posts tagged with the keyword ‘3dprinters’


Imperial Gear

I find it interesting the way we address problems. Take for instance, this simple gear. For the Prusa i3 printers we are building at school we realized we didn’t have 8mm bolts, so we got a bunch of 5/16″ bolts, and then we realized we needed to print new gears…

Calvin started to edit the STL file we had, and I asked if he looked around for an existing 5/16″ compatible gear on Thingiverse. He said he didn’t even think of doing that, and got right to modeling. Sadly, Calvin’s new gear was slightly too small. The next day I mentioned it to Fred, and Fred decided to fix the gear. I told Fred that it might be helpful to just model the new bolt-head part and print it to see if it would fit. This has the advantage of printing much faster than the entire model. He took that advice, but it still didn’t fit.

Meanwhile, I found a gear generator library for OpenSCAD and tried to model a new gear, but that failed as it wasn’t fully parametric in regards to the number of teeth.

After all that, Fons came along and said “I’ll just put the hex head of the bolt on the grinder until it fits the gear that Calvin made.” Duh! A great hack to make it work!

While I loved the hack, I also wanted to make sure that others could easily have a gear that worked with a 5/16″ bolt and did not require grinding down the head. I’m also preparing for the future when a part fails, and someone needs to replace it, and doesn’t realize the bolt was altered, or heated with a torch to get it into place.

So I followed my own rapid-rapid prototyping advice, printed a few versions of just the hex head part until it fit perfectly, then dropped it onto the model of the gear, and printed a few. And they worked.

And then I uploaded the gear to Thingiverse and Youmagine in the hope that someone else who has the same problem in the future can just grab the one I created and get on with their day.

Sharing, it’s a thing.


RepRap Prusa i3

We’re making good progress on our RepRap Prusa i3 in our Machines that Make class at UWM.

We cut the Lexan frames on the large CNC router after we wrote the G-code in RhinoCam. There was an engraving, and then one inside cut, one outside cut, and some center drill spots we marked before drilling the holes on the drill press and then tapping them for 3mm screws.

We also cut all the threaded and smooth rods on the horizontal bandsaw and then cleaned them all up on the belt sander. I learned a few new tricks for cutting threaded rod as well.

I’m a bit tempted to rebuild my Prusa i2 as a (laser-cut) Prusa i3, or maybe just build a second printer. I’d like to have a 1.75mm machine at some point instead of just 3mm so I can experiment with more filaments.

I’ve also been working on a few new machine design ideas, one will be a drawing machine, and another is a platform for building CNC machines that trade in precision for low-cost. More on those in future posts.


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!

(See also: How To Make Something That Makes (almost) Anything.)


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!

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