Latest Stories3D Printing
    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.

    Maker Faire 2016: 3D Printed Open-Source Telepresence Robot

    We kick off our Maker Faire 2016 coverage with this awesome telepresense robot made by researchers at the Galileo University in Guatemala. The robot's body is based off of the open-source InMoov project, with remote control via an Oculus DK2 headset and Perception Neuron motion capture system. Telepresense with some sense of proprioception!

    Bits to Atoms: How Carbon's CLIP 3D Printing Technology Works

    Carbon3D (now going by just Carbon) has been all the buzz in the 3D printing community with their M1 printer which uses CLIP technology to greatly increase the speed and quality of DLP printing. The Tested team visited Carbon HQ outside of San Francisco to see exactly how this new tech works.

    As we've discussed before, 3D printing with UV-cured resin tends to offer the highest level of detail and choice of material (compared to 3D printing processes like FDM). Let's review the options. SLA (Stereolithography), such as the Formlabs Form 2, draws and cures each layer of resin using a laser. DLP (Digital Light Processing) uses video projector technology to draw and cure each layer in one blast. Polyjet uses an inkjet-like head to draw each layer on a platform and is cured via a UV light unit. Now, Carbon is introducing CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) which drastically increases printing speeds and improves surface finish--but how does it work?

    First let's look at the normal SLA or DLP printing process. The model is 'drawn' layer by layer via laser or projector onto a print platform and must go through a peel process after each layer. Exactly how the peel is done varies by printer and technique but it generally consists of the print platform, moving out of the way so that the resin can be redistributed for the next layer. This slows down the printing process and also requires generating support structures to hold the print steady.

    Carbon's CLIP technology eliminates the peel process by using an oxygenated layer of resin between the resin tray window and the print itself. This layer creates a dead zone which allows the print to emerge continuously from the resin tray, skipping the peel process. OK, but how does that happen? The secret is in the M1 resin tray, called a 'cassette' which holds the resin and has an oxygen-permeable window in the bottom which a DLP unit shines light through. Carbon won't divulge exactly how the chemistry works but the cassette allows a resin layer between the window and where the printing happens to be oxygenated which inhibits the curing process while still allowing the DLP light to shine through and solidify the resin above. I know--it sounds crazy.

    Meet the Carbon M1 Super Fast 3D Printer

    Watch this complex object get 3D printed in less than 15 minutes. Sean and Norm visit Carbon, the makers of the M1 3D printer, to get a demo of this new super fast 3D printing technology working in real-time. We chat with Carbon's VP of Product, Kirk Phelps, to learn how the CLIP 3D printing tech works, and why it's more than just about really fast prints.

    Introduction to 3D Modeling for Prop and Costume Making

    Through a weird and winding job path, I landed a pretty compelling career as a prop and costume maker, but I that's not where I intended to go when I started. When I was a starry eyed youth, I had ambitions of being a professional 3D modeler and animator for movies and video games! I even went to school for, and got a degree in, 3D computer art, modeling, and animation. Then life happened and I never actually got a real job doing any of that. I did, however, end up in a highly creative field that requires me to keep my fabrication skills finely honed and to keep pushing myself to make things better and faster.

    Why should I learn 3D Modeling?

    Enter my 3D modeling skills! In prop and costume making, I've found that being competent at 3D modeling has been an amazing boon to the productivity and quality of the pieces I produce. The obvious first reason is the current 3D printing craze. 3D models of props can be made real with affordable desktop printers at an alarming rate. This rapid prototyping makes iterating prop designs a snap! Not only can props be made completely from printed parts, but those prints can be used to design, scale, and test parts quickly and easily.

    These blaster grips were printed several times to adjust for the scale and thickness to get them just right.

    3D drafting can also provide a bevy of other benefits to the prop maker, even if one doesn't own a 3D printer. One of my other favorite outputs for my models is Pepakura. Many makers rely on the pep files that other makers release online to print out and make their own Iron Man helmets and armor pieces, but what if nobody has modeled the specific piece that you want to recreate? You're going to have to model it yourself!

    If you make your own Pepakura models, you have complete control over the size and form of the final pieces. This flexibility will give you the power to make pieces that will fit whatever body you plan to put them on. Plus you can design the Pepakura to work with materials of a variety of thicknesses (EVA foam vs. cardstock).

    Building Fallout 4 T-60 Power Armor, Part 2

    Last time, I shared how we tackled the digital design planning for the Fallout 4 Power Armor build. We extracted the game models using NifSkope, prepared them for our build by increasing their detail in Blender, then finally cut them into sections that would fit on our 3D printers in NetFabb. With our first batch of models are ready to produce, it's time to send them to the machines to create and get them looking nice.

    I'll be using the helmet and the large shoulders to demonstrate the techniques I use to go from raw 3D print to finished master ready for molding. But same process is used whether I'm making something small like a detail piece or a weapon, or the big printed sections of armor. For this build, we'll be using the 3D printer for the interior "frame" pieces, the large shoulders, and the back armor as well as some of the smaller detail bits throughout the armor like the oversized bolts on the knees and the oil filters under the chest.

    I print exclusively in ABS plastic because of some interesting post processing methods available, specifically being able to use acetone to smooth your prints to reduce or eliminate the print "grain" visible at each layer in the printing process. This is not acetone vapor smoothing, which looks really pretty but softens up all of the hard edges we worked to preserve, but rather a solution mixed up and painted directly on to the part. I'll create a batch of "ABS juice" to paint the surface with a brush that both fills in the valleys of the print lines like a body filler, and also acts to soften up and smooth down the high points.

    Inside the Electronics of the 3D-Printed Ghost Trap

    Thanks to Dremel's support and use of their 3D Idea Builder printer and a host of great tools, we were able to build a working, 3D printed, Ghostbusters Ghost Trap. Last time, we took a look at the modeling and design of my 3D printed Ghost Trap, this time we're going to delve inside and see how it works. As we were developing the Ghost Trap project I proposed making a fully functional trap that could open and close with lights and sound. While I am handy with a soldering iron and can generally pick out components for a project, I am no electronics expert and have no experience programming microcontrollers. It's something that has been on my to-do list for a long time so originally I planned on learning the Arduino as part of the Trap build.

    The many parts of the Ghost Trap

    While designing the first iteration of the door mechanism, the amount of work I had to do started to sink in - fully model the trap and pedal, make sure it all fits together while making room for electronics, source hardware and obscure parts, design a door mechanism, figure out a system for smoke, sound, lights and get all the files ready for public release. Oh, and learn how to program the Arduino and make it run the whole thing. I was in over my head and simply did not have the time to do everything and it really bugged me. I like knowing how to do things and I wanted to learn how to program the Arduino, but I had to be realistic about it. Luckily, Jeremy Williams came to the rescue with his electronics and programming expertise--he's tackled zombies before, so ghosts were not a problem.

    The guts of the Ghost Trap.

    I compiled a wish list of functions for Jeremy consisting of a 'must-have' and 'dream' list. At the very least the trap had to open, lights come on, sound effects play. The ultimate dream-build was open and close, lights, sound, smoke and vibration - all controlled via the foot pedal. It took a while for me to communicate to Jeremy what I did and did not know, so he could figure out exactly how much he had to do. I knew I could physically wire everything up but I didn't know how it should be wired. Jeremy and I sat down with all the components, figured out where we needed resistors, how much power we needed, what should get hooked up where, etc. and then it was my turn to wire as much as possible. A habit I've picked up from 3D modeling is to label everything and organize it, so you can turn a scene over to someone else and they can navigate the project with relative ease. I kept this in mind when wiring the trap and made sure to label all the wires and dress them so I could deliver a tidy setup to Jeremy.

    Bits to Atoms: Designing the 3D-Printed Ghost Trap

    We got the tools, we got the talent - and now we have a working 3D printed Ghostbusters Ghost Trap! No - it doesn't really capture ghosts, but it still looks really cool. Thanks to Dremel for sponsoring this project--the Dremel 3D Idea Builder printer and tools they supplied helped to make the Ghost Trap a reality.

    Norm and I wanted to tackle a big project and finally decided on the classic Ghostbusters Ghost Trap used in the first two movies. The trap is introduced in the classic ballroom scene where the Ghostbusters capture Bill Murray's nemesis, Slimer. It's rolled out underneath the unsuspecting ghost and triggered via a remote pedal. The trap opens, bright light streams out, electricity zaps Slimer is sucked inside and the doors slam shut as a bargraph illuminates, indicating the trap is full.

    There are plenty of fans building Ghost Traps in many different ways - wood, plastic, foam and metal but since my specialty is 3D modeling my medium would be 3D printed plastic. There were a few things I knew right away - I wanted to make it fully 3D printable, I wanted lots of individual pieces and I wanted it to function. The first step was to round up reference material which was found in abundance on Ghostbusters fans Sean Bishop and Stefan Otto had both put out detailed sets of plans for Ghost Traps and these were my starting point. I also did many screengrabs from the Blu-Rays to use as reference. Over the years, many of the knobs, lights and electronic doodads have been identified but are often hard to find, which is partly why I wanted to fully 3D print the trap.

    I tried to get my hands on the real parts as a reference and sometimes I was able to find manufacturer blueprints to model from. I decided to use real nuts and bolts to assemble the trap since they would look better than anything I could 3D print and would make a strong structure, good for modding. That proved to be challenging as I needed to guesstimate what size screws were used. Even with many of the parts already identified by the fan community, it still took almost a week to track everything down and select all the fasteners. Keep in mind I was also sourcing parts for the hose and pedal that activates the trap. The pedal in particular was more challenging as there were many parts that couldn't be 3D printed such as tubing, ribbon cable, and the distinctive electronic relay on top.

    Solido3D 3D Printer Cures Resin with Smartphone Screens

    On Monday, March 21 keep an eye out for a new Kickstarter from Taiwan-based Solido3D who is releasing the first smartphone powered 3D printer. Yep. The OLO sits on top of your phone and uses the light from the screen to cure a small vat of resin. Lock yourself out of the house? No problem, 3D print a copy with your smartphone! As a refresher, resin 3D printers generally come in two flavors - laser and DLP. Laser-based printers like the Form 2 draw each layer with a laser which cures the liquid resin. DLP printers use projectors similar to what you may have in your home theater to flash each layer all at once. A DLP projector is much more powerful than your phone, so it appears that the OLO uses resin that cures with less intense light. There's not a lot of info out about the OLO but your phone sits under a small unit that has a tank for resin in the bottom with the upper portion containing the z-axis mechanism that raises and lowers the print platform. Your phone's screen flashes each layer of the print to cure the resin as the print platform raises. It's not clear as to how the phone communicates with the printer.

    It appears that the OLO will have at least 8 different resins with different colors and supposedly flexible and castable versions. Print resolution is supposed to be as fine as .042mm (as a comparison the Form 2 can do .1mm - .025mm) with a print size reported to be 128mm x 72mm x 52mm, so slightly bigger than 3 decks of cards stacked up.

    Looks like the OLO isn't vaporware as it won an Editor's Choice Award at the NYC World Maker Faire. I'm anxious to see this and early reports looks like it will go for $99 on Kickstarter, but I can't help think this will be a fun, gimmicky thing to show off at best. I foresee a few issues - do you tie up your phone for an hour or two as you use it as a printer? Do you use an old phone as a dedicated projector? Even then, running the screen for that long will require the phone to be plugged in. How is the OLO itself powered? Does it seal tightly so you don't spill resin while carrying around in your backpack? I have experienced the messiness of resin print first-hand, this seems like a good way to accidentally ruin a phone. Typically resin prints need to be cleaned up with alcohol, but OLO claims to use plain old water. Skepticism aside, I look forward to seeing the OLO in action and it's a good indicator of what lies ahead for 3D printing.

    The Solido3D OLO Kickstarter begins Monday, March 21 and is reportedly $99. Solido3D has a San Francisco office, so I'm sure we'll be seeing them at Maker Faire in a few months. Will report back as we learn more.

    Making a Working Ghostbusters Ghost Trap!

    We're super excited to reveal a project we've been working on for the past few months. Sean Charlesworth has designed and built a replica of the ghost trap prop from the original Ghostbusters films. This prop pulls the best features from the traps that appear in the films, using as many original found parts as possible and the rest 3D printed. It even has a working pedal to activate lights, sound, and smoke! (Thanks to Dremel for providing the 3D printer and tools for us to build this project! Learn more about the Dremel 3D Idea Builder here.)