Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Printing glass environments without support material on the Afinia H-Series

Afinia H-Series 3D Printer Setup
After installation of the Afinia Software, turn on the printer via switch from the back. In order to ensure that the design prints properly on the slide, the build plate must be leveled correctly. Access to changing nozzle height branches from clicking on the menu bar 3D print>Maintenance. In the following screen, the option for changing the height for each of the corners can be accomplished by selecting each of the options of “FL, FR, Center, NL, NR” and selecting set nozzle height to a particular height by clicking on “Set Nozzle Height>Yes.” This can be accomplished successfully by setting the nozzle height in the center and each corner of the build plate at a displacement exactly 2 mm between slide and nozzle. In regards to appropriate extruding of the ABS plastic, the displacement between the slide and nozzle must be exactly 0.2 mm. Once proper leveling has been established, printing of the selected environment for the slide can be proceeded to.

Printing with the Afinia H-Series 3D Printer
Before printing, it is imperative to become acquainted with the functions of the printer so that each step of the print can be recognized from the printer itself (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Table of Status Indicators for the Afinia H-Series 3D Printer.

Initialize the Afinia by clicking from the menu bar 3D print>Initialize.  Once initialized, begin heating the table via menu bar 3D print>Maintenance>Table Heat 1 HR. Heating the table to the optimal temperature of ~105° C will take 15 minutes, and another 10 minutes to ensure that the plastic will extrude solidly. It is important to begin this process before following the steps that ensue, for this will allow for the desired environment to print as fast and nicely as possible.
After the table begins to heat, select the design you wish to print from Tinkercad by selecting the option from the menu bar File>Download for 3D Printing. This will prompt for selection of a format to print the design; create the file as an STL or UP3. In the Afinia H-Series Software, select Auto-Placement of the file and the fix option to ensure that the environment printing on the slide is appropriately centered and contains no errors that will cause any deformations in the environment. The auto-placement option can be selected from the menu bar File>Auto-placement, and the fix option can be selected from the menu bar Edit>Fix. With the design auto-placed and fixed correctly, it is time to set the design at the right level on the platform to print on. Since the design will print without a base or support material, the design must be leveled exactly on the slide. To do so, click on the design within the software and pay close attention to the “Min” settings. Select from the menu bar Move, and once highlighted, select “-1” in the scroll bar and move down the object to exactly 0 mm in the z-direction. Next check the printing settings by clicking the menu bar 3D Print>Setup or the 3D print>Preferences from the button. The only settings that need to be manipulated for the design is printing with the “only base” option and the solid fill settings. Printing without support material and with a solid filling is imperative for maximum clarity of the worm and for strength and stability of the design. After the printer has been heating up for approximately 10 minutes after the build table has reached a heat of approximately 105° C, the design will be ready to print. This setup will work well for more simplistic environments, such as creating channels.
However, for the designs with posts, ensuring sturdiness of the posts for the print along with minimizing the amount of spewed plastic can be difficult. For these designs, it is recommended to not bring the design to print exactly on the platform by bringing it down in -1 mm increments from the z-axis. Instead, leave the design where it will be auto-placed and print with a base for the posts that is smaller than the printer can handle. This will allow for the printer to recognize that a base is in the design, yet since it can’t print the base it will treat the posts accordingly (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Glass slide smoothed with acetone-based glue and printed with standard Auto-placement settings.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

From Paper to Print to Production

     Here at JMU we have the ability to see many of our creative designs through to the end. We can go from just an idea in our heads to an actual finished product. As an example I designed a large AN-Fitting. I was able to mock up a design in solidworks:
    After the Design was finished it was off to the Mathematics Maker Lab were prototype prints were created:

     The Prototype looked good, and it was time to take this concept to the final stage. One of JMU's best keep secrets is the machine shop, it is a fantastic resource. Since I also work there I was able to machine my own part.

     Here is the raw aluminium stock used:

   A quick look at the part mid way through production:

     And a look at the finished part:

From start to finish, everything was done right here on campus!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Designing a Pencil Holder

My first project in openSCAD was design this Pencil Holder just to really learn the properties of openSCAD and some of the functions that are available to use such as the rotate_extrude and linear_extrude.

 I used several different shapes such as circles and squares for the all the structure. I also developed a cup like structure with the same design as the pencil holder in which I add a hollowed out cylinder using the difference function along with to handle piece on both side. I have not printed this design out yet. My sources were http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUoBw1WR1S0 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22iaz5xDzlM.

At the moment, I am working on another project in openSCAD, and have been playing with a Xbox Kinect to model real life objects, and if any one has few ideas or projects that can been done in openSCAD, I would be greatly interest in trying to do them. I can print your on --------> http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:195582

Monday, December 2, 2013

Adding Thickness to your STL file

This post will give a quick instruction on how you can add thickness to your 3D file by using Blender.
If you don't already have Blender, you can download it HERE.

Step 1. Import your STL file

            File -> Import -> Stl (.stl)

Step 2. Click on Modifiers -> Add Modifier -> Solidify

Step 3. Experiment with the settings in order to obtain a satisfactory thickness. For this model, I changed the Thickness to 2.0, Offset to 0, and checked that I wanted 'High Quality No' thus obtaining:

By adding thickness to certain models, it will make thin objects less brittle during a print, thus increasing the probability of achieving a successful print. :)

Phone Stand made in OpenSCAD

So, I had a little free time over Thanksgiving and ended up making this phone stand looking thing. I played around with openSCAD after developing a fancy pencil hold that I made in openSCAD on November 18, 2013 thanks to the tutorials done by Patrick Conner on YouTube

I used several different functions in openSCAD such as rotate_extrude, linear_extrude, and minkowski functions to get the different shapes in the picture above. I found a great function in openSCAD: $fn= input, which allows the user to put in a greater resolution for any particular shape. The higher input value the user puts in the object appears smoother.

To make your own I have the STL file right here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:194587

Monday, November 11, 2013

Exporting an STL from Matlab

In this tutorial, you will learn a simple way to export a 3D image as an STL by using Matlab. The functions you'll need to make the STL file in Matlab can be found in the 1st and 2nd link below, while a more in depth tutorial can be found in the 3rd link.


Okay: so let's get to it.

1. Save the above two functions into Matlab.

2. Make a 3D surface plot in Matlab.
For example, type in:
    >>  [X,Y] = meshgrid(-8,0.1:8); 
    >>  R = sqrt(X.^2+Y.^2) + eps;
    >>  Z = sin(R)./R;                  
    >>  surf(X,Y,Z)                      

3. Use the surf2solid function which you downloaded earlier:
    >> VariableName = surf2solid(X,Y,Z);

4. Use the stlwrite function that you downloaded:
    >> stlwrite('FileName.stl',VariableName)  
*FileName is to be replaced with what you want to name your file

And there you have it, a nice simple way of exporting a 3D file from Matlab. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

CubeX Trio vs. Afinia H-Series

Today we pitted the giant CubeX Trio from the JMU MakerLab against one of our Afinia H-Series 3D printers. The Afinia won hands-down, but the chips were stacked a bit in its favor. First, the picture: The Afinia printed the beautiful white model on the left, while the CubeX Trio made the blue model on the right.
photo (1)
This model is the outermost layer of bytec's Five concentric balls model on Thingiverse. This was the very first print from our CubeX Trio, and we used the default settings it started with. We tried to match those same settings on the Afinia - .25mm and "normal".
Time winner:  Afinia.
The Afinia took about 45 minutes to print this model and the CubeX Trio took nearly three times as long - 2 hours and 45 minutes. What? We had heard the CubeX was notoriously slow, but this is ridiculous. There must be a way we can fiddle with the settings to improve this time.
Looks winner: Afinia, but at an advantage.
The Afinia had an unfair advantage here, printing in white ABS - which is so matte that you can hardly see the layers. The CubeX printed in a dark PLA, which is about the worst combination for light bouncing off the layers and making them obvious. Worse, the CubeX nozzle was clearly too close to the platform. This both is and isn't our fault - the CubeX calibration instructions were to set the nozzle/platform distance based on the first extruder head, and the blue came out of our third extruder head. Perhaps there is a way to calibrate this better... there must be! Again, remember this is our first print on the CubeX so we may find a way to improve this.
Smell winner: Afinia.
The smell of ABS filament while printing isn't the best, especially compared with the sweet maple-syrup/corn smell we are used to from the JMU MakerLab's Makerbot Replicator 2. But the CubeX's PLA smell is worse than ABS for some reason.
Noise winner: Afinia.
We had heard the CubeX Trio was quiet, and maybe it is when printing different models. But for this model, which had a lot of disconnected paths, the CubeX was quite noisy. Our Afinia handled this model with far less noise, although we know the Afinia can be noisy in other situations so it may not win this battle every time.
Software winner: Afinia.
It is difficult to express how clunky and difficult the CubeX software is while still being nice. A simple example: We can't figure out how to use the CubeX software to align a set of STL models that are colored separately.  We can import them and color them but then not align - something that is vital if we want to print a multicolored concentric balls model. The Afinia's software could stand a lot of improvement but it is our new best friend compared with what we went through setting up and using the CubeX.
Cost winner: Afinia.
The CubeX uses filament from a proprietary cartridge that results in a much higher cost. This is simply not acceptable.
Color/size winner, eventually: CubeX Trio.
To be fair, the point of the CubeX Trio isn't to be quieter, sweeter-smelling, cheaper, or faster than the Afinias or the Replicator 2.  The point is to print in up to three colors, with both PLA and ABS, and to be able to make HUGE models. We expect to be able to do this successfully fairly soon, and we expect that we will eventually love the CubeX Trio for its good point, despite its weaknesses and our apparently slow learning curve getting used to using it and its software. Stay tuned for a future post where the CubeX gets to show off its strengths instead of get beat up by a printer a quarter of its size and less than half its cost.