Saturday, May 12, 2012

Autodesk 123D Catch - Fire Truck Model

Ultimately, software will determine the success or failure of 3D printing to catch on with the larger public.  Attempts at easier to use 3D software are going on all over the globe.

One of the most promising technologies is being explored by Autodesk.  In the next few posts we will explore the implications for those of us with 3D printers.

What we will see is that while it is not yet a mature technology, it does show promise.  When I began playing with the beta it was called PhotoFly and the Photofly team believed that you could not use a turntable to capture items.  That is because their engine relies on background information to determine angles and stitching points.  It turns out that it IS possible to use a turntable; but, you have to creaet a false background.

Here is an image of a small fire truck model on a turntable with colored posts acting as false backgrounds.

Using a series of pictures at 10 degrees rotation for each image, the following 3D object was created in 123D Catch.

As you can see, it is definintely NOT perfect.  In large part that is because the surface is smooth and shiny.  123D Catch does not like smooth and shiny.  But, it's passable.

Here is a video that probably priveds the best way to view the quality of the resulting 3D object.

Turning this object into something that can be printed involves exporting the object as an OBJ file and importing it into a program like the free NetFabb to be cleaned and converted to an STL file.

Here is the resulting print using a RapMan 3.2.

 It certainly isn't a rousing success; but, it definitely is a modest success.  We started with normal 2D images and ended up being able to print a recognizable 3D object.

Subsequent posts will explore objects that show even more promise.

Friday, May 11, 2012

New 3D Printer Start-ups

This is the year for 3D printers.  In fact, this is the year for a plethora of new designs for 3D printers.  It isn't hard to find a number of them in funding sites like KickStarter.  Here are some recent KickStarter projects that met or exceeded their funding goals.


One of the more successful KickStarter 3D printer projects is Printrbot, by Brook Dunn.  Printrbot managed to find more than 1,800 backers for a total of $830,827 in pledges!  Not bad.  Especially when the goal was a modest $25,000.

Some printers have already shipped.  So, we should be hearing from new owners shortly.

But, it appears to me that success can be as difficult as not meeting your funding goal.  It may be that actually receiving the funds requires delivery and when you go from 0 to 1800 machines to deliver it can be more than a little challenging.

This video by Brook Dunn is very instructive.


With 11 days to go in their funding window, BukoBot, has raised $43,582 from  127 backers.  Again, this is more than their goal. 

The design of the Bukobot is a bit different than previous kit 3D Printers in that it makes use of extruded metal frames rather than rods.  This might make it a bit more stiff.  But, since, as far as I know, none have been delivered, we'll have to wait to see how it performs.  The important thing that the BukoBot teaches us is that we have not finished exploring all the possible designs for a 3D printer.

Here is a Flickr Photo Stream with a number of images of various models and their design studio..


This little 3D printer, from Adjunct Engineering, LLC, is one that I DEFINITELY want to follow.  At $300 it is destined to be one of the least expensive kits available.  Billy Zelsnack is the mind behind this project and he has a lot of experience.  However, as with any start up. he is going to have his hands full getting the first units out the door.

The good news is that he set a modest goal for his first set of deliverables and this will give us an opportunity to get some feedback about the performance of the printer in the not too distant future.  A goal of $7,500 was set and $7,874 was raised from 52 backers.

Here is the video of his KickStarter pitch.


All of the other 3D printers in this post use extruded plastic to build 3D objects.  The B9Creator is different in this respect.  It uses a liquid resin based system yielding 100 micron layers making it the resolution leader.

C9Creator had set a KickStarter goal of $50,000.  83 backers helped them exceed that goal with total pledges of $84,668!  What is really remarkable is that they reached that goal in ONE DAY!

There is a video of the machine in action; but, the music SO LOUD that I'll simply post the link.
It is innovation like these that will move 3D printer forward at a rapid pace.  Nice job everyone!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Horizontal Filament Spool System

Some of the objects I print take a LONG time and I don't want to have to babysit my RapMan printer for the entire print time.  Early in my quest for a spool holder, I realized that a spool holder with a bearing was my best choice.

The vertical spool holder I created for the RapMan spools worked very well.  But, it was a pain to go from one color to another.  Plus, I'd begun to experiment with various sources of filament and each of them seems to have a different spool type and size.

I needed a different solution.  And, it seemed to me that a horizontal spool holder was my best bet for easy interchangeability.  Here is what I came up with.

First the base unit.

The base unit is built so that it can be clamped to a table.  There are recessed to take 3 bearings upon which the spools can rest.  However, they are optional since a nut on the bolt or threaded rod can be used to support the bottom bearing of each spool.

It is designed to be a quick change system, allowing different spool hubs to be easily interchanged.

Here is the base and three different spool holders.

In this photo the base is at the left and is surrounded by 3 different spool hubs.  Each hub has bearings pressed into the top and bottom.  The bearings make for very smooth filament feed.  And the small hook to the left, that attached to the bottom of the RapMan helps to feed the filament extremely smoothly.

Here is a close up of the filament guide.  It's very simple.  But, hugely effective.

 I'm using commonly available 8mm x 22mm x 5mm skateboard bearings that cost about $10.00 per set of eight.  Here is the drawing for the most unusual hub that fits an offset hub.

And, the largest hub for the system.  The Spool for Bits and Bytes materials.

The system really works well and I will be putting up the STL files into free download sites.

Z-Axis Wobble Fix Update

It's been some time since I created some fixtures for my RapMan intended to reduce or eliminate Z-Axis Wobble.  Before posting I wanted to make sure that the fix stood up to day-to-day printing.

Here is the fix as I now have it installed on the printer.

The fix involves isolating the print bed from the source of the Z-Axis wobble, the Z-Axis threaded rods.

It involves using two separate new pieces to guide and  hold the bed.

The bed is detached from the Z-Axis holding plates and the bottom printed block is attached in its stead.  There are four of these.  One for each corner.  These blocks are held rigid at all four corners by connecting rods. 

The bed is attached to the new top printed block.  This block attaches the bed to the outside rods of the RapMan using 3 small bearings.  This piece is completely isolated from the Z-Axis threads once the Plexiglas supports on two corners that connect both the outside rods and the threaded rods are cut.

A short piece of spring steel is inserted into the blocks.  These pieces of spring steel will be used to hold the bed up.  The fact that the spring bends is what provides the isolation from any wobble for the bed.  It is strong enough to support the table; but, still flexible enough to not pass the wobble to the top bed holders.

Here are the drawings for the bottom fixture that is fixed to the original bed mount. 

Bottom Z-Axis Wobble Fix Fixture

Note the post in which the flexible wire is attached. 

The top unit is a bit more complex. 

Top Z-Axis Wobble Fix Fixture.
The top fixture is designed to accommodate 3 bearings that attach the fixture to the smooth corner rods of the RapMan.  "Piano Wire" commonly available in hobby stores is used to link the bottom and top fixtures and provides the isolation between the printing bed and the Z-Axis threaded rods.

The wire is strong enough to raise and lower the bed without being strong enough to break the hold that the bearings have on the smooth rod.

I have one or two more extended tests to perform before declaring that this system is a complete success.  If it passes those tests the items and a more full explanation will be uploaded to free download sites.