Quantcast
Latest Stories3D Printing
    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!

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Crime Fighter

    Time for another episode of Print the Mystery Object! This week's build is a tricky one for our 3D printer, because of the model's delicate design. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Six Foot Turkey

    Time for another MakerBot Mystery Build! This week, Will prints an awesome replica of something we all wanted as a kid, especially if you grew up in the early 90s. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Choose You!

    Friday means our MakerBot gets put to work again. This week's mystery build is tribute is tangentially related to the E3 conference that we went to on Wednesday. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    Bits to Atoms: Testing Adobe Photoshop's 3D Printing Feature

    Adobe has been adding 3D functionality to Photoshop over its last few versions, and with this past January’s release they have also implemented 3D printing features. Adobe supplied me with access to Creative Cloud and a credit at the online 3D printing service Shapeways so I could give those new features a try. My experience with processing a 3D model for printing in Photoshop was mixed, with many bumps and hiccups along the way, but I ended up with a fairly nice print by the end. Here’s what 3D printing enthusiasts can expect if they want to integrate Adobe Creative Cloud software in their modeling and printing workflow.

    Photoshop CC’s 3D features allow you make or modify 3D models and even texture (paint) them which is particularly nice as it can be a frustrating process with most other pure modeling applications. The new 3D printing module allows you to size the model for printing, choose the level of detail and send it to a local printer or prepare it for online printing through Shapeways. It’s possible to build and modify 3D models purely within Photoshop CC, too. If you’re an Adobe-whiz and very comfortable in the CC suite of apps, this may be a good option as it utilizes familiar tools. With my more traditional modeling background, I actually found it frustrating. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad--it’s just different. If someone were to ask me how they should get started with modeling, I would still recommend more traditional programs, like what we’ve covered before. But for testing and curiosity, I attempted to use Photoshop to process a fairly complicated 3D model for printing.

    CREDIT: Smithsonian Institute

    To put Photoshop’s 3D printing feature through its paces I wanted to test it on a model with lots of detail. So I turned to the Smithsonian Institute, which has been releasing high-resolution 3D scans of select pieces from its collection. I chose the wooly mammoth skeleton for its fine surface detail and because Norm and I thought it would be a cool piece to see printed. The Smithsonian is kind enough to provide a print-ready model, meaning it’s been converted to an STL file, unified into one complete shell and run through mesh repair to ensure there are no holes or other problems that would cause the print to fail. (See here for a refresher on 3D print prep.)

    MakerBot Mystery Build: RAWR!

    Time for another edition of the MakerBot Mystery Build! This week's print is inspired by a movie Will watched last weekend, and actually took almost 48 hours to print. See if you can guess what it is before the time-lapse finishes. Place your best guess in the comments below!

    Incredible 3D-Printed Model of San Francisco

    "Autodesk and Steelblue have partnered to create this 3d-printed model of a portion of San Francisco. The model was created to aid real-estate developer Tishman Speyer in telling the story of urban development in the rapidly changing SOMA neighborhood." The amount of detail on this model is incredible. It depicts the city's fast-developing SOMA district (where our offices are located!), and works with a projector system to highlight specific city blocks and buildings using multimedia overlays. As the video shows, the individual buildings were printed using Stratasys' Object500 Connex printer, at a 16 micron print resolution, and was produced at Autodesk's new Pier 9 Workshop in San Francisco. A second model will be printed and displayed for the public at the Autodesk Gallery. TheVerge has a gallery of photos from the unveiling here.

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Propped Up

    Time for another edition of the MakerBot Mystery Build! This week's print is actually related to another video we posted this week, so see if you can guess what it is before the time-lapse finishes. Place your best guess in the comments below!

    Bits to Atoms: 3D Printing Buckaroo Banzai's Jetcar

    Scientist, neurosurgeon, gunslinger and leader of the rock group the Hong Kong Cavaliers--Buckaroo Banzai, a true Renaissance man, and one of my all-time favorite characters played by the awesome Peter Weller in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. This remains one of my top sci-fi films and while by no means a perfect movie, the cast consists of Peter Weller, John Lithgow (in one of his finest performances), Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, and Jeff Goldblum--so you know there’s going to be some good stuff in there.

    Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

    I’m not going to delve into the plot, just watch it, but the film has a great opening with Dr. Banzai testing his oscillation overthruster, a device that he theorizes will allow him to travel through solid matter. In order to do so he outfits the overthruster to a Jetcar which he intends to drive straight through a mountain. When I was a kid I wanted that Jetcar so bad, but Buckaroo Banzai toys were never meant to be. Flash forward a few decades and I’m in a 3D printing class and need something to build and print and I know exactly what that should be.

    This was actually my very first 3D print and the most complicated thing I had modeled up to that point. Hence my advice to those getting started with 3D printing--start with something simpler! In the end it turned out great but there was a steep learning curve for both the modeling and 3D print preparation, and I think I may have been better off doing something simpler. But let's walk through that process so you can learn from my early ambitions!

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Orderly

    Time for another edition of the MakerBot Mystery Build! This week, Will has our 3D printer build an accessory for one of his hobbies. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!