posts tagged with the keyword ‘3dprinters’


Prusa i3 Parts

I’ve got a box full of Prusa i3 Rework parts! Well, not the full box, but we’re working on it. When I say “we” I mean myself and my team. This is all for a class titled “Digital Fabrication and Craft: Machines that Make”, which Frankie mentioned recently.

The class so far has been a blast! We’ve talked about the RepRap movement, and open source hardware and software used for 3D printing, and we’ve even designed a coat hook (yes, a nod to Adrian Bowyer.)

For the first assignment we are build Prusa i3 RepRaps, hence all the parts. We have a few MakerBots in the DCRL and the other students have been frantically printing parts. Meanwhile, I’ve printed most of my team’s parts on my RepRap Prusa i2. I sort of like the idea of my i2 making an i3. I may print enough parts to build out a frame and then transfer my i2 electronics and extruder over to it. Or I may just build another 3D printer instead.)

We’ve talked a lot about machines that make, and a little bit about MIT and what they’ve done. If you’ve seen the Othermill, you may or may not know it originated from an MIT project called MTM Snap.

And there’s more! For the second assignment each student needs to design and build a machine that can make things, and then we need to make things. Yes, we are rapid-prototyping rapid-prototyping machines. It’s a class made for makers, for sure.

One thing I’ve come to realize over the years is that you can design and build a thing, and you can design a product, and you can manufacture a product, and there are always compromises in process, materials, complexity, cost, quality, and fifty other things. A recommended reading in this area is Confessions of a Hardware Startup. Here’s an excerpt:

Our obstacle was that Jonathan had never intended MTM Snap for production. It was a design challenge experiment: to see if he could build a machine without screws. This is a great feature if you’re trying to save money as a graduate student, but from a manufacturing standpoint it had two major disadvantages.

Go read the whole thing if you’re interested in this. Since I’ve also been designing kits that are meant to be assembled and disassembled multiple times, I’ve seen similar (but different) challenges arise. But honestly, this all fits under the heading of “design” to me, because I still think design is about solving problems.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the machine I’ll build. I probably won’t build a drawing machine right now (more on that later) but there’s a reason I’ve been researching the Othermill and been hankering to use a Shapeoko. It’s all coming together!


Idler Block

When you need a part for your 3D Printer, you just print a new one, unless the part you need breaks, preventing you from printing the part you need… or something like that.

I ended up making a replacement part from a piece of wood. Yeah, wood. I used a saw and a drill to make it. Ridiculous, but true!

Idler Block

It actually took me two attempts to make one from wood, but damn, it worked! I got the printer up and running again, did some prints that turned out fine, and then printed a replacement part.

The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure I printed a replacement part months ago, but I think it failed, or I lost it, or something else.

Idler Block

I took the opportunity to slightly improve and strengthen the replacement part in the hopes it will last a bit longer. I uploaded it to Thingiverse and YouMagine so I can easily find it when needed.


If you were to ask me today “Hey Pete, what 3D Printer should I get?” and you didn’t really provide me any more info on what you want to print, or what your budget is, I’d rattle off a bunch of my own 2 cents, or maybe even 4 cents. So that’s what I did below.

Consider this my opinion as of February 2014. Oh, I should also note that if you really want a ton more info, maybe too much info, check out what my pals at Make did with their Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014 Edition. (Note: You might even see me on page 17.)

Printrbot grew from a (very) successful Kickstarter campaign, and the original goal was to get more 3D Printers out into the world, and they’ve definitely done that. Their offerings include kits and fully assembled printers, ranging from a few hundred dollars up to about $1,000. The Printrbot machines have been made with laser-cut wood, but they’ve just announced a new printer with a metal frame, which should help improve quality a bit. The default print volume of the Printrbot machines isn’t too big, but if you want cheap, Printrbot is an option.

Deezmaker also grew from a Kickstarter campaign, and I’ll admit, much of my respect for Deezmaker comes from the super-smart Whosa whatsis and his involvement. If you’ve been around the 3D printing / RepRap community for the last few years, that name may mean something. Did I mention he’s super-smart? I totally trust Diego and Whosa to make high-quality printers and be awesome dudes when they do it. Prices range from $800 to $1,500, a bit more than Printrbot, but I think the price is warranted, as you get a better machine.

Moving on up, it’s the LulzBot folks! With the new TAZ 3 they’ve created a damn impressive printer. They’ve had impressive printers before as well, and they’ve had a program that included giving hackerspaces free/discounted printers, which is pretty cool. If you’re looking for a bit of a more established company, LulzBot (despite the name) may be a good choice. You’re now in the $2,200 price range though, and they really only have the one model, but from all I’ve heard, it’s a damn nice machine.

So the three companies mentioned so far all have one great thing in common, they’re open source. They’ve all made a commitment to release the files and documentation needed to build your own version of their printers. Without this sort of commitment you would not see 3D Printing being where it is today. The open sharing of knowledge, tools, software, and best practices is what got us here, and that’s important to remember, because…

Oh yeah, there’s also MakerBot!

MakerBot was the poster child of 3D printing when I first got into it years ago. They did a lot to bring 3D printing to the people, and then they went closed source, and got acquired by Stratasys, a company which holds a lot of patents, and while they do some amazing things in the world of 3D printing, they also threaten to slow the growth of 3D printing through lawsuits, which I’m not a fan of. If your eyes glazed over reading that last bit, a MakerBot may be right for you. To be honest, they make pretty good machines, and you might consider them the “IBM” of 3D Printers. If you need one for work and you want support and a company to call/blame/etc. MakerBot might be right. You’ll probably spend $2,200 or more, though they did just announce a “mini” at $1,400.

So there ya go, my recommendation for buying a 3D Printer as of February 2014. Now, if you want to build a 3D Printer, that’s an entirely different story!


MG Plus HotEnd

It’s been quite some time since the last RepRap Report. I guess 2013 was pretty smooth as far as 3D printing goes. But don’t worry, things went wrong eventually, so here’s another update.

I hit a problem with extruding, as in, filament would not extrude, which was a new thing for me. I know a lot of other people with printers, either at Milwaukee Makerspace, or through the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup, and I hear stories of extruder jams that require taking everything apart, torching the nozzle, soaking things in acetone, etc. I managed to go over 18 months with no issue. And then I had an issue.

Filament would not extrude. I raised the temperature, and still no luck. I moved the RepRap to a warmer room, and still no luck. It looked like the thermistor on the nozzle was a bit loose, so I reattached it. Still no luck. Finally I decided a teardown was in order. I pulled things apart, and eventually cleared out the barrel and the nozzle with some help from a torch and some acetone. I made sure I could see light through the nozzle. All good, right? I put things back together and was about to push some filament through when… the high temperature wire that was embedded in the ceramic broke off. That was the end of that!

There was pretty much no way to reattach it. I asked around online and people were like “You’re still using a MakerGear hot-end!?” And yeah, I was, because it just worked. For 18 months it worked fine. People kept telling me to get an all-metal hot-end from E3D, I didn’t feel like plunking down $75 nearly $100 USD for one, especially since I assumed it was really just a new heating element I needed.

I ended up finding the MG Plus HotEnd on Thingiverse, and just ordered the Heater Block Assembly from the ebay shop of RP One Labs for about $20. I managed to do a minimal amount of damage getting it installed but… it worked! I was extruding again! (After I had to solder together the thermistor wires I accidentally sniped. Oops!)


Once everything was back together in it’s proper place, I was ready to print, except that the z-axis then decided to have a mind of its own. Telling z to home made it go up. Then down. Then up. Then up and down. Hmmm. I ended up swapping the x and z axis Pololu drivers. The z axis was back to normal then. Test print. Hmmm. The x axis was missing steps, and I got the old problem of your entire print shifting to the left (or right) mid-print. A bit of Pololu pot adjusting and eventually all was good. (Come to think of it, it took a bit of adjust on the z axis driver as well. Things seem dialed in now, and I can print.)

I secured the RAMPs board down, and… wait, nope. Crazy stuff again. I thought perhaps a noise issue? Hmmm, it seems perhaps the connector that plugs the z motors into the RAMPs board is a little wiggly, so for now the RAMPs board is just hanging there. Sigh… I’ll fix that connector. Eventually.

The important thing is, I can print again. One of the reasons I leaned towards building my own printer was that I figured I would be familiar enough with the machine that I could easily repair it when the time came. That’s seemed to prove true so far.

I’ve spent the weekend calibrating things again. I’m still using Slic3r and Pronterface. I know there are lots of other (and newer) options out there, and I should explore them a bit, but for now, there are things to print!


Cookie Cutters

Back when I wrote my Printing Violations? post I brought up the issue of licensing, and while I am a believer of open culture and sharing, I’m still torn on the topic of artists who take the creative work of others (even if the “others” are huge corporations) and use it to make money.

When I saw the post Maker Mom Builds Cookie-Cutter Empire With 3-D Printers my first thought was about the rights and licensing issues. (I was then pleasantly surprised to see the comments addressing the issue right away.)

Cookie Cutters

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Athey is not an artist, she’s a really good artist, and has some impressive and very well executed designs. This is important, I think. I mean, anyone can download an image of a video game character or a Dalek and quickly make it into something, but her work is well beyond that. Still, is it right for her to be using things others have created to make money? Her web site at says:

Now I’ve somehow turned what started as a hobby into a full-time job!

I spend a lot of time thinking of myself as a terrible artist, and I’ve made plenty of badly drawn robots, but I’d feel much better about myself selling a badly drawn robot that is my own creation than a well drawn robot that someone else created. (I’m going with the belief that Athey has not properly licensed the characters she is using.)

Of course there’s the issue of licensing… It’s no secret that I use a lot of art from to make things. The license of all art on OpenClipArt is Public Domain Dedication which states:

You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

So yeah, I’ve not sold anything I’ve made yet using art from OpenClipArt, but at least I’d feel fine doing it. And yeah, I have friends who make good money making things based on successful movies, games, books, etc. Maybe this is just the world we live in now, where everyone is a maker and selling of things, and it’s all just a big mash-up anyway.

I guess I’d break things into a few categories:

A.) Using things others have created to make things for yourself.

B.) Using things others have created to make things to give to family/friends as gifts.

C:) Using things others have created and creating design files that others can use.

D:) Using things others have created to create and sell things.

I’m all for A. and B., and I think C. is pretty much OK. (Think of the many items on Thingiverse) As for D., that’s the one I’m still not sure about, and that’s the one Athey and Warpzone Prints falls under. What do you think?

(I should probably do a post in the future that talks a bit more about my own usage of others work in my own art, as I’m not completely free of that behavior myself.)

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