3D Printing Tribbles

 In News

This is a post on what I have seen with current 3D printers and where I would like them to head into the future.

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At the moment the hype with 3D printing is a bit inflated. 3D printing promises that you can with a few clicks here and there you can press print and have a working part in a few hours. Now while I believe that 3D printing will get there I will explain a bit about what to really expect with 3D printers.

I’m currently using a Lutzbot TAZ to print most items. Though what I have found is most prints will need to be babysit though most of the process. What ends up happening is that the part may not stick to the bed or is not properly scaled. There are also many steps from design to slicing that need to be finely adjusted for the print to finish correctly on the printer. When sending a part to the printer you need to transfer the gcode to the printer via a micro SD card. Before printing you need to purge the color though the printer you don’t want if your changing colors so it does not show up in the new print. After all this you will need to make sure the printer is properly calibrated. The calibration takes time and will last though a lot of prints if the machine is not bumped.

Now I will say 3D printing is awesome with a capital A. Why? Well for a at home hobbyist you can produce ABS or PLA plastic parts almost any shape you can imagine. This helps me as I build robots that often require unique structures for holding sensors, micro-controllers, and actuators. If you get into some of the higher end resin 3D printers it opens up a lot more creativity freedom. However the downside is that the cost may be prohibitive for most as even a liter of UV resin will run you about $150 dollars.

As for the future of 3D printing you will see prices drop dramatically as they are commercialized. They will have more features like a way to remote view a print. You can expect future 3D printers to produce parts faster with less material waste. Printers will start becoming standard with dual extrusion heads. This will help in printing speed, color choices or the ability to lay down a water soluble support plastic. Expect to see many of these come in the next few years. I strongly suggest getting into 3D printing now as even if they are still on the rise if you are able to learn and use current generation 3D printers you will have a good grasp on the base skills for the next generation of printers. Below I have picked out a list from cheap to somewhat expensive choices for a 3D printer.

Below are my picks for 3D printers.

budget printer: Printerbot Simple with heated bed.

Intermediate printer: Ultimaker 2

Advanced printer: Form1+ resin printer

Steps I take before printing a part.

  1. Sketch part on paper
  2. Design part in Google sketch up
  3. Design part in 3D CAD
  4. Save file as .STL
  5. view file is Cura to make sure it looks good
  6. Slice file in Slic3r
  7. Copy g-code to SD Card
  8. Insert SD card in printer
  9. Preheat head insert needed color
  10. Purge color if needed
  11. Calibrate bed
  12. Print Part

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