3D Printing

3D printing is an amazing and relatively new technology.  The idea of downloading a file and turning it into a physical object you can hold in your hand is amazing!  But the technology is new and not without some issues.  Continue on if you want to understand more about 3D printing.

 - Choosing a printer - 

You've probably looked and printers online or in a store but were unclear on all the terminology.  There are a few key things to understand about 3D printers that will help you get an idea what printer is best for you.

 - Filament type - 

 This is the plastic type itself.  It usually comes in the form of a reel or in some cases as a cartridge.  The main 2 types are "PLA" and "ABS"

        PLA - This is a Plant base plastic.  It is biodegradable and softer than some other materials.  Because of it's limited Expansion/contraction with temperature change, it does not require a "Heated Bed" (We'll talk more about that later).  This generaly reduces the printer cost if they dont have a heated bed.  The negative is that PLA melts at a low temperature.  It won't melt in your hand, but it will melt in your hot car!

        ABS - This is what Legos are made of as well as most plastic phone cases and electronics enclosures.  This melts at around 210 degrees CELSIUS!!   It has to get really hot!  It expands and contracts more as it cools, so it requires a "Heated Bed" to keep the printed object from distorting as it prints.

Q: So which one do I want?  Most printers that can print ABS can also print PLA, so if you get one that can print ABS, you will probably have more options.  ABS is sturdy and melts at a much higher temp, so I find it to be the most useful type of plastic.

Q: How much does Filament cost and how far does it go? - Filament is sold by weight, general in Kilograms.  For most printers, 600 Grams = about 240 meters of filament.  The amount of filament needed per print varies drastically depending on how hollow the object is and how large the object is, but on average I use between 4m and 8m per small print (This includes prints of small airplanes, puzzles, boxes, and sets of gears).  The cost is about $0.11 per meter for my printer, and mine is rather expensive.

Q: Why is your's more expensive?  - It's a cartridge based system.  I call it "The Polaroid scheme".  We'll sell you the camera for next to nothing but make up for it in supplies.  I have a XYZ Da vinci 1.0 printer.

 - Print Quality -  

Print quality is typically defined by "Layer Height".  The 3D printer thinks of an object as a bunch of slices a selected thickness.  Think about a carrot.  If you slice the carrot into a bunch of pieces, you are now thinking of how the pinter thinks about the object, a bunch of slices handled 1 at a time.  

.3mm to .1mm is a standard layer height. This is how thick each "Slice" of the object is to the printer.  Thiner slices = higher quality.   A good printer will print down to .1mm.   Usually it is variable and can be selected.  Thicker layer = faster print / less quality.  

More to come on how to print your first print!