Archive for Filament

An Embarrassment of Riches: 3D Printing Filament Options Multiply

One of the aspects of being on the leading edge – or as I like to refer to it, the bleeding edge – of a huge movement is watching what you did become history.

That is certainly true about 3D printing.

Liberator 3D printed gunAs important and world-changing as the Internet has been, 3D printing may exceed the Internet’s importance because of the number of industries it has infiltrated.

Part of that has been because the concept of 3D printing – building a three-dimensional object by simply “stacking” 2 dimensional layers on top of one another – has implications for medical, scientific, fashion and other fields as well as art.

We’ve all heard about the gun that was 3D printed, but most people didn’t get beyond the fact that a 3D-printed gun isn’t really practical. (Besides, I’m really tired of hearing about that damn gun!)

Yes, people are already 3D printing in metal, biomaterials and other specialty filaments – heck, even I have printed in bronze – but we seem to have moved into a new era ….

I realized this when I got an email from MakerShaper, a North Carolina based 3D-printer filament company, to let us know that they now have a 3D-printing Filament Comparison Guide.

MakerShaper Filament Comparison GuideWe’re not talking about bronze, copper, steel or wood (well, sorta wood), as I’ve written about before. This guide tells you more about different “non-exotic” types of filament like PLA and ABS, which most of us print in. (I’d love to print in 100% bronze, for instance, but the 80%  bronze / 20% PLA works for me now.)

Yes, now that 3D printing is become more and more mainstream, people need filaments that are flexible, drop resistant, food safe, heat resistant and that have other special qualities. And now they can have them.

Considering the speed with which this industry is developing, this is surely only the beginning. I can’t wait to see what else is over the horizon.

Maybe I will be able to 3D print that key lime pie with chocolate graham cracker crust sooner than I’d hoped ….

 

Using a 3D printer to refine a design

Creating isn’t always a one-shot process.

When I first conceived my 3D filament sizing set up, the bent piece of metal through which the filament ran to ensure there were no lumps that could jam the 3D printer seemed a simple yet elegant solution.

After using it for a while – and catching my coat on it, as you’ll hear about in the video – I realized there was a better way ….

This video explains what I came up with and how I used my 3D printer to create, then refine the design:

‘Novelty’ 3D-printing filament has real applications

3D-printing ColorFabb ngen_flex-rubber filamentNot everything I create on my 3D printers is artwork. I’ve written before about using my CAD software and 3D printing other things – it’s super handy for making parts as well as other items simply for fun.

That includes the cool design I came up with for a Farkle board.

As with most things, after I used the farkle board, I began to see some ways to improve the design. PLA resin creates a hard, stiff surface, so I added a padded bed to the first boards I printed.

That helped, but I wondered if I could eliminate the need for the padding while still getting a quiet, controlled throw of the dice by printing the design in rubber.

Fortunately, the Dutch filament maker ColorFabb offers a rubber filament called NGen_FLEX (usually called “Ninjaflex”) in 3 millimeter, perfect for my 8-foot-tall Gigante 3D printer ….

3D printed rubber farkle board - Kevin CaronThe print went remarkably smoothly. Most important for a piece with such a big footprint, the filament stuck to the print tray beautifully.

The only oddity was lots rubber “boogers” throughout the print. I think they were caused because, as often happens, the print head made some odd passes, repeatedly printing non-existent corners of the board before going around. That certainly contributed some of the slubs.

The aberrations were easy to cut off with my flush cutters, though – those little cutters are a truly handy tool to have around when 3D printing!

I found some purple dice with white dots, making it look like I’d actually thought through the color scheme – LOL.

Before we knew it, we were playing Farkle with a surprisingly quiet board that had just the right amount of bounce.

Of course, now that I have a little experience with this filament, I’m dreaming about what I can do it with it artistically ….

Surprises selling 3D-printed sculpture

Three of my large format 3D-printed sculptures at Vision Gallery - Kevin CaronI got great news this week when a check arrived from one of my retailers, Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona.

Vision has been carrying my work for a while, and for the past many months they have displayed the largest collection of my 3D-printed sculpture outside of a special show I did this past February. With glass walls on three exposures, the gallery is the perfect place for 3D-printed sculpture, especially light-hungry translucent pieces.

I wasn’t surprised that the sculpture they sold this month was Lemon Drop (shown on next page), a particularly luscious piece printed in translucent yellow PLA filament. Of all the translucents I’ve used thus far, the yellow is by far the most beautiful. It seems to capture and reflect the light.

The blue translucent is downright cold, although still beautiful, while the red tends to glow. The purple is more subtle, as evidenced in Josephine, a sculpture I recently completed that is on display at Vision Gallery. I love the emails I get from the gallery manager, who keeps snapping and sending photos of the sculptures as the light moves across the sky. She’ll write such reports as “Miss Josephine looks particularly sultry today.” That’s music to my ears: it means the art is as alive for her as it is for me.

What has surprised me, though, is who is buying my 3D-printed sculptures ….

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3D Printing Mystery Continues…

Troubleshooting - Kevin CaronWouldn’t it be awesome if things just worked?

Yeah, they do sometimes, but especially in these early days of 3D printing, there are so many variables and things change so quickly that it seems there are myriad things that can and do go wrong.

Lately I’ve been battling a problem with both of my deltabot 3D printers, and I still haven’t figured out what is causing it.

The result is ugly: they just stop printing. For no apparent reason. Everything is going well, and then the hotend just stops moving.

Aaaargh!

I can’t just give up – it isn’t in my nature.

So I’ve been doing what I always do when troubleshooting any problem ….

I work through a process of elimination, testing and ruling out various possibilities.

Here’s what I’ve done thus far:

  1. Confirmed that it isn’t on just one 3D printer. It seems that I’m having the same problem with both deltabots.
  2. Confirmed that it isn’t Windows 10. That’s because it’s also happening on a computer that is running Windows 7. If it were just Windows 10, that’d be one thing, but the other computer hasn’t had an update in years and ran just fine.
  3. Confirmed that it isn’t the host program. I’m having the problem with both Repetier – two different versions of it – and Simplify. I’ve checked Simplify’s log and see it says the firmware is unresponsive, which brought me to my latest hunch (below).
  4. Removed the host program from the equation altogether. I put the file directly into the Gigante (yes, I used a ladder to do it). Same problem.
  5. Confirmed that it isn’t a power problem. One of the computers is plugged directly into the wall, while the other runs through an uninterrupted power supply.
  6. Ruled out the file itself. This has happened with several files, so it isn’t the design.
  7. Made sure it isn’t a filament bulge problem. It’s happened with various filaments, including two different diameters (3 millimeter and 1.75).
  8. Noted that it has happened shortly after the print started and just before it finished. If it were related to the file length, you’d think that would be more consistent.

At this point, I’m thinking it might be the controller board. I believe both 3D printers have Smoothie boards, so that might be it.

So I’ll just keep poking around on forums, talking to people, consulting my expert, and eliminating problems, hoping that one of them is the solution that gets me back up and 3D printing again.

And if this is just a test of my patience, I hope I have already passed!

 

String theory: removing strings from a 3D printed sculpture

Close up of 3D printed sculpture Love and Marriage - Kevin CaronPrinting big sculptures on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante printer is a balance of heat and cool.

As discussed in a previous post, I installed a heated bed on the printer, which helps keep the base of my large format 3D-printed sculptures adhered to the bed during the multiple days of many prints. (Some prints have taken four days. Keeping an eye on a print that long 24 hours a day, switching out spools of filament, adjusting speeds, etc., is definitely not for the faint of heart!)

As the sculptures print, though, I cool them down with fans. My fan of choice right now is a 4-foot-tall oscillating tower fan.

The cooling is especially important when the upper sections of a sculpture narrow, as many of mine do. When they narrow like that, I also turn down print speed to avoid burning on any edges.

The result is spiderweb like strings, or threads, that cool as the hotend moves. They sometimes run between sections almost like the warp, or horizontal threads, in a weaving ….

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3D Printing Filament Comes Out of the Closet

The Point, a 3D-printed bronze sculpture - Kevin CaronI’ve written about applying finishes to the surface of a 3D-printed resin sculpture, but today there are a lot more options for types of the resin filament itself.

Nearly everyone has heard about exotic 3D printing that use biomaterials, titanium, etc. but I’m talking here about filament that mere mortals like me can use in their own 3D printers.

I have 3D-printed in bronze, as you can see at right in my 26″ tall sculpture The Point. That filament is 80% bronze and 20% resin. I’ve printed both a small version of this form on my Cerberus 3D 250 and the larger version on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer.

I don’t have as many choices for my Gigante, though, which requires 5-pound spools of filament for my large prints – unless I want to “weld” together filament from 1-pound spools – providing I can get 3 millimeter filament in that type – and rewind it , which isn’t an entirely crazy idea.

Yet the new materials you can actually print in are staggering. And they aren’t just facsimiles, either. The filaments are actually a mixture of the material and resin, so you are literally printing in these amazing materials ….
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Let there be light (with 3D printed translucent filament)

Sunscraper, a 3D printed contemporary art sculpture - Kevin CaronIn February during my one-person show devoted to my 3D-printed sculptures, I heard many interesting comments and questions.

One thing I was asked repeatedly is whether I’d ever put lights into a 3D printed sculpture.

This undoubtedly grew out of them seeing the luminous translucent filaments I’ve used, including ice blue (for the sculpture Easy In), red (several sculptures, including Redhead and Love and Marriage), purple (Twin Peaks and Love and Marriage) and – my favorite – yellow (SunScraper, right). The yellow just really lights up!

BTW, I’ve tried green “translucent” filament, too, which wasn’t really translucent and was, honestly, just pretty ugly.

The subject came up so often, in fact, that, of course, my mind got going ….

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The Strange Case of the 3D printed Geared Ball

Geared sphere - 3D printed by Kevin CaronIf you read my last blog post, you know I’ve been playing around with some cool designs from Thingiverse.

Both are geared – one is a cube, the other a ball. You can see me playing with them in that last blog post – several people have remarked they are like a modern Rubik’s Cube. I’ve taken a geared cube to events and people just can’t stop handling it.

Lately, I’ve been having fun enlarging the designs to print on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer, something that was a whole lot harder than I thought it would be – it isn’t just a matter of scaling up mathematically.

I’ve also been adding stripes to cubes while printing (another good reason to check out last week’s post to see me manipulate one).

But the point of this post is the strange thing I discovered after I printed the large black geared ball (right) ….

When you 3D print a geared cube, you print all the pieces at the same time. With the geared balls, you print all nine pieces – four large ones, four small ones and a middle – separately.

Difference between PLA and ABS 3D printed filament - Kevin CaronUsing my 3D Systems CubeX 3D printer, I had printed six of the pieces in black ABS filament for this 5″ geared ball when I realized I wasn’t going to have enough to print the last three pieces.

So I found some black 1.71 mm PLA filament, which is what the CubeX runs, and figured, “What the hell – filament is filament.”

After the last three pieces printed, I bought some 1/4 x 20 Allen bolts to assemble it, just as I’d done with a 2-1/2″ gray version I’d printed earlier.

But the black geared ball just wouldn’t go together. It probably took me two hours to assemble the gray one, but the black one probably took me three.

Finally, I realized that the three pieces I printed in PLA resin were slightly larger – the photo at right shows one of the smaller pieces protruding slightly.

I’d heard that PLA resin shrinks less, and this seems to prove it.

I want to try playing with this some more, comparing PLA to ABS, but since I finally got the black geared ball together, I’m happy for now.

Boys Just Gotta Have Fun

Thingiverse homepageYeah, girls have to have fun, but so do boys!

If you’re a regular reader, you know that not everything I make on my 3D printers is a sculpture. Every now and then, I make a part or something we need around the house, and I have plenty more of those kind of projects to work on.

Recently. though, I’ve also been playing with some designs from Thingiverse.

If you’re not familiar with Makerbot’s huge community of makers, members have uploaded more than 564,000 3D models and are adding more every day.

The cool thing is that you can upload your own designs as well as download whatever you want.

I like to browse Thingiverse like I browse for new books to read, and one day I found some intriguing designs that I couldn’t wait to play with ….

 

Of all the designs I found there, the geared cubes and spheres really caught my eye. Well, really, it’s my brother-in-law Bill‘s fault – he’s the one who got me hooked on 3D printing, in part because he sent me a geared cube. Once I found the geared cube, then I also found a geared sphere.

These are really cool designs – I give huge credit to the designers.

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. I enlarged the designs and also began adding stripes to them. The stripes are super cool when you start twisting the cubes because they then make their own designs.

So here, for your entertainment, are some videos showing me playing with these giant geared toys:

A geared sphere …. #3Dprinted #3dprinting

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