We shuddered when it was announced that MakerBot were taking the next version of their RepRap-based printer design closed-source. We crossed our fingers when the CEO responded to the flap saying they’d be “as open as possible“. We watched with popcorn the various flaps about Thingiverse, legal mumbojumbo, attribution and moral rights.
But now this. MakerBot has been awarded a patent on the conveyor belt. (Specifically, use of a conveyor belt “with a 3D printer”.)
I don’t know about you, but I can’t possibly think of any device for converting a computer file to a tangible work product that uses rollers to clear its work product from the work area to make room for subsequent work product. Certainly no such analogous device exists, or else 3D printers wouldn’t have such a clever and unique name.
While I am here, to forestall successful patent attempts on other obvious means of clearing work product from a work area, I hereby disclose the following novel invention:
1) A work producing system and method comprising a work producing machine, a means of executing stored instructions (sometimes called a “computer”), a set of instructions (sometimes called a “program”, or “software”) that instructs the work producing machine to produce a work product responsive to a description (sometimes called a “file”) describing the work product, a means of conveying said description to said system, and a means of conveying said instructions to said machine. (The system description may optionally include such novel and non-obvious components as RAM, a CPU, wires, wifi, power from the power company, etc.)
2) The claims in Claim 1 where the work-producing machine further includes a method of clearing prior work products from its work area.
3) The claims in Claim 2 where the work-clearing means includes a pushing means to push the old work products from the work area.
4) The claims in Claim 2 where the work-clearing means includes a pulling means to pull the old work products from the work area.
5) The claims in Claim 2 where the work-clearing means includes a scraping means to scrape the old work products from the work area.
6) The claims in Claim 2 where the work-clearing means includes a gravitational means to remove the old work products from the work area. An example of such a means is a tilting means which tilts the work surface, a rotational means which rotates the work surface to a nonhorizontal position, or an antigravity device which causes a local gravity inversion in the vicinity of the work surface.
7) The claims in Claim 2 where the work-clearing means includes a vibrational means to shake loose the old work products.
8) The claims in Claim 2 where the work-clearing means includes additional work surfaces which can be exchanged with the work surface on which work products have previously been produced, and a means of exchanging said work surfaces. (The unused work surface may, for example, be physically exchanged with the used work surface of the same machine, or exist in a second work-producing machine which takes over work production jobs while the first work surface is full.)
9) The claims in Claims 3-7 inclusive, where zero or more said means are combined in such a way as to improve the reliability of clearing work products from the work area.
10) The claims in Claim 9 where the pushing means further comprises a solid object configured to move across the work area, thereby pushing work product out of the work area. Compare “broom”, “push bar”, “squeegee”, “bulldozer”. Since patent examiners have the imagination of a goldfish, I should point out at this time that moving the work surface with respect to the pushing device is the same as moving the pushing device with respect to the work surface.
11) The claims in Claim 9 where the pulling means further includes a magnet. Magnets are magical. (Computer-controlled electromagnets are even more magical because computers are magical and electricity is magical.)
12) The claims in Claim 9 where the pulling means further comprises a suction mechanism and a means of moving said mechanism into contact with the work product and to a location outside the work area. (Compare: “vacuum pick and place”)
13) The claims in Claim 9 where the combined pushing and pulling means further comprises a robot arm and a means of moving said mechanism into contact with the work product and to a location outside the work area. (Compare: Industrial pastry sorting robots). Since I may have been unfair toward goldfish in Claim 10, I should point out that the non-difference between moving the work surface vs. the pushing device also exists for a *pulling* device. Or basically any other device or combination of such devices.
14) “Pushing”, “bumping”, “kicking”, “nudging”, etc. are the same thing. Just throwing it out there.
15) The claims in Claim 2 where the work-producing machine is configured to produce works which are of a 3-dimensional nature.
16) The claims in Claim 15 where Claims 3-14 are restated here by reference.
17) The claims in Claim 16 where the system further includes a means of collecting the removed work products (sometimes called a “bin” or “bucket”).