Projects – Crazy for 3D Printing – An Introduction

Back in June 2012 I posted about purchasing a Makerbot Replicator 3D printer with dual extruders. Since then, I have been working with it so much that I have neglected many of my other project(s). As such, I intend to document my journey into the world of 3D fabrication.

According to the RepRap wiki:

“RepRap is humanity’s first general-purpose self-replicating manufacturing machine.

RepRap takes the form of a free desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. Since many parts of RepRap are made from plastic and RepRap prints those parts, RepRap self-replicates by making a kit of itself – a kit that anyone can assemble given time and materials. It also means that – if you’ve got a RepRap – you can print lots of useful stuff, and you can print another RepRap for a friend

RepRap is about making self-replicating machines, and making them freely available for the benefit of everyone…”

The RepRap movement has spawned improvements and innovations that led to derivatives such as The PrintrbotFoldaRapRostock and Replicator.  These printers use a method known as extrusion or addictive layering in which material is placed onto a build platform a layer at a time.


One of the first actions I took after many laborious nights of tweaking, adjusting, test printing and more tweaking is heading over to Thingiverse and downloading some open source creations.

One of the first objects I built is a derivative (with some modifications) of the Original Eggbot by Evil Mad Scientist.

Here is the Original Eggbot:

Here is the printable version that is available on Thingiverse:

Here is my version of the printable Eggbot:

I added a modified endplate from here so that my pin attachment will have full range.

Naturally, after printing many designs from Thingiverse, I wanted to embrace the RepRap movement and print a 3D printer.  I scoured the RepRap wiki for ideas and settled on the Ecksbot printer which is a derivative of the Prusa Mendel.  Building your own 3D printer is not for the faint of heart but, the savings and knowledge gained is worth the journey.  The first issue I ran into is the Ecksbots files are designed to be printed on a larger build platform than what is available on the Replicator.  This posed a problem when I wanted to print the Y-Carriage.  A request made to the Ecksbot creators yielded a resized Y-Carriage that fit on the Replicator’s build platform.  If you plan to build your own and intend to use the Replicator to fabricate the parts, be sure to download the file labeled “Y_Cart_ReplicatorResize_x1.STL.”

Here are some pictures of my mostly completed Ecksbot:

There are two software options supported by Makerbot for use on the Replicator and the recently released Replicator2.  The first being ReplicatorG and the second being MakerWare.

ReplicatorG focuses more on the Skeinforge slicing engine whereas MakerWare focuses more on the Miracle-Grue slicing engine in active development by MakerBot.



MakerWare is currently in beta but offers some welcomed capabilities that are missing from ReplicatorG.  My favorite is the ability to import multiple parts onto the build plate.  This allows one to easily combine prints into a single session.  Another favorite is the ability to run multiple slicing sessions at the same time.  Again, the software is in beta and lacks the capability to decipher between the difference in the build area size of the Replicator2 and the Replicator.  The way I get around this is to add parts to the build surface in MakerWare, save the session as an STL file and open in ReplicatorG.  Now I can adjust as necessary and print from ReplicatorG or MakerWare.

A natural progression after getting comfortable with a 3D printer is to design some objects.  There are a number of free offerings that can export to the STL format.  The STL file will be converted into g-c0de by the slicer application.  A couple of popular free applications is Sketchup and OpenSCAD.  Sketchup loosely follows the path of traditional 2D/3D CAD applications while OpenSCAD takes a programming language approach.



An online offering is Tinkercad:

For just $49 you can pick up Cubify Invent from the makers of the Cube 3D printer.  Cubify Invent has many features that are contained in more expensive 3D packages such as Solid Works.  The work flow is similar to 123D by AutoDesk (free software).  You start your design by drawing a sketch in a 2D plane and selecting extrude or many of the other tools to convert the drawing into a 3D representation.  There is a 15 day trial so you can test it out.

Cubify offers some basic video tutorials to get you started.  You can also checkout Cubify Fans blog for more in depth tutorials (my favorite).

This wraps up my introduction/experience in 3D printing.  I’ll continue this series with some projects that I am working on as I learn to use Cubify.  My initial designs are currently centered on modifying the Ecksbot 3D printer I presented above.  I’ll also dive deeper into the printable Eggbot I briefly discussed above.  Till next post, enjoy!

Parts – Teensy 3.0, an affordable 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 board, for development in Arduino or C/C++

It took me a while to jump on board the Arduino bandwagon but, I found myself hooked on how easy it was to learn, the many libraries available and the subset of the C/C++ programming language that it uses.  What I do not like about the Arduino is its limited flash memory.  I’d like to have something with more flash memory and the same ease of use.

Along comes the Teensy 3.0 that just wrapped up a very successful Kickstarter campaign.  The Teensy 3.0 is a small breadboard friendly development board designed by Paul Stoffregen and PJRC.  The design uses a low-cost 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 chip and is compatible with the Arduino programming environment as well as the C/C++ programming language.

Technical Specifications:

  • 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 48 MHz CPU (M4 = DSP extensions)
  • 128K Flash Memory, 16K RAM, 2K EEPROM
  • 14* High Resolution Analog Inputs (13 bits usable, 16 bit hardware)
  • 34* Digital I/O Pins (10 shared with analog)
  • 10 PWM outputs
  • 8 Timers for intervals/delays, separate from PWM
  • USB with dedicated DMA memory transfers
  • 3 UARTs (serial ports)
  • SPI, I2C, I2S, IR modulator
  • I2S (for high quality audio interface)
  • Real Time Clock (with user-added 32.768 crystal and battery)
  • 4 general purpose DMA channels (separate from USB)
  • Touch Sensor Inputs
  • All pins have interrupt capability
  • 14 Digital-only and 10 Analog/Digital pins are accessible around the exterior of Teensy 3.0, and available when used on a breadboard.  10 more Digital-only pins, and 4 more Analog-only pins are accessible at interior and bottom-side pads.

Checkout the Kickstarter and project website for further details and to purchase.  Check out the Teensy forum for support and updates.

Software – File2Part: Software That Makes 3D Printing Easy

I am now a supporter of the crowd-funded open-source project known as File2part.  File2Part provides slicing and file fixing software compatible with a range of 3D printers including MakerBot and Bits from Bytes.  The software provides an easy OneClick solution for 3D printing and supports importing of STL, PLY, VRML, 3DS, DXF, OBJ, LWO and SketchUp Collada files.  Each file is automatically checked for printability and repaired if necessary.  Parts are automatically positioned in the build box and all the user needs to do is press a build button.

Pledge $99 and you will receive lifetime upgrades.  Versions will be available for Windows and Mac with Linux to follow in future upgrades.  More information can be found on their website here.