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 ….
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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 ….
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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 →
The more I work with 3D printing (and, well, anything I do), the more questions bubble to the surface ….
Can I make the material do this?
What if I do that?
Do I really need to ….
A lot of times, things work out. For instance, I did a couple of videos about welding copper and steel (yeah, it worked, but I wouldn’t walk on a bridge welded that way).
Sometimes, not so much (I once filled cuts in a steel bell with copper, only to find out that oxidation was not kind to it).
That brought me to my latest wild hare chase, which is to combine 2 different types of 3D printing filament in a single print, and what the heck, I think I’ll throw in some sand, too ….
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OK, maybe I went a little overboard in the headline, but I’m still really jazzed at the reception of my 3D-printed sculpture at the recent Sculpture Tucson show in, yes, Tucson, Arizona (is there another Tucson? Hmmm, I’ll have to look that up ….)
The turnout at the show was incredible. Preliminary estimates say that 4,300 people came through in just 2-1/2 days April 6 – 8.
Although the show was outside at Brandi Fenton Park, I had my Cerberus 3D 250 running the whole time. Amazingly enough, it only failed once when the wind got the best of it, but overall, it performed beautifully.
It also fascinated people. A few people who came by knew about 3D printing, but most visitors had never seen a 3D printer running before. That meant I did a lot of education, which is how it usually goes when I have the printer running at an event.
We actually apologized to the artists around us, who had to hear the spiel over and over and over again. The challenge was always explaining it like I’d never said it before, but what I would say seldom varied (“… start in CAD …” “… the filament comes down from here …” “… like a big glue gun …”) ….
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Even though I have an 8-foot-tall 3D printer that will print up to 4 feet tall, there are times I’d like to make something bigger.
I have done that, as evidenced in the 5-1/2 foot tall sculpture Epic Swoon (below), which was commissioned by PriceCooperswaterhouse in Columbus, Ohio. That sculpture, the tallest 3D-printed piece I’ve made to date, reached its height by placing the main part of the sculpture on a black pedestal.
In all honesty, I have not had much luck yet in matching parts so that they can be put together seamlessly, so the contrasting pedestal was a handsome workaround.
Recently I created another sculpture (right) – well, at least the start of one – by printing 2 sections and sliding them together using slots. The fit is tight and requires no adhesive, but it wouldn’t hurt, either.
So it’s no surprise that Pinshape‘s recent post about using adhesives for 3D prints caught my eye ….
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Crazy things happen with 3D printing, especially with my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer.
As Steve Graber, who built this monster, has said, whatever this printer does, it does spectacularly. That definitely includes surprises like the “slubs” on my sculpture Love and Marriage, which are explainable, and recent moments like the time the print head decided to print a foot to the left of the print bed.
The most recent and as-yet-unexplainable oddity – or, as it’s called in the art world, “artifact” – is what it did to a print I just finished ….
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About a week ago I decided to tackle a project I’ve been thinking about for a while. I have a beautiful glass tabletop and thought it would be fun to 3D print a base for it.
Fun?! I like to go into a project thinking positively, but maybe that just set me up ….
Anyway, the first day of what would be a 5-day print went fine. It was when I had to change out the 5-pound spool of PLA filament on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer that things went terribly wrong.
The print paused normally, then I switched out the spool of natural filament and loaded up the new spool. When I tried to resume the print, though, everything went haywire. The printhead swung wildly out of position, and the print was lost.
I was ready to pull my hair out! A whole $100 spool of filament and a day of 3D printing had been lost. Not to mention the frayed nerves.
Then Steve Graber, the man who built the Gigante, told me about the switch ….
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When 3D printing first became popular for more general use – it’d already been around 20 years in industrial and scientific settings – “rapid prototyping” was the buzzword you heard everywhere. (After I started working with 3D printing and especially my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer, I found this hilarious – there wasn’t much rapid about it.)
While I do create sculptures using 3D printing, I also use it for protyping. It’s really important when I’m creating a sculpture in CAD and then actually building it in metal to be able to see all aspects of the form.
A great example is a sculpture I’m just beginning, Schubertii. Based on the plant by the same name, this sculpture will be 12 feet tall. Seven feet of that will be the sculpture’s “stem.”
The stem is fairly simply to look at, but creating it in metal is going to be, well, challenging. Its round edges and flowing form will require me to use a combination of tools – air shaper, English wheel, maybe even the slapper (yeah, there really is a tool called a slapper) – to get the rounded form that is the opposite of how metal comes, in flat sheets.
To get the form right, I printed the stem maquette, or model, on my Cerberus 3D 250 desktop 3D printer ….
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It starts out so innocently …. Doesn’t it always, especially with 3D printing!
I wanted to print something using NGen_FLEX (usually called “Ninjaflex”) rubber filament on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante printer when I got a “Runaway temperature warning” (right), and the printer shut down.
I checked the graph in Simplify 3D, the combination host and slicer program I was using, and saw the temperature spiking instead of its usual gradual climb.
I shut off the 3D printer, let it cool, and tried it again. Same problem.
I printed the same file with regular PLA and had no problem.
There was only one thing to do …
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