Want to get involved with 3D printing but don't have a big enough budget to buy even one of the current low-cost machines? If you aren't particular about the print quality or size, and don't mind waiting quite a while for delivery, then you might find the Peachy Printer Kickstarter project just what you've been looking for.
The design approach is minimalist, to say the least, and was originally hacked together using parts that Rylan Grayston happened to have laying around on his workbench. It looks very much like a school science project - which I'm not negative or being critical about. Actually I admire his ingenuity and creativity quite a bit.
Rylan, with some help and assistance from his local hackerspace, managed to put together a resin based 3D printer that actually produces parts of surprising quality - surprising given the total lack of precision mechanical drives or other commonly used techniques. Instead of using a z-axis drive mechanism, Rylan decided to keep the build platform stationary while slowly increasing the resin level, drop by drop. By counting the number of drops that fall in the build container, and knowing the container dimensions, his application calculates the current resin level and drives the resin curing laser accordingly.
He eliminated the need for a dedicated micro controller and other electronics by using the audio headphone and microphone jacks on his PC. Of course, this approach is marginally robust and requires that you don't use your PC for anything else while printing - but it does work, which is brilliant.
At first I was a bit concerned that The Peachy Printer Kickstarter project might be a scam, but after watching the introductory video and looking at the associated photos, I decided that it's probably real. In any case the cost is extremely low - basically CAN$100 for one of the Peachy Printer kits.
As I mentioned above, if you do decide to back the project be prepared to wait a while. Most of the reward options have dates in the Fall of 2014 - about a year out at this point in time.
How's Rylan doing so far? Pretty good actually. The initial project funding goal was CAN$50,000, which he needed to improve some of the design and to order parts for the printers. As of October 12th, with 8 more days left to go, he has totally blown away the goal and clocked up CAN$591,450 all ready.
Spent an interesting afternoon with Roland working with his brand new MakerBot Replicator 2X 3D printer. The printer arrived while I was in the States at the World Maker Faire, and Roland had been able to make a lot of progress - more than I expected.
He had unpacked, setup, and adjusted the printer, and was cranking out lots of sample parts including some that he downloaded from Thingiverse. Today's session was primarily Q&A - talking about his toolchain, processes, and design trade-offs.
It turns out that the MakerBot documentation is fairly light on some details - so he didn't realize the necessity of cleaning the build platform regularly, typically with acetone and alcohol. The documentation is also written from the perspective of a U.S. user and makes lots of assumptions that aren't valid for overseas users - like the ready availability of 3M blue tape at local hardware stores.
The biggest issue we ran into was that the left extruder wasn't working properly. After a little inspection we noticed that the knurled shaft was incorrectly aligned and wasn't grabbing the filament, as you can see in this photo:
Disassembling the extruder, we were able to realign the shaft so that it worked properly, at least for the first print:
After we buttoned everything up again, Roland was able to print using both of the heads for the first time.
Unfortunately the left extruder started acting up with the next print and will require more debugging/trouble-shooting. It's almost as if there is a missing spacer or spring.
In addition to the FormLabs Form 1 printer I posted about previously, the B9 Creator 3D printer from B9Creations also produces high resolution prints that look amazingly good.
According to the booth staff, the printer has proven quite popular with independent jewellery designers and other creators that need to produce small parts with an excellent surface finish. They find it to be a great replacement technology for the wax models used for jewellery casting, especially when there's a need to faithfully reproduce small detail.
The printer z-axis slices can be as small as 6.35 microns in height, while the overall print volume is 102.4mm x 76.8mm x 200 mm (obviously the printer designers thought in inches since those dimensions work out to 4" x 3" x 8".
The way that 3D printing technology is ramping up so quickly, instead of asking "What can you print?" we should be asking "What can't you print?". There's no better example than the jet engine turbine shown at the World Maker Faire last week by Kraftwurx.
Kraftwurx is essentially an online fulfilment company that enables designers to upload their creations, setup a storefront, and take orders, while Kraftwurx does all the 'behind the scenes' grunt work by processing the orders, printing and shipping the items, processing the credit card payments, and delivering a check to the designer. It's not a new or unique business model, and has been successfully applied to other markets, like photography and t-shirts, in the past. Kraftwurx's spin is to apply the business model to 3D printing coupled with a lot of applications and design know-how.
The jet engine turbine they had on display at Maker Faire was a good example. It's still in the prototype phase, and is intended for use in a model aircraft rather than anything life sized. Still, it was quite impressive to see first hand.
The "maker movement" is much more than just hacking, experimenting, or playing around with hobbies. A big part of it, at least for me and many of my friends, is the ability to pass on skills and know-how to others, including passing them down from generation to generation.
One of Michael Overstreet's humanoid robots playing soccer at World Maker Faire 2013 in New York City. Michael puts in a tremendous amount of time and effort each year attending Maker Faires in NYC, Detroit, San Mateo, and Kansas City, along with RoboGames, because he gets real inspiration from introducing kids and adults to robotics.