3D Printing Practical Applications: The Peg

3D Printing Practical Applications: The Peg

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the one and only Robert Nipper, a practical 3D applications guru who has also taught us how to repair a broken Crock Pot and build a basic holiday ornament.

No Need to Run to the Store – 3D Printing Practical Applications.

As I was on my way out the door this morning, my darling wife shared some information with me: “The shelf in the white hutch fell down. “ The white hutch is a catch-all piece of furniture that resides in the breakfast nook, housing everything from craft supplies to cookbooks to small hand tools and greeting cards. Imagine a junk drawer on steroids.

I went to investigate with her. The shelf had fallen last night, and she had already done her best to triage the situation. I asked where the shelf was now. “Right there” she said. I then asked about the pegs that the shelf was resting on. She handed me two small white plastic pegs. Two. Just two. IMG_0305

“There are supposed to be four of these” I commented. She informed me that there were only two, and asked if I could have it fixed before our neighbors came over for dinner. Since Christmas was just a couple of weeks away, we both had a full schedule. I didn’t really have time to go across town and look for replacement supports from the home supply store.

Then a smile crept across my face. I am not sure she knew what I was thinking, but she was very familiar indeed with what I had to say next:

“I can 3D print that.”

She promptly rolled her eyes and said “Whatever, as long as it gets fixed this afternoon.”


The original peg on the left and the 3D printed version on the right.

I took one of the two support pegs to the office with me and got to work. After applying a little digital caliper action to the peg, I determined its simple dimensions and sent the file off to the MakerBot.

In a matter of minutes (yes, I do mean minutes) I was able to design and print four new pegs.

I am certain that I would have spent more time and money driving to the store and purchasing replacements

After the print was complete we tested the pegs in a modular bookshelf here in the office, and they worked perfectly.


Both pegs in the bookshelf

I can’t wait to take my latest creation home and show it off to my wife, my family, and my friends! So much time and money saved! New technology to the rescue!  So much coolness! I am the future! But….

My friend and co-worker Carlie just asked me if I checked with my wife before I printed them in red instead of white. OK, time to work on my “But red is a Christmas color….” response. Wish me luck.


If you are interested in learning more about how you can save time and money with 3D printing, contact us at Spectra3D Technologies.

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

MakerBot printers

Different build volume = different sizes of prints

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, the high-end home printers and low-end industrial level printers typically vary from build spaces that are approximately eight inches cubed to about one foot cubed. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule and some printers have build volumes that are much larger.

When you get up into the super industrial machines, you will begin to see printers that are essentially mini factories.  In China, for example, there is a company called WinSun Decoration Design Engineering that has designed a printer so massive, it is capable of printing a mid-sized apartment complex and a 12,000 square foot mansion.

Another large build printer was produced by vehicle manufacturer Local Motors. Known as a microfactory, these printers are creating the world’s first 3D printed car. The first vehicle, called the Strati which is Italian for layers, is expected to hit the market sometime in 2015. Unlike most cars, which typically contain about 20,000 parts, the Strati is made of only 50 parts. This is because the majority of the car’s frame and exterior is printed as one part.

3d-printed building

3d-printed building

As the quest for bigger and bigger build spaces continues, researchers are beginning to literally think outside of the box. While 3D printers currently include an extruder as one small component of a larger overall machine, a group of researchers at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia are rethinking the entire design. Essentially, the researchers envision a robotic printer that is actually one giant extruder. With this design, there is no limitation as to the print size because, instead of building the print inside the printer, the robot circles the intended build space, extruding material as it goes. With this method, it is possible that we could even build whole skyscrapers in place.

Tolerance Levels

zoom in on printed layers

Tolerances determine the visibility of layers

As you might guess, as a general rule, the quality and consistency of the print tends to improve as the price of the printer increases.

Of course, the requirements for precision vary substantially based upon what you intend to do with the print. While some low and mid-level printers offer very nice prints, they can suffer from stringiness or a bit of distortion. Furthermore, the printers themselves can be more finicky.

If you are looking for some help figuring out which printer provides you with the combination of build volume and tolerance levels to suit your needs, contact us at Spectra3D Technologies for more information about our highly curated line of printers.



Spurring Innovation: Autodesk Invests in the Future of 3D Printing

Spurring Innovation: Autodesk Invests in the Future of 3D Printing

Autodesk hopes to bolster the future of 3D printing

The Announcement

Autodesk's 3D printer

Autodesk Spark

In May of this year, Autodesk announced that they were ready to jump into the 3D printing game. In a blog post by Carl Bass, Autodesk President and CEO, Bass explained how his frustration with the state of the 3D printing industry had led him to seek out a better option. The result of this search was twofold: the development of an entirely new open source software platform, Autodesk Spark, and a 3D printer, the Ember, that would be designed to work with the Spark platform. Through these innovations, Autodesk hopes to help shape the future of 3D printing in a more user-friendly direction.

Development for Spark

In an update from Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski at the Inside 3D Printing Conference this week, Kowalski spilled a few more details about the software. One of the things that really separates Spark from the competition is its “autocomplete” feature, which allows the software to anticipate the design and complete the shape for the user. The Spark software program will also be able to work with multiple materials and can be used on any available hardware platform. Like the software, Ember, the 3D printer, will be designed through a heavily collaborative process. So far, it is known that the printer will have a resolution of 10 microns and will primarily use photo-cured resin for its material, although it will also print other materials. It is estimated that the printer will go on sale for somewhere around $5,000.

Raising the bar

This week, Autodesk took their role in the 3D marketplace a step further by announcing the creation of the Spark Investment Fund. Over the course of the next three years, Autodesk will be investing as much as $100 million into 3D printing companies. As the first of its kind, this investment fund is a great opportunity for spurring innovation in the industry by financing startups, researchers, and entrepreneurs. The primary goal of the Spark fund is to push the boundaries of 3D technology and move the industry into the next phase.


With increased innovation and investment in the 3D marketplace, it is a great time to embrace this amazing technology. If you would like to learn more about 3D printing and how it can be put to use in your industry, contact us at Spectra 3D Technologies.

Verified by ExactMetrics