Thursday, January 23, 2014

3D Printer continued

Ok, I got my 3D printer working. Again, it came in a kit, and it took me about four days to put it together and get it running. As I said, it came from I got the complete kit and it was, indeed, complete. I thought it was well engineered mechanically but required a certain amount of fiddling to get it adjusted.

They say that 3D printers are the first machines that can reproduce themselves. With this model, however, that only applies to the plastic parts, not the metal parts, electronic parts, wire, glass build plate, etc. And when the metal lathe was invented a few hundred years ago they said that that was the first machine that could reproduce itself. What's old is new.

 Here are a couple of pictures of my first print. It is actually a duplicate of one of the parts for the printer.

As you can see, it started out pretty well, but then went off the rails. I must say that while some of the more expensive printers are more appliance-like, this is billed as, and certainly is, a hobbyist machine. It comes with two pieces of software that run on the PC that you connect to the printer. One is called Pronterface and is used to control the printer. The other is called Slic3er, and takes as input a 3D model of what you want to print, and outputs a file of instructions that Pronterface will feed to the printer to make it go. Now, the reason I say that this is a hobbyist machine is that Slic3r has maybe a hundred settings that can be used to control how the object is printed. As it turned out I had one of these setting sorely out of kilter.

Here is a picture of my second print attempt. It is just a cube, used to test printer settings. You can see that while not perfect it is actually a reasonable approximation of a cube. (It looks a little top-heavy because of the short lens that I used to take the picture.) It was printed at a resolution of 0.4mm while the printer is theoretically capable of a resolution of 0.1mm. The drawback is that while this cube took about 30 minutes to print, the higher resolution would take more like two hours.

That's enough technical stuff about 3D printers. I'll post more on this when I've made something with it.

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