3D printing with yarn

Who would have thought…a 3D printer that uses yarn?  It uses a needle to piece and entangle the newly placed yarn with the material below, so you end up with more of a ‘lump’ than woven fabric.  But, pretty cool stuff.  Check out the video below to see it in action.

Part Design for 3D Printing on a Cube

bracket_originalI’ve been really enjoying my Cube printer, but it has not been without its learning curve.  Like any part design, you need to design the part with the manufacturing process in mind, and I’m learning quite a bit about extruded filament part production.

One issue is that large parts with thick sections tend to warp.  The Cube software provides an option for a raft – basically a lattice of thin lines laid down first, providing a stable bed upon which to build the part – but this greatly increases the post-processing time.  Namely, you need to scrape or sand off the raft.  It’s not a huge deal but does waste material and time.

Consider the bracket design shown above.  It’s simple enough, with a uniform cross section and was designed to be printable without needing supports (thin webs of material to support overhangs and such).  However, when printing, this part would warp and curl, forcing me to abort the print.

To address this, I did a few things.  First, I added thin tabs at the corners to help hold those down.  The principle is similar to the raft, but much easier to clean up (just cut them off – very quick and clean).  This alone did not produce a repeatable, printable part.  So, I added large chamfers at all edges, to reduce the part thickness and reduce warping.  This did the trick, and I was able to repeatedly print this (I’m using ABS, for what it’s worth).  Here’s what the final design looks like:


As I learn more, I’m just not seeing how this technology is ready for mainstream home use like some articles seem to suggest.  You need to be a tinkerer and know your way around CAD to get parts that are really going to do what you want.  For that type of person though, this printer is fantastic!  I’ve been able to iterate prototype parts much quicker than before and am producing better designs, faster.

Gigabot – large-scale 3D printing

3D printing is taking a big step forward with the Gigabot, a Kickstarter project that aims to produce a 3D printer with a massive 24x24x24″ build envelope!  Ready-to-assemble kits cost $2500 (pay more if you want it assembled for you).  Cool stuff, though I’m not quite sure the market is ready for this (apart from those people wishing to print cool lamp shades…).


MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner

Makerbot just unveiled a prototype of a new 3D scanner at SXSW, designed for the casual 3D printer users out there.  It’s fast, but what’s really key is that it produces water-tight models (no gaps in the surfaces) that are ready to scale and send to your printer.  At this point, details are sparse…stay tuned to this blog for updates or sign up for email updates directly from the source at Makerbot.

3D Microprinter

3d.nano_.printer.1x2993D printing is a cool technology and one I’m really enjoying…but this 3D microprinter is in a class by itself.  It can print features as small as 30 nanometers, which is about .000001″!  It uses a process similar to stereo lithography, whereby a liquid resin is hardened by directed light in selective areas, building the part a layer at a time.  Producing geometry at this scale can be useful for all your favorite nano-technologies…microneedles, microfluidics, etc.  Cool stuff.

(read more here)

3D Printing Options

new_cubeJoy of joys…I finally have my own 3D Printer!  I’ll be writing much more about it soon, but in the meantime, if you’re interested in this stuff, check out this article at MAKE, it’s their self-labeled ‘Ultimate 3D Printer Buyer’s Guide‘.  The options are many, though in the end, I opted for a lower end consumer oriented machine, as I don’t see the others filling my occasional need for professional quality prototypes.  The machine I bought is the Cube printer from 3D Systems.  The price was a bit high compared to the more DIY type options, but I opted for that as it’s more likely (I felt) to be a true plug and play, hands off sort of machine.  I’ll be using it for quick, rough protos, though I expect I’ll still depend on vendors for higher quality prototypes at times.  A perfect combo, really.  Stay tuned for more on the Cube…I’ve been using it for only a couple days now and am learning a lot!

Plummeting cost of rapid prototyping

The cost of rapid prototyping has been plummeting lately with open source products like the RepRap and MakerBot, but now it’s hitting a new low…$500 for an extrusion style rapid prototyping machine from Solidoodle.  What you save in money, you sacrifice in layer resolution…this Solidoodle, for example, uses 1.75mm extruded material so the parts have a definite stairstep look to them.  Still, it’s awfully impressive and even that limitation can be acceptable for a lot of uses (especially if you sand or fill the parts to smooth out the layers after building).  While material selection and build resolution are nowhere near as good as more expensive processes like SLS and SLA, this is a market that just didn’t exist a few years ago, and is quickly growing.  For those who don’t want to learn how to make their own 3D files, there are even websites like Thingverse where people can download files ready to print.

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