Wednesday, February 6, 2013

DeltaMaker Passes First Hurdle

Well, DeltaMaker passed its first serious hurdle by meeting and exceeding their KickStarter funding goal of $107,000.  With 22 days left to go in their KickStarter campaign, they have already raised... as reported a few minutes ago, $108,559!  

Congratulations to the DeltaMaker team!

One of the things I like best about the DeltaMaker effort is that it is a TEAM endeavor.  It's not just a guy working alone.  While I have nothing against lone inventors, it takes a lot of different skills to pull off designing and producing a successful product as complex as a 3D printer.

Right now, the team is a bit heavy on the technical side of the equation.  And, they seem to be pretty astute guys.  So, it shouldn't take them long to realize and appreciate that they need expertise on the marketing and sales side of the equation as well.  The DeltaMaker isn't a kit that narrowly appeals to hobbyists.  It's got real potential to be a mainstream consumer and small business product.

It's not enough to create and build a great product.  It's also important to grow the company behind it with solid understanding of their target market and the best sales distribution to serve that market.

You might think that I'm getting ahead of myself on a startup that hasn't delivered the first unit as yet.  For all we know, it could all be just smoke and mirrors.  But, I have a gut level feeling about this management group and this particular product.  And, I do NOT sense failure on the horizon.

My mind works in strange ways.  And, for some reason, I cannot get the connection between the Keurig coffeemaker system and the DeltaMaker out of my head.  It's hard to believe it now; but, I'm absolutely certain that back in 1990, when the Kuerig was first organized, that the idea of a single cup coffee maker in homes and offices seemed as strange as the idea of a 3D printer does today.  They didn't have a KickStarter back then.  And, Green Mountain didn't purchase them until 2006.  That journey took 16 years!

But, what they did have was a fantastic team of designers.  And, that is certainly part of their success.

But, great design was not all of their success.  They eventually came to have, at least in my opinion, a true genius when it comes to consumer marketing.  In a long list of people I admire, he is certainly at the top.

While I don't know when he originally came on board with Keurig, I am certain that a great deal of Keurig's success is due to the expertise of John Whoriskey, who is the VP & General Manager At Home Division. He has grown the home market business into producing staggeringly successful numbers.  I have never met Mr. Whoriskey.  But, we have corresponded over the years as we've discussed the success of Keurig's remarkable market growth.  And, it's been a joy for me to follow that success.

I hope that I can experience that same joy as I watch DeltaMaker grow from a small startup to a wildly successful company bringing the enormous benefits of 3D printing into homes and businesses.  Somehow, I think that will happen. I don't expect those that pledged funds to the KickStarter to be disappointed.  In fact, I think they will be able to look back and be proud of how brilliant they were at jumping at that opportunity.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

DeltaMaker - A Wonderfully Innovative 3D Printer

Every now and then I stumble onto something that completely enthrals me.  That happened to me today.

I have NO idea how I got there; but, somehow I ended up on the KickStart Page for one of the cleanest and most innovative 3D printer designs that I have come across.


Kickstarter seems flooded with new 3D printer entries these days.  But, the DeltaMaker is in a class of its own.  First, it is NOT a kit. (Otherwise, I probably wouldn't be writing about it.)  Secondly, it does not use the traditional four-corner, boxlike X-Y-Z axis controls of virtually all other 3D printers.

Instead it uses a 3-point pivot system.  While not the first 3D printer of this type, it certainly is the cleanest and most professional looking.  Watching it print is poetry in motion!   Perhaps it's best to see for yourself.

As you can see, it's quite a unique design. It makes you want to go, Why didn't I think of that?"

While I have many unanswered questions, like reliability and, of course, actual accuracy over a long period of time, the DeltaMaker looks like a real winner.  So, while I'm not going to put my money where my mouth is quite yet (After all I already have some great 3D printers.), I certainly am going to follow their progress very, very closely.  I would love to see DeltaMaker succeed and succeed BIG.

Here is the link to the DeltaMaker KickStarter page. 

Until we see how the production models of DeltaMaker actually perform, there is little more to say.  As the old cliche goes, "The proof is in the pudding." and it will be a while before the pudding is served.  In the meantime, however, I think all of us can be glad that we have innovators like the DeltaMaker team.  Way to go guys! 

As I learn more, I will keep everyone updated.  Like all new ventures, they will face some big challenges whether they limp along or are wildly successful  But, I have a feeling this group has the right stuff to meet those challenges head on.  And, if they can prove that their design functions at the same level as their "Cool Factor", I'll certainly be cheering them on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Bit More Detail About the CubeX

While I have not yet been able to see the CubeX in person,  I have found some additional information about the specs that may be of interest to those considering it.

I think the best way to address this new information is to start with what we DO know and work forward.  Obviously, the 3D Touch is a part of the lineage of the CubeX.  But, a lot of thought went into designing the CubeX to ensure major improvements for the user.

The CubeX Uses 1.75mm Filament

For me, one of the most significant changes is that the CubeX utilizes 1.75mm filament instead of 3mm.  I have used both, and absolutely prefer the 1.75 format.  The problem I've had with 3mm filament is that as we near the end of the spool, there is a significant amount of filament that is just wound so tightly that it really can become unusable.

1.75mm, like that used in the Cube and CubeX, is much more flexible.  So, based on my experience with the Cube, we should be able to avoid wasting as much filament due to tight winding issues.  

The CubeX Cartridges Offer Moisture Protection and Better Quality Control

I know that a lot of people are going to take issue with the fact that the CubeX uses proprietary cartridges instead of commonly available open spools.  I understand that.  Frankly, we all know that ounce for ounce, kilogram for kilogram, we are going to pay a bit more for filament.  But, per kilogram costs are not the only factor to consider when assessing value.

I live in the Mid-Atlantic and I can tell you from experience that summer's humidity is NOT a trivial issue when open filament sits around for very long.  Those of you that have read my Cube blog also know that it has been my experience that it is as easier to find sub-standard filament than premium quality filament.  Both of the factors have contributed to some frustrating printing inconsistencies.
 and clogs in the middle of a print job.  One of the reason I appreciate the Cube's cartridge design is that I simply do NOT run into those issues with the Cube.

Now, aborted prints might be acceptable for hobbyists.  But, this blog seeks to serve those that need a 3D printer to get a job done for income.  Time is money.  And, frankly, the more professional you are, the more valuable your time.  So, it doesn't take many 5 hour print jobs having to be restarted 3 hours into the print run due to humidity or poor quality filament to MORE than offset the differences in cost between spools and cartridges.

Remember, I now have two 3D printers... one relying on proprietary cartridges and the other generic spools.  And, I have become a believer in the value that cartridges bring to the table in spite of the slightly higher direct costs.  I have enough open spools that still have a significant amount of useless filament on them to fully embrace a 1.75mm cartridge.  That isn't marketing hype.  That is real experience talking.

The CubeX Offers Easier Material Handling

The print heads of the CubeX have been redesigned and, of course, filament is loaded from a cartridge.  The combined result is easier material handling.  Again, this is a "time is money" issue for busy companies that may have to change materials several times a day.  For me, the result is a better multiuser platform where several designers and fabricators need to use the same printer.  Like the Cube, the cartridges keep track of available material and alert the user so that a job does not end up being aborted for lack of material.

Possible Changes to Axon

I have not been able to talk directly to the project manager in charge of the software for the CubeX as yet.  So, I cannot tell you for sure that we will be able to turn rafts completely off as we can with the Cube.  But, since both the Cube and CubeX utilize a special glass printing surface I fully expect that we will finally be able to print without a raft if supports are not needed.

I have reason to believe that it is at least on the radar.  And, when I finally get to see the CubeX in person, hopefully in early to mid February,  it is going to be one of the first things I discuss with them.

While the two and three head machines can print soluble rafts and supports, if we can avoid them altogether, as is possible with the Cube, then that is a VERY good thing.

I am very excited about the CubeX.  But, as with everything meaningful, the proof will be in the hands on experience.  The fact that CubeX was awarded the Emerging Technology Award at CES 2013, going up against some stiff competition, tells me that I am probably not going to be disappointed.  Plus, I already had a lot of respect for the outgoing 3D Touch from personal experience.    :)

Part of my analysis will be to make sure that a not-for-profit organization that works with "at-risk" young people gets the best printer for their project needs.  I take that responsibility very seriously because we (I am a volunteer) will have to live with that decision for a long time and there are more than a few good possible choices. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Excellent 3D Printer Overveiw at DE Magazine

I've been a longtime subscriber to Desktop Engineering and it has been my go-to magazine when it comes to keeping up with not only 3D printing; but, fabrication of all types and, in particular, the software to drive it.

But, sometimes I miss something that I should not have.  Fortunately, I have friends that also read DE and one of them, while doing some research, found this article.

3D Printing On the Cheap by Pamela J. Waterman.

Not only is the article an excellent overview of the low cost 3D printers coming into the market.  But, they also pointed to this blog and the companion CubifyFans blog as excellent sources of information.  I am humbled and pleased.

Thank you DE and thank you Pamela Waterman.  :)

As you can imagine, I am a very happy camper!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ceramics 3D Printing - Original Motivation

If you go back to the origins of this blog and my interest in 3D printing, it came directly out of my daughter's career as a ceramics sculptor.  The style she had chosen involved an intensely laborious process of building up layers of clay to form a basic organic shape and then carving out intricate patterns.  It took weeks and months for each piece.  Consider just how long these pieces might have taken.  

Cheryl Meeks, Amplexus
Cheryl Meeks - Fleurette
Unfortunately, it took SO long that she ended up having to abandon this particular artistic path.

Hopefully I can add... "Until Now!" to the end of that sentence.

I may be biased; but, I have always been extremely proud of not only her work; but, how hard she worked at it.  But, even so I knew there had to be a better way to turn the images in her head into tangible form and went searching for it.  This is when I stumbled on to the potential of 3D printing.

It's been a long time.  And, I knew that various people were working on it.  But, now, through Anne-Pieter Strikwerda's blog I have learned that some people with the same dream have worked hard to make it a reality.

In the first article, 3D Printed Ceramic Artwork author Robert Dehue covers the beautiful work of Unfold, a Belgian Design Studio.  He writes...
"Unfold, a Belgian Design Studio, has been experimenting with 3D printing ceramics. And with success. For their prints they used a RepRap printer which they modified so it could extrude the ceramic filament. Unfold’s 3d printer for ceramics not only harnesses the potential of new technology and materials but also projects the past history of specific techniques into the future. The printer has a great resonance with the way traditional potters handled clay, however because of its ability to produce such fine layers, new forms are possible."
I prefer that you visit the blog for the full story, so that you can explore the breadth of their coverage.  But, I will include just one of the their images for you to whet your whistle.  :)

Copyright Unfold - Used By Permission

Here is also a link directly to Unfold's Blog. The great news for me is that the platform on which their system is based appears to be the RapMan, which I already own.  If I step up to the CubeX, this means I might be able to modify the RapMan to work with ceramic for my daughter.  And, I would be one VERY happy camper.  So, I am very grateful to 3DPrint.Com for reporting on this!  THANKS!

I will explore the 2nd article in a separate post.

So, while I have decided, in the future, to concentrate completely on fully manufactured 3D printers for light industrial use, my excitement over this article just demanded a response.  :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

CubeX Wins CES 2013 Emerging Technology Award!

It was a lot of fun watching the C/Net Best of CES 2013 Awards ceremony live feed.

That was especially true when I saw that the CubeX won the...


I have no idea when I might be able to see, and possibly test, the CubeX for myself.

When I made my first visit to see the Cube just after last year's CES, I traveled to Rock Hill.  Since I will be presenting at Hagley Museum, in Wilmington, DE where the Cube team will also be presenting, I expect to see the new Cube there.  But, I did not recognize any of the faces of the team that accepted the award for the CubeX.  And, since 3D Systems in located in a variety of locations, I have no idea where I might have to travel to be able to take a look at the CubeX and print some test objects.

But, it is something I have on my agenda.  And, when I do, you can be sure that you will get a full and honest appraisal of how it performs.  But, I WILL wait until I know that I am working with a true production model.  I want to know what users will experience as they try to use it.

In the meantime, let's just appreciate the accomplishments of the CubeX team.  Way to go!

Chris Crowly - 3D Printing Changed My Workflow

Editor's Note:  I met Chris Crowley because he and his Cube 3D printer had a rocky first  meeting.  His Cube had been damaged in shipment and he asked for some  advice.   I quickly became an admirer of his analytical skills and the  more we interacted the more I wanted others to hear from him.  Obviously, those initial problems were resolved and, as you can see,
Chris is clearly a 3D printer fan!  And, he is using his 3D printer in precisely the kinds of applications that are the focus of this blog.  So, here is Chris' first guest post.  And, he is right.  You will be hearing from him in the future and I hope you will be hearing from him many times.
Hi Everyone -

 I’m Chris Crowley, and I’ll be your guest blogger for today! I own Table Mountain Innovation, Inc.... a Mechanical Engineering consultancy specializing in medical equipment design.  

Tom Meeks and I met through “Cube” activities, and Tom asked me to describe how the Cube has changed my daily workflow.

 “Wow” is the best description!  

All of my clients are extremely impressed by the fact that they get “free access” to a 3D printer when they hire me for mechanical engineering. You see... I don’t charge any additional fees to 3D print parts from my Cube. I am not acting as a “service bureau” for my clients. Just as I might make a prototype with a rough cardboard cutout, with my milling machine, or with my silicone casting process.... I can now simply print prototype designs on my Cube and test them with my clients.

 I offer this service because the material cost is so low. Of course, I charge professional hourly fees for the concept, design, and CAD work, but now the printing comes “free”.  

The results are simple.... my product designs are better. My design cycle is much shorter. The costs to the client are lower. We do more prototyping in less time.  

I’ve used Cube parts in FDA “Final Verification” tests. I’ve used Cube parts as a 3D “master” to make a soft silicone mold, and then cast several silicone or rubber prototype parts from that tool. I’ve used Cube parts to repair existing machinery. The ABS is MUCH stronger than the epoxy-based stereolith parts that people sometimes purchase - this is critical for durability testing. The possibilities are endless.

The Cube has been great throughout. Perfect? No. There were some early technical issues quickly solved by 3D Systems’ top notch Customer Service. The surface finish isn’t as good as the $50K Objet Eden machine at my usual service bureau. I wish the accuracy was higher. I have some tricky geometry-related shrink issues. But... SO WHAT?! 

In-house 3D printing capability has literally changed my business. I am 100% certain that the Cube has paid for itself in repeat customers, just in the last few months.

Here are some great examples:  

Example #1: Replacement Spindle for Vinyl Printer

A client needed a “thumb-sized” spindle to replace a worn part on a very expensive production vinyl printer. The OEM spindle was so worn that it would occasionally DROP a 100+ pound spool of vinyl on the floor during a print job. They wrapped it in masking tape and rubber cement. When that didn’t work, the client used an old piece of sprinkler pipe, which caused the spool to jam. HP wants $900 for this part - it is only purchasable with a larger assembly. I reverse engineered the spindle and printed 3 replacements all in an afternoon. Client VERY happy! 
Example #1a: Vinyl Printer Needing Replacement Part
Example #1b: Part Location
Example #1c: Cube Printed Part next to old
Example #1d: Cube Printed Part in Place
Example #1e: Old Part for Comparison
Example #1f: New Cube Part for Comparison
Example #2: Using a Cube Printed Part to Create a Mold  

In this case, a Cube printed part was used as the "positive" for a wrist strap for a medical device being prepared for silicone molding. I’m pouring the second half of the mold, and the black “master” part is soaked in oily mold release. The strap was printed in the Cube, and the resulting molded parts will be “rubber” versus the rigid Cube ABS.
Example 2: Using a Cube Printed Part to Create Mold
Example #3: Snap-Fit Speaker Mount

I designed a production test fixture for a client, but they needed a quick solution to hold a speaker that wasn’t part of the original design. I quickly printed a snap-fit speaker mount, and we were back in business that afternoon. You can see the Cube “lime green” part near the lime green arrow. :-)
Example 3: Snap Fit Speaker Mount
Example #4:  A Clip to Hold Surgical Dressing  

Well... I’m not at liberty to disclose just yet. It is “clip” to hold a surgical dressing to the body in a certain fashion. As you know, human skin a full of sensitive nerves and tiny changes in the clip design really affect the comfort. The client and I have been working on many different designs... sometimes we print 2-3 per day. It is a magic and wonderful machine that makes this a design and prototyping process possible. That’s all for now! I’m sure Tom will have me back sometime, and I’m sure that I’ll have more photographs for you! Thanks for listening. If you want to find out more about me and my company:

Protomold Case Studies