3-D Printing Resources

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I'd like to create a thread with links to 3-D Printer resources, including printers and software package suggestions. My motivations are selfish, as I have a 3-D printed project that I'm working on, and I'd like to buy a simple printer and use low cost software to make the first prototype.

There are some previous threads about 3-D printing like this: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/are-3d-printers-easy-to-use-yet.917489/

but none that address the overall topic (unless I've missed them). Thoughts and suggestions? Thanks.


Depending upon whether you are primarily getting your own printer; or, doing your project; and, if Polyamide (nylon) is suitable, then from my own first entry to 3D modelling and printing I would suggest using Autodesk TinkerCAD (free) for modelling and imaterialize.com for PDM (powder deposition method) printing (which results in a bit stronger part than the extrusion method) and is done at a very reasonable price with excellent part accuracy (my part's printed accuracy were within +- .001 in of my model dimensions) and essentially no post printing surface finishing was required. Another advantage of PDM is that there is no requirement for supports for over hanging features flanges, etc.

It only took me about 2 hrs to learn how to use TinkerCAD and create my first simple model for printing; and, there are a number of educational blogs from experienced TinkerCAD users that teach the tricks for more complicated structures. In the one month since I started this process I have designed and had printed three different gps/camera accessories for a printing price, including shipping, of less than $25.00 (US) each; and the customer support by imaterialize is excellent.

imaterialize can also print in an array of polymers (and metals) by other printing methods as well, but I have no experience with any of those alternatives.

Just a suggestion.
I bought a fairly simple printer (TEVO Tarantrula) from AliExpress some time ago, it had some issues, but after a bit of patience and googling I have a device I'm quite happy with. As it came as a kit, I had to put it all together, and the devices themselves are really uncomplicated. Of course people far more talented than myself had already done all the hard work in terms of software, my unit uses "Marlin Firmware" (http://marlinfw.org/) which gets dumped on a Arduino based board and bobs your uncle. And after watching a few youtube videos, some of which were from this guy, (http://www.makersmuse.com/) I'm fairly comfortable with the whole thing.

In terms of CAD software, I use Fusion360 (https://www.autodesk.com/products/fusion-360/overview) it has a 30 day fee trial which can be made unlimited if you register as a hobbyist/enthusiast, it is an Autodesk product like TinkerCAD, but significantly more powerful, in my humble opinion.

If 3D design is not your bag, then (https://www.thingiverse.com/) has all sorts of objects you can just download, send to your slicing* program directly and print.

*Slicing programs are what takes your CAD designed masterpiece and chops it up into little layers that your 3D printing software can understand, i.e. boatloads of X,Y,Z co-ordinates.
3 major slicing programs I've come across are;
CURA (https://ultimaker.com/en/products/cura-software) which is free
SLIC3R (http://slic3r.org/download) which is also free, but was last updated in 2015, and we are still waiting for the April 2017 update
SIMPLFY3d (https://www.simplify3d.com/) which is less free at $150
This should be an interesting discussion!

For home based 3D Printing , that is looking to assemble functioning, high resolution results (i.e. threads, inter-fitting parts, etc.) ...AND wants a dependable system, with easy owner maintenance and repairs ... AND wants a comprehensive Tech Support available by phone, or email 24/7 ....

There is simply just one clear choice, ... Lulzbot Taz6. I have no relationship with the company, I own the Taz 5.
That 3d printer is incredibly well made, and a real work horse. I print on an average 60 - 80 hours hours a week. Many of my prints either run 12 - 14 hours, or a series of different parts that print for an hour or two, back to back.

I had another very promoted Printer for about 6 months, and I found out quickly its difficult to learn proper techniques when the machine itself has uneven performance. I have over 30 years of 3D modeling experience, so the work I put through the Printer is pretty advanced.

Because I am an old fart, 3d modeler, my choice of drawing software is 3D Studio Max and AutoCAD.
I personally only Print with Nylon (Taulman Bridge), Polycarbonate, and PETg. I know I'm setting myself up with this group being so absolute in my opinion. But everyone in printing forums who went to the Lulzbot, are always grateful they did.

Here's a 3D printing tip, for those who want to design and build functioning prototypes.
The parts company, McMaster-Carr has almost all their nuts, bolts, and other stuff online in a catalog that includes 3D file formats!

So you can import and use these for your 3D printed models.

This is great.. again apologies in advance for the strong opinion. Obviously there are others with their favorite Printers and methods.
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Tolklein nailed it on Slicing tools. I just started a 24 hour print, and I used Cura for the slicing and machine setting tool. But with a large print, to avoid wasting a session because your model contains some invalid geometry that went undetected, ... the Cura Layers View is critical to use. I had an anomaly in this current print that looked great in 3d max but not in Cura.

So rather than redraw differnet versions to fix that .... then there is your mending software. The two I use are both free. Meshmixer by AutoDesk, and a Microsoft cloud application, https://tools3d.azurewebsites.net/ .
The Microsoft site is really powerful and intuitive for fixing complex geometry, but they decided to make it proprietary to their interests and stopped exporting the common 3d printing file, STL. Instead they made it output as the exotic "3MF" file format. But have no fear. Meshmaker will convert it to the common 3d printing format, STL as well as another free software, "Spin 3d Mesh Convertor". 3D Max, Fusion, ... all the 3d drawing applications have idiosyncrasies, so using Cura's Layers View, and working with the free mending softwares can save a lot pulling your hair out and time, trying to draw a compatible geometry, when a few seconds of running it through a mending application will do,
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I like the the Fabbaloo site.
They have a daily e-mail newsletter that covers lots on new issues and design examples.
They cover all kinds of printers.

Ranger Mike

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i am just now getting into this. i went to the 3D printer show in Pittsburg last year. lot of cutting edge stuff.
question - Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing or ADAM. how strong will the printed part be compared to a cast part? part machined from aluminum? Forged part?
I am talking about printers capable of printing stainless steel, tool steel, inconel, titanium, aluminum parts.
any insight much appreciated

Instinctively, I have to say metals are always stronger, until you start approaching thin shapes. ... or if some flexibility memory is required. But 3d printed objects are (over-simplified) a series of 2d shapes extruded as a continuous bead of material, at a set rate and thickness, layer over layer over layer.
And invariably the strength of a 3d printed object is directly associated with the adherences of each layer to the other. And the variable isn't just filament temperature. If you have a small object, the time it takes to complete a layer is very small, so each layer, previous and new is still soft. But a shape that's large and of complex geometry takes quit awhile to complete a layer and start passing over the previous layer. So then your stage platform temperature and print speed is critical (if you have also a high detail part, then speed can be counter productive.

But strength of 3d Printed parts is determined by how homogeneous the finished products layers have been able to form together.

Also using CAD drawings for prototyping with plastic filament, but whose ultimate material is metal has an issue in that the expansion of the printer plastic requires certain tolerances that adjust a drawings dimensions. So that 3d printed part drawing rarely can be directly applied to mill or mold for metal.
3d printing for my purposes is great for organizing and adjusting the relative function and positioning of parts.
OnShape is great for 3D modeling and free for open projects. It is available here: https://www.onshape.com/
The 3D models can be easily exported into STL format and 3D printed using your favorite software.
Is anyone working on placing a distance measuring laser in a 3 D machine to produce the necessary software (drawings) to allow duplicating the part being scanned?
There are number of the scanners, but not in the same machine that I have seen - when you are scanning you can't be printing. Look up 3D Laser scanners, a good amount of systems and services to do this. Also - the 3D Scan may often need some post processing to optimize the CAD model for printing.

I do not see a OneShape plan that is "open" - only a trial and Student. Can you link to the "Open" page info? Thanks
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Ranger Mike

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markforged has 3D plastic printer with laser to monitor the build up of the part while printing. I will have to check on the metal printer version. I do know you can access the printer progress thru your Iphone during the print process.


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Ranger Mike

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azfireball -

Is anyone working on placing a distance measuring laser in a 3 D machine to produce the necessary software (drawings) to allow duplicating the part being scanned?

I confirmed the fact this. Mark Forged has measuring laser installed with both metal and plastic printers. These monitor the build and the actual part size. Depending upon the printer and accompanying software, the good suppliers have compensation for the build size before the sinter process. Again depending on the metal or alloy being printed, print size can be up to 20% larger than the desired nominal.
One final note. The problem with reflectivity of the metal part does not happen in Mark Forged printers because the part is printed using binder material ( metal is imbedded in plastic binder) thus no reflectivity problems.

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