Archive for the 'Make' Category

3D Printing: The Software Stack (… is kinda broken …)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Throughout the anticipation of the delivery of the Ultimaker (4 to 6 weeks — as are pretty much all 3D printers these days!) and the week of assembly (another post), I spent a bunch of time researching software and otherwise attempting to grok the toolchain without a tool to apply the chain to.

In short, 3D printing requires a slew of tools and the tools are… ugh… unrefined, if not downright user abusive. Not that this comes as a surprise. Affordable 3D printing is a very new market and it’ll take a few years for the science to be nailed down enough that an easy UI can be wrapped around it.

And it is moving rapidly. Thus, if you are reading this anywhere after about 3 to 6 months from now, it is likely that the landscape has changed.

As well, this is a decidedly Mac OS X centric / Ultimaker centric view of the world. I’ll likely update again in a month or so after I’ve set up the Printrbot.

To drive a 3D printer, there are quite a few stages of software that are employed. In the maker world, there are generally multiple answers to any given stage in the overall chain. If you are working with a commercial printer, it is likely that the stages closest to the printer — the driver, assuredly, maybe more — are fixed. Read the rest of this entry »

3D Printer #2: Printrbot

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

While I’m looking to the Ultimaker (see my previous post for thoughts on the Ultimaker) (now received– time to start assembly!) as my primary go-to, general purpose, home manufacturing device, I was both interested in a second printer as a platform for experimentation and as a secondary printer for when I need to turn out a bunch of stuff.

Because I wasn’t going to be afraid to modify it, I wanted something pretty cheap. The RepRap platform seems pretty interesting, but it also seems semi-fragile (and feedback on various sites indicates that it is harder to keep aligned than others, though I don’t know how true that really is).

Along came the Printrbot Kickstarter project. I ended up funding that at the $424 level. I’ll use the Ultimaker to print all the plastic parts. The Printrbot is really pretty extraordinary. It is an elegantly simple design, has decent precision and, through its simplicity, is extremely customizable.

Also, the Printrbot story and the whole Kickstarter concept is pretty cool and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to jump in and fund something.

Ultimaker (3D Printer) Ordered!

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Update: This article will be updated occasionally with new information as I run across it….

Gonna be a long 4 to 6 weeks…

I just ordered an Ultimaker 3D printer after a few weeks of on and off research into the subject of 3D printing. It has a 4 to 6 week lead time.

I chose the Ultimaker over the RepRap Mendel/Prusa, MakerBot, and UP! Personal Portable 3D Printer for a few reasons:

– Larger build envelope than the Makerbot and faster, too.

- Extremely precise print capabilities.

- Less finicky than the Mendel, so it seems from the various forums, etc.

- The Netfabb software seems to be well regarded.

- Elegant print head design.

- Highly customizable, open source hardware / software / platform.

- PLA preferred (PLA is Polylactic Acid and is a biodegradable, non-toxic, material)

Any of the 3D printers would have been a good choice and each of the ones not chosen have advantages; the makerbot has an automatic object ejector for continuous duty printing, the UP! is a really nice design (easy to use), and the RepRap has an awesome community supporting it that has built a very versatile/customizable platform.

There are, of course, a large number of commercial printers. The UP! is about the cheapest of the lot and pricing ranges right on up to $unobtanium. Extrusion based printing is not the only solution, either, by any means, but it is currently the most accessible, as far as I can tell.

In the end, the elegant extruder design, overall machine design, speed and — most importantly — accuracy of the Ultimaker won out. I suspect I’ll eventually build a 3D printer of some sort, possibly a RepRap, or, at the least, print parts for someone else and help them put it together. Seems like a fun project and, overall, 3D printing is likely to be a huge industry in the coming years.


I have about a zillion little projects around the house that I can knock off with a 3D printer:

- new shower bar end cap so the shower door doesn’t bump into it

– proper clips to hold the art glass in the cabinet doors throughout the kitchen (the glass is a nonstandard thickness)

– seal for my bike light

Lens hoods for my various lenses

- seed baskets for an AeroGarden (found a 7 hole one for $5 at a garage sale)

- seed/grow baskets for a homebrew aeroponics/aquaponics system I’m contemplating (I want fresh salad all winter long, thanks!)

– iPad stand

- various cable keepers

– deflector for the front of a meat grinder to keep it from squirting blood everywhere

– fully customized project boxes

- custom Legos

– custom LED/CFL lighting fixtures

- Fractals

whatever the hell Roger wants to print

That last one is the most important. I can only imagine how awesome it would have been to have a 3D printer when I was 11 years old. Should be a great educational tool for him. It’ll also be fun to put it together with him. He is both a talented solderer and totally enjoyed putting together the Egg-Bot (speaking of — I wonder if I can print the mechanics for a new, larger, Egg-Bot). Read the rest of this entry »