Tuesday, January 10, 2012

3D Printing Part 3 - Printing

The previous two posts in this series discussed setting up the software and some design basics. In this post we're going to look at the actual printing process. You only need to read on if you're printing on your own 3D  printer, if you're just sending us files you don't need to worry about this process.

Start up ReplicatorG, it should automatically connect to the Thingomatic w/ ABP and Stepstruder MK7.

Under the File menu choose Open and find the STL file that you want to print (that you designed or downloaded). You should now see a preview of the object that will be printed. You may need move the object on to the platform and/or center it.

Push the Generate GCode button, if you've moved or scaled the object it will ask if you want to save the model. You do.

Set the Object infill (%) to a value between 0 (hollow) and 100 (completely filled). We've had good results with 15 to 30 %. The layer height should be .35, 1 shell is probably good, and a feedrate between 30 and 35 seems to work well.

The other options should be as you see here:

Click Generate Gcode and wait.

Once it has finished generating the g-code, click on the gcode tab to see it.

We've found better results (less warping) with the heated build platform set at 130° C, so you can change that here.

If the MakerBot is connected and ready, click the print button and it should start heating up to make your object.

That's the basics of it. I'm hoping to record a video of the whole process, I'll link to it here when I do.

Monday, January 9, 2012

3D Printing Part 2 - Design

Assuming that you have set up Google Sketchup and the STL export plugin, you can now start designing objects to be printed out of plastic on the Makerbot.

You can get an idea of things people have designed and printed by visiting thingiverse.com. The size constraints for the Makerbot are basically 10 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm. Anything larger will have to be resized or designed as multiple pieces. For information about overhangs, designing supports, and such wall thickness check out Design Guidelines for Makerbots.

Once you have designed your object in Google Sketchup, you need to export it using the STL plugin.
  1. Under the Tools menu select Export to DXF or STL.
  2. If you don't have anything selected, it will ask if you want to export the entire model. You do.
  3. Select Millimeters as the export unit.
  4. Select stl on the Choose which entities to export window.
  5. Save the stl file somewhere that you'll remember, this is the file you'll send to us for printing
Part three of this tutorial series will look at the actual printing process.

3D Printing Part 1 - Software Setup

To design objects for 3D printing on the Makerbot, you'll need to create a 3D file to send to us. The easiest way to create a 3D file is using Google Sketchup and a free plugin.
  1. Download and install Sketchup (if it's not already installed, and you have permission to install it)
  2. Download and install the DXF or STL export plugin
That's all you need in order to design 3D models, which is the topic of our next post.

However if you'd like to look at the software that we use for printing, you can download ReplicatorG. ReplicatorG is the program used to drive the Makerbot, and it includes Skeinforge which is a program for turning 3D files (STL files) into g-code that the printer understands.