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    3D Printing Material Mimics Balsa Wood Strengths

    "Materials scientists at Harvard University have created lightweight cellular composites via 3D printing. These fiber-reinforced epoxy composites mimic the structure and performance of balsa wood. Because the fiber fillers align along the printing direction, their local orientation can be exquisitely controlled. These 3D composites may be useful for wind turbine, automotive and aerospace applications, where high stiffness- and strength-to-weight ratios are needed." More info here. (Thanks, Sean)

    Getting Started With the Printrbot Simple Metal

    Norm and I kicked off July by building a 3D printer, the Printrbot Simple Metal It was the third printer we’ve built, and it was interesting building a printer with a metal frame, but once we got it assembled and did a couple of test prints, we didn’t have time to touch it for a month. I’ve spent much of the last week dialing in the printer, figuring out its nuances, and getting decent prints out of it. We’ll do a Tested In-Depth video with it at some point in the future, but in the meantime, here's what I've learned so far.

    First, in the time since we finished the build, the instructions for building the kit version of the Printrbot Simple Metal have been updated. The kit’s assembly instructions have been completely revamped, addressing many of the issues we had during the assembly. Along with good pictures, the newest version of the instructions provides written instructions for non-obvious steps.

    I love that the Printrbot makes it easy to make slight Z-axis calibration changes in software rather than hardware.

    The instructions for calibrating and making the first print are quite good, and I love that the Printrbot makes it easy to make slight Z-axis calibration changes—a common cause of bad prints—in software rather than hardware. It took two or three false starts, but we were able to print a fan shroud that was good enough to work in two or three tries. Because of the way this type of 3D printing works, it sometimes takes a few minutes for failures to become obvious. To give context, when we built our first printer, the original Makerbot Cupcake, it took almost a week of tweaking to get usable prints.

    Once you get past the first print, configuring the software gets a little hairy.

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Soft Boiled

    Will's back from vacation and that means it's time for another mystery build with our MakerBot Replicator. This week's build is something for typography nerds. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    MIT Integrates 3D Printer and 3D Scanner To Print on Objects

    Many of the problems encountered while 3D printing are due to the fact that printers are actually pretty dumb. While the printer knows where the print head is at any given time, it knows nothing about the state of the print, which leads to some awesome failures. The folks at MIT have developed a printer that scans the print bed for objects, and can print on those objects. I'm hopeful we'll be able to use a similar method to print irregular-shaped objects without resorting to support material. (via Make and Sean Charlesworth)

    How To Mold and Cast Resin Copies of 3D-Printed Figures

    We do a lot of 3D printing at Tested, but it's a time-consuming process best used for prototyping, not mass production. To replicate our 3D prints, we invited Frank Ippolito up to Adam's shop to teach us how to make simple rubber molds and cast awesome resin copies. It's really not difficult to get started! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about memberships here!)

    Bits to Atoms: Building the Millenbaugh Motivator, Part 1

    I remember watching the first Hellboy Mecha-Hand video that Will shot with Adam, and was pumped for what was to come. I'm a Hellboy fan and this particular prop had all the elements I love: mystical, mechanical, intricate WWII-era tech with a killer look. If you told me that two years later I would play a part in finishing said project, I wouldn’t have believed it.

    It almost never happened since I wasn’t going to enter Adam’s Inventern competition. At the time, I was spending every extra moment 3D printing and assembling iris boxes and TARDIS kits for my booth at Maker Faire New York. And more importantly, I didn’t think I had much of a chance of winning. Thankfully, my wife suggested that I should really make an entry video. Strongly suggested. Repeatedly. I finally listened and the day before the deadline I stayed after work to make a video for my 3D printed Octopod.

    A few days later, I received a call from the guys at Tested, informing me, that I was one of the top ten entries selected to continue on--I absolutely could not believe it. Later that week we received the next challenge: make a 1:1 scale replica of a household item using only the materials sent to us. I eagerly awaited my box of stuff but it showed up later than expected, leaving me only a few days to complete the challenge. For those who didn’t catch it the first time around, the box consisted of: sheets of cardboard, Elmer’s glue, an X-ACTO knife, a black Sharpie, masking tape, a cutting matte, some classic Tested stickers and the top-of-the-line Droid phone. While waiting for my box, I decided to literally use everything in the box, meaning I needed a use for the phone. I figured my best bet was to duplicate my video camera, using the phone as the flip-out screen, the problem was that I had never built anything out of cardboard. Ever.

    MakerBot Mystery Build: You'll Never Guess

    Time for another mystery object to be printed by our MakerBot! This week, Will actually designed the piece for use in a special project, so it's extra difficult to guess. Place your best prediction as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Typeset

    Just because we're at Comic-Con doesn't mean that our 3D printer gets a week off! It's time for another mystery build with our MakerBot, and this week's build is something for typography nerds. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    How To Shop for a Home 3D Printer

    3D printing's popularity continues to grow and more people are taking the plunge into this new consumer technology. With Will and Norm having built a Printrbot Simple for us, I thought it would be a good time to talk about buying your own printer. There are a many choices out there and it can be a lot of confusing misinformation which overwhelms you. It's not possible to cover all the printers out there, so we'll cover the basics and things to consider when buying a printer and places to look for information.

    The Basics

    As a refresher, let's walk through the fundamentals of a typical home 3D printer. Most are going to be Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) machines that use plastic filament pushed through a heated extruder which 'draws' onto a print bed, layer by layer until the model is finished. Many machines print with Polylactic Acid (PLA), a biodegradable, non-toxic plastic that produces nice, but semi-brittle prints. The other common plastic is Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)--the same stuff LEGO is made from. ABS is a little trickier to print with and does produce some fumes but it's also more flexible and durable than PLA.

    A higher-end choice but still in the realm of home printers are some SLA (Stereolithography) and DLP (Digital Light Processing) machines which print with liquid resin which is cured with light. They produce highly detailed prints but tend to cost more for both the printer and materials and we'll cover those in a later article.

    MakerBot Mystery Build: New Studs

    It's time for this week's edition of Print the Mystery Object! This week's print is for a wearable accessory that's a twist on a familiar object. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments!

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 5

    Our build of the Printrbot Simple 3D printer is finally complete! Time to calibrate it and set it up for a first print. Will and Norm go over the software, load up a model, cross fingers, and test the new printer! Thanks for joining us this week through our build, and hope you learned something about 3D printers along the way. (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 4

    Our build of the PrintrBot Simple Metal 3D printer is almost complete! After some unexpected setbacks, we continue piecing together the Z-axis of the printer, attach all the components of the plastic extruder, and get all of our wiring done. It's really coming together! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 3

    In part three of our PrintrBot Simple 3D printer build, we reach a few steps that are deceptively complex. We also use this time to review the steps taken so far, and find some mistakes that need to be fixed before we can continue. No disassemble! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 2

    The build of the PrintrBot Simple Metal 3D printer continues! In this second episode, Will and Norm wade through photo-instructions for this low-cost 3D printer, working up from the build platform to the Z-axis and plastic extruder. Along the way, we explain the purpose of each component. Follow along in our 3D printer building adventure! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 1

    We're testing a new video series this month: Tested Builds. Through the rest of July and first half of August, Will and Norm work together to build four awesome maker kits, filming the whole process and releasing a new episode every day on Tested. The first project is a Printrbot Simple, a relatively low-cost 3D printer. We're curious about what kind of prints you can get from a $540 printer today, and how easy an entry-level 3D printer is to set up and maintain. Follow along and post your thoughts about build projects in the comments below! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Hot Potato

    It's time for another mystery object to be printed by our 3D printer! You're going to like this week's print--it's a replica of a great prop from a classic film. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    Bits to Atoms: 3D Printing Rubber for Octopod Tentacles

    Consider this scenario: while cleaning out your parents’ basement you find your G1 Optimus Prime Transformer (in the original box, natch) only to discover the rubber tires have dry-rotted and fallen apart. Noooooo! What can you do!? Have no fear, the technology to restore Optimus to his former glory is now available in the form of 3D printing: simply print some new tires out of rubber!

    My first encounter with modern 3D printing was at the 2010 World Maker Faire in New York. There, I saw a lot of RepRap-based printers and MakerBot introduced their second machine, the Thing-o-matic. All of these printers used ABS or PLA plastic filament. Aftermarket modifications were soon introduced that allowed you to extrude (print) other materials, like frosting, peanut butter, and chocolate or any other gooey, non-food material--that was awesome. Later, I was introduced to the high-end machines that printed with plaster or plastic resins and even metal. But the material that really took me by surprise was rubber. To my mind that just didn’t seem possible--could printed parts really bend and stretch and be as resilient as real rubber? Online printing service Shapeways uses EOS printers that can print in an elasto plastic material that is translucent and very flexible but still pretty stiff--not what I’d call truly rubbery.

    Flexible shoe printed with Shapeways’ Elasto Plastic. CREDIT: Alan Hudson

    The EOS material is very nice, but as far as I know the only 3D printer that will do a true rubber-like material is the Stratasys Objet Connex line of machines. I was very lucky to have access to one of these at the NYU Advanced Media Studio. At the time, I was preparing to do my thesis project and was waffling between ideas, one of which was the Octopod that ended up being my Inventern submission. A deciding factor for building the Octopod was the Connex500 printer the AMS lab had just purchased which could print in multi-materials, including rubber which would be perfect for dynamic tentacles. Here's what I learned about printing in rubber for that project.

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Cubicle

    Happy July 4th! This week's build involves the use of a coin, but you'll have to watch to the end to see its purpose. Place your best guess as to what's being 3D-printed in the comments below!