Friday, 29 January 2016

Interesting Printer Project...

I came across this article on a 3D printer, by an Australian student, constructed as part of his
EEVblog 3D printer article
qualifications. The blog is usually presented by the person behind the camera, David. In this video he acts as interviewer. The design looks at a variety of number of 3D printing technical issues and comes together packaged in a space age protective bubble.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

3D Printing Hype Cycle...

If your not familiar with the Gartner Hype cycle, it graphically represent a technology evolution. I 
Hype Cycle Definition
recently came across this article updating the 3D printer Hype cycle.

Pick out where you think it is. I am making parts for around the house, prototypes to get my ideas clarified for use at work by myself and others. Racing car parts for Greenpower and of course bits for my kids. Would be interested to hear where you are.

The hype cycle seems particularity relevant with the 2015 cull, or recent demise of 3 UK 3D printer companies (though I am pleased to see Nophead has time now to post on his blog again). With market consolidation probably formerly starting in 2011 with 3D Systems and notably in 2013 when Makerbot was acquired by Stratasys.

I imagine 2016 will continue to see a mixture of old kids on the block dipping their toes in the segment. Further consolidation of manufacturers and perhaps even lower cost Chinese sourced devices. Such as the CTC 3D printer.

I saw a print from one of these printers this week. At 290 UKP from e-bay  ( 232 UKP without sales tax or ~ 350 USD ) including shipping. It's not surprising there is some fall out in the UK producers,  if they did not wish to source complete from China. The build quality was "a bit hit and miss in places". The achieved print though was rather acceptable and dimensionally, nominally correct out of the box.

This year it will be interesting to see if there is a general fall in filament prices, or fall out here as well. As there is currently around a 5:1 per kg price range in the market (e.g. Makerbot to CTC). Of course, we see not all filaments are created equally. The old adage, you get what you pay for seems to hold to for filament as well. However the true test, as with MP3 and CD sound, will remain. Just what is good enough?

3D Printer Hype Cycle 2015

Monday, 18 January 2016

Did You Read The RapRapPro Website Carefully...

Now, with the sad demise of RepRapPro Ltd, I for one was not paying attention to the new web page of RepRapPro.

RepRap Ltd
A little careful inspection, one sees on their web page a link to RepRap Ltd.

You might find the following of interest:

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Interesting Filament Reading Test Print (model not yet available)
I came across this nicely put together series of articles on 3D print filaments, you might find as interesting as I did.

They write an easy to follow article on quite a few filaments together with some analysis.

For reference at the moment I typically use:
  Faberdashery and recently sometimes Makerbot PLA filaments
  0.2mm or 0.25mm layer heights
  15% infill
  Hexagonal form infill
  28 mm/s print speed
  Print temperatures ~200 C

There is a rather large caveat list in the article. Though some additional things not mentioned in their article:
- Faberdashery supply in meter, yes meter lengths!
- No smell test!! Faberdashery smells nice (apparently)!!!
- No colour consistency

- No colour palette evaluation
- No details on purging between filaments
- No mention of filament pre conditioning or storage methodology

The latter seems a little odd given the article breadth, so its surprising though it does state it's a high level summary. Still it would seem unlikely all materials arrived at exactly the same time. Industry practice for such report and testing would include a description of purging technique, storage, drying times, storage temperatures and so on. As plastic can absorb a good amount of moisture which will have some impact on performance. If you have had filament in storage for a while even with silica gel. Consider placing it somewhere nice and warm say ~ 60C for a good couple of hours before use. Professional injection moulding facilities use de-humidifiers and heaters to pre condition polymers prior to moulding. For the article it would have been good to understand supplied material moisture content, assuming the filaments were not pre-conditioned. We are left to assume parts moved from manufacturing to materials test lab in a controlled manner.

How do you measure moisture content, simple enough. Put a length of filament on a weigh scale and note its weight. Pop it in an oven for say 24 hours at 60C (with your silica gel). Allow to cool in a dry environment (the same oven with now dried silica gel for example) then weigh the filament again. Given filament cross section it should have dried out thoroughly by this time and probably a couple of hours would suffice. Do the maths to calculate % by volume absorption. Is moisture take up a risk, well the average humidity where I live is around 80%, though December 2015 nearer 99%.

My main takeaway from the article is keep print speed down on external walls, perhaps drop the infill percentage a touch, increase my print temperatures by around 10 to 15 C. The latter being something I have been doing more recently having read another research article on 3D print strength.

I will probably keep 0.2 and 0.25 mm Z height increments as these increments bridge the gap between print speed, strength and give 5 or 4 layers per mm. So print my engineering type design final layers without Z heights rounding errors, especially for some of my smaller prints. I will keep moving to 220 C print temperatures and adjust the infill to balance print time, filament use and print strength. This latter being a relatively small change from my more usual 0.15%. Though top surface fill quality needs to be taken into account as well. So this is where I intend to move to:
  0.2mm or 0.25mm layer heights (see above on rounding errors)
  10% infill
  Hexagonal form infill
  28 mm/s outer layer print speed
  Print temperatures ~220 C

For long enough in the UK you couldn't source Makerbot filament. It's still a major hassle to get it readily. More often than not, on 1 months backorder for basic colours! Hence much of my early experience was and remains with Faberdashery filament. Seems the research and advice given, led to selection of a good filament. I see the price of Faberdashery filament holding and reels becoming available.  I really did not like the eSun filament purchased from RepRapPro as part of an order with them. It was sort of OK when just out of the packet, however after storage for a week or so it did not print at all well.

Here are some of my previous prints, in Faberdashery filaments:
Test print Huxley #710
Touchololu for Huxley #710
RASPI case by Huxley #710

Friday, 15 January 2016


My very best wishes to the RepRapPro team for the future, their last day of business is today.
RepRapPro Closing 2016

I also wonder what will happen to the IRC channels, the channels have been very quite!

I have had no response to my warranty support  request to date, so it may be too late.. now. I am sure they did the best they could.

Will have to limp along and proceed as best I can.

If you can't get some answers on the IRC channels, I will do my best on Mendel and Huxley models. Though Huxley #710 is not the latest version by any means as you will see from my recent post, I have had a working Mendel for about 5 days.

Very much looking forward to some superb prints from my Mendel.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Mendel Ultima - First Print

So, first print from my Mendel 3. For a first print its superb! For a production print its pretty darn good! This is the RepRapPro whistle installed on the default SD card image running the RepRapPro Duet. Printed in Faberdashery Arctic White PLA. This was just some length I had in a drawer being used for extruded length calibration and I thought, ohh that's near enough for tonight and pressed print.
RepRap Pro Mendel 3 first print from Mendel Ultima

Keep in mind there is no filament diameter compensation, as the source file is G code already on the SD card.

Beautiful definition, even layers. I perhaps need to tweak the extruder calibration a touch to finalise the fill, keeping in my mind my comment about filament diameter. Also perhaps tweak the Z height reference a touch, perhaps 0.1mm higher. An easy task with the optical height setting.

Overhang printed fantastically using the included cooling fan. The Faberdashery Filament is 3 year old and clearly has not significantly degraded its performance. Stored in the house with an outside environment average humidity of ~80% and recent December humidity of ~99% (wettest December in over a hundred years). Typically cheap PLA absorbs moisture if left unsealed. When used for printing, moisture absorbed into the polymer boils out and there are tell tale popping sounds as steam is released. I wouldn't recommend such storage, but its nice to know its not a huge problem even long term. A fix for moisture laden PLA is to pop it in a warm place for a good long time. ~ 60 C for a good few hours typically helps enormously.

Note that there is no Kapton tape on the default glass bed shipped with the Mendel 3. This is fantastic news, as 'I absolutely hate mucking about with Kapton tape on glass'. Of course beautiful smooth underside as a result. Not sure if the glass is just an off the shelf type or a specific Borosilicate content material. When the table gets to about 38 C, the PLA starts to release. You can hear small cracks as the PLA releases from the glass. The single layer boundary perimeter comes away with a single wipe of Tesco brand economy nail varnish remover. This is a small print and a larger print may peel away from the default glass, however this is a great start and significantly better performance than my first experience printing on glass.

All parts for my Mendel 3, including the cooling fan duct unit you can see in green in the image were printed by Huxley #710. So the machine truly is a child of its parent, albeit a beast of a machine.

I am really looking forward to getting to grips with my new RepRapPro Mendel 3, I am christening 'Mendel Ultima', named for the latin last Mendel.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

2016 Projects ...

Is this the last RepRapPro Mendel?
Preceded not so long ago by Nophead, RepRapPro are closing. Leaving those who purchased a RepRapPro printer with slightly less support or warranty than might have been assumed.

For Christmas, my wife insisted I have a new 3D printer. She said you can have any printer you want, honest! For me at least there could be no better device than a RepRapPro Mendel. So, I have in my hands what is likely to be the very last original RepRapPro Mendel ever built! Though like RepRapPro hope, probably not the last ever built.

In the best traditions of RepRap, perhaps Adrian would be pleased to know. I am busy printing the parts for my Mendel on Huxley #710 in a RepRapPro green. Printers printing printers, absurd!

Anticipating many excellent years service and trouble free operation to come. Using the detailed design files and instructions (~ 2 Gb in total). Probably never needed, to maintain the ultra reliable extruder head(s). Unlike a certain also well known 3D printer that was under consideration by my wife.

When it's finished, it should look something like this:

A RepRapPro Mendel 3 - December 2015

Later Edit:
Reprapcentral ( went mid late 2015, I couldn't find out what happened to them.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

ReRapPro Closing..

I see very sadly RepRapPro are closing, I got a Mendel 3 for Christmas. HOPE I can get it working now. Some bits missing / wrong and no response to my queries for assistance to date.

"We have decided to close RepRap Professional Ltd.

The company will cease trading on Friday 15 January 2016.  We will service all support and warranty requests up to that date, and fulfill all our outstanding orders.

The market for low-cost 3D printers is now so crowded and so competitive that a small specialist company like ours cannot expand.  So, because we are not bankrupt and we do not have any debts to pay, we have chosen to stop now while we are ahead and to concentrate on other activities.

Note that our closure does not affect RepRapPro China Ltd.  That is a completely separate company  (though we have obviously worked closely with them) and they will continue.

We are an open-source company.  This means that all our designs, software source-code and documentation are freely available online on our website and on Github.  All that information will continue to be available into the future.

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us in the past, either as customers or as contributors who have improved our open-source products, or both.  The fact that, unusually for a former company,  we will be able to leave megabytes of useful information available to everyone in perpetuity is due in part to the support from those people