Small, Medium and Large Ultimakers

If you follow the news about Ultimaker you will know that they have released a line of 3d printers based on the Ultimaker 2 formula.

If you know my background and my experience with Ultimaker, you will understand this is good news. And that it is bad news for Makerbot which hasn’t released anything but some new materials you can get jammed in your smart extruder.

Yes, that’s me being bitter.

I fully intend to replace my now completely consistently and annoyingly failing Makerbot Mini. I have had enough. I recently suggested that Makerbot re-conceive the materials and user policies used in building the smart extruder in their recent online survey.

Gulanee-outside-sml

I would be willing to pay for a premium smart extruder which allows everything I have consistently asked the company to do. Make it user serviceable, make it from better materials, and make it easier to manage settings and regulate it’s temperature better.

Makerbot did a great job defining goals and specs which made sense to consumers and almost none of the ones important to me were ready at release or were disappointing when seen in action. The built in camera is not very good or useful, the reliability is woeful, the build quality gets progressively worse until the extruder fails entirely, and customer service has either no interest or ability to respond with customer history at hand and instead goes through robotic standard replies and suggestions.

But back to Ultimaker – I saw that they are using the 2 ft tall Gulanee model at their booth at CES which makes me divinely happy she has found a good home. If you see this model, you should know that I was up and running, printing tests and getting work done in under an hour – and that’s me taking what I thought was a LONG time to get acquainted with the printer.

This is also close to the first full year I have been on this 3d printing adventure and want to congratulate Ultimaker for thinking, acting and delivering on the promises of 3d printing.

Conversely I want to encourage Makerbot to consider some of the things I suggested. I truly did enjoy the Makerbot experience when it first arrived and I finished my first model.

Visit  #72024 at CES if you get a chance and say hello!

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This is when you will outgrow your first 3d printer

The minute you want to build something bigger than the printer is capable of printing in one piece. At least a dozen people I know have said something which indicates the size printer they want to buy is dictated by the thing they most want to make RIGHT NOW. Later on … you get the picture?

Minifigs, RPG set pieces, jewelry, designer ice trays … tiny stuff. Cool.

And that STILL shouldn’t stop you from printing something pretty darned huge.

The guys at Ultimaker proved this by printing a life sized elephant in dozens of individual pieces using a “print farm” – a group of Ultimakers all working together.

The Gulanee model I printed out was originally targeted for the Makerbot Mini where the size was set to 1 foot – minus the base I made separately.

Want to know what comes in strikingly handy? The built in Windows 8 calculator which does many conversions natively.

calculator

If this is the first time someone has praised Windows 8, don’t freak out.

Going bigger on the Ultimaker 2 meant doing some re-configuring to get parts that would print the model 2 feet tall. That’s bigger than my old Godzilla toys.

Having a good grasp of conversions is something every scale modeler knows – 1/8 scale this or that, 1/32 scale ships and so on.

So a workflow for me always started with “How big do I want this thing to be” and not “how big can the printer make it.” Because frankly, it’s a stupid question. The bigger and better questions are “what’s the right scale” and “how much filament do I need.”

All slicer software worth it’s salt should tell you a few things.

  • How much material will it take
  • How large the final print will be
  • The exact scale entered to produce the final print
  • And how long it will take to print

This is an example of the Cura display showing these values.

Rocket-Cura

In a previous post I said how crucial CGI modeling skills were going to be? Glad I spent years modeling things the hard way – polygon to polygon.

The Gulanee was designed and built for animation production – not 3d printing. Plenty of conventions in animation just don’t fly in 3d printing.

The biggest problem? Floating parts. Anyone who has done visual effects and CGI knows this.

polygroups

All of the armor and little screws were all discreet pieces of the model that had to be merged so it’s a bit like building the model twice.

The final result can be noticeably better if you take the time to merge things manually – the biggest reason is that the software which more easily merges models also increases their file size and can soften certain details. Even with more expensive software, I spent so much time modeling the Gulanee the first time, I REALLY wanted to preserve that detail.

People call this process making the model “watertight.” It’s still an important step but it’s one lots of people are working hard to eliminate. Wouldn’t you want to save production time?

Determining the ideal spot where you will split up your model is also something various programs handle differently – I’ve been doing it manually. For the most part, breaking you model into parts is about scale.

It is also about strength. Many parts of the Gulanee were made unnaturally thin – it was meant to indicate something sleek. But in the real world, that meant change attributes of the model to be stronger.

The legs of the Gulanee were printed with different settings – basically they were given more internal structure and therefor strength than the res of the model. Parts of the feet are almost solid.

If you are satisfied downloading models from the internet, printing out that Yoda model in the material of the day, be my guest. Once you find out what you REALLY want to make, you’ll have to design it yourself.

THEN, you’ll be making the future. Then you’ll likely want another printer.

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Makerbot removed from iMakr stores

The following is a link to something everyone who has followed my printing experience with the Makerbot Mini has known for most of the year:

Want to know what this is? Tough, you’re Makerbot is jammed again.
Cough up a hundred bucks or suck it up kid.

http://3dprint.com/23136/imakr-removing-new-makerbot/

Customers of the bots they got at iMakr are not happy with the 5th gen Makerbots. I’m not happy with mine. And it’s been another week of waiting on support.

The 5th gen machines only need two improvements to make them credible and reliable. Unfortunately both of those changes are expensive because they involve all the things that make it a 3d printer – the extruder, and the stepper motors.

It’s loud as hell and jams too easily. That’s it. If Makerbot as a company can resolve these two things they’d really have it made because they spent so much effort lining up deals to get the products into every possible space they could, if they actually had a KILLER product they’d be running the world (or at least a small part of it).

It doesn’t help that the company gets accused of actually stealing ideas and patents from their users, it’s bad enough they how bad they look now. I honestly chose a Makerbot because of their previous reputation with the cupcake and rep 2’s, and because they were backed by enough money to ensure they wouldn’t disappear overnight which is the fear I have for 90 percent of the 3d printer gold rush companies flooding Kickstarter with stuff.

Even the venerable Form 1, the SLA printer I initially wanted and seriously considered has struggled with it’s fair share of FULL machine replacements. If you think a failed print on Makerbot looks bad you should see some of the fails from a Form 1 or other SLA printer. It’s something which makes the 5th gens so hard to swallow – the ideas in them are actually REALLY good – just poorly executed. Make it quiet, reliable and easy to get back up an running again. PLEASE!

Even if they do get this settled, the accusations by users of idea theft still bugs me. It was the biggest reason I’ve never contributed anything to their so called ecosystem that isn’t an ecosystem. If anyone in tech is going to use that term it better include better ways for users and not just filament re-sellers to make some coin.

I want Makerbot to succeed for two reasons – the first being so I can actually make back the money I blew on the Mini by making something worth buying, and two so they can repay the users they allegedly stole from should that ever become a thing they need to do. THEN. Then, I can feel comfortable buying something other than filament from them again.

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A Carbon Fiber Inkwell?

New size for bigger project painting and drawing - I could just use a coffee cup for my inkwell but that would be LAZY!. #protopasta #3dprinting #ultimaker

So while Inktober is over, I had some ideas and developed a few prototypes for a new inkwell while working on my daily pieces.

One of the posts caught the attention of a filament company – it was my coffee drawing of Superman.

After coffee, #inktober #warmup #superman #dccomics

A few weeks later we agreed to trade wares – a drawing for some filament samples.

I think I owe Alex at Proto Pasta some money! This stuff is the most interesting filament I have used. A spool of 2.85 mm gauge filament for the Ultimaker in 750 gram spool is $60 US. By comparison, a 900 g spool of basic blue from Makerbot cost $56. Both of these prices do not include shipping.

Carbon fiber filament sounds like something out of science fiction. To be fair, it is not exactly like making carbon fiber parts for cars where sheets of fibrous material are layered together to make something stronger than steel. This is basically thermoplastic which has been made with small amounts of carbon fiber to reinforce the final melted product.

Since carbon fiber derives its strength from linear fibers being layered together I am not sure this aaccomplishes the same strength effects. But what it DOES do is something pretty close.

First carbon fiber inkwell almost done. #3dprinting #ultimaker #protopasta

One of the problems I have with almost every FFM filament type is that it is very difficult to photograph with simpler cameras. There is an linear sheen from the build lines which causes strange hot spots and highlights and can obscure details without a better lighting setup.

The carbon fiber reinforced filament Alex sent me is beautiful up close. The finish is just matte enough to diffuse light evenly across the surface and even the courser 100 micron resolution I printed this sample at produced an even and diffuse surface.

Truth be told, the final product feels like wood – this can be said of various filaments usually but in particular the carbon fiber reinforced filament has the feel of stained wood. Cleaning up the brim – part of the printing support settings puts a small “skirt” around the base of the print – with a sharp knife confirms the woodlike feel and even the sound of wood while carving. It’s subtle but it’s something I noticed right away.

There are some caveats on the label to using this filament because it does contain elements which can be a bit abrasive on printing equipment. My tests for now are rather small in scale but given the comparative reliability of the Ultimaker so far I will continue the tests.

For more information:

http://www.proto-pasta.com/

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