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Hands-on Experience with 3D Printing

February 13, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 18:25

Note: The following was authored by Tyler Hudson, an intern at Wohlers Associates. His comments are related to the UP! 3D printer from Micro Delta Factory Corp.

Before starting at Wohlers Associates, I had no experience with 3D printers. I had heard about them and knew the general idea behind their operation, but I had an idealized vision of how they worked. I thought that you simply gave the printer your CAD model and it would print out perfect parts every time. I’m guessing that many others have a similar view of 3D printing.

In reality, a lot goes on behind the scenes when making a part. I discovered that the prep work before printing is the most important. Prior to building the first part on the machine, I ensured that the build platform was perfectly level. This is done by adjusting leveling screws located under the build platform.

To build a good part, I soon discovered that setting the extrusion nozzle height is not only important, it is critical. I found that if I did not do it correctly, it would lead to a failed part. If the nozzle is too high, the first layer of plastic will not fully stick to the platform and this and subsequent layers would curl upward. It is necessary to adjust the nozzle height before each build because the height of the platform can change from one build to the next.

Another key to successful prints is to properly orient the part. This affects how the support structures are attached, which in turn affects how easy or difficult it is to remove the supports after the build is complete. A part may have bulky support material when oriented one direction, but less support material when rotated 90 degrees.

The quality of the print can also vary depending on the type of object that is being printed. Parts with fine or complex geometric features are difficult to print on low-cost 3D printers. Therefore, I’ve learned to build simpler parts, which increase the chances of a successful build.

When I follow these basic “rules,” the experience has been favorable. I’m sure that as I continue to print parts, I will find more useful tricks that increase the percentage of quality builds.

Favorite Products of 2013

February 1, 2014

Filed under: review — Terry Wohlers @ 16:39

A number of products stand out from others. The following are my favorites from the past year.

HTC One: This outstanding smartphone offers a large screen, yet is light, thin, and sleek. The camera takes images that are as good as those taken with my Canon camera. I usually get one or two days of use out of a single battery charge, and the second SIM card slot lets me use GSM networks when traveling to Europe and elsewhere.

Epson Scanner: We purchased the WorkForce DS-30 document scanner for $99 at Office Depot in December. It is fast and simple and the image quality is very good. The USB cable supplies the power, so there’s no need for a power cord. The unit is very small and light, making it easy to carry with you.

Evernote: This software product helps you organize your personal and professional life. Whether it’s creating check lists for travel or for logging conversations tied to vehicle maintenance, it works well and it is simple. It syncs to the cloud so all of your notes go with you when you leave the office. Best of all, it’s free.

Rossignol Boots: The Alias Sensor 120 ski boots are sharp, comfortable, and warm. What’s more, they are responsive when initiating turns, so they help make a mediocre skier a little better.

PdaNet: I chose this app as a favorite in 2007 and I’m choosing it again. A one-time price of $15 turns your Android smartphone into a broadband modem for your laptop or desktop computer. It has saved me hundreds of dollars over the years. And, it has allowed me to connect to the Internet wherever there’s a cellular phone signal, even when traveling down the highway. If you’re tired of paying for Internet access at airports and hotels, get PdaNet from June Fabrics.

If you have a favorite product or service, please pass it along. I would like to hear about it.