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3D Printer Round-Up: Cube 3D, Up! Mini, and Solidoodle 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the bang-for-your-buck dept.
MojoKid writes "3D printing is a fascinating new technology and an exploding new market. The process involved is pretty basic actually. Heat up some plastic, and sort of like that Play-Doh Fun Factory you were so fond of as a kid, you extrude the melted plastic out to create objects. It all started back in 2007 when the first RepRap machine was built. The idea behind RepRap was to design a machine that could build complex parts in three dimensions using extruded molten plastic and that machine could also "self-replicate" or build a copy of itself. Since then, 3D printers of all types have emerged from the community and this round-up of machines covers a few of the more prominent names in 3D printing systems. The Cube 3D, the Up! Mini and the Solidoodle 2 can all get you into 3D printing at retail consumer price points with precision down to 100 microns. The technology has very much come of age and it's going to be interesting to see where these machines can take us."
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3D Printer Round-Up: Cube 3D, Up! Mini, and Solidoodle

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  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @09:28PM (#42343657)

    Whether or not they have a legitimate beef against FormLabs [gizmag.com], the act of dragging Kickstarter into their little patent war was absolutely inexcusable. This is a company that sees itself as threatened not only by competition, but by the existence of the marketplace itself.

    If you are considering purchasing a 3D printer you could do well to pick a company that won't use your money to suppress competition through enforcement of bullshit patents on abstract ideas like photolithography. Or one whose business model is so insecure that it relies on barratry against unrelated parties.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Whether or not they have a legitimate beef against FormLabs [gizmag.com], the act of dragging Kickstarter into their little patent war was absolutely inexcusable. This is a company that sees itself as threatened not only by competition, but by the existence of the marketplace itself.

      If you are considering purchasing a 3D printer you could do well to pick a company that won't use your money to suppress competition through enforcement of bullshit patents on abstract ideas like photolithography. Or one whose business model is so insecure that it relies on barratry against unrelated parties.

      FormLabs has a clearly valid patent. This is the patent system doing exactly what it is supposed to do, protecting an innovation for a period of ~20 years. Just because somebody wanted to make a cheap knockoff of their product, and FormLabs sued both the people who were selling that, and the people enabling that, doesn't make them a patent "troll."

    • If you are considering purchasing a 3D printer you could do well to pick a company that won't use your money to suppress competition through enforcement of bullshit patents on abstract ideas like photolithography.

      You'd also do well to purchase a 3D printer from someone who has secured real financing, is producing a real product, and via a marketplace where you'll actually have rights and protection as a customer, not one where you're restricted and your rights are muddled by a third party.

      Kickstarter

      • by skitchen8 (1832190) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:33PM (#42344059)
        Bit extreme, no? I've used Craigslist and eBay both as a buyer and seller and never once have I had a single problem. Sure fraud happens there, but fraud happens everywhere, it is not unique to either platform. All that is required is user intelligence, and kickstarter is not much different except for instead of buying a product that maybe someone will never send you you are buying a product that maybe will never exist. Besides that: Kickstarter, though it has its problems, has also had its deal of successes where people that don't have the ability to make things but have the money to buy them are paired up with people that have the ability to make things but not the money to sell them. The only people that could be mad at Kickstarter are people too dumb to read and understand what they are getting from investing in a campaign (read: good feelings for trying to help out what they perceive as a good idea). If you're backing a campaign because you want to buy a finished product you're doing it wrong.
      • by 3dr (169908)

        Oh, please. Do you know how kickstarter actually works?

        Don't blame the messenger in this case. If *funded* projects aren't delivered, blame lies with the project owners.

  • by Guano_Jim (157555) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @09:48PM (#42343767)

    Disclaimer: I own a MakerBot Replicator 1, and haven't used any of the models published in the article. These printers look promising and have attractive price points, but here are my two big complaints about home 3D printing that none of them address yet, AFAIK.

    1. printing with ABS plastic literally stinks. If your printer's in the garage or shop it's probably not so bad, but woe to the user that keeps one of these printers in a home office. Good ventilation is a must, but breezes and drafts can significantly mess with your print quality. I prefer to print with PLA (corn-based) plastic, because it smells like Mrs. Butterworth's imitation maple syrup. Makerbot's already doing this with its Replicator 2-- as I understand it they've given up on ABS for their first version and only print with PLA.

    2. Overhangs. I doubt any of these printers can yet print an overhang that's more than 2mm without post-processing support. Gravity tends to pull overhangs down during the printing process, meaning the object's designer has to take the orientation of the printed object into account when designing it. As amazing as home 3D printing is, this is a pretty severe limitation once one gets past printing cubes and scans of heads.

    The first company to produce a 3D printer that can handle big overhangs has my upgrade cash.

    • by Tumbleweed (3706)

      The first company to produce a 3D printer that can handle big overhangs has my upgrade cash.

      Isn't that why you want one with dual extruders, so you can use one with water-soluble material?

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        The first company to produce a 3D printer that can handle big overhangs has my upgrade cash.

        Isn't that why you want one with dual extruders, so you can use one with water-soluble material?

        well yes, but that's experimental with these machines.
        in other words the sw for makerbot replicator doesn't automatically do supports for one print head and the object for another. so it takes a bit of work to get it right. there's some other slicing sw that does it but none of it works straight out of box.

        it's also possible to dissolve pla if you print a pla+abs combo object, but printing abs has it's own problems without a heated enclosure(for which I think there's some patents. or some other reason why n

    • by GrpA (691294) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:03PM (#42343853)

      The Mini doesn't really smell bad at all. I had it running in a small space, without much ventilation, sitting next to me for 3 hours and didn't notice the smell at all. My sense of smell isn't very good, but it is particularly acute when dealing with burning plastic smells ( honed from a lifetime working with electronics )

      I think the smell may be more to do with the plastic you're using and the temperature it's melting at.

      As for big overhangs? How about a sintering 3D printer? They seem to handle it just fine. I'd probably use such services after I've checked my models on the desktop though.

      GrpA

      • Tea, Earl Grey, hot

        The machine dispenses a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

      • by guises (2423402)
        Sintering looks great, but a home model is unlikely to ever be affordable. At least one of any significant size.
        • Why? It's just a laser and a powder bed...
          • by guises (2423402)
            It's a high energy laser and the optics for that are rather expensive, this is why stereolithographic printers are expensive, but in addition to that cost you have more moving parts and just a physically much larger unit. The powder bed needs to be on a tray which can lower down to the volume at which you'd like to print, you need to store the source powder somewhere, and after the printing is done you need to manually clean the printed pieces into another tray which can catch the unused material powder. Yo
    • by sgrover (1167171)

      So close yet so far. Your two complaints would seem to be a reflection of your own limited experiences. A properly tuned Replicator 1 prints ABS with little or no smell. Or just slapping on side panels and a hood does wonders to minimize that particular effect (not to mention it keeps the chamber air more stable and minimizes peeling). As for overhangs, I've seen up to 2cm with only a little issue, 1cm is about as smooth as you'd get with 2mm - depending on the model and tuning.

      PLA is starch based, not

    • 1) Isn't ABS stronger than the PLA? My only experience with PLA I think has been the corn based plastic used in recyclable plastic silverware, and it seems quite soft.

      2) In the video review they mentioned the first one (I think the Up! Mini?) automatically adding some kind of support structures as needed, perhaps that would help address overhangs.

      • by daid303 (843777)

        PLA is a lot of things, but soft it's not. It bends less then ABS before breaking. But it is very strong.

        Support structures is quite a standard feature, but they leave ugly scars on the models.

        (I work at Ultimaker, and we print with PLA 99% of the time, as it doesn't stink and prints nicer)

      • by JuzzFunky (796384)
        Pretty much all 3D printing software can generate support material. It is intended to be torn away like the raft at the bottom of the print. Some software does a better job than others. From my experience with Up!, Makerbot and Bits from Bytes 3DTouch printers, the algorithms from the UP! software generate more reliable support structures. They tend to come away more cleanly. There are other 3D printing techniques that do not require support materials, such as the powder based printers, stereolithogra
  • 3D printing is a fascinating new technology and an exploding new market. The process involved is pretty basic actually. Heat up some plastic, and sort of like that Play-Doh Fun Factory you were so fond of as a kid, you extrude the melted plastic out to create objects.

    This would all be very interesting new information if Slashdot weren't running like five 3d-printing stories per week.

    • by cellocgw (617879)

      This would all be very interesting new information if Slashdot weren't running like five 3d-printing stories per week

      Wait,.. so Slashdot has articles on 15-D printers? Do the string theorists know about these?

  • Applied 3D Printing (Score:5, Informative)

    by djl4570 (801529) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:02PM (#42343843) Journal
    Watch a few episodes of Jay Leno's garage where they use a 3D printer to make parts and molds for vintage vehicle restorations.
    This video of a sand printer is the most interesting application of 3D printing technology I've seen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8MaVaqNr3U [youtube.com]
  • My thoughts, YMMV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:04PM (#42343867)

    I've been building my Prusa Mendel for several months now (work's been crazy, I should be able to finish it over winter break).

    I think if I had it to do again I'd get a Makerbot, the RepRap open source models promise a lot but there are a lot of pitfalls: available instructions, software and parts on eBay all seem to be at different versions at all times!

    To me it would have been worth the extra $500 to just get a box that had everything, that was guaranteed to all fit together, not look strange or different from the instructions, and have support, but to each his own. I'm definitely learning a lot -- having the wrong revision of something physical is a big deal compared to having the wrong commit of ImageMagick :) It's something OSS fab folk will have to deal with going forward.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This! You wouldn't believe how much trouble it's been to build a laser-cut TechZone Remix Mendel. None of the electronics will mount properly, some pieces don't fit, and I had to find a sealant that'd work at 500F and not screw up the thrermocouple by shorting it out. Permatex may be the winner - I'll find out when it's finished.

      My printer did not have instructions sent with it. Consider yourself lucky. I've had to follow half a dozen websites to figure out how it goes together and how other people have scr

      • Permatex may be the winner - I'll find out when it's finished.

        Permatex Ultra Black is really awesome stuff. It's rated for use with O2 sensors, so it will survive very high temperatures and will cure without outgassing anything corrosive to electronics.

        I've used it in some very delicate electronic applications that otherwise called for RTV 162. Very cheap, very effective.

    • I received a Mendel90 kit from Nop Head about three weeks ago. (Nop Head has been prolific in the Rep Rap community.) The instructions were very clear and the whole kit went together over the course of about three work-days (mostly done while watching Netflix). The few minor issues I ran into were due to my mis-reading the instructions, or not reading them at all. The kit was lacking on some heat-shrink tubing, but that's the only real criticism I have. Even for someone who hasn't picked up a soldering iron

    • by smaddox (928261)

      I'm surprised no one here seems to know about Printrbot. For $549, you can get a 6"x6"x6" build volume with everything included (including 1lb. of ABS, and a heated bed) except for an ATX power supply (which many people have sitting around). Hell, if you're lazy, you can get it shipped assembled for an extra $150.

    • by Applekid (993327)

      IMHO, prebuilt machines for hobby use are a terrible idea for your first printer. The big commerical machines have support contracts with dudes that come to your facility, and everyone needs training. There's a reason for that: even they can't make truly perfect machines, so what chance does a consumer grade machine stand?

      With a pre-built machine, it's only a matter of time when it no longer works. And when it doesn't, you won't know enough about it's construction to effectively communicate with others abou

  • by iggymanz (596061) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:51PM (#42344179)

    RepRap only makes plastic parts, not quite two-thirds of itself. Compare that with a serious milling machine (and note not even a CNC one), which can and has made over 95% of itself since the 1940s.....

    It's a toy for making cute plastic parts.....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Scytheford (958819)

      Yeah OK, I'll bite.

      A) Skill
      Nearly anyone can operate a 3D printer quietly, cleanly, inexpensively and safely. Comparing a lathe or mill to a 3D printer is akin to rubbishing a Ford Focus because it's not an F-15. Someone having read a wiki can download an STL from thingiverse, click print and enjoy the results. Getting good at machining takes years of dedication.

      B) Cost
      A reprap can be built for under $800 and a little elbow grease. The cheapest vertical mill is about USD$4k, not including shipping, installa

      • by khakipuce (625944)

        Actually I've wanted a 3d printer for a while, I've also wanted a Milling machine for longer. Having nearly gone off and bought the bits for a 3D printer I stopped and thought about it.

        A milling machine with bigger overall capacity than most home-built 3D printers (i.e. about a cubic foot) can be had new for under £1000 which (all-in) is not much more than a large, rigid 3D printer kit would be. Add in a CNC set up (about another £300) and make an extruder (we now have a milling machine so makin

      • by Thud457 (234763)
        You DO realize that putting designs in thingiverse, that you're giving tools to Skynet to kill all humans, right?

        Anyhow, thingiverse is still woefully lacking [thingiverse.com].
  • I was wondering how a company was going to try to lock people down from buying their own spools of abs plastic.
  • step 1. get 3d scanner
    step 2. get 3d printer
    step 3. provide champagne, flowers and ramantic music

    and in no time... 3D copier... :)
    • by GrpA (691294)

      They already have 3D scanners. Basically a Kinetic I think.... And you can make models of people with it.

      But IIRC, the Japanese even have a photobooth that does that. Instant 3D memoir of your date.

      GrpA

  • Sorry, but the Makerbot and other FDM printers are a dead end. The overhang issue and the fluid dynamics problems limit this specific technology to "bleeding edge", and will never progress past 'cutting edge'. UV hardened resins are where it's at, but predatory patent trolls have locked that up in patent hell for the next few decades. FDM has come a long way in the last 2 years, but, at the end of the day, it's still dropping a noodle onto other noodles, with a very limited choice of materials which have
    • by Animats (122034)

      Sorry, but the Makerbot and other FDM printers are a dead end. ... FDM has come a long way in the last 2 years, but, at the end of the day, it's still dropping a noodle onto other noodles, with a very limited choice of materials which have varying qualities of unusability.

      I tend to agree. Trying to weld a hot thing to a cold thing never works well. The process is touchy and unreliable. I've suggested using a laser aimed at the weld point, or just ahead of it, to heat the other side of the joint, and an IR thermometer to monitor the welds. I've been to Makerbot meetups, and everybody seems to be fussing with frame and table drive designs. Those are not the problem. The business end of the extruder/welder is where work is needed.

      Some days I think that half the output of the

      • by Zeussy (868062)

        I tend to agree. Trying to weld a hot thing to a cold thing never works well. The process is touchy and unreliable.

        I think I may of replied to you before, but parts from my Solidoodle are very strong. The heat transfer from the extruder when printing at 0.3mm is more than enough to slightly melt the previous layer and fuse them. Printing at 0.1mm makes an almost seamless print. When printing with a heated bed, in an enclosed space the whole print is slightly tacky and soft. The prints do have a grain, and that is the weakest part, but you can design items with that in mind. If you are worried about printing something ou

    • by iplayfast (166447)

      I've got a makerbot and have had no problems with overhang. I've been able to bridge 2.5 cm's and it's perfect. There were some minor problems with the kit, but it was a very enjoyable project. If you have any skills at building things at all you can do it, and it's fun.

      • by djh101010 (656795)
        Bridging and overhang are two different things, though. The support materials problem is a big one. Sounds like maybe those patent issues are being worked out, according to someone else's post though...
    • by Turbio (1814644)

      You are missing it's main niche: fast prototyping, that shortens design time. The objects are not intended to be used, but to see an approximation of their shape.
      And there is the matter of printing cost: ABS/PLA is cheap.
      Sure, flying cars will be much better than ground going ones, and wheeled vehicles are a dead end. Maybe, but not it 5 years.

    • Wrong. FDM is used commercially to produce parts - including airplane parts. (I know, because one of my (OpenBeamUSA.com) vendors is printing cosmetic trim pieces for the Airbus A380). Commercial systems have no problem with overhang because they use a water soluble support system. And if you want something prototyped out of production representative material, it is one of the faster (and hands off) way to do it. I've used FDM for Ultem, Polycarbonate and ABS parts before.

      The reason you don't see this

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      It sounds like you are only aware of the hobby-level printers.

      FDM printers are a dead end.

      Be aware that they have been around for over a decade. They are very common in engineering companies, ever since they replaced the UV hardened resin printers that came before them. The resins look pretty, but they are brittle and photo-degrade. They still have their place though.

      ...the overhang issue and the fluid dynamics problems limit this specific technology to "bleeding edge

      The overhang issue was solved long ago by using soluble support-material. The hobby-level printers just don't include support for it.

  • Let's see... a layer size of 40 microns, maximum speed of 250 mm/s, build volume of 21x21x21 cm for only 1200 euros the DYI kit (or EUR 1700 pre-built). It beats everyone else in every department. Period.
    Ok, it is still missing a second extruder or hotbed, and printing is still an art that takes skill and patience, as with any of the 3D printers in this price range.
    Disclaimer: I own an Ultimaker, oh yeah.

    • by Herve5 (879674)

      open source, thus interesting.
      did you build it or buy it prebuilt?

      • by daid303 (843777) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @07:10AM (#42346115)

        He bought it as DIY kit, we've been only selling the pre-assembleds for a few weeks. And only a few have shipped so far. We are open source. AGPL with the software, GPL with the electronics, and CC BY-NC with the mechanical drawings.

        There is no offical heated bed yet, but people have build their own, as the electronics are prepared for it. Same for dual extrusion.

        Disclaimer: I now work for Ultimaker. After developing FOSS software for the Ultimaker they hired me as full-time developer so I could spend more time on making the software even better.

  • If you're looking at getting into 3D printing, take heed that 3D Systems (maker of theCube 3D)are currently suing Formlabs (Kickstarter company pushing insane 3D technologies to consumer prices) over a seemingly ungrounded patent infringement. Read up either here: [wired.com] http://www.wired.com/design/2012/11/3d-systems-formlabs-lawsuit/ [wired.com] or google up a storm! I'm always careful to make sure I'm backing the innovators, not the litigators!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I noticed a lot of complaints about overhang. Has anyone considered a clamping device for the first layer and then rotating the platform as needed so that overhang never occurs too much?

    • That's crazy, but it just might work. I can't imagine the complexity of the slicing that would be required! One solution that exists and is slowly pushing its way down to home-brew 3D printing is the use of dissovable support structure: using two extruders. And +1 for the flying cars comment, I can't believe we still drive cars when airplanes have proven the superior transport mechanism. Oh wait a minute, I can't afford an airplane...
  • and have to say that the second was a lot easier to get to work well.
  • The URL says "The-Definitive-3D-Printer-Roundup-Cubify-Up-Solidoodle" - lucky the page doesn't, because there are a lot more than 3 printers in the world. You have to pay $7 for it, but the MAKE magazine "definitive" guide to 3D printing is way, way better than this.

    For me, the Ultimaker is the best. Mostly because that's the machine I own, but partly because it's not Makerbot, not proprietary like the Up!, and has a decent community behind it. YMMV.

  • I've got a business making gaming miniatures and while I prefer the look of hand sculpted ones 3D printing is what's becoming more common. Gee thanks for making it more tempting to get a 3D printer.

Prototype designs always work. -- Don Vonada

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