Bare-Bones Entry-Level 3D Printing – Kickstarter

The Peachy Printer  The First $100 3D Printer  Scanner by Rinnovated Design  Kickstarter

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.

 

The Peachy Printer  The First $100 3D Printer  Scanner by Rinnovated Design  Kickstarter 1

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.

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Debugging the MakerBot Replicator 2X

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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:

makerbot replicator

Disassembling the extruder, we were able to realign the shaft so that it worked properly, at least for the first print:

makerbot replicator

makerbot replicator

After we buttoned everything up again, Roland was able to print using both of the heads for the first time.

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makerbot

makerbot

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.

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World Maker Faire 2013: B9 Creator 3D Printer Stands Out

b9 creator 3D printer

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.

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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.

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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".

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World Maker Faire 2013: What Can’t You Print?

3d printed jet engine

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.

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World Maker Faire 2013: Humanoid Robot

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.

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World Maker Faire 2013: Sugru

"If Superglue and PlayDough had a baby" is the tag line for Sugru, a surprisingly useful self curing rubber concoction that turns out to be extremely useful.

Want to quickly fabricate a simple stand? Need to patch some rough edges or a break? Don't like the sharp corners on your smartphone or tablet? Sugru is the answer, and it's a whole lot of fun to boot.

13092X World Maker Faire-10

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World Maker Faire 2013: FormLabs Form 1 3D Printer

The FormLabs Form 1 high resolution desktop printer has some limitations/drawbacks for the type of work that I typically do, but it is so incredibly awesome that I want one anyway.

The part resolution, surface finish, and ability to produce parts that would be difficult if not impossible with other additive 3D printers, is really striking. Take a close look at the print developing in the Form 1 photo above. How difficult would it be for you to produce the same print with a Makerbot Replicator 2?

In addition to the print quality and performance, I love the aesthetic design of the printer itself. If Johnny Ive designed 3D printers instead of iPhones, this is the type of printer he would create.

At the same time, there are some downsides/limitations. The Form 1 won't be available until January 2014 at the earliest, and not in all US states or countries overseas. Japan is one of the countries that's obviously missing from the list at this point, though I did hear from the FormLabs staff at Maker Faire that plans for Japan sales and support are in the works.

The initial cost is higher than other printers, which I can rationalize given the higher performance and print quality. What's harder to justify, for my unique needs, is the higher projected running cost given that the printer resin has to be purchased from FormLabs and it isn't readily available locally. That implies that users will have to stock resin or risk running out just when they need to produce parts for projects or clients. For overseas users, like me, where it can take a week or more even for expedited FedEx delivery (not to mention costing an arm and a leg), this is a serious concern.

There are also some limitations that might be troublesome, depending on your particular use case. For example, one of the FormLabs booth staff explained that the Form 1 resin parts take several days to cure to the point that they are solid enough to be used in functional parts that might be subjected to stress. This wouldn't be a problem for artistic or concept designers, but would definitely pose significant problems for the type of parts I design and use regularly.

All things considered, the Form 1 is in a class by itself and definitely worth serious consideration if it's characteristics match your typical use case.

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World Maker Faire 2013: Makerbot Digitizer – Part 2

Following on to my previous post on the new Makerbot Digitizer, the "gnome" character shown above is a perfect example of the type of parts where the digitizer will perform well, if not excel.

Just like Goldilocks experience with the three bears, the gnome is not too large and not too small - it's just right. It has no large cavities, no overhangs, is primarily smooth surfaces without drastic or abrupt surface changes, and it lacks the type of small details that would cause problems for the digitizer.

It's also a matte surface with no reflections that are difficult for the unit's lasers. Of course you can scan items with shiny surfaces, you just have to make them appear matte by applying some powder or other material to mask the reflection. This is a typical challenge with all digitizers of this type, not a design fault. It's just something you need to be aware of and plan for in order to get the best possible scans from your digitizer.

One other thing that was slightly annoying in the Makerbot Digitizer user manual and at their booth at Maker Faire was the over promotion of "Thingiverse". I'm a big supporter of Thingiverse, upload my designs to it often, and promote it to other 3D printer users when it's appropriate. It's a very useful resource and I'm very happy that the company supports it.

But with Makerbot, Thingiverse seems to have evolved into almost a religious mantra that pops up everytime one of the employees opens their mouth to speak. The same thing is true of the digitizer user manual. It keeps on telling you to upload your designs to Thingiverse, over and over again.

They do provide a check box in the software to set it up so that the designs you upload can be kept private. In my opinion, the setting to keep designs private should be the default, and you should always have the option not to upload. A lot of us work on design projects for customers, or have our own development projects that we do not want to share or even let the world know what we're working on until we're ready to disclose it. It seems all too easy with the Makerbot Digitizer setup and supporting software to overlook a checkbox and suddenly find that your project has been disclosed to the world, and possibly your competitors. Perhaps I'm overly concerned, especially since I'm basing my observations on what I was told by the Makerbot staff at the event and what I have interpreted from the user manual.

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