Latest Stories3D Printing
    Tested In-Depth: Ultimaker 2 3D Printer

    Interested in 3D printing? Our rapid prototyping expert Sean Charlesworth has been testing the Ultimaker 2, and sits down with Will to review this new printer. Its prints are really great! We discuss how the Ultimaker 2 compares with other FDM printers and what you should look for when researching and shopping for a 3D printer.

    Bits to Atoms: 3D Printing a Mercury Capsule Miniature

    Shortly before this past Christmas, I was contacted by Lauren Oliver, an extremely polite gentleman who had discovered my Buckaroo Banzai Jet Car on The Replica Prop Forum. He reached out to inquire if I would be interested in building a NASA Mercury space capsule for a short film he was writing and directing. I was most definitely interested.

    Lauren's short film, "T-Minus", is a fictional account of the 7th manned Mercury mission, which was cancelled in favor of moving on to the Gemini program. His plan was to shoot on 35mm film, using nothing but scale models and practical effects. My background is in film production--almost everything I ever shot was on film and I grew up in the 70's and 80's (the heyday of practical effects). This was my kind of project!

    For the film, Lauren intended to build a 1/24 scale Atlas rocket, including the launch gantry (more on this later) but needed the capsule and other parts made. My initial response was, "not to put myself out of a job, but can't you just use an existing model kit?"--I figured there must be a ton to choose from. There are, in fact; that was his original intention, but none were detailed enough and/or at the right scale.

    I have to confess, I know more about Star Wars ships than I do about our real-life NASA fleet and there are as many Mercury capsule versions as there are TIE-Fighter models. So, I was very pleased when Lauren presented me tons of reference photos, blueprints and detailed the differences between them all -- he knew his stuff. Interestingly enough, at the time he was not aware of Tested and all the space goodness that goes down here--but I made sure to fill him in. My job was to build the capsule, the escape tower (the red rocket assembly at top), and the adapter, which attached the whole thing to the Atlas rocket.

    Codename Colossus Custom 3D-Printed Mech

    Singapore-based maker Michael Sng shared this video of his custom-designed mech that's composed entirely of hand-painted and assembled 3d-printed parts. His Codename Colossus is made of 400 printed components, with lights and servos to animate the kinetic art toy. To give you a sense of its complexity, Sng has also filmed videos showing the clean-up process for the parts, as well as the full assembly in time-lapse. An impressively time-consuming project that he calls an antithesis to mass production. It'll be on display at this year's New York Comic-Con. (h/t Jerome)

    Bits to Atoms: NYC Inside 3D Printing Expo

    Hey everyone! Between moving from New York to San Francisco and work on a 3D-printed Space Capsule project, things have been pretty busy for the past few months. But Bits to Atoms is coming back to Tested, and I wanted to share with you some interesting products and technologies I saw at the recent 3D Printshow and Inside 3D Printing Expo conferences in NYC. Here's what's new in the world of consumer and professional 3D printing.

    Valcrow's lightsaber made on a Printrbot.

    Mcor Paper Printer

    I wrote about the unique Mcor IRIS SDL (Selective Deposition Lamination) printer last year and stopped by their booth for an update on their interesting print tech. As a refresher, the Mcor machines cut the layers of a model out of standard printer paper and glues them together to form 3D prints. The IRIS uses proprietary inks to add full color detail, to the models. This year, the IRIS has been updated to the IRIS HD with an improved, carbide cutting tip and revamped color mapping technology, to improve color accuracy and sharpen details, while also reducing the amount of ink used. Finished prints can be sealed for strength or coated in a new semi-flexible coating.

    3Doodler v2.0

    For those not familiar, the 3Doodler is, basically, a handheld hotend, like on an FFF printer, that allows you to extrude plastic, freehand, to make sculptures, amongst other possibilities. I have to confess - when the 3Doodler came out last year, after a successful Kickstarter, I was skeptical. It was big and clunky and I felt the novelty of making squiggly sculptures would wear out quickly, especially considering the cost. . A year later, and we now have v2 and I have to say, it's a big upgrade. Due out this month for $100, version 2 has been slimmed down considerably, features forward and reverse for unloading, a hi/lo temperature control, a fast, slow or continuous feed setting and the ability to run off battery.

    Milling Time: Testing the Shapeoko 2 CNC Machine

    Over the past few months, I've been working with various desktop CNC milling machines. I first tested the Othermill, which I really enjoyed using. The next desktop CNC machine I tested was the Shapeoko 2. Shapeoko is an affordable, open source CNC kit that has been on the market for a few years. Originally a Kickstarter project, it grew into a robust product originally sold through Inventables, and now the Shapeoko 3 is about to launch--sold exclusively through shapeoko.com.

    Given that the company is on its third generation product, there is already a large online Shapeoko community. Tips, tricks, and mods can all be found on the site’s forums. Numerous videos on YouTube show you everything from step-by-step mill assembly to machine calibration, and even material-specific best practices. That’s a compelling asset.

    My Shapeoko 2

    The mill itself is also very user friendly and lends itself well to modification. If nothing else, the Shapeoko is a very robust X, Y, Z plotter that is incredibly hackable. If you have plans to build your own job-specific machine, the Shapeoko’s parts would be great bones to start with. I have seen watercolor painting CNC’s, DIY laser cutters, even Zen garden sand printers built from this chassis.

    If the Othermill is Eve, then the Shapeoko is Wall-E.

    Carbon3D Announces CLIP 3D Printing Technology

    So this came out of nowhere. Carbon3D, a 3D printing startup based out of Redwood City, today unveiled a new 3D printing technology they're calling CLIP, or "continuous liquid interface production." Timed with a TED talk and the release of a Science paper, Carbon3D's CLIP technology is claimed to be 25 to 100 times faster than FDM printing. It's a resin-curing process, akin go the SLA process used by Form 1, but CLIP introduces both light and oxygen (an inhibiting agent) into the curing system to remove the need to print layer by layer. The continuous curing allows for much faster print times, as shown in the above time-lapse. There's no announcement about when or how this will be made into a consumer product, but we're definitely excited to learn more about it. Further reading at 3Dprint.com and the Washington Post's science blog.

    Milling Time: Testing the Othermill Desktop CNC Machine

    If you're familiar with 3D printing (you're reading Tested, chances are you're probably pretty familiar with the topic), it isn't too difficult to understand the basics of CNC milling. Instead of building up a form layer by layer, milling carves away from a block of stock material. Replace the plastic extruder of an FDM 3D printer with a high speed spindle turning a sharp cutting bit. CNC milling also requires CAD models of the desired form. And just like 3D printing, CNC mills have been moving from the workshop to the desktop. These machines have become affordable, small, and relatively easy to use.

    Milling--subtractive fabrication--is often louder, messier, and let's be honest, not nearly as “magical” as additive 3D printing. The results don’t have the same wow factor as a Yoda bust you can make with a basic 3D printer. But this process creates more accurate and durable parts from a much wider selection of materials.

    I’ve been testing several CNC mills for my work at NYU’s ITP program, and wanted to share some of my results. Some of these machines work right out of the box, some are kits (like the first home 3D printers). I’ll also discuss the difference between home mills and higher-end models designed for workshops, as well as my thoughts on the future of desktop milling. But this week, we’ll start off with a machine you may have seen on Tested before: the Othermill.

    Show and Tell: Smooth-On's 3D Print Coating

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm invites Jeremy Williams to the office to test a new epoxy coating for 3D printed parts. Most prints from extrusion-based printers have rough edges that we can finish with Bondo and sanding, but here's another option. We test Smooth-On's XTC-3D on several 3D prints of various complexity, and evaluate the results.

    Using 3D Printing to Prototype Hollywood Costumes

    For a segment on movie production and video games, UK's Sky News visited Shepperton Studios to speak with different propmakers about the use of 3D printing for Hollywood costume. 3D printing as a tool for prototyping helmets, armor, and weapons is something that both professional and amateur propmakers have been tinkering with in recent years, and it's neat to see familiar props from films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Prometheus at these workshops. Aside from the Objets in use at fabrication shops like IPFL, many of the tools users are available to consumers. For example, the AgiSoft's photogrammetry software we used for our papercraft head models last year is the same used at FBFX for modeling actors for digital prop fittings.

    CES 2015: Ultimaker 2 Family of 3D Printers

    It's awesome to see how far 3D printer makers have come since the days of laser-cut wood kits. We check in with Ultimaker at CES 2015 to learn about their new family of 3D printers, the Ultimaker 2 series. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: MarkForged 3D Printer Prints Carbon Fiber

    One of the things that keeps 3D prints from being useful in everyday applications is the structural instability of the plastic print material--it either bends or snaps under load. MarkForged makes a 3D printer that does something new: it can reinforce printed parts with carbon fiber or fiberglass for rigidity and strength. We chat with MarkForged's CEO about how this print process works test some of its prints. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Print the Mystery Object: Tip of the Hat

    Let's finish this week with a mystery object printed from our PrintrBot! You know the drill: place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below. This week's build is holiday appropriate!

    Bits to Atoms: Testing the Form 1+ SLA Desktop 3D Printer

    3D printing keeps getting bigger, better and more accessible every day--you can now buy a MakerBot or Dremel 3D printer at Home Depot. Plastic filament printers are, by far, the most common type you will find at makerspaces and home garages, but high-resolution resin printers are slowly creeping into the mainstream. One of the most promising, is the Formlabs Form 1+ SLA printer developed by a team from the MIT Media Lab. I had the chance to put a Form 1+ through it’s paces for two months and here’s how it went.

    You will need a dedicated, clean workspace for the Form 1+.

    First, a little backstory on the company. Formlabs was founded in 2011 by a group of MIT grads who were frustrated by the fact that there was no economical way for most people to experience the highly-detailed prints that SLA and DLP resin printing offered. Unlike filament printers, which were popping up everywhere at relatively consumer-friendly prices, SLA printers cost tens of thousands of dollars and were simply out of reach of most users. Formlabs set out to make a desktop SLA printer that would rival the big machines and cost only slightly more than many filament printers. At the end of 2012 they successfully completed a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign, eventually bringing in over 2.9 million dollars. Nothing like being too successful--now the pressure was on with a lot of machines to build. Production delays happened and then they got hit by a patent infringement lawsuit from 3D Systems, the inventors of SLA printing. I am happy to hear that the parties have settled, and the case was just dismissed with prejudice on December 1. Formlabs is free to forge ahead.

    Photo CREDIT: Formlabs

    Having met the Formlabs team a few times at Maker Faire and other events, I have always been impressed. Everyone at the booth knew their stuff, answering in-depth anything I threw at them. One particular staffer was really killing it with thorough and informative answers--turns out she was their material scientist. The machine was sharp looking and all the prints looked great--I really wanted to buy one, almost backed the Kickstarter for an early unit, but chickened out. Recently I contacted Formlabs to request a sample unit to test. So for the past few months, I've had a Form 1+ in my possession and was able to put it through it’s paces!

    3D Printer Programed to Play Imperial March

    Anyone who's worked around 3D printers should know that they have a certain "tune" when they run. There's the chime that starts on MakerBots when a print starts up and finishes, but even the movements of the three printer axes make a sort of machine music as the printer operates. YouTube user Zero Innovations is working on a way to convert MIDI music files to G-code that printers can read to replicate any song. This demo shows his Printrbot Simple Metal playing John Williams' Imperial March with just its stepper motors!