3D Printing Basics: Printer Build Volumes and Tolerances

3D Printing Basics: Printer Build Volumes and Tolerances

How big do you want to print? Last week in our 3D printing basics series we discussed the history of 3D printing. Today, we are going to explore the wide variety of printer build volumes and tolerances that allow you to create prints ranging from very tiny to quite massive. While all printers work by building a part layer by layer, the machines can vary significantly in terms of quality and functionality. When searching for a 3D printer for your home or office, you can really distinguish one printer from another based upon the printer build volumes and tolerances. Printer Build Volumes The build volume, quite simply, determines how big your machine allows you to print. For years, analysts believed that limited build volumes were the biggest obstacle standing in the way of widespread adoption of 3D printing technology. Today, we are starting to see the design of 3D printers re-imagined in ways that allow them to build full-scale structures, effectively eliminating this critique. Starting at the true desktop level, the printer build volumes for a 3D printer can be quite limited. Many of the entry level printers, especially those around or below the $1,000 mark, have rather small build volumes, mostly less than four inches by four inches by four inches. This means that you can only print something that would fit inside of a four inch cube. While this is enough space to play around with the technology and build little trinkets, if you want to make actual, usable parts, you will find a four-inch limitation to be rather cumbersome. Moving into the next level of printers,...
3D Printing Basics: Printer Build Volumes and Tolerances

3D Printing Basics: The History of 3D Printing

The History of 3D Printing Do you think of 3D printing as a brand new, cutting edge technology? Well, you are half right. While it is true that 3D printing is cutting edge and has only entered the mainstream in recent years, the history of 3D printing actually dates back more than three decades. In fact, the first recorded design for rapid prototyping (RP), the technology that 3D printing is built upon, was developed by a Japanese lawyer, Dr. Hideo Kodama, in 1980. Rapid prototyping is simply any technique that uses computer aided design (CAD) programs to quickly develop a 3D model. The term rapid prototyping is often used interchangeably with additive manufacturing. Unlike traditional prototyping techniques that could take many weeks to complete, rapid prototyping technologies allow businesses to receive their prototype within hours of creating the design. The Breakthrough and the Rise of 3D Systems The first big breakthrough in 3D printing took place in 1983 when Charles “Chuck” Hull invented the first stereolithography apparatus. Hull would go on to found 3D Systems, one of the highest grossing 3D printing companies in operation and a company that we are proud to be a re-seller for. Hull came up with the idea for his machine while he was working on lamps for UV-curable resins and realized that the process could be used to create bonds in the resin that would build objects layer by layer. Remarkably, the first inkjet printer had just been invented in 1976. There was only a period of eight years separating the invention of the first machine capable of printing in 2D and the...
Animals Saved by 3D Printing

Animals Saved by 3D Printing

With robotic hands, custom-printed splints, and medicine that can be printed to specific doses, the news is full of ways that 3D printing can help humans live healthier, more productive lives. But, if you look close enough, there are also some really amazing examples of how 3D printing has also been helping some adorable members of the animal kingdom.  Here are a few of our favorite stories about animals saved by 3D printing. 1. A pelican’s new beak. When a pelican began acting strangely at the Dalian Forest Zoo, staff members soon realized that the bird’s beak was damaged. Because a beak is vital to both food gathering and determining a pelican’s social status, a beak is crucial to a pelican’s survival. After two attempts at repairing the beak through other methods, zoo workers decided that they would try to use a 3D printer to make the necessary repairs. Because it appeared that there was already some new growth, doctors determined that it wasn’t necessary to print the entire beak. The final product is a 3D printed extension that screws into the pelican’s original beak, allowing the pelican to feed normally once more. 2. A turtle’s new home. A turtle’s shell protects them in a number of ways, including from bacteria and infection. In some cases, poor nutrition can lead to a bone disease which can cause the shell to wear away. When that happens, a turtle can be left painfully exposed. This is the fate that turtle Cleopatra was facing. Luckily, however, Cleopatra was taken in by Canyon Critters Rescue. Here, founder Nicola “Nico” Novelli determined that he...
Benefit from a 3D Printer at Home, no Experience Required

Benefit from a 3D Printer at Home, no Experience Required

When we bring our 3D printers to an event, we always have a great time meeting new people and talking about the potential of 3D printing. While most people are really excited to see the printers in action, one of the observations we hear most often is, “it’s neat, but I don’t think that I have any use for it,” or “it doesn’t seem very practical.” While I can certainly understand why this is often a first reaction, here is why I truly believe that everybody can benefit from having a 3D printer at home For beginners When you skim through the hundreds of thousands of downloadable files available online, you will definitely see a bunch of knick-knacks and things that most homes just don’t need. But you will also find a whole lot of items that are extremely practical. Do you need new organizers for your drawers? How about a wrench for a project? Just download the files and hit print. Not only are these items fully customizable to your own unique space or project, but you also get to avoid a trip to the store. Some of those knick-knacks are actually really cool. There are some true artists at work on these sites who create beautiful vases that make fantastic centerpieces, one-of-a-kind pencil holders, Thor statues that your little ones are sure to love, and much more. When your kids are bored, you can print out a brand new board game, or open up one of the customizable files and let them have a great time tweaking their own ornament or action figure. If you are in...
Print Yourself in a 3D Portrait

Print Yourself in a 3D Portrait

Have you ever envisioned yourself as a real-life action figure? With the new 3D portrait booths, possibly coming to a store near you, you can create your exact replica in amazing detail. Step into the Booth Designed by the Artec Group, a manufacturer of 3D scanners, the Shapify Booth is a high tech scanner that maps your entire body in just 12 seconds. If you’re not sure exactly what pose you want to be printed in, don’t worry, the booth provides you with as many free test scans as you would like. Once you choose the perfect scan, the results are sent off to the company and turned into a printable file within 15 minutes. Then, all you need to do is either print the file with your own printers, or use a print service, such as the official Artec print service. See the booth in action: What moment would you immortalize? So far, the majority of the booths are placed in grocery stores, which means that most customers will be capturing their miniature 3D self in their everyday attire. Artec does, however, point out that the prints are a fantastic way to capture life’s special moments, such as weddings, birthdays, and pregnancies. One of Artec’s advertisements focuses on this idea as it tells a couple’s love story through their shapies. With a suggested starting retail price of $99 and going up to $199 depending on the size, the shapie isn’t necessarily a trinket that everyone can bring home from the grocery store on a whim, which brings the whole business model into question. What do you think? Would...
MakerBot Dedicated to 5th Generation Platform

MakerBot Dedicated to 5th Generation Platform

MakerBot Update As a MakerBot reseller, we are very excited to let you know about their plans for the coming year. Rather than focusing on big changes like new releases in 2015, MakerBot is focused on fully providing a better user experience for the 5th Generation platform. Our favorite thing about MakerBot’s trajectory is that they reinforced the idea that the company is dedicated to continuous improvement of the current 5th Generation printers. This is great news for our customers, who often express concern that they will end up with a printer that is obsolete within a year or two. Instead of releasing the 6th Generation this year and the 7th Generation next year, MakerBot is adopting a model of steady positive change to make the 5th Generation the best machine that it can be. MakerBot has already been demonstrating this dedication to a better printer through continued upgrades to the firmware. From personal experience on the MakerBot Replicator that we have in the office, we have noticed a vast improvement in printing quality following the most recent firmware upgrade. MakerBot, as a subsidiary of Stratasys, it is the largest manufacturer of 3D printers in the world. This means that they have the resources to identify and fix problems while still innovating and working on what’s next. New Printing Materials Speaking of what’s next, MakerBot is rolling out some really cool ways that you can get even more use out of your 5th Generation printers. One of the first endeavors that they are undertaking is new materials. Citing their belief that the ability to print with more and more...