Conveyor belt 3D printers can 3D print in mid-air along the belt axis. This enables difficult shapes to be 3D printed on a that would need support material on a traditional 3D printer. We wanted a model that could show off this capability, and make a functional object.
I drew up a scoop design and got to printing. With a conveyor belt 3D printer, you could create all the small shovels you want for a day at the beach!
How 3D Printing in Mid-Air Works
Conveyor belt 3D printers handle overhangs differently compared to conventional 3D printers. The X and Y axiis are positioned at an angle to the Z-axis. This means the machines essentially always 3D print at an overhang. In the conveyor belt direction, features can be printed successfully that would droop or fall over on a conventional 3D printer.
This concept is a little tough to put into words. Take a look at the images below to get a better idea of how 3D printing in mid-air is enabled. We discuss this, and other factors that affect the best model orientation over at this post: How to Orient Models for a Conveyor Belt 3D Printer