3D Printing

3D Printers print almost anything

A look at 3D Printing using metal

Printing with potting clay

They are noisy

I have been considering building a 3D printer for over a year now; having always being involved with technology I find these machines to be fascinating and endowed with endless possibilities. In fact, it would not be false to state that in the future 3D printers will only be bound by the imagination of their users.

From prosthetic limbs to working weapons these machines have began a revolution in the manufacturing industry where individuals are now able to produce various items and devices at home  which in the past required very expensive equipment. Now a few hundred dollars and a roll of plastic is all it takes to produce even the most intricate of devices.

Although the first published account of a printed solid model was made by Hideo Kodama of Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute in 1982, the first working 3D printer was created in 1984 by Charles W. Hull who published a number of patents on the use of stereolithography and which in turn ushered an inventive revolution in a new system of manufacturing now known as rapid prototyping.

Today the smaller 3D printers are not perfect by any means but the items they produce are sometimes just as useful as those manufactured by industry and in many cases are innovative and able to function well in developing one-off prototype situations. The devices are still evolving though and there is lot of room for improvement.

If you wish to learn about 3D printers then one of the first lessons should be that these machines might be great at many things but they also have a tremendous draw back; being a fairly new idea there are not too many people who understand them or the intricacies of the firmware and software that runs them.

It is a fact that those who do understand them may not necessarily be the best of teachers and the proof of that is the internet being full of half witted attempts at explaining how a nut threads on to a bolt. Perhaps this is a good thing as for the moment there seems to be some sort of a stall in the evolution of the devices, prices have frozen and in many cases tumbled as wave after wave of wannabe 3D retailers fall by the wayside due to the lack of retail activity from an ignorant public.

The lack of activity in turn keeps the larger potential investors away from the technology as they place their money on other more profitable and commercially safer ideas.  Based on this I doubt if those who currently design, build and sell 3D printers are going to spend vast amounts on money on research and development.

Perhaps they might do their best to make great machines but but without a proper manufacturing approach virtually all the different types of 3D printers on the market have some kind of flaw. Some are too bulky, some too small, some don’t run too well, others shake themselves apart but the most common complaint is that they are too hard to use.

This is a problem for someone like me, having decided that I want one I now find myself at a loss as to which device to build, what to build it out of and even what electronics or software to run it with.  What I need is a test machine, something to have at home and learn from in order to eventually decide on which will be the final 3D printer to build.

There is only one way to learn, to take one apart and rebuild it ..I have ordered a Pangu I3 3D Printer, not because it is the best but rather because it offers many possibilities to make modifications and/or improvements and judging from all the reports I read they are not the best of machines to put together, this will provide me with essential construction lessons.

Pangu I3

The Pangu I3 – 3D Printer

Next blog will be on its construction but I have already started collecting some information such as firmware and hardware needs.  See you then.

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6 comments

  1. Hi Lao, I think I have told you this before. but I was heavily involved in this at the University of Warwick in around 1986. Rover Group were one of the first to use stereo lithography for industrial purposes. I was responsible for training their ex-physical modellers, who were woodworking craftsmen into being the first users of this new technology. Interesting times. One guy (I have forgotten his name) went, in one year, from being a quiet woodworking craftsman to one of the UKs most advanced users of rapid prototyping, and was giving presentations all over Europe. His leap to “stardom” was totally unexpected as he was over 50 and previously awaiting an early retirement. Technology certainly changes lives. 🙂

    1. G’ Day Gaz, I have this thing about building a 3D printer with a 500x500x500 print size, that is fairly big, and I want it to be cheap to build; I also want it to work from an installation CD and be self-adjusting. I even want it to de-clog itself.

      None of the printers have it yet, most of them are far too hard to use and this is holding back the market. I want to sell them, perhaps even build a little business into a larger company, something for my grandchildren. 🙂

        1. I didn’t think of that, maybe I should try … a bit of plastic, some rubber for a membrane and a little marble for a valve … shuldn’t be too hard. Problem would be during the replacement, I’d only have four minutes if I do it myself 🙂

  2. Replacement is a piece of cake. I never understood why they do it the hard way, by taking out the old one and putting in a new one. The way to do it is to put the new one in parallel with the old one. Let them both pump away for a few weeks until it can be seen that the new one is working fine. Then cut out the old one and shove the new one into it’s place . Easy as jumping off a log, and you could do it yourself with a good mirror.

    1. I was thinking of using a vacuum cleaner as a pump, stick the tube down the throat then switching it back and forth between suck and blow every few minutes to keep my lungs going, that would give me an extra few minutes to shove the plastic heart somewhere inside the rib cage. 🙂

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