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12 Jul
Our New 3D Printer Toy
Posted by vertexpd
3D Printer

After I came back from CES and saw all the news and exposure that the new 3D printers got, and after seeing these printers in action at the show. I decided that it is about time to see what these relatively low cost printers can do.
After all as a product development firm, it seems like the right thing to do, both from a typical consumer and end user point, as well as, from industrial designer and engineering firm stand point.

I also thought about using these printers in our toy design and ideation. Creating fast and cost effective prototypes is a big plus in the toy invention industry.

At the show I saw two companies who have new printers and use the same technology. One being Makerbot Industries
and the other is 3D Systems. After some research and comparing the two product offering I decided to go for the Makerbot Replicator unit both for cost and print size capabilities. Besides these guys are relatively local being located in Brooklyn NY.

The Chosen One

After six weeks lead time which changed to ten weeks actual delivery (the show must have had a great impact on sales for them) the unit arrived. This is a nice small and lightweight printer which is constructed from laser cut 1/4″ plywood, and loaded with two print heads extruders which is capable of printing two colors at the same time. During the first few days we spent many hours and a lot of plastic to figure out how to print, which settings are appropriate for what type of print, how hot the platform needs to be, how thick the parts need to be, and many more how's and what's.

Eventually we had some idea as to the capabilities of this printer.

If we need to have a good prototype to present to the clients, we will NOT use this printer due to the surface finish quality and the amount of time it takes to have a good looking part painted. For this we will stick to the old fashioned and much better finish Stereolithography parts. Also we found that due to the fact that this printer uses ABS plastic as the print material, part distortion is a big factor and we cannot count on a part to come out to our liking, especially if we have tight tolerance to hold.

3d-printing

However, for mock-ups and form studies as well as, to have a quick look at the size of parts and playing around with ideas and of course, for proof of concept of toys and other ideas, this printer is a great addition to our shop and design process. All of a sudden things move faster when we have one of these in-house. The prints are relatively fast to make (depending on the resolution), and we find ourselves printing every little thing for any project. Parts that we once sent out for CNC from PVC (small brackets and spacers), can now be made in no time in the office. Suddenly we found many nails for this hammer, and this hammer is printing almost daily and many times over night.

All in all, we are happy with this new toy in the office. I am sure this technology will only improve year after year.

More to come...