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 ….
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 ….
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.
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 …”) ….
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 ….