Latest Stories3D Printing
    Shop Tips: Storing 3D Printer Filament

    Frank runs many 3D printers at his shop, and goes through a lot of filament for this big fabrication projects. But when using big filament spools, he needs to properly store and maintain print material to keep print quality consistent. Here are a few ways to do that.

    Tested: Lulzbot TAZ 6 3D Printer

    Sean and Norm review the Lulzbot TAZ 6, a 3D printer with a pretty massize print bed size. We talk about how it works out of the box, features like the self-leveling PEI bed, and the benefits of it being an open-sourced design. But the printer does come at a premium price.

    3D Printing Molds for Silicone Masks!

    We're in Frank's new shop to check out his testing of the 3D Platform printer! This commercial-grade printer alows him to make massive 3D prints that are beyond what's possible with home printers, including swords, armor, and even large molds for casting. One experiment Frank has been working on is printing molds for hyperrealistic silicone masks!

    How Form Cell's Automated 3D Printing Works

    We visit Formlabs' headquarters where we see a prototype of the Form Cell, a system that combines five Form 2 SLA printers with an industrial robot gantry to automate 3D printing. David Lakatos from formlabs walks us through the system, and we're spellbound by the speed of this room-sized print factory.

    Everything You Need to Know about the Formlabs Fuse 1 SLS 3D Printer

    Earlier this month, Formlabs brought me out to the MIT Media Lab for The Digital Factory, their first digital fabrication conference in conjunction with Desktop Metal. At the event, Formlabs unveiled its Fuse 1 SLS printer and we were given an exclusive behind-the-scenes look of the machine. Here's everything we know so far about how it works and the prints you can get out of it.

    Photo credit: Formlabs

    The Technology

    Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) uses a laser to bind together thin layers of a powdered medium (typically nylon) to form a finished model. The finished nylon model is very strong and can have relatively thin walls while retaining strength and flexibility. Any powder that is not sintered by the laser acts as support for the model allowing complex geometries to be printed successfully. Additionally, the entire volume of the print chamber can be packed with models - unlike other technologies that can only utilize the surface area of the print bed. When finished the print is encapsulated by all the loose powder in the build chamber. The print must be allowed to cool in the chamber as it will remain somewhat pliable until cool. The chamber is emptied and all the loose powder is cleaned away from the print. If the model is hollow it will need drain holes in order to remove any loose powder.

    Due to the printing process, SLS parts will have a slightly rough surface texture and won't resolve very fine details as well as SLA resin prints. However, prints will be much stronger than most resin prints and cost less. In addition, parts do not need post-curing and are not UV-reactant like resin parts.

    Typically SLS technology has only been available as large, industrial machines at $150,000+ so a four-figure benchtop unit is pretty exciting. While Formlabs isn't the first to introduce a benchtop unit at a price under six digits, they are the first U.S. based company to do so and at $10,000--a very reasonable price for a SLS machine.

    Alonso Martinez's 3D-Printed Animated Robots!

    We're gushing with grins and delight at the sight of these adorable animated robots created by artist Alonso Martinez. Sean chats with Alonso to learn how he designed and engineered his family of robots, using processes like 3D printing, mold-making, and silicone casting. They're amazing!

    Chris Larkin's Working Miniature Apple II Replica

    Game developer Chris Larkin found the perfect project for the $9 CHIP computer: turning it into a mini Apple II replica that emulates the classic computer. We chat with Chris about his open-source design and work with him to build one of these computers for the office! Find the files and instructions to make your own here!

    Hands-On with Formlabs' Fuse 1 SLS 3D Printer!

    We visit the headquarters of Formlabs, makers of the Form 2, to check out their newest 3D printer. The Fuse 1 is a SLS printer, which can make highly detailed and complex models with nylon using a process that has not been accessible to prosumers. Sean gets an in-depth look at the Fuse 1, several of its prints, and sends one of his own models through the SLS process to inspect its print quality! (Disclaimer: Formlabs provided our travel for this preview trip.)

    Prusa i3 3D Printer Upgrade Prints 4 Colors!

    The Prusa i3 was one of the best reviewed 3D printers of the past year, and we check out their newest upgrade that allows for 4-color printing with just one hot end. Sean chats with Josef Prusa himself to talk about how multi-filament printing works and why it's no easy feat.

    Eric Harrell 3D-Prints Mechanical Engine Models

    We meet Eric Harrell, who brought his collection of functional 3d-printed car engines and transmissions to this year's Maker Faire! Eric shows us his 1/3rd scale engines, which he designs from reference schematics and measurements to highlight how real engines work. Eric has also made his files available online for anyone to make their own replicas!

    How Weta Workshop Made Ghost in the Shell's Robot Skeleton!

    Adam Savage gets up close with the one-of-a-kind 3D-printed endoskeleton Weta Workshop made for the upcoming Ghost in the Shell. Chatting with Weta Workshop technician Jared Haley in the studio's 3D modeling room, Adam learns about the experimentation and prototyping necessary to make this gobsmackingly beautiful prop.

    Bits to Atoms: Printing My Custom Cutaway Lightsaber

    With all the design work done for my Custom Cutaway Lightsaber, it's time to 3D print everything on the Form 2 SLA printer. We were lucky enough to get a pre-production Form 2 from FormLabs and had been printing a ton of projects before the official release. We were very pleased with all the prints as Formlabs had upgraded all of the items (and then some) on my wishlist from my time with the Form 1+. The Form 2 had been living up to my expectations but I designed some of the lightsaber parts to torture test it further.

    While the Form 2 was more than capable of printing out an entire half of the saber in one piece, I broke it up into many parts for a few reasons. First, I wanted to show off various resins and designed the saber to make use of the black, grey, clear and flexible materials, most of which had just had formulation upgrades. Second, I wanted to see what the tolerances and fit quality were like for assemblies. Third, as we have talked about before, prints tend to look better when all the parts aren't globbed together but instead printed as individual pieces. Plus, the quality of parts can sometimes be affected by orientation and printing everything as one piece is not always optimal.

    Mesh repair - problem areas highlighted

    Once modeling was finished, the next step was to export all the parts as STL files - generally the standard for 3D printing. The grips and pommel were exported as a whole piece and then cut in half using Netfabb - this was a case of using the right tool for the job. Netfabb (recently acquired by Autodesk) is also my goto program for mesh repair which is a vital part of 3D printing. Any holes, flipped polygon faces or other irregularities can cause a print to fail. Formlabs PreForm software has Netfabb repair functionality built in and will warn you and offer to fix possible issues upon model import.

    Bits to Atoms: Designing a Custom 3D-Printed Lightsaber

    We've been using the Formlabs Form 2 SLA 3D printer since its release and have loved our experience with it so far. The Form 2 produces high-resolution models using liquid resin cured via laser. Formlabs recently introduced new formulations of most of their resins and various software and firmware updates, which I wanted to put to the test. So when the opportunity came to create a custom project with Formlabs, I wanted to see how far I could push the detail and precision of the Form 2.

    Since I've always wanted to make a Star Wars lightsaber and love seeing how things work, I proposed the Cutaway Lightsaber Project. The first decision was choosing what kind of lightsaber to make. The movie sabers have been done many times over, so I decided to design my own--like a true Jedi... or Sith. The lightsabers from the Star Wars prequels tended to be more sleek and refined, but I wanted the chunkier look of the original movies that I grew up with. As most fans know, many of the original props, including the lightsabers, were designed from found objects such as Graflex camera flash handles. Additional details, known as greeblies, were added to complete the prop and make it look appropriately sci-fi. With my background in film & TV repair, I have collected a lot of oddball and cool-looking parts, so I decided to start in the same way.

    Cobbling parts together with Luke's replica as reference

    I used Luke's Return of the Jedi saber replica as a size reference and started cramming my junk parts together until I had a rough lightsaber that I liked. There was a little of everything: optics, camera parts, hard drive spindles, electrical connectors and miscellaneous gears. I knew this wasn't the final form, but there were a lot of features that I liked. I started recreating approximations of these in 3D, adjusting as needed to accommodate size and other features that I wanted. Early on I knew I wanted to include what I refer to as 'Death Star Grate' which many will recognize as the distinctive pattern of cutouts used as windows, lights, grates, etc throughout the Star Wars Universe. Typically it's used in facilities of the Empire, so I figured this was going to be a bad guy's saber. I wanted it to be beefy and look like it could mess you up even when it wasn't ignited--kind of like a D&D mace.

    Making a 3D-Printed Sith Lightsaber Kit!

    We're thrilled to unveil a new 3D printed project from Sean Charlesworth! Sean was inspired to design and print his own Star Wars-inspired lightsaber, but with his own twist: this Sith model is a cutaway design that shows the internal construction of the hilt. Sean discusses how he came up with this design and how he used the Formlabs Form 2 printer fabricate it. Plus, the design files are free for anyone to download!

    In Brief: CX5 Sculptable 3D Printer Filament Launches on Kickstarter!

    Artist Adam Beane, who we met up with at this year's Monsterpalooza convention, just launched his CX5 sculptable filament Kickstarter. As we learned in our interview, this is his CX5 sculpting material (not clay) redesigned in 1.75mm filament form to go through standard FDM printers with adjustable heat settings. The material prints at a relatively low 70-80 degrees C, and prints can be smoothed out or worked on with a non-toxic solvent and standard sculpting tools. Check it out!

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    Maker Faire 2016: Palette Multi-Color 3D Printing

    To 3D print in multiple colors, most FDM printers need a separate print head/extruder for each filament. The Palette accessory combines four different filaments into one line that feeds into a standard 3D printer, and the multi-color results we saw at Maker Faire looked great. We chat with its inventor to learn how it works.

    Maker Faire 2016: FLUX Delta 3D Printer/Scanner/Engraver

    We take a look at the Flux Delta all-in-one machine at Maker Faire 2016. This device is a 3D printer, but you can swap out its print head to make it a model scanner, laser etcher, or plotter. After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, it's finally shipping to backers.