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    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!

    Bits to Atoms: The State of Resin 3D Printing Technologies

    In light of our recent video on the Form 1+ printer and as a lead-up to a full review, I wanted to delve deeper into 3D printing with liquid resin, so let's start with a primer on the state of resin 3D printing technologies and hardware.

    Printing with resin typically offers the highest resolution, detail and accuracy available with desktop 3D printing. For example, layer height for most resin printers ranges from 25 - 100 microns (.025mm - .10mm), as a comparison, human hair can range from 17 - 181 microns and typical filament printers (FFF), like the MakerBot, have a max resolution of 100 microns. Generally when talking about resolution you only hear about the layer height, but there is also accuracy as far as small details and resin printers excel in this area.

    EnvisionTec DLP print

    There are various methods of printing with resin, but all involve a liquid distributed in a thin layer and curved via UV light. Prints will typically have some type of support material or structure which must be cleaned off by either physical or chemical means. Most parts remain UV-sensitive, and should be kept from direct sunlight and/or coated or painted in some way to block UV. Let’s take a look at our options for resin printing.

    In Brief: Good Tips for 3D Printing Adhesion Problems

    The base cause of most 3D printing failures is some sort of problem with adhesion. If that first layer of plastic doesn't stick to your print bed, it's almost inevitable that the print will fail. I love this list of tips and tricks to improve adhesion that Make posted. It's got several of my personal favorites--level that build platform, ensure the print head is the right distance from the bed, and always wipe the print surface with isopropyl or acetone to remove fingerprint oil--but they also include a few tricks I'm not familiar with. Now I'm off to find a purple Elmer's glue stick.

    Will 5
    Show and Tell: 3D Printed Steampunk Octopod

    One final video from Norm's recent trip to New York! Sean Charlesworth, our 3D printing expert, shares his famous steampunk octopod project, which we've talked about before had never seen in person. It's a wonderfully designed and intricate model entirely conceived of and built by Sean--a project much more complex than your typical 3D printed piece.

    Show and Tell: 3D Printing a Lightsaber

    This week's Show and Tell is another awesome project shared by our 3D printing columnist Sean Charlesworth. Norm visits Sean while in New York to check out a beautiful 3D printed lightsaber hilt that was assembled from 14 individually printed pieces. The designer of this model also created a four-piece kit for ease of assembly--all the files are available online. With some proper finishing work, it looks as good as the original prop!

    Show and Tell: Quicksilver's Stereobelt Replica

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm visits our 3D printing expert Sean Charlesworth in New York to learn about a prop replica project. Sean has faithfully recreated Qucksilver's "Stereobelt" from the most recent X-men movie, a prop that is actually based on a little-known portable cassette player that predated Sony's Walkman. A little bit of A/V technology history, rapid prototyping, and obsessing over film props--everything we love! (More details about this project here.)

    Testing the Form 1+ 3D Printer

    Norm visits New York to check in with Tested's 3D printing columnist Sean Charlesworth, who has been testing the new Form 1+ 3D printer. Unlike 3D printers like the MakerBot and PrintrBot, the Form 1 uses a laser-based resin curing system that can produce prints up to four times the resolution of FDM printers. But as Sean explains, this printer was a bit challenging to get working properly.

    Print the Mystery Object: Who Said That? - 10/17/2014

    The Printrbot is still in play, but we've returned to the original camera angle, mounted on the plate. What did Will print? Post your best guesses in the comments below! And if you'd like to check out the full, 4k version of the mystery build, it's here: http://youtu.be/X99sWKcD1mE

    Bits to Atoms: 3D Printing Quicksilver's Stereobelt

    Remember a few months ago when I spent time obsessing over Quicksilver’s audio gear from X-men: Days of Future Past? I thought that exploration was enough to get it out of my system--until my friend Hadley told me that she would be cosplaying as Quicksilver for New York Comic Con. Without missing a beat, I proclaimed that I had to build her an accurate Stereobelt prop. And so my obsession began anew.

    Prototype - designing multiple parts - more work for better results

    To recap: the Stereobelt, a little-known predecessor to the Walkman, predating Sony's portable cassette player by seven years and cobbled together from existing tech. Only one picture and a patent document of it can be found in all of the interwebs, yet the savvy production designers on Days of Future Past based Quicksilver’s unit on the Stereobelt, therefore giving him probable audio gear for 1973.

    Setting out to create my own Stereobelt, I ran into an immediate problem: a lack of good reference material. Other than the magazine cover of Quicksilver, which showed only one side of the belt, I was unable to find any good reference of the other side or back. At this point, the Blu-ray hadn’t been released and unlike every other Marvel movie, there was no “Making-of” book. So, I started work on what I had reference for, figuring that I may have to improvise the opposite side and revise it when I could get ahold of the movie. I didn’t have a lot of time to build the Stereobelt, so my original intention was to keep it simple and print it as one solid piece. The front and back caps would cause some print issues since they were both tapered and would have to use supports to print as one piece. The caps would also print better if the slopes were oriented upwards, so I decided to compromise and print the body and caps separately and assemble using simple square pins and glue.

    Solid body with caps connected via pins.

    Unlike the Hellboy Millenbaugh Motivator, for which I took meticulous measurements using Photoshop, I totally eyeballed the size and proportions of the Stereobelt on paper. Once it looked right, I started building in 3D and quickly realized another issue - if I built this as one piece, painting and finishing would be difficult since it had a lot of trim pieces. I also liked the idea of being able to print this out in two colors, assemble with no painting and still have it look good, so I decided to break it up into more pieces.

    In Brief: Check Out This Amazing 3D Printed Samus Armor

    Before you do anything else, go look at the finished pictures of this amazing Metroid armor 3D printed by RPF user Talaaya. Go on, I'll wait.

    If you want to know the story behind such an incredible build, head over to her blog, where she shows a bunch of in-progress photos, including the project's origins as a pepakura build, the process for finishing the prints (she and Matt Serle used a pair of Zcorp 450 printers and did tons of finish work), painting, and using EL wire to create the appropriate accents. I hope I get a chance to see this incredible costume in person someday.

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    In Brief: Arduino Announces $1000 3D Printer

    Arduino today announced its Materia 101, a $1000 pre-assembled 3D printer that will debut at Maker Faire Rome early next month. It also will be sold as an $800 kit. The 1.75mm PLA printer was designed in collaboration with ShareBot, and looks like a rebadged ShareBot running an Arduino Mega 2560. The printer has is 31cm x 33cm x 35cm large, and its print bed is 14cm x 10cm x 10cm. Not too big, and it doesn't look like it'll be upgradable, either. This announcement comes shortly after the unveiling of Dremel's new desktop 3D printer at Maker Faire New York, though the Arduino model doesn't look like it's bringing more to the table than you could get building an established kit like the PrintrBot.

    Norman 7
    MakerBot Mystery Build: For Ice Cream

    Friday marks the return of the mystery 3D print, and this week's build takes some effort from Will to get working. You know the drill: place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!