3D printing is hot

3D Printing Flies High now. Articles on three-dimensional printers are popping up everywhere these days. And nowadays there are many 3D printer products. Some are small enough to fit in a briefcase and others are large enough to print houses.

Everything you ever wanted to know about 3D printing article tells that 3D printing is having its “Macintosh moment,” declares Wired editor -in-chief Chris Anderson in cover story on the subject. 3D printers are now where the PC was 30 years ago. They are just becoming affordable and accessible to non-geeks, will be maybe able to democratize manufacturing the same way that PCs democratized publishing.

Gartner’s 2012 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Identifies “Tipping Point” Technologies That Will Unlock Long-Awaited Technology Scenarios lists 3D Print It at Home as important topic. In this scenario, 3D printing allows consumers to print physical objects, such as toys or housewares, at home, just as they print digital photos today. Combined with 3D scanning, it may be possible to scan certain objects with a smartphone and print a near-duplicate. Analysts predict that 3D printing will take more than five years to mature beyond the niche market. Eventually, 3D printing will enable individuals to print just about anything from the comfort of their own homes.Slideshow: 3D Printers Make Prototypes Pop article tells that advances in performance, and the durability and range of materials used in additive manufacturing and stereolithography offerings, are enabling companies to produce highly durable prototypes and parts, while also cost-effectively churning out manufactured products in limited production runs.

3D printing can have implications to manufacturers of some expensive products. The Pirate Bay declares 3D printed “physibles” as the next frontier of piracy. Pirate Bay Launches 3D-Printed ‘Physibles’ Downloads. The idea is to have freely available designs for different products that you can print at home with your 3D printer. Here a video demonstrating 3D home printing in operation.

Shapeways is a marketplace and community that encourages the making and sharing of 3D-printed designs. 3D Printing Shapes Factory of the Future article tells that recently New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg cut the Shapeways‘ Factory (filled with industrial-sized 3D printers) ribbon using a pair of 3D-printed scissors.

The Next Battle for Internet Freedom Could Be Over 3D Printing article tells up to date, 3D printing has primarily been used for rapid commercial prototyping largely because of its associated high costs. Now, companies such as MakerBot are selling 3D printers for under $2,000. Slideshow: 3D Printers Make Prototypes Pop article gives view a wide range of 3D printers, from half-million-dollar rapid prototyping systems to $1,000 home units. Cheapest 3D printers (with quite limited performance) now start from 500-1000 US dollars. It is rather expensive or inexpensive is how you view that.

RepRap Project is a cheap 3D printer that started huge 3D printing buzz. RepRap Project is an initiative to develop an open design 3D printer that can print most of its own components. RepRap (short for replicating rapid prototyper) uses a variant of fused deposition modeling, an additive manufacturing technique (The project calls it Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) to avoid trademark issues around the “fused deposition modeling” term). It is almost like a small hot glue gun that melts special plastic is moved around to make the printout. I saw RepRap (Mendel) and Cupcake CNC 3D printers in operation at at Assembly Summer 2010.

There has been some time been trials to make 3D-Printed Circuit Boards. 3D Printers Will Build Circuit Boards ‘In Two Years’ article tells that printing actual electronics circuit boards is very close. Most of the assembly tools are already completely automated anyway.

3D printing can be used to prototype things like entire cars or planes. The makers of James Bond’s latest outing, Skyfall, cut a couple corners in production and used modern 3D printing techniques to fake the decimation of a classic 1960s Aston Martin DB5 (made1:3 scale replicas of the car for use in explosive scenes). The world’s first 3D printed racing car can pace at 140 km/h article tells that a group of 16 engineers named “Group T” has unveiled a racing car “Areion” that is competing in Formula Student 2012 challenge. It is described as the world’s first 3D printed race car. The Areion is not fully 3D printed but most of it is.

Student Engineers Design, Build, Fly ‘Printed’ Airplane article tells that when University of Virginia engineering students posted a YouTube video last spring of a plastic turbofan engine they had designed and built using 3-D printing technology, they didn’t expect it to lead to anything except some page views. But it lead to something bigger. 3-D Printing Enables UVA Student-Built Unmanned Plane article tells that in an effort that took four months and $2000, instead of the quarter million dollars and two years they estimate it would have using conventional design methods, a group of University of Virginia engineering students has built and flown an airplane of parts created on a 3-D printer. The plane is 6.5 feet in wingspan, and cruises at 45 mph.

3D printers can also print guns and synthetic chemical compounds (aka drugs). The potential policy implications are obvious. US Army Deploys 3D Printing Labs to Battlefield to print different things army needs. ‘Wiki Weapon Project’ Aims To Create A Gun Anyone Can 3D-Print At Home. If high-quality weapons can be printed by anyone with a 3D printer, and 3D printers are widely available, then law enforcement agencies will be forced to monitor what you’re printing in order to maintain current gun control laws.

Software Advances Do Their Part to Spur 3D Print Revolution article tells that much of the recent hype around 3D printing has been focused on the bevy of new, lower-cost printer models. Yet, significant improvements to content creation software on both the low and high end of the spectrum are also helping to advance the cause, making the technology more accessible and appealing to a broader audience. Slideshow: Content Creation Tools Push 3D Printing Mainstream article tells that there is still a sizeable bottleneck standing in the way of mainstream adoption of 3D printing: the easy to use software used to create the 3D content. Enter a new genre of low-cost (many even free like Tikercad) and easy-to-use 3D content creation tools. By putting the tools in reach, anyone with a compelling idea will be able to easily translate that concept into a physical working prototype without the baggage of full-blown CAD and without having to make the huge capital investments required for traditional manufacturing.

Finally when you have reached the end of the article there is time for some fun. Check out this 3D printing on Dilbert strip so see a creative use of 3D printing.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Bake your PLA and have it outperform everything else! #Filaween

    Turn your regular PLA into a performance plastic with this one weird trick!

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Simple way to make ultra-smooth 3D prints at home

    In this video I’ll be showing you how to treat 3D printed parts with an acetone vapor bath to make make impressive looking injection mold quality prints. My goodness it comes out nicely!

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Design and 3D Print Robots with Interactive Robogami

    Robot design traditionally separates the body geometry from the mechanics of the gait, but they both have a profound effect upon one another. What if you could play with both at once, and crank out useful prototypes cheaply using just about any old 3D printer? That’s where Interactive Robogami comes in. It’s a tool from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) that aims to let people design, simulate, and then build simple robots with a “3D print, then fold” approach. The idea behind the system is partly to take advantage of the rapid prototyping afforded by 3D printers, but mainly it’s to change how the design work is done.

    Robogami: 3D Printing Foldable Robots

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Functioning 3D Printer For 10€

    There was a time when crowdfunding websites were full of 3D printers at impossibly low prices. You knew that it would turn out to be either blatant vaporware or its delivery date would slip into the 2020s, but still there seemed always to be an eager queue ready to sign up. Even though there were promised models for under $200, $150, and then $100, there had to be a lower limit to the prices they were prepared to claim for their products. A $10 printer on Kickstarter for example would have been just a step too far.

    There is a project that’s come close to that mark though, even though the magic figure is 10 euros rather than 10 dollars, so just short of 12 dollars at today’s exchange rate.

    [Michele Lizzit] has built a functioning 3D printer for himself, and claims that magic 10€ build price. How on earth has he done it? The answer lies in extensive use of scrap components, in this case from broken inkjet printers and an image scanner.

    The claimed resolution is 33µm, and using the position encoders from the inkjet printers he is able to make it a closed loop device.

    10€ closed loop control 3D printer from old inkjet printers

    Inkjet printers are incredibly cheap and most printers do not last more that a few years before the inkjet nozzle breaks or the paper loading mechanism starts to fail; as a consequence lots of broken inkjet printers can be easily obtained in junkyards or from friends.

    Each inkjet printer has 1 axis that is very similar to what a 3D printer needs with only one difference: most inkjets do not use stepper motors anymore. Inkjet printers usually work by using a cheaper DC motor coupled with a linear optical encoder, the DC motor runs at full speed while the data from the encoder is interpolated and used to trigger the inkjet nozzles.

    What I did is to build a 10€ 3D printer by disassembling 3 inkjet printers and an old scanner.

    The only parts I could not source by disassembling printers are an hotend (4€) and part of the electronics (~6€).

    If you want to build your own printer you need:

    3 inkjet printers and a scanner (or a multifunction printer)
    an hotend (4€)
    an ATmega328 (or an Arduino nano) (1.5€)
    an L298 or L298-based motor driver (1.5€)
    3x A4988 driver boards (3€)
    a BDX53 or other suitable high-current darlington transistor (<1€)

    My printer now uses a cardboard frame and this is what most greatly affects the precision, I am working on a more solid metal frame and on an improved z-axis.

    The resolution of the axis is already pretty high and is at the limit of what a DC motor can achieve without a full PID controller, but still it could be further increased by using a more powerful MCU (like the SAM3X8), by implementing a full PID controller and by reading the encoder using mouse sensors instead of the usual 3-diode encoder.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    DIY Mocha Cooker

    Food-grade 3D printing filament is on the rise and it is nice to have a custom coffee mug in the office to instill a little envy in the locals. [Stefan] took it upon himself to create a Mocha Machine that he would 3D print and test the boundaries of his filament.

    [Stefan] used Fusion 360 to replicate the famous Bialetti Moka Express pot in it true octagonal shape. Since the pot brews coffee under pressure, he tested tolerances in Fusion 360 to make sure all the thicknesses were right. While the design was being printed, a steel washer was added to facilitate induction heating since you can’t really put a plastic pot over a flame. The print uses Formfutura Volcano PLA which is annealed for an hour at 110 degrees Celsius.

    Below is a video of the whole process and though the material may not be food grade, the project is definitely a step in the right direction. Since the printed parts can withstand temperatures of up to 160 degrees Celsius, projects that involve boiling water or experiments with crystallization can benefit from a custom design.

    3D PRINTED Moka Pot – Brewing real coffee with Formfutura Volcano PLA

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Wax RepRap 3-D Printer for Microfluidics

    Convert a Prusa Mendel RepRap into a wax 3-D printer for paper-based microfluidic applications. Reduce costs significantly.

    The open-source release of self-replicating rapid prototypers (RepRaps), has created a rich opportunity for low-cost distributed digital fabrication of complex three dimensional objects such as scientific equipment. For example, 3-D printable reactionware devices offer the opportunity to combine open hardware microfluidic handling with lab on a chip reactionware to radically reduce costs and increase the number and complexity of microfluidic applications. To further drive down the cost while improving the performance of lab-on-a-chip paper-based microfluidic prototyping this study reports on the development of a RepRap upgrade capable of converting a Prusa Mendel RepRap into a wax 3-D printer for paper-based microfluidic applications. An open-source hardware approach is used to demonstrate a 3-D printable upgrade for the 3-D printer, which combines a heated syringe pump with the RepRap/Arduino 3-D control. The bill of materials, designs, basic assembly and use instructions are provided along with a completely free and open source software tool chain.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Casting Metal Directly Into 3D Printed Molds

    Casting metal and 3D printing go together like nuts and gum, and there are no shortage techniques that use the two together. Lost PLA casting is common, and sculptors are getting turned on to creating their works in plastic first before sending it off to the foundry. Now the folks at FormLabs have turned the whole ‘casting metal and 3D printer’ thing on its head: they’re printing sacrificial molds to cast pewter.

    There are two techniques demonstrated in this tutorial, but the real winner here is printing a complete sacrificial mold for pewter miniatures. While this technique requires a little bit of work including washing, curing, and a bit of post-processing, you would have to do that anyway with anything coming out of a resin printer.

    How to Make Metal Miniatures With 3D Printed Pewter Casting Molds

    The Power of Pewter

    Pewter pieces have their own unique color and patina. The relatively soft alloy can be buffed and polished by hand or with a rotary tool to achieve a high gloss finish. The parts can be easily electroplated in precious metals to simulate gold or silver for beautiful jewelry, or nickel plated for higher mechanical strength. Create replica keys and hood ornaments, the possibilities are endless.

    Plunk down your beautiful mini character with pride!

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printing T-Shirt Designs

    Usually, t-shirt designs are screen printed, but that’s so old school. You have to make the silkscreen and then rub paint all over – it’s clearly a technique meant for the past. Well, fear not, as [RCLifeOn] is here to bring us to the future with 3D Printed T-Shirt Designs.

    [RCLifeOn] affixes t-shirts to his print build platform and boom: you’ve got 3D printed graphics. He started by using PLA which, while it looked great, wasn’t up to a tussle with a washing machine. However, he quickly moved on to NinjaFlex which fended much better in a wash cycle. While the NinjaFlex washed better, [RCLifeOn] did have some issues getting the NinjaFlex to adhere to the t-shirt. With a little persistence and some settings tweaking, he was able to come out ahead with a durable and aesthetically pleasing result.

    Now, 3D printing isn’t going to replace screen printing, but it’s also not going to replace injection molding. What 3D printing lacks in speed and efficiency, it makes up in setup time & cost. In other words, if you need 50 t-shirts of the same design, screen printing is the way to go. But, if you need 50 shirts, each with a different design, you just might want to follow in [RCLifeOn’s] footsteps.

    Crazy Flexible 3D Printed T-shirt Design

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printer Tool Changer Gives You Access to Lots of Extruders

    The benefits of having a 3D printer with multiple extruders are numerous: you can print soluble support material for easy removal, print a combination of flexible and rigid filament, or simply print in different colors. Unfortunately, traditional multi-extruder setups have some serious drawbacks, even aside from the cost.

    Usually, the extruders are all mounted next to each other on a single carriage. This increases the mass, which can cause print quality issues like shadowing. It also reduces the printable area

    Over on Hackaday.io, [rolmie] has come up with a very practical (and affordable) solution to this problem. He has designed a tool changer that gives the printer the ability to switch out hot ends on the fly. The system is very similar to the tool changers we see on CNC machining centers: tools (the hotends) are stored on a rack, and a tool change in the G-code sends the carriage over to the rack to drop off the old hotend and pick up a new one.

    Tool Switching – Multi Extrusion

    A scaleable approach to multi extrusion, easy to adopt in most CoreXY/H-Bot printer designs.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This 3-D Printer Spits Out Action Figures in Full Color

    If you’re fed up with the drudgery of hand-painting battle armor onto your 3-D printed orcs and elves, then clear off some space on your work desk. XYZprinting has announced a table-top 3-D printer that spits out whatever figurine, model, toy, or tiny hamburger you desire in full, vibrant color.

    The da Vinci Color printer uses ink cartridges to drop pigment onto each layer of plastic filament as it prints. The machine prints at a resolution of 100-400 microns, so the lines where two colors meet can get a little blurry when viewed up close, but the output is generally pretty impressive.

    Since the da Vinci Color is the first machine of its kind, it’s not cheap. The printer alone costs $3,500. Beyond that, you have to buy four ink cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) for $65 each, and you need special filament that works with the ink, which costs $35 per roll.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    XYZ Printing Unveils Inkjet-Based Filament Printer

    XYZ Printing, makers of the popular da Vinci line of 3D printers, have just released one of the holy grails of desktop 3D printing. The da Vinci Color is a full-color, filament based printer. How does this work? A special filament (Color PLA, although this filament is white in color) is extruded through a nozzle like any other 3D printer. Color is then added layer by layer by a system of inkjets in the head of the printer. Yes, it’s a full-color 3D printer, and yes, people have been suggesting this type of setup for years. This is the first time it’s been made real.


  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A new 3D printing technology uses electricity to create stronger objects for manufacturing

    the Essentium rep flips the switch to fire up the company’s demo

    It’s the glow of plasma reacting with the air as the print head goes to work fusing together the plastic material as the printer builds the piece up, layer by layer. The startup is headlining the Rapid conference in Pittsburgh, PA to show off FuseBox, a technology aimed at addressing the issue of structural integrity that serves as one of a number of key roadblocks slowing 3D printing’s growth as a legitimate option in manufacturing.

    it utilizes heat and electricity to increase the temperature of the material before and after each level is deposited. This serves to strengthen the body of the printed product where it’s traditionally weakest during the FDM (fused deposition modeling) print – the same layer-by layer technology employed by MakerBot and the majority of desktop 3D printers.

    The resulting process, according to the company, creates a part that’s around 95-percent as strong as one created with injection molding. Not perfect, but most of the way there.

    “FDM typically has been plagued by a de-lamination problem,”

    you get an inherently weak bond between the layers. What we’re doing is reheating and post heating that plastic

    The system is new and isn’t exactly cheap as far as components go, adding about $5,000 to the bottom line of these industrial systems, which run around $15,000 to $20,000.

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Neurotechnology Builds Prototype 3D Printer Based on Ultrasonic Particle Manipulation

    Ultrasonic manipulation could incorporate assembly into additive manufacturing, widening the capabilities of current printers, potentially leading to the creation of a printer that could print and assemble whole devices.

    Ultrasonic manipulation uses ultrasonic waves to create a wave field of varying pressure profiles that can trap and manipulate particles in a certain medium. (Essentially, items become trapped at regions of low acoustic pressure.) It’s a non-contact manipulation method that’s capable of handling particles or components with very different mechanical properties, shapes and sizes, and this presents interesting opportunities for additive manufacturing. Mechanical handling is difficult and complex for very small materials in the submillimeter size range, or for components that are sensitive to touch damage.

    While there are other methods of non-contact manipulation such as magnetic or electrostatic processes, they’re suitable for only a narrow range of materials.

    While there are many 3D printing and assembly technologies, they are usually suited either for printing a certain material or assembling certain components, according to Dr. Osvaldas Putkis, research engineer and project lead for Neurotechnology’s Ultrasound Research Group. Ultrasonic manipulation could incorporate assembly into AM, widening the capabilities of current printers, potentially leading to the creation of a printer that could print and assemble whole devices.

    “We think that the capability of ultrasonic manipulation to handle very different materials and components can improve existing 3D printing methods and incorporate component assembly into a single device,”

    Ultrasonic manipulation is particularly well suited to applications that require different materials, as well as component assembly.

    “The current prototype demonstrates the assembly of SMD [surface mount device] components and their non-contact welding, not the printing of the actual PCB,” Putkis told Design News . “Potentially, the printing of the PCB could also be implemented together with other modalities, leading to the creation of a very universal printer.”

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Ceramic Foam Ink Allows for 3D Printing of Continuously Variable Properties

    In the researchers’ work, they varied stiffness, but believe other properties like strength, thermal conductivity, or porosity could also be manipulated, as well.

    The advent of 3D printing has changed all that, allowing for the possibility of producing objects, with continuously variable properties from a single feedstock. Beyond that, researchers are now finding that by combining materials development and material placement, you can combine properties in a variety of ways. A lot of work has been done on this with fibers and fiber reinforced materials .

    This provides three degrees of freedom, that can be used to establish the characteristics of a given region, those being: the structure of the foam, the printed unit cell size and shape, and the stiffness (or conductivity or porosity) of the foam being applied. Each of these knobs significantly affects the property of interest, and when employed together may be used to significantly expand the range of attainable material performance.

    After the material is laid down, it is solidified by means of a high-temperature sintering process, (approximately 1500˚C) which fuses together the ceramic particles.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    I’ve Seen the Future and It’s Full of Freakin’ Huge Bricks

    “Did you know you can 3D-print LEGO bricks that can actually be used as regular LEGO?”–me, in 2009

    Those magical words made real to me the wonder that was 3D printing. It was a magical time! Everyone was 3D printing everything, though most of it wasn’t very good because the technology wasn’t there. But just as every technology goes through an evolution, the goalposts of coolness move on past what used to be remarkable to the new thing everyone’s talking about.

    In 2009, LEGO started appearing on Thingiverse. wizard23’s Parametrized Lego Brick is a good example.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Prints That Fold Themselves

    3D printing technologies have come a long way, not only in terms of machine construction and affordability but also in the availability of the diverse range of different printing materials at our disposal. The common consumer might already be familiar with the usual PLA, ABS but there are other more exotic offerings such as PVA based dissolvable filaments and even carbon fiber and wood infused materials. Researchers at MIT allude to yet another possibility in a paper titled “3D-Printed Self-Folding Electronics” also dubbed the “Peel and Go” material.


  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printing At Maker Faire

    The current trend of cheap, desktop, consumer 3D printers arguably began at the World Maker Faire in New York several years ago. What began with just a single printer exploded into a mindless proliferation of extrusion boxes, and by 2012, every single booth had to have a 3D printer on display no matter how applicable a CNC machine was to what they were actually selling.

    Now we’re in the doldrums of the hype cycle and 3D printers just aren’t cool anymore. This year at the World Maker Faire, 3D printers were relegated to a tiny corner of the faire, right next to the portajohns. It’s the smallest showing of 3D printing I’ve ever seen at the New York Maker Faire.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean the state of 3D printing isn’t constantly improving.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printing Aluminum with Nanoparticles

    We love our 3D printers. But sometimes we really wish we could print in metal. While metal printing is still out of reach for most of us, HRL Labs announced a powdered aluminum printing process that they claim is a breakthrough because it allows printing (and welding) of high-strength aluminum alloys that previously were unprintable and unweldable.

    The key is treating the metal with special zirconium-based nanoparticles. The nanoparticles act as nucleation sites that allow the aluminum to form the correct microstructure. The full paper on the process appears in Nature.

    Metallurgy Breakthrough: HRL Engineers 3D Print High-Strength Aluminum, Solve Ages-Old Welding Problem Using Nanoparticles

    HRL Laboratories, LLC, has made a breakthrough in metallurgy with the announcement that researchers at the famous facility have developed a technique for successfully 3D printing high-strength aluminum alloys—including types Al7075 and Al6061—that opens the door to additive manufacturing of engineering-relevant alloys. These alloys are very desirable for aircraft and automobile parts and have been among thousands that were not amenable to additive manufacturing—3D printing—a difficulty that has been solved by the HRL researchers. An added benefit is that their method can be applied to additional alloy families such as high-strength steels and nickel-based superalloys difficult to process currently in additive manufacturing.

    “We’re using a 70-year-old nucleation theory to solve a 100-year-old problem with a 21st century machine,”

    Additive manufacturing of metals typically begins with alloy powders that are applied in thin layers and heated with a laser or other direct heat source to melt and solidify the layers. Normally, if high-strength unweldable aluminum alloys such as Al7075 or AL6061 are used, the resulting parts suffer severe hot cracking—a condition that renders a metal part able to be pulled apart like a flaky biscuit.

    HRL’s nanoparticle functionalization technique solves this problem by decorating high-strength unweldable alloy powders with specially selected nanoparticles. The nanoparticle-functionalized powder is fed into a 3D printer, which layers the powder and laser-fuses each layer to construct a three-dimensional object. During melting and solidification, the nanoparticles act as nucleation sites for the desired alloy microstructure, preventing hot cracking and allowing for retention of full alloy strength in the manufactured part.

    Because melting and solidification in additive manufacturing is analogous to welding, HRL’s nanoparticle functionalization can also be used to make unweldable alloys weldable. This technique is also scalable and employs low cost materials.

    “Our first goal was figuring out how to eliminate the hot cracking altogether. We sought to control microstructure and the solution should be something that naturally happens with the way this material solidifies,” Martin said.

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Philips’ Lightbulb Moment: 3D Printing Becomes Essential Production Thinking

    Working together Materialise and Philips Lighting explored the benefits 3D Printing could offer for components in a production environment. The first two parts they developed; a lamp holder bracket, previously prone to part failure and a redesigned suction gripper, are together realizing cost savings of around €89,000 a year through the operational benefits they deliver.

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    I didn’t know this about laser 3D printing of metal

    Additive manufacturing (also called 3D printing) of metal components, in which the component is built up layer by layer by fusing a metal powder precursor, is often accomplished using lasers, but can also be done with electron beams or other directed-energy sources. In any case, all you need to 3D print a component to your specs, other than the additive-manufacturing equipment itself, is a supply of powder of the right grit made out of the metal of your choice — right?


    As one knowledgeable in laser technology but not in additive manufacturing, this is what I thought — that 3D printing could be used to make high-quality metal components out of almost any metal that you could make a powder of. But, as I discovered from a technical paper published by researchers at HRL Laboratories (Malibu, CA; formerly Hughes Research Laboratories) and the University of California, Santa Barbara, only a select few metals can conventionally be reliably 3D printed into high-strength components: these include a casting grade of aluminum (AlSi10Mg), a titanium alloy (TiAl6V4), cobalt-chromium (CoCr), and the nickel-chromium-based alloy Inconel 718.1

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printing on the Subway; Or Anywhere Else!

    3D-Printed wearable electronics are on the rise, however our own [Naomi Wu] flipped it around and made a wearable 3D printer which not only is portable but also manufactures on the move!

    The project starts with a baby carrier that was locally purchased, and the extra fat was trimmed off leaving behind only the primary harness and square frame. This square frame is left intact to provide stability to the mounted printer as well as some level of comfort to the wearer.

    Making a Wearable 3D Printer!

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Arcus-3D-C1 – Cable printer
    3D printed, Open Source, tripod kinematics, cable printer

    When looking at the available parts I had leftover from other projects, this project was born.
    Designed in my head, then modeled the parts in OpenSCAD. All I didn’t have on hand was the rods.

  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Mini Spool System for 3D Printing Pen Tidies Things Up

    3D printing pens may be toys to some, but they can be genuinely useful tools to repair 3D prints, rescue a support structure, or weld together different pieces. However, [BManx2000] found that the way the filament simply sticks out of the back of a 3D printing pen like a bizarre tailfeather was troublesome.

    The solution? A Mini Spool System for 3D Printing Pens, with which you can use your 3D printing pen to weld together the parts after printing them. The unit holds 1.75mm filament coiled under its own tension in a tidy package that doesn’t interfere with feeding.

    Mini Spool System for 3D Pen
    by BManx2000, published Oct 3, 2017

  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    RigTig’s Big 3D Printer
    A DIY 3D printer (big volume, inexpensive, lightweight and portable).

    RigTig’s Big 3D Printer (RB3DP) is a machine for placing material in 3 dimensions. The effector (printing head) hangs from three strings, each adjusted by a small stepper motor.

    Many types of effectors are possible. Several have been tried with limited success, such as a 60ml syringe. This project is about refining the 3D positioning of a string-based 3D printer as well as getting useful effectors in the scale of metres rather than millimetres.

    The prototype was tested at about a cubic metre and used an Arduino Nano to directly drive the 4 steppers. Scaling up required a total revamp. Now, each positioning motor has its own CPU with WiFi connection back to the central 2-CPU unit. A hand-held 2-CPU unit provides human control for calibration and testing.

  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printed Lamp Even Prints the Nuts and Bolts

    The first print to come off a shiny new 3D printer is usually a toy widget of some sort that will forever sit at your desk without purpose. The alternative is a practical project that is custom and personal like this 3D Printed Articulating Lamp. [IgorF2] shares his design for this wall mounted device which was created using Fusion 360.

    3D Printed Articulating Lamp

    Arms with three different sizes: 100, 140 and 200 mmNew arm type: mixed arm design

    Be careful when working with electricity. Make sure there is no short circuit and just try to connect to the electrical power plug after making sure that all components are properly connected and double insulated.

  26. Tomi Engdahl says:


    An experimental platform for engineers and developers to create, build, customize, and collaborate on MakerBot 3D printing solutions.

  27. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This 3D Cable Printer Remixes the Delta

    6-color delta printer that changes colors seamless mid-print. Right now he’s working on a printer that uses tensioned cables to precisely move a toolhead while maintaining enough solidity that [Daren] can tap on the toolhead without it budging at all.

    Arcus-3D-C1 – Cable 3D printer

    3D printable, Open Source Hardware, tripod kinematics, cable driven 3D

  28. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printed Tyres Let You Drive on Water

    [Jesus] apparently walked on water, without any tools at all. But when you’ve got a 3D printer handy, it makes sense to use it. [Simon] decided to use his to 3D print some tyres for his R/C car – with awesome results.

    NEW 3D Printed RC Car Tires – Driving on Water!!!

    This is crazy! I’m driving a RC car on water by using custom made 3D printed tires.

  29. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Opening the Door to Functional Prints

    If you are going to do something as a joke, there is nothing to say that you can’t do a nice job of it. If you’re like [Michael], a whimsical statement like “Wouldn’t it be funny to put Gründerzeit-style doors on the server cabinet?” might lead down a slippery slope. True to his word, [Michael] not only installed the promised doors, but he did a darn nice job of it.


  30. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D-Printed Kwikset Keys Parametrically

    Good ol’ Kwikset-standard locks were introduced in 1946 and enjoyed a decades-long security by obscurity. The technology still stands today as a ubiquitous and fairly minimal level of security. It’s the simplest of the various standards (e.g., Master, Schlage, etc.) with a mere five pins with values ranging from 1 (not cut down hardly at all) to 7 (cut deeply). This relative simplicity made the Kwikset the ideal platform for [Dave Pedu] to test his 3D-printed keys.

    3d Printing real-world keys
    Creating copies of keys using a 3d printer and OpenSCAD

  31. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Sacrificial Bridge Avoids 3D Printed Supports

    [Tommy] shares a simple 3D printing design tip that will be self-evident to some, but a bit of a revelation to others: the concept of a sacrificial bridge to avoid awkward support structures. In the picture shown, the black 3D print has small bridges and each bridge has a hole. The purpose of these bits is to hold a hex nut captive in the area under the bridge; a bolt goes in through the round hole in the top.

    With this small design change, the print becomes much more reliable with no support structure required.

    There is a bit of post-work involved since each hole needs to be drilled out to punch through the thin sacrificial bridge underneath, but it definitely beats digging out little bits of support structure instead.

    Quick Tip: Avoid 3D-Printed Supports with Sacrificial Bridge

  32. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Enlarged Miniature Forklift

    How do you classify something that is gigantic and miniature at the same time? LEGO kit 850, from 1977 when it was known as an Expert Builder set, was 210 modular blocks meant to be transformed into a forklift nearly 140mm tall. [Matt Denton] scaled up the miniature pieces but it still produced a smaller-than-life forklift.

    [Matt] has been seen before building these modular sets from enlarged LEGO blocks, like his Quintuple-Sized Go-Kart. He seems to have chosen the same scale for the pieces and who wouldn’t? If you’re printing yourself a ton of LEGO blocks, it just makes sense to keep them all compatible.

  33. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Prints and Food

    We recently ran a post about a cute little 3D printed elephant that could dispense booze. The design didn’t actually have the plastic touching the liquid — there was a silicone tube carrying the shots. However, it did spark a conversation at the secret Hackaday bunker about how safe it is to use 3D printed objects for food. In particular, when I say 3D printing, I’m talking fused deposition modeling. Yes, there are other technologies, but most of us are printing using filament laid out in layers with a hot nozzle.

    There’s a common idea that ABS is bad in general, but that PET and PLA are no problem because there are food-safe versions of those plastics available. However, the plastic is only a small part of the total food safety picture.

    If you make a cup using injection molding with a food-safe plastic, you shouldn’t have a problem as long as you wash the thing after each use. A 3D printed object, though, is going to have little cracks and spaces, especially where the layers make contacts. These are perfect places for germs to hide and multiply. Some foods, too, are worse than others.

    There are two schools of thought here. If you are making something disposable, this might not be a big deal. Whatever bacteria get trapped wind up in the trash. The other thing people will do is use a food-safe sealant like polyurethane or silicone to cover the food contact surfaces. Of course, now you need to be sure the sealant is really food grade.

    There has been work on making antibacterial plastics.

    Some of the best plastics for food — PLA, for example — may deform under dishwasher hot water. So even if you aren’t worried about hiding bugs, you still may not be able to get the plastic really clean. We haven’t tried it, but we hear the best practice is to use warm water and antibacterial soap.

    Of course, the same thing happens if you print a PLA soup bowl and then fill it with hot soup. That would be a very bad idea. Not that you can’t find plastics with better temperature resistance, but remember things like ABS are full of nasty chemicals and are generally regarded by most people as not safe for food.

    Oddly enough, though, the FDA actually lists conditions where ABS is food safe. Just like with PLA, though, there is no assurance your cheap spool of ABS meets those requirements. Note, too, that they disallow ABS coming into contact with alcohol.

    Well, you’ve found your food grade filament and you’ve perfected your process so you will wind up with a cleanable surface, but you still aren’t in the clear. Your filament is going to pass through an extruder and a hot end. Are any of those parts going to leave an unpleasant residue? Brass nozzles, for example, often contain lead. Your gear or hobbed bolt that bites into the filament to move it may have some bad things, too.

    Keep in mind, too, that your nozzle probably has remains from all the plastic you’ve printed with it before.

    Studies show that 3D printing generates ultrafine particles. There isn’t a clear consensus about the health risks of breathing and ingesting these nanoparticles.

    If you are not worried about all the other problems, you might be looking for food-safe filament. There are a few out there, including some PET filaments. However, you can be sure if the filament is really food grade, the vendor is going to say so.

    Lead solder is dangerous too, but I use enough of that. However, I’m not motivated to print food-safe plastics. I think allowing other people to use my 3D printed bowls and cups would be even worse since they would not likely understand the risk.

    I really think selling 3D printed food carriers would be a dangerous undertaking. Of course, you could clearly mark it, or there are US laws about permanently marking items “Not for Food Use,” so that might be a loophole.

  34. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Cheap 3D Printers Make Cheaper(er) Bioprinters

    In case you missed it, prices on 3D printers have hit an all time low. The hardware is largely standardized and the software is almost exclusively open source, so it makes sense that eventually somebody was going to start knocking these things out cheap. There are now many 3D printers available for less than $300 USD, and a few are even dipping under the $200 mark. Realistically, this is about as cheap as these machines are ever going to get.

    A startup by the name of 3D Cultures has recently started capitalizing on the availability of these inexpensive high-precision three dimensional motion platforms by co-opting an existing consumer 3D printer to deliver their Tissue Scribe bioprinter.


  35. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printed Gear Serves Seven Months Hard Labor

    Even the staunchest 3D printing supporter would have to concede that in general, the greatest strength of 3D printing is not in the production of final parts, but in prototyping. Sure you can make functional prints, as the pages of this site will attest; but few would argue that you wouldn’t be better off getting your design cut out of metal or injection molded if you planned on putting the part into service over the long term. Especially if the part was to be subjected to rough service in an industrial setting.

    While that’s valid advice, it certainly isn’t the definitive word on the issue. Just because a part is printed in plastic on a desktop 3D printer doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be put into real service, at least for as long as it takes to get proper replacement parts.

    3D printed gear for welder lasted 7 months

  36. Tomi Engdahl says:

    MakerBot Really Wants You To Like Them Again

    MakerBot in 5 Steps

    The tale of how MakerBot managed to go from synonymous with desktop 3D printing to “the people who host Thingiverse” is rather interesting. [Brian Benchoff] wrote an excellent history of the company, and Netflix even made a movie about it. But to summarize quickly, the highlights go something like this:

    1. Take open source ideas and make commercial 3D printer
    2. Iterate commercial 3D printer until it becomes market leader
    3. Decide to take market leading open source printer and make it closed source
    4. Sue community members who gave you the ideas for Step 1
    5. Take printer from Steps 2/3 and run it into the ground

    Somewhere mixed in there was a corporate takeover, where MakerBot got bought out by the “old guard” industry leaders they originally set out to undercut. They also produced hardware that not only had rampant vendor lock in, but also planned obsolescence. They really have nobody to blame but themselves for their constantly shrinking market share.

    “MakerBot is proud to announce the arrival of MakerBot Labs, an experimental platform for engineers and developers to create, build, customize, and collaborate on MakerBot 3D printing solutions. It was born out of the feedback from MakerBot’s advanced users looking to tap their innovative spirit and expand their 3D printing experience.”

    If this sounds like how nearly every other 3D printer company already operates, that’s because it is. Manufacturers like Ultimaker, LulzBot, PrintrBot, and of course Prusa Research all manage to deliver printers that not only make use of the collected knowledge of the open source community, but actively give back.

  37. Tomi Engdahl says:

    2.5D Printing?

    Casio — the company famous for calculators, watches, and calculator watches — is touting a 2.5D printer. We aren’t sure we are impressed with the marketing hype name, but it is an interesting innovation for people prototyping new designs. The printer can create material that appears to be leather, fabric, and other materials. With some additional work, the printer can even mimic hard materials like stone or wood. You can see a video about the machine below.

  38. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Additive Manufacturing Yields Optimized Antennas

    By designing RF/microwave antennas for production using 3D laser printers, size, time, cost, and complexity can be saved while gaining many performance benefits.

  39. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Hackaday Prize Entry: Open Bike Shoe

    Shoes are some of the most complex pieces of equipment you can buy. There’s multiple materials ranging from foam to weird polyesters in a simple sneaker, and if you dig into shoes for biking, you’ll find some carbon fiber. All these layers are glued together, stitched, and assembled into a functional piece of exercise equipment, with multiple SKUs for each size. It’s really amazing.

    Accordingly, [marcs] created N+ Open Bike Shoe Platform, the purpose of which is to create open source, customizable, and repairable shoe platform based on 3D printing, though with other techniques like rubber molding and sewing fabric uppers are included as well.

    N+ Open Bike Shoe Platform
    Additive-enabled, modular bike shoes made with a 3D printer and a sewing machine.

  40. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Arcus-3D-C1 – Cable 3D printer
    3D printable, Open Source Hardware, tripod kinematics, cable driven 3D printer

    This project aims to be a very low cost portable 3D printer with a scalable build diameter and reasonable accuracy.

    The design as rendered (OpenSCAD source) can scale from about 200mm to 600mm build diameter with the same parts just by using different length connecting rods. The build height is approximately equal to the build diameter.

  41. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What Would Sherlock Print, If Sherlock Printed In SLA Resin?

    Resin printing — or more appropriately, stereolithography apparatus printing — is a costly but cool 3D printing process. [Evan] from [Model3D] wondered if it was possible to produce a proper magnifying glass using SLA printing and — well — take a gander at the result.

    A quick modeling session in Fusion 360 with the help of his friend, [SPANNERHANDS 3D Printing] and it was off to the printer. Unfortunately, [Evan] learned a little late that his export settings could have been set to a higher poly count — the resultant print looked a little rough — but the lens would have needed to be sanded anyway. Lucky coincidence! After an eight hour print on his Peopoly Moai using clear SLA resin, [Evan] set to work sanding.


  42. Tomi Engdahl says:

    I 3D PRINTED A CAMERA LENS and the Photos are Amazing

  43. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printing Belts for Vintage Hardware

    It may be hard for some of the younger readers to believe, but there was a time when hardware was full of little rubber belts. Tape decks, VCRs, even some computers: they all had rotating parts that needed to transfer power to other components, and belts were a cheap and quiet way to do it. Unfortunately, now decades later we realize that these little belts are often the Achilles heel of classic hardware, getting brittle and breaking long before the rest of the components are ready to give up the fight.

    Making Belts With a 3D Printer

    Because the old belt was square, modeling the belt in Fusion 360 was super easy. Just draw a circle the right diameter, then offset a second circle by 1.18mm, the thickness of the belt. Then extrude the ring up by 1.18mm and that’s it! I printed out the replacement belt in NinjaFlex with 100% infill. I did end up slowing the perimeters down quite a bit because of how thin the belt was and I wanted to give the NinjaFlex time to stick.

    The belt fit perfectly on the first try! The Commodore PET tape drive is working perfectly now and I’m able to load and save programs to cassette.

  44. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Heat-Set Insert Jig Grants Threads to 3D Prints

    FDM 3D prints might be coming home this holiday as seasonal ornaments, but with a few tweaks, they may even stand up to the tests of the real world as functional prototypes. Heat-Set inserts are one such tweak that we can drop into a print, and [Kurt] spares no expense at laying down a guide to get us comfortable with these parts. Here, he’s created a drill press adapter and modified his soldering iron to form an insert jig to start melting these parts into his next project.

    Heat-set inserts grant us proper screw threads in any thermoplastic. Simply heat them up, stake them into your part, let cool, and: voila–a screw thread that’s firmly embedded into our part.

    Soldering Iron Drill Press Adaptor

  45. Tomi Engdahl says:

    IceSL is a Cool Slicer

    The mechanical and electronic parts of a 3D printer are critical for success, but so is the slicing software. Slic3r and Cura are arguably the most popular, and how they command your printer has a lot to do with the results you can get. There are lots of other slicers out there both free and paid, but it is hard to really dig into each one of them to see if they are really better than whatever you are using today. If you are interested in the performance of IceSL — a free slicer for Windows and Linux — [DIY3DTECH] has a video review that can help you decide if you want to try it. You can see the video below.

    IceSL has several modules and can actually do OpenSCAD-like modeling in Lua so you could — in theory — do everything in this one tool


  46. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Visual 3D Print Finishing Guide

    With 3D printers now dropping to record low prices, more and more people are getting on the additive manufacturing bandwagon. As a long time believer in consumer-level desktop 3D printing, this is a very exciting time for me; the creativity coming out of places like Thingiverse or the 3D printing communities on Reddit is absolutely incredible.

    Choosing Layer Height

    Before you get out your sandpaper or paints, before the print has even started, you need to make a decision. As anyone who’s used a 3D printer can tell you, layer height is the biggest factor in overall print time. Thicker layers are faster, but result in loss of surface detail.

    Step 0: Printing

    So now that you hopefully figured out what layer height suits your model, you need to actually print it out. This first step sounds easy enough, but remember that you want to start with a well calibrated 3D printer if you’re trying to turn out high quality pieces.

    Step 1: Sanding

    Do you like sanding? No, of course you don’t. Nobody does. But you’re going to be doing a fair bit of it, so you might as well get used to the idea. This early I use an 80 grit dry sanding block, and really attack it.

    Step 2: Epoxy Coating

    I’m a big fan of XTC-3D, a two-part epoxy product specifically designed for smoothing and sealing 3D prints. It’s fairly cheap, goes a long way, and I think the results speak for themselves. I don’t want to turn this into a guide for using XTC-3D (check out YouTube for some official howtos from the manufacturer), but generally speaking: mix up about 7 ml at a time and brush it on once it starts to get a little tacky with a disposable brush.
    There’s definitely a learning curve with XTC-3D. It’s easy to put on too much and wipe away surface detail, but too thin and the coating doesn’t have an effect.

    Step 3: Sand and Fill

    At this point I use a 220 grit wet paper to take the shine off the cured XTC-3D and get it ready for the primer.
    My filler of choice is Tamiya “Basic Type” putty. This is basically Bondo for plastic model kits, and dries extremely fast.

    Step 4: Primer

    Once you’re happy with how smooth the piece is, it’s time to prime it. I use Rust-Oleum Filler Primer because it’s cheap and easy to find basically anywhere.

    Step 5: Paint and Clear Coat

    All that’s left now is to do your final painting. As it turns out, I am pretty terrible with a brush or indeed anything remotely similar to art, so I only use spray cans from the hardware store.

    Final Thoughts

    While this method may seem like a lot of effort, I think it illustrates a fact which more people are coming to realize: 3D printers don’t work miracles, they are a tool like any other.

  47. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printed Cookie Molds for the Best Speculoos

    Experiencing nostalgia for the outstanding Belgian cuisine [Adam], currently stuck in Ohio, found himself in craving some home-made speculoos. For the uninitiated, speculoos is what those brown cookies usually served with coffee on planes dream of becoming one day.

    To add some extra regional flavour, [Adam] decided to print his own molds featuring motifs from Brussels. The risks of 3D prints in the kitchen are the subject of a lively discussion. They are addressed in this project by recommending the use of food safe filament and sealant for the molds. The fact that the dough will be removed from the molds almost instantly and that the molds don’t go into the oven puts the risks in the vicinity of using plastic cutting boards in your kitchen.

    3D Printed Speculoos Molds

  48. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printed WiFi Reflectors Custom Designed for the Building

    Are you a wizard at antenna design? Chances are you’ve never even given it a try, but this tool could change that. Most home-made WiFi signal boosting antenna plans around the Internet share one feature: they are directional antennas or reflectors. But WiPrint is a tool for designing custom WiFi reflectors that map to the specific application.

    If we want to increase the signal strength in two or three different locations the traditional solution is an omnidirectional antenna.

    Customizing Indoor Wireless Coverage via 3D-Fabricated Reflectors

    Judicious control of indoor wireless coverage is crucial in built environments. It enhances signal reception, reduces harmful interference, and raises the barrier for malicious attackers. Existing methods are either costly, vulnerable to attacks, or hard to configure. We present a low-cost, secure, and easy-to-configure approach that uses an easily-accessible, 3D-fabricated reflector to customize wireless coverage


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