If you buy a 3D printer “off the shelf,” say a MakerBot or Lulzbot, you get what you got.
Of course, based on the number of units sold of these machines, you can assume they are of some quality. You also know the capabilities of the printer, the kind of filament it can handle, its footprint, and, well, pretty much everything about it.
And you also have, in most cases, an established company you can go back to when things get squirrelly.
But the way 3D printing is evolving, just like computers, the minute you buy it, it’s obsolete. The newer printers can handle more exotic filaments, create larger and better prints. But you have the same 3D printer.
That’s one of the advantages of having a printer that’s built by a small company or even open source ….
NOTE: This is a review of Simplify3D, the program I use for 3D printing slicing.
By Spencer Haggard
If you are involved
in the 3D printing world, it’s likely you’ve heard of Simplify3D. If you have
no personal experience with the program, it can be hard to know what it is and
what makes it different from other slicing programs, or even what a slicing program
is if you are new to the printing world.
A slicing program reads 3D model files and prepares them for 3D printing. It does this by “slicing” the 3D models into thin layers much like an MRI machine does in medicine.
There are many slicers on the market, and some of the most popular ones such as Cura and Slic3r are free. Simplify3D breaks this mold as a paid program. At $149, it isn’t out of range of most consumers, but it isn’t cheap either. Many makers and engineers swear by it, and it has earned quite a name for itself in the 3D printing world. So what makes Simplify3D so different? …
My first 3D printer was a 3D Systems CubeX. I found out about it through the company that makes Alibre, the CAD software I use most often. I figured, “If they recommend this machine, it must work well with Alibre.”
It took several months to get the machine, and I jumped right into using it. Although it could supposedly print in three colors, I never mastered that. I did, though, get a lot of use out of the CubeX, especially using ABS filament ….
I love the strong colors 3D-printed resin creates. I really geek out on the translucents, of course – check out my 3D-printed sculptures to see how many times I’ve used translucent yellow, red, blue and purple filament because I love how they interact with light.
Yet I’m not afraid to cover the surface of a 3D-printed sculpture.
I did just that with Oculum, which has an antique brass patina. In that case, I had to address the sculpture’s surface because the design required supports during printing, and I have yet to figure out how to remove all evidence of them. That led to some “body work” (shades of my days as a mechanic!), which I then covered with the patina.
I’ve painted my 3D-printed sculptures, too. A good example is Night Sky, for which I just used rattle can paints.
But lately, I painted a couple of sculptures with a new finish that really excites me ….
Since I moved my 3D Systems CubeX 3D printer down to the studio, I’ve been able to play with it while I’m in the office cooling down – Arizona summers are really brutal when you work with fire and wear heavy protective gear. The CubeX gives me another way to play that keeps me under 1000 degrees.
One reason I hang onto this old 3D printer – it was the first one I owned – is that it prints ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) filament (the same stuff used in Lego bricks), which is petroleum-based. Although I mostly print in PLA (polylactic acid), ABS lets me do some things I can’t do with PLA.
In particular, it lets me print the two forms shown in this post, which my deltabot printers’ software just can’t seem to handle. The CubeX software can handle the thin edges better and print pieces without supports, which means much far less clean up. It also lets me use a filler that PLA probably wouldn’t put up with.
Accordingly, I decided to create these two forms for an upcoming show. I knew they wouldn’t print perfectly, though, so some body work was in my future ….
I’ve written before about how I never create exact multiples of designs, 3D printed or otherwise. It’s possible, it’s just my philosophy to always create unique artworks.
That being said, I do enjoy creating variations of sculptures – something I also do with my metal works – which is how series develop. (If you go to my Website, you’ll see how I have multiple sculptures in the same vein, which are organized as series, in both my Fine Art and Home & Garden categories.)
Sometimes series develop because, as I create one sculpture, I can’t help thinking, “I wonder what would happen if I … ” took a different approach than the one I am already committed to on the piece I’m currently making.
Other times, someone will say something and spark an idea, and I can’t wait to see if it will work in a new sculpture. (A good example of this is Opioid, a 3D-printed sculpture with a light inside. I’ll do more with lights, too – it’s the single most asked question about my large format 3D printed sculptures: “Can you put a light in it?”)
Recently I 3D printed a piece on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer for a visiting TV crew and decided I wanted to make a variation on this design using the same luscious filament ….
Any time I show my 3D-printed sculptures or jewelry or have a 3D printer running at an event, I inevitably get asked about 3D-printed guns.
It’s exasperating, because the fear of these guns – which is currently unfounded – taints 3D printing.
This topic has come up before, but it’s back in the news as the people who want to put plans for 3D-printed guns online are back at it.
I cannot explain or understand why they think this is a good idea, and I’m someone who has owned and used guns, so I’m not a gun-hater by any means.
There is just a time and a place for everything, and this issue is frustrating on many levels, not the least of which has to do with 3D printing itself.
As I explain to people who ask – so we can get back to discussing all of the wonderful things 3D printing can do – most mere mortals, like me, cannot afford a 3D printer that can print in metal…. Read More →
I originally began working in wood (OK, in cars, if you want to go back further). I didn’t do anything professionally with it, but I built some furniture.
Then I turned to metal, which has been the bulk of my practice since I began selling my artwork in the early 2000s.
About 4 or so years ago, I began playing with 3D printing.
Now I work with metal during the day, and 3D print in the evenings and on weekends, having fun with various filaments and forms along the way. I’ve sold a number of 3D-printed sculptures, the largest of which is 5-1/2 feet tall.