interface that takes very little expertise to run, just like a 3D printer.3. The Intent: What is the personal backstory; why did you create your DIY project? What point of view did you bring to the project?
In recent years, we’ve been excited to see 3D printers spreading beyond businesses to individuals, with the aid of a little DIY ingenuity (e.g., Makerbots, RepRap, etc.). At the same time, there have been times when we’ve needed to prototype products that were lines in space rather than volumes. We wondered: would “regular” people have a use for a 3D wire bender? What would happen if benders were easily accessible? What would happen if instructions were sent remotely, so you could program it in one place and print it in another? We were inspired to hack together our own 3D wire bender using spare parts from our shop. The D.I.Wire Bender is the result.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
As with all things new, it took study, testing, troubleshooting, and iteration to build the D.I.Wire Bender. In principle it’s not that difficult- hold the wire, push part of it to the right or left and, viola! Bent wire. In practice, you realize the limitations of DIY components. Arduino boards can only do one thing at a time, stepper motors have limited power, and going from just bending an angle to reading a vector made in Illustrator and bending a metal rod to match is another thing all together.
We ran many, many tests to troubleshoot problems…was the feed slipping? Why was the solenoid not firing? We wrote new programs specifically to test each feature separately, and we adjusted the plan to match the capabilities of what we had to work with and what would be reasonable for a piece of DIY equipment. Finally, it worked!5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
Our Bender is just taking its first baby-steps, but we envision a great future for it. It provides a new paradigm for 3D printing that didn’t exist in an accessible way before.
Its initial value could be for prototyping 2D & 3D objects in wire, ranging from items that are completely wire, to objects that serve as the frame for other materials to be stretched over (e.g., lamp shades or kites). It could also become an element in different types of 3D equipment: maybe a 3D printer builds onto a wire frame created by the D.I.Wire Bender, or perhaps the bender creates skeletons for vacuum-formed objects.
Eventually it could become a way of “faxing” a 3D object (send a flower to your sweetheart), producing a customized product (this bracelet fits me perfectly), or making a product on demand (I need a whisk right now!).
D.I.Wire Bender pushes the limits of what can be produced in different materials, forms, and methods, anywhere from a model shop to your home.6. How does your project fit into the DIY category? (For eg: sharing the process, sourcing, entrepreneurship, accessibility/repeatability, skill sharing, etc.)
This project is a DIY project in the sense that it is made from spare parts from past projects and programmed and driven by open source technologies available to any enthusiast—Arduino hardware with open software libraries of OpenGL, Geomerative, and others. An Arduino board talks to our motor drivers. The board is programmed in Wiring, and Processing translates the vector art to something the Arduino can understand.
We were trying to build a DIY version of something that is typically only for mass production, and we also had the open-source community in mind. We plan on releasing our code and plans for the wire bender, and encourage the open-source community to check it out. We will work to improve it and take suggestions from the community. And, for everyone wanting one, we will continue to work on making the interface as easy to use as a 3D printer.