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Posts Tagged ‘R&D’

An Afternoon with the R&D Team from the MakerBot Replicator Project

Right now in the BotCave, the chirping of dozens of Replicators on the Q&A bench contends with the dolphin squeal of packing tape. Also the chatter of the production team hurrying assembled bots through to the testing process before handing them over to the shipping team for boxing and labeling. There is excitement building in the air … as well as the scent of  grease and lemony cleaning products.

Meanwhile, around the corner in the BotLair, the R&D team who developed and delivered the MakerBot Replicator product that is the origin of all of this activity are still hard at work testing and re-testing elements of the bots before passing off data to the documentation and support teams. Staff photographer Dave Neff spent the afternoon touring around the facility catching a few members of the R&D team who were on-site today, namely injection molding designer Aljoša, BotTech extraordinaire Ben, electrical engineer Alison, and the captain for the R&D team for this project, Charles. There are a few notable omissions, namely Jeremy who spent his summer designing the MightyBoard and Taylor who managed the extensive revisions for the lasercut case.

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Gnomocopier

Gnome and Gnome

Gnome and Gnome

There is no doubt Tony Buser has definitely done more for the 3D printing community than anyone else when it comes to advancing gnome duplication and teleportation technology.  However, I’m convinced that his SpinScan open source software and hadware has a larger potential besides assisting in the controversial practice of gnome cloning. 1  Tony hasn’t finalized the materials list, but the final project would probably involve a decent web camera with good low light performance2 , a cheap laser3 , a stepper driver, a stepper motor, an arduino, a few bearings, threaded rod, and some nuts and bolts.  The whole lot would set you back around $200 and significantly less if you can scavenge a few parts.

So, if you could scan and print anything, what would it be?4

Spinscan by tbuser

Spinscan by tbuser

Error - could not find Thing 10730.
  1. I mean, the anti-gnome-stem-cell lobby is just insane! []
  2. Perhaps around $100 []
  3. He got a $4 laser from eBay []
  4. But, perhaps a better question is…  what are you waiting for?! []
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You had me at scanner

SIGGRAPH 2011 - Portable, super-high-resolution 3-D imaging from MIT

SIGGRAPH 2011 - Portable, super-high-resolution 3-D imaging from MIT

It used to be that creating highly detailed microscopic scans required huge expensive pieces of equipment, vibration isolation tables and hours of processing.  Researchers at MIT have developd a cheap small and portable 3D scanner about the size of a soda can that can detect features as small as 0.0001 mm tall and 0.0002 mm wide – and it can create the 3D images nearly instantaneously.

I cannot wait to plug one of these into my Thing-O-Matic!

Hattip to SlashDo

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12 Ways to Fight Warping and Curling

Curling

Curling

As printed plastic parts cool the different areas of the object can cool at different rates. 1  Depending upon the parts being printed, this effect can lead to warping and curling.  Although PLA has a much lower shrinkage factor than ABS, both can warp and curl, potentially ruining a print.  There are some very common ways to deal with this potential problem, the most notable being a heated build platform.  However, sometimes that might not be enough.

  1. Use a heated build platform.  A heated build platform helps keep the lowest levels of a print warm as the higher layers are printed.  This allows the overall print to cool more evenly.  A heated build platform, sometimes abbreviated as HBP, helps tremendously with just about any ABS print and large PLA prints.
  2. Print with a raft.  Rafts are a printing option in ReplicatorG and Skeinforge.  They’re basically a large flat lattice work of printed material underneath the lower-most layer of your printed object.  They’ll also help reduce warping and curling by allowing your printed object to adhere better to your flat build surface.  Other variations on this are to print with a larger raft and/or a thicker raft comprised of more layers.
  3. Calibrate your starting Z height.  A good first layer makes all the difference.  If your starting Z axis height is too high, the extruded filament won’t be able to make a good bond with the platform.  If you think your Z axis starting height is too high, try lowering it by 0.05mm increments until you find a good first layer.
  4. Get the right build surface.  Some people have experimented with different surfaces such as steel, titanium, glass, different kinds of plastic, different kinds of tape, and foam board.  However, I find both ABS and PLA seem to stick really well to hot or warm Kapton tape.
  5. Clean your build surface.  ABS and PLA stick better to a clean build surface.  Keep it clean of dust, pieces of old prints, and any other debris.
  6. Print slower.  Printing slower allows finer detail, better adhesion to the build surface and lower layers, and gives the printed part more time to cool evenly.
  7. Print cooler.  Printing at a lower temperature isn’t always an option.  Ideally, you should be printing at the lowest temperature required for extrusion and that allows good interlayer adhesion.  However, trying lower temperatures isn’t for the faint of heart.  Printing at a too low a temperature could cause harm to your extruder motor or extruder.
  8. Eliminate drafts or enclose your robot.  Forrest Higgs found that having his 3D printer too close to an open window caused very uneven heating across his build surface.  This in turn caused the side of his prints closest to the window to curl.  Since keeping the window closed wasn’t an option for him, he compensated for the window drafts by adding a heat lamp.  Cupcake and Thing-O-Matic owners might have an easier time of eliminating drafts by simply enclosing two or three of the sides of their robots.  It will also have a fortunate side effect of helping to control fumes.
  9. Design with mouse ears.  Zach Smith’s solution was to add little discs to corners of an object to help those corners stick to the platform.  These essentially serve as “mini-rafts” to give those corners more surface area and better adhesion without having to print an entire raft.
  10. Design with aprons to hold down corners.  Forrest Higgs suggested adding “aprons” around an object to be printed, while that object was being printed on a raft.  These low thick pieces of plastic help keep the raft flat and help prevent any curling or warping from affecting the desired printed object itself.
  11. Design with surrounding thermal walls.  While Forrest Higgs’ apron approach provides a mechanical advantage of essentially holding down corners with a chunk of plastic, Nophead has added thin surrounding walls to his designs to act as baffles to keep warm air around the printed object as it moves around.  He’s postulated that a very thin surrounding wall could have the same beneficial effect as printing inside an enclosed build chamber.  Interestingly, it seems that Nophead suggests that designing objects with more rounded corners might also help avoid curling and warping at those corners.
  12. Reduce infill.  When printing a model you can chose to print it hollow, completely solid, or some percentage between zero and 100.  However, as Nophead points out even the plastic inside a model exerts a force on the entire printed object as it cools.  It stands to reason that the more plastic you have, the more those pieces of plastic will pull against themselves and the build surface as they cool.  By reducing infill there will a reduced amount of internal tension as the object cools.  Reducing these internal forces by printing with a lower infill ratio can help reduce curling and warping as well.
  13. EDIT:  Sand the Kapton.  Charles Pax has suggested that sanding a Kapton tape build surface will increase the surface area, making it easier for the molten plastic to stick.
  14. EDIT:  ABS surface.  Some have suggested essentially painting the build surface with liquid ABS.2  This is has the same effect of laying down a big flat raft.

If you’ve got some suggestions, tips, or tricks that you use to fight warping and curling, please leave a comment below!

  1. Photo courtesy of backpackphotography []
  2. ABS dissolved in acetone or ABS glue []
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3D Printer Key Duplication with nrp

Duplicating Disc Detainer Keys by nrp

Duplicating Disc Detainer Keys by nrp

Thingiverse user nrp has been working on using his 3D RepRap printer in some pretty amazing ways.  He’s already put his 3D printer to use along with a Kinect to print by use of hand gestures.  Since then he’s been working on duplicating house keys and the more secure disc detainer keys pictured above.  Nrp’s website, and the comments that go along with his detailed posts, provide a wealth of information about his project along with lots of interesting links about computer enhanced key generation.

This project and the way nrp uses his printer remind me of the very cool Nickel for Scale project by Amy Hurst and MakerBot’s own Marty McGuire.  How cool would it be to never have to go get keys made again?  I don’t think it’s too much to dream that one day you might be able to put a key down next to a nickel, take a picture or short video, and have your MakerBot crunch out a few duplicates.

Error - could not find Thing 8925.
Error - could not find Thing 9463.
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How to get better results from your 3D printer – Coating

Improving prints through coating

Improving prints through coating

This is the seventh in a series of posts about ways to get even better print results from your 3D printer.  The prior posts provided information on calibrating hardware, upgrading hardware, calibrating software, maintenance, finishing by abrasion, and finishing with heat.   Your hints, tips, hacks, and suggestions have been really great!  Please keep sending them in!  Today’s post is about a surprisingly little-used technique – coating:

  1. Coat.You could choose to coat your object in another material that would obscure any imperfections in the printed object.  These will inevitably lead to a loss of detail, but improve the look of the final object.
    1. Covering a printed object with successive coats of paint1
    2. Dipping your object in liquid plastic grip material.  This is typically used to put a very “grippy” layer on tool handles.
    3. I’ve heard of others who have used ABS glue or other material to essentially paint a coat of plastic onto the surface of a printed object.

Have you used some kind of coating to improve your 3D printed results?  Please share your ideas and tips in the comments section below!

  1. Unfortunately, it appears that the user or Flickr removed the pictures from that post.  :(  []
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Super Sweet Printing Tech – Zero Extra Shells

0-extra shell on left print, default settings on the right

0-extra shell on left print, default settings on the right

While perusing Thingiverse yesterday I noticed TheRuttmeister’s suggestions on printing a small 7 toothed gear for a Stepper Upgrade for the MK5.  Here’s his suggestion:

I recommend that you print the small gears with 0 extra shells (infill of 0.1 or higher will result in solid teeth).

I had never heard of such a technique, but RoberHunt‘s print of this gear, showing the “zero-extra shells” on the left and his default settings on the right.  However, those results really speak for themselves.  I’ve tried to print small objects before only to find out that I couldn’t get the fill ratio to the point the object was solid.  I’m definitely trying this idea out next time!

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Printing … with science!

The Science of Printing

The Science of Printing

There are two schools of thought when it comes to dialing in the best settings for a 3D printer.  The first is to start fiddling with Skeinforge, clicking buttons, changing numbers with wild abandon and print off a truckload of 20mm cubes.  The more rational way is to apply SCIENCE!  Recently there have been several Things uploaded to Thingiverse specifically designed to help you set the best feed and flow rates for your printer.

Am I missing any Skeinforge calculation helpers?

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Virtual Tour of The Botcave

Since I started working at MakerBot Industries, the company has hired about eight more people. I started in September, so that means that every week, one or two new employees join the MakerBot team. Recently, I tagged along for one of the orientation tours. Here is what I saw:

Spools and Spools of Plastic: Some black plastic sits atop a box in the garage. This is the view from just in front of Bre’s car. It’s fun to imagine what all of those boxes filled with plastic might someday become.

Boxes o’ Parts: Each MakerBot Cupcake CNC or Thing-o-matic build kit comes with laser cut housing. This is where they live as they wait to be shipped to their new homes.

More Plastic: Plastic spools in limbo. These spools have been liberated from their oppressive boxes in the garage, but have not yet found a new home. Perhaps they will become part of a Mega Rainbow plastic pack.

Bagged Hardware: Feeding your MakerBot is a little easier with the Deluxe Filament Spindle & Box MK1 Kit. The kit keeps your plastic organized and on its spool on the bottom of your MakerBot.

Clear Plastic Cups: All of the nuts and bolts you need to assemble your Cupcake CNC are hand sorted with these pretty plastic cups. We call the finished product, which includes all the hardware you need to assemble your MakerBot, a hardware burrito.

Labeled Boxes: Each plastruder – that thing that turns your plastic into parts – is supported by metal rods that allow the plastruder to travel up and down. Some people call this the “z” direction, and hence the name – Z rod. This box stores finished Z rods.

Products Ready to Ship: Ever dreamed of using your MakerBot to frost a cake? Well, it’s perfectly possible with a Frostruder. They are currently in stock and ready to go.

Toolboxes: As MakerBot Industries rapidly expands, we have to have new tools. Charles Pax happily labels a new drawer where snips, wire cutters, and X-acto blades will live.

Packaging Material: A giant spool of packaging material used by shippers safely bundles MakerBots for their journeys into the wide, wide world.

Storage Racks: We have a very sophisticated technique for naming our shelves. We number them. We have ten so far.

Supplies for Experimentation: You never know what you will find on the shelves where the Research and Development department stores its stuff. In this case, it’s an experimental plastic.

The Vintage BMW: If you ever come to the the Botcave, you will probably get a glimpse of Bre’s 1979 BMW. It rests alongside hundreds of pounds of plastic spools in the garage. It needs a little work.

Techs at Work: A production technician lays out laser cut parts in preparation to assemble a Thing-o-matic.

Photos of cute baby animals: Puppy and kitty calendars peppered throughout the Botcave remind us what life is all about.

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