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’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 ….
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 …”) ….
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 …. Read More →
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 ….
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 seeall 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.
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.