Posts Tagged ‘printing’

Living on the Cutting Edge with Dualstrusion

Hopefully by now you’ve heard about MakerBot’s newest 3D printer, the Replicator 2X.  While 3D printing opens up a new world of possibilities, being able to print with a second plastic extruder at the same time takes it to another level entirely.  There are a lot of things that become possible with a dual extruding 3D printer that are simply not feasible by any other means.

  • Colors
    • The most obvious, and by far the simplest, use of dual extruders is to enable two color printing.  Although a single-color object could be painted, there are times when painting a particular object would require a great deal skill or be very time consuming.  While printing a plastic sushi set for my daughter I used dualstrusion to add black plastic “soy sauce” to white plastic dishes.  Sometimes, painting an object might even be impossible.  Imagine an object such as a bottle, vase, or an egg where you want to have an image or design inside.  While it might be impossible to paint inside such an object, the interior image could be printed inside the object as it is being created.
  • Dissolvable Support
    • Dual extruders allow for printing with a dissolvable support material like PVA.  Being able to print with a water soluable material means your robot could print entire mechanical devices complete with moving pieces.  PVA is still very experimental and fussy as an extruded material and at the extreme forefront of dual material printing.
  • Varying Densities
    • With two extruders it would be possible to create an entirely solid plastic object with a customizable density.  This could be used to make trick dice, a balancing toy, a toy that can’t be knocked down, a toy that can’t be stood up, or maybe a boat that is difficult to sink.
  • Mechanical Properties
    • Different extruded materials, such as ABS and PLA plastics, tend to have different physical and mechanical properties.  ABS tends to be more flexible and PLA tends to be more rigid.  A 3D printer with dualstrusion can combine the two plastics into a single object that is both flexible and rigid.
  • Simultaneous Dual Printing
    • One of the more exciting developments with dual extruder printing was a recent contribution by Thingiverse user thorstadg.  Thorstadg created a method for operating both extruders simultaneously – allowing the printer to print two objects, one with each extruder, at the same time.
  • Variable Resolution
    • Two extruders means you have two nozzles at your disposal.  However, there is no particular reason for both extruders to have the same size nozzle aperture.  With one very fine nozzle aperture and one relatively large nozzle aperture, a single object could be printed with quick printing coarse features and very high resolution features that take more time.
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A Matter of Scales: How Much Can You Print with a Single 1kg Spool?

While we have been hard at work getting our MakerBot Replicators assembled and packed for our imminent shipping launch, several of us have been putting the early prototype Replicators in the office to hard use.

There are a number of questions about plastic and printing that have tickled our imaginations for quite a while — questions easier to answer now thanks to the improved ease of use of our latest machines. The first question we tackled is our most frequently asked one: “How much can you print with a single 1kg MakerBot Spool?”

The answer “Approximately 1kg of printed parts!” is correct, but it isn’t very satisfying. So we looked for a model to help us demonstrate this point more clearly. Being nerds, we figured standard chess pieces are the ideal metric.1

So a couple of weeks ago, Michael Curry grabbed an early Thingiverse chess set from cbiffle as a place to start.2 We skeined up these files as individual pieces, as a cluster of the six uniques, and then just said “heck with it” and went for the whole shebang: an entire side of a chess set in one go. Michael began printing. And printing. And printing. “Surely we can print like over 100 pieces with one spool, right?” I said.

And printing, and printing, and printing. A handwritten sign on the bot read: “Please keep printing chess!” And finally, just this week, the experiment was completed.

Here’s what we learned.

  • A single spool of plastic produces 392 chess pieces.
  • 392 chess pieces makes a little over 12 complete monochromatic chess sets.
  • The MakerBot Replicator ships with two spools — 1kg of Natural ABS and 1kg of Black ABS.
  • MakerBot Operators can print over 24 complete black and white chess sets with the plastic they receive with a new Replicator!

Check out the field of chess produced by the single spool — a MakerBot Replicator with 1kg of plastic absolutely crushes at printing chess!

  1. Because all of us are playing chess every day, right? Well, if only it were true. What does the castle and the beak piece do again? I know what the horsey piece does, it jousts! []
  2. With his kind permission! []
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Printing complex organic shapes with a Makerbot

UPDATE: Anna Galovich has been generous enough to translate this fantastic blog post into Estonian. You can find the translation right here.

For a recent project, I had to print this awesome crocodile skull from the University of Texas Digimorph project. At first it looked daunting, but it turned out to be surprisingly easy to print. I really like this print because it is a complex organic shape, and it is really impressive that it came from a Makerbot.

Crocodile skull, printed on a Makerbot

I used Netfabb Studio and ReplicatorG to prepare for print. I’m not posting the print-ready files because a) not sure if UT will let me and b) the following process is easy and you will learn a lot. I basically used Netfabb Studio to re-orient, repair, scale and split the model, in order to get it ready for print. The procedure I followed is generally applicable to all kinds of complex prints.

Keep reading for instructions on how to do it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Learning to love difficult prints – Space Pod from 2001

There is an experiment I’d been meaning to try for a while, and my Thing-O-Matic is now printing well enough that I felt I could try it. It is to take files from a site such as the 2001 Model Archive, and see if I could print them with little editing. The result was a qualified success: you can do amazing things with the Thing-O-Matic and support material enabled, but trying to remove delicate parts from the support material can be a real challenge. Some degree of editing of the source files is a good idea, to make them print-ready.

Space Pod printed, cleaned and partially repaired

For the first attempt, I chose the Space Pod from “2001: A Space Odyssey”. I loaded it into Meshlab and had a look. Keep reading after the break for a longer description of the process.

Space Pod file seen in Meshlab

Read the rest of this entry »

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If you can’t stand the heat…

Ethan’s recent post about Nick’s experiments with turning down a print bed’s heat to avoid upper layer warping got me thinking…  it seems to me that keeping a heated platform on throughout a print job may not actually be required. 1  When I’ve printed without heat at all, such as on an acrylic surface, I’ve only noticed ABS warping up to about 1cm or so.  After that printed objects tend to just even out.

The GCode command for setting the heated build platform temperature is:

M109 S70 T0

Where “S70″ means heat the platform to 70 degrees Celsius. 2  I honestly don’t know exactly how this GCode works.  It might force your printer to wait until the platform reaches a new temperature before continuing with processing more commands.  While this isn’t a big deal while your extruder is heating up before printing begins, it could be problematic if you try to change your printer’s temperature during a print job.  Even if this command doesn’t force the printing to pause while it changes temperature, there’s still the issue of how to implement it.  You probably don’t want to shut off the print bed’s heat during a short print job or in a print job for an object less than 1cm tall.  In any case, this is an idea and a question for the experimenters, hackers, and RepG/Skeinforge gurus out there.  What do you think?

  1. Doesn’t it just seem ironic that using a heated build platform can eliminate warping at the base only to cause warping farther up a printed object?! []
  2. When I heat my build platform to 70 degrees Celsius, PLA sticks to to Kapton like glue. []
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Thing-O-Matic Stepstruder MK6 Lookbook

Frequently, we find ourselves bragging about the MakerBot Operators for the incredible models they continue to upload to Thingiverse.com. Well, it is high time to direct attention to the prints they are posting as well. In particular, prints accomplished using our latest toolhead, the MakerBot Stepstruder MK6.

Just in time for the coming of spring1, here’s a fashion-forward lookbook of recent, gorgeous MK6 prints. Printing these items on a MakerBot before the MK6 would have been a feat.

emmetttwotimesMakeALot and many others are truly rocking their MK6 and giving us all prints2 to aspire to.

Spiral Pencil/Candle/Toothbrush Cup printed by emmett

3D Knot (hi-res) printed by emmett

Diagrid Bracelet printed by jag

domekit printed by twotimes

Truss Bridge Kit printed by Herb Hoover

Iris Box v2 printed by MakeALot

Nick Starno, lead designer on the MK6, has been watching the experimentation of the users of the new toolhead eagerly. “This is just the beginning,” he says.

Here’s a detail from Operator emmett from one of his photo notes, with insight into his process:

Printed beautifully on a TOM, Mk6, raftless with no support. I did have to remove the first few mm of the stl though, just so it had some decent flat areas for adhesion to the belt.

Are your Stepstruder prints really rocking? Share the photo at Thingiverse and then drop a message to us at support at makerbot dot com with a link to your prints!

  1. Spring is coming after all, right? []
  2. and skeinforge settings []
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Lessons Learned from Resolution at 0.20mm

Dave Durant - DIY 3D Printer Vertical Resolution World Record Holder

Dave Durant - DIY 3D Printer Vertical Resolution World Record Holder

With Dave Durant’s magic printer calibration program I was able to just specify what layer height (vertical resolution) I wanted – and it just worked.  This is a totally new experience for me.  Before playing with this program I spent time dialing in each version of ReplicatorG to my specific 3D printer’s settings – with different settings for my Cupcake than for my Thing-O-Matic.  Now I can just choose my desired vertical resolution and FIRE THE MAKERBOT!  If you’re planning on playing limbo with your computer too, there are a few practical concerns:1

  1. Careful measurement of the filament is important. Printing by laying down 0.2mm thick layers of plastic means your printer has to have a very good idea of how much plastic is coming in and going out.  Dave’s magic program will figure how much is going out, so all you have to do is carefully measure your filament.  I suggested my method the other day.  You don’t have to use my method, but I would suggest that you can’t take too many samples in getting this right.  Printing at 0.2mm layers means that over or under measuring will have a pretty big impact on the amount of plastic deposited at each layer.
  2. Attention to the build height is important. Printing at 0.2mm thick layers of plastic means that if your starting build height is off by as much as 0.1mm, you’re basically compromising half a layer of plastic.  Being off by 0.1mm in starting build height just isn’t that much of a problem when you are printing at 0.4mm per layer – there’s plenty of room for the plastic to squish around and find a place to go.  Make sure your Z maximum endstop doesn’t have a lot of wiggle, your platform is hitting the Z maximum endstop in the same area reliably, and that there’s not much wobble or wiggle2 in your Z stage that could cause a big variance in your starting build height.  Also, be sure to check your printer’s auto-homing features several times before printing at this level. 3  If you’re not sure about how to calibrate the proper print height, follow these calibration directions.
  3. Having a perfectly flat build surface is important. Since you’re printing at such thin layers, inconsistencies in your build surface will be magnified through the layers as you print.  You’ll want to make sure your build surface is totally flat – or flat to within about 0.1mm.  If you’re very close to having a level surface a good way to test it is to print a large flat object.  When that first layer goes down you’ll see the filament fuse together where the platform is at the proper height and either become individual strands where the platform is too low or it will start pushing plastic around where the build platform is too high.  I would suggest calibrating your starting build height for the highest point on your build surface and, if you’re using an automated build platform, you can just slightly adjust the lower points by adding a piece of Kapton tape.  Putting it under the belt in the lowest spots will raise your build surface very very slightly.

Next time – more about Dave Durant’s magic printer calibration program!

  1. How low can YOU go!?! []
  2. Or wibbly wobbly []
  3. A printer head crash isn’t catastrophic, but it is a pain. []
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Rainbow of Awesome

4 happy MakerBots a MakerBotting at Modelab

4 happy MakerBots a MakerBotting at Modelab

Four 3D printers lit in three colors printing in three colors of plastic at Modelab.  That’s just pretty.

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How to get better results from your 3D printer – Maintenance

Maintenance of your 3D printer

Maintenance of your 3D printer

This is the fourth in a series of how to get better print results from your 3D printer.  The first three posts focused on calibrating hardware, upgrading hardware, and calibrating software.  If you are just tuning in to this series, check out the list of prior posts at the end.  And if you’re only following along via an RSS feed, you’re really missing out.  There have been literally dozens of amazing comments with many many more suggestions from other roboticists.  Even if you think you know every trick in the book, you’re guaranteed to find something you haven’t thought of before.  And if you’ve got an idea, a hint, trick, or hack – leave a comment and help out future roboticists!

  • Maintenance. A well treated 3D printer should give you years of trouble-free printing. 1  Here are some suggestions on how to keep your pet 3D printer well maintained.
  1. Oil your X, Y, and Z rods.  I do this about once a month.  Since the Cupcake uses plastic bushings, I see a black plastic residue accumulate over time.  I wipe this off at the same time I oil the rods.
  2. Periodically tighten nuts and bolts.  Again, monthly.
  3. Periodically test and tighten belt tension.  I check and adjust belt tension rarely – usually only after I see a printing problem develop.
  4. Periodically test your filament tension.  There’s a sweet spot to filament tension that’s a lot easier to set with a MK5 style plastruder than it was with a MK4 plastruder.  Too tight and you’re putting extra strain on the extruder motor.  Too loose and you’re not really getting the best extrusion possible.  As plastic filament actually has a slight variation in its diameter, this is something I monitor whenever I am printing.  It’s partially a way for me to fuss over my robot as it is happily printing away. 2  If I notice that the extrusion is suddenly too thin, a quick adjustment to the filament tension screw will fix this.  I’ve heard that adding a second nut to the filament tension screw prevents the screw from loosening slightly over time.
  5. Repair or replace.  Having a 3D printer means that if a part breaks or wears out you can actually replace it.  Just accept the fact you’re going to bend, pop, snap, crackle, or pop a part.  When that happens you’ll need to rig or hack a temporary solution while you print up a replacement part.  One benefit to a solid plastic replacement part to a component that’s assembled out of layered plastic and/or plywood is that there are no parts to loosen over time.
  6. Floss extruder gear.  Use something soft-ish like a toothpick to pop the plastic bits out of the gear’s teeth.
  7. Clean out the plastruder.  The plastruder can accumulate very small plastic chips which fall out from the extruder gear.  If you leave your hot too long, you can develop a blockage that will cause plastic to ooze up into the plastruder.  Disassembling the plastruder is the best way to pull the extra plastic out.
  8. Keep firmware updated.  The firmware has come a long way and I’m pretty sure it to go even further.  Don’t forget to update the extruder firmware too!
  9. Keep software updated.  ReplicatorG is constantly under development.
  10. Replace warped build platforms or build surfaces.  A flat even build surface will ensure nice flat builds without having to worry about the extruder head crashing into the platform.
  11. Keep your plastic in a cool, dry place.  As mentioned above, the filament’s diameter can very slightly.
  12. Check wire connections on any moving axes.  The cable clips attaching motors, endstops, and various other bits to the XY stages can work themselves loose after time.  I check these whenever I see that a cable might be working itself loose.
  13. Cupcake – Clearing extruder nozzle blockage.  This is really only relevant to the MK4 style plastruders.  I’ve never had a bad blockage after running a MK5 plastruder for the last six months.
  14. Thing-O-Matic – Clear the inside of your robot of any plastic boogers that might get wiped off.
  1. And, if you’ve build the robot yourself, you can make sure that it will be running forever!  Isn’t DIY great?! []
  2. Just think of it as the roboticist version of a mom dabbing a corner of napkin and wiping your cheek. []
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Printing upside down!

Printing?  Upside down!

Printing? Upside down!

Did you know a 3D printer can print upside down?  A little over a year ago Adrian Boyer of the RepRap project proved it was possible.  Given that a 3D printer using this technology can print upside-right1  and upside-down2, it stands to reason you should be able to print in outer space with zero gravity.

What are the practical aspects of this revelation?  I can think of two.  Firstly, as mentioned above, you’d be able to print in space.  Secondly, if you’re low on real estate, you could always bolt a few MakerBots to the ceiling or a wall.  How cool would that be?

  1. One G []
  2. One negative G []
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