Author Topic: 3D printing  (Read 3529 times)

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Offline deFuzster

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3D printing
« on: July 02, 2013, 10:00:07 AM »
How cool.

Imagine being able to reproduce that custom part or a factory clip that is no longer available.'

Love it.

Here is an article I got from the Australian Newspaper:
DO you really need a 3D printer in your home? Probably not yet, but they sure are fun. If you have the patience.

Be aware that 3D printing is not quite like ripping through a stack of paper on a fast laser printer.

A consumer-grade 3D printer operates with a Zen-like slowness, as the print head melts tiny filaments of PLA or ABS plastic and arranges them layer by layer into whatever design you have fed it.

Take the owl figurine I dashed up using the Cube 3D printer on test. First, ever so slowly, a perch appeared. Then, checking back about half an hour later, a pair of dainty green feet grew on top of the perch, followed by legs, a body and, eventually, 90 minutes later, an entire 7cm owl.

There was a similar wait for the funky table napkin-holder the Cube produced, as well as a natty bust of Yoda from Star Wars.

Be warned, though: if you have thought about getting a 3D printer to pump out a bunch of napkin-holders for the next dinner party, leave a few days for the manufacturing process.

Making those napkin holders is not cheap, either. The Cube costs $1799 and the cartridges that feed the reels of PLA or ABS plastic to the print head are $66 a pop and can be had in 16 colours.

Cubify says a cartridge delivers up to 15 models the size of a mobile phone case, so that's close to five bucks a case, just on consumables.

Unlike other 3D printer manufacturers, Cube maker 3D Systems has taken a leaf out of the ink-printer industry playbook and made its filament feed-cartridge system proprietary. A detector checks whether the non-refillable filament cartridge is kosher, and you can't just feed in plastic from a cheap generic reel as on other 3D printers.

The cartridge system fits into the Cube philosophy, which is to be the simple, easy-to-operate Apple of the 3D printing world.

The Cube looks the part with its neat, open-sculptured design comparing favourably to the industrial-looking boxes from other makers. It is noisy, however, which is something to bear in mind when leaving the gadget to grind through a 90-minute or more print job.

It comes with a stock of models ready to print, including the owl, Yoda, the napkin-holder and others.

It also comes with software that will convert the plethora of open-source 3D-object files available online to a format that works with the Cube.

I downloaded a couple of 3D files from rival Makerbot's Thingiverse site, including an iPhone 4 case, and after conversion they printed out OK. While simple to use, the conversion software lacks many of the tweaks desired by more hardcore 3D modellers.

Getting the best out of the Cube involves a bit more effort than operating a paper printer.

The print head needs to be aligned for best results with the glass print bed, and the bed must be covered with special glue to stick down each model being formed.

Changing cartridges takes five to 10 minutes and most models need to be cleaned up with a razor-blade to look their best.

The Cube needs to be connected to a PC by USB cable to update its firmware, but is happy to operate in standalone mode most of the time.

It's driven through a small touchscreen at the front of the unit. There are menus for calibration, cartridge loading and levelling the print bed and then, when you are ready to rip, 3D print files can be loaded on a USB memory stick, which slots into a port on the side of the Cube. Scroll through the available files, touch one you want and away it goes.

Print head alignment is critical, as is spreading an even, thin layer of glue on the print bed. Get these wrong and your creations will end up as plastic smears rather than recognisable objects.

I had a problem with the print head overheating. Once this happens the Cube shuts down and the model must be restarted. Changing the cartridge fixed the problem.

Consumer 3D printing is here to stay and the Cube's efforts at ease of use will help extend the market.

But almost two grand is a big commitment and I reckon 3D printers need to get much cheaper, faster and even easier to use before they become an every day tech appliance.
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Offline Kris

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Re: 3D printing
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2013, 10:15:52 AM »
Wow - Imagine what you could create!!!!