Evolution of a Blog

This blog has evolved as I have as a maker. It starts at the beginning of my journey where I began to re-tread my tires in the useful lore of micro electronics and the open-source software that can drive them. While building solutions around micro-electronics are still an occasional topic my more recent focus has been on the 3D Printing side of making.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Another 3D Printed Diorama

I wanted an "in-situ" scene for pictures of painted AFVs and had used a city scape diorama...
 ...and one based around my Bailey Bridge model...
...but they both relied on backdrop photographs and I wanted something stand alone.  Not to mention that a T-34 is not really going to be seen crossing many Bailey Bridges?

In any case I came up with the below which does what I ask of it but still needs a lot of help with the road!

The Diorama
View from Spot Hiding Across the Fence
Ariel View
This is, of course, a couple of 3D Prints.   The surface and the cliff are two prints that could have been done as one had I been thinking.  The trees are prints, as is the fence.  Finally, obviously, the tank is a print.

Yes, the road is a mess and needs a redo!  I am rather pleased with the cliff though.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pushing the 3D Printing Resolution Boundary

For my Ultimaker 2+ anyway!  

My last, honest, post of a 3D Printed AFV just for the sake of showing print quality. Namely because I can not do much better. This was printed on an Ultimaker 2+ at a resolution (layer height) of 40 microns using a 250 micron nozzle (for sharp details). The print took almost 14 hours. My printer is capable of 20 micron resolution but as you would expect that would take over a day!
Even at this resolution you can see artifacts of the printing process though they are pretty tiny. With a naked eye, and looking from 12 inches away, you can just make out some layering, and I mean just.
My conclusion would be that a consumer 3D printer can produce an amazingly detailed print if you have the right printer and a lot of patience. Still not something that you are going to buy, plug in, and press a button to make work by any means though!
I am now printing an Archer to go with this tank as I was informed that the Valentine XI is a command tank for an Archer AT unit (and the Archer looks like a cool print as well).  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The "Patience Required" Aspect of 3D Printing

3D Printing is not foolproof and because it takes so long to do a print you may not even know that you have an issue for hours.  Hence the patience.  Additionally, as you chase higher and higher quality the threshold between success and failure also narrows.  In this case I was trying to do a print using a 250 micron nozzle at 100 micron resolution.

First Attempt - Scuppered by Human Error

I use Simplify3D as my slicer and it usually does a particularly good job of handling support material.   In this case it did not and I did not check the slicing rendering as I should have done.  This resulted in the brake plate printing really poorly.  I could have caught this earlier but don't usually observe a print once it has gotten off to a good start.  Four hours later I see that I am going to be doing another print.

Second Attempt - Scuppered by an Under Extrusion Issue

The first couple layers of this print went down well so I left it on its own to print...and did not come back to it until the build platform came down.  At that point I realize that something went south.  A 250 micron nozzle has a lower tolerance for issues than does a 400 micron nozzle and obviously something had pushed this one over the edge.  I did an atomic clean and wrote off another four hour print!

Third Attempt - Finally we Have a Good Print

Very happy with the quality of this last print and especially with the detail of the controls...which are hard to see given the white filament!  The brake plates are still not great but the geometry of that part of the model is really challenging for my printer.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

3D Print Technologies - Three Tanks from Three Technologies - Costs

This article is a continuation of the discussion "3D Print Technologies - Three Tanks from Three Technologies"

Here is a chart of costs based on 3D Hubs quotes for a print of the Jagdpanther that we used for our test case:

Range of Low Costs

Some comments on the above:
  1. These are selected costs from the low-end of costs given that pricing on 3D Hubs is all over the place.
  2. There are relatively few SLS printers in the market place and most are in Europe
  3. The low end for SLA is not representative of costs.  Most costs for an SLA printer will be higher than the above
I think a little more focus on FDM print costs might be more useful than further expounding on SLA or SLS printing...which I can't really do any hows as this has tapped out my knowledge.  Here is a chart that presents the costs to print one of our tanks (actually a tank destroyer):

Cost of Printer1,800.00500
Maintenance per Year100.0050
Lifetime Maintenance300.00150.00
Lifetime Printer Cost2,100.00650.00
Life in Years3.003.00
Cost per Month58.3318.06
Printing per Month153.60153.60
Cost per Print Hour0.380.12
Time to Print5.085.08
Machine Cost of Print1.930.60
Cost of Print2.700.87

Some comments on the above:

  1. Above costs are in GBP (exchange rate to the dollar is about 1.42 at the moment).
  2. You can spend more on an FDM printer and you can also spend less but these are two good price points at each end of the range.
  3. Maintenance would be for things like replacement parts, nozzles, and upgrades.
  4. Cost of print time was calculated based on how many hours my printers have been used (average of five hours every day).
  5. The actual model shown in the previous article was not printed with super expensive filament, which I do use for some things, but rather with the first notch up from the stuff I used to get on eBay (20GPB as opposed to 14 or so). 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

More on a 3D Printable Model of a Dutch Windmill

This story started here.

The files for this kit are now available on Thingiverse.  Two copies are also for sale on eBay.

Finished Product - 1:160 or "N" Scale

The screw you see above is only needed on the 1:160 version of the model.  You will note below that there is an axel printed as part of the top of the windmill for the 1:100 scale kit.

The Printed Parts - 1:100 or Flames of War Scale

Rendering of the Printed Parts from Sketchup

Rendering of the Assembled Model from Sketchup

3D Print Technologies - Three Tanks from Three Technologies

Here is the precursor to this article.

Note that I am focused on appearance here and not on time to produce or costs.  I may try to tackle those aspects in another article at a later point but for now...just the cosmetics!

So here are images of three tanks printed by three different technologies and then base coated so they would be the same color (the FDM print was grey, the SLA print was white (but sorta clearish), and the SLS print was white).   All three prints are at 100 microns of resolution.  Note that full scale images are at the bottom of this post.

First, however, a quick look at the prints as they come out of the printer (but after support removal):
The SLS print is far left, the FDM print is in the center, and the SLA print is on the right.  Unfortunately I forgot what order I had used above so the rest of this page will have the order being FDM, SLS, and then SLA.  Sorry!

The images below are of the three models with a quick coating of Panther Yellow so that you can actually see details which are harder to capture in white.  The order is different to the above.  The FDM print is on the left, the SLS is in the middle, and the SLA is on the right.

Here are the side views of the three prints in the same order top to bottom as they were above left to right.

Finally, the close ups of the back of the vehicle and the details from that area.
Here is my commentary on the above.  No particular order just as the thoughts come to me!
  1. The quality when looking at details is SLA, then FDM by a margin, and then by more of a margin the SLS print.
  2. The cost of producing these prints (whether you own the printer or buy the print) are highest for the SLS and SLA prints and by far the lowest for the FDM print.  SLS and SLA printers are very expensive and expensive, respectively.  SLA material is expensive (not sure about SLS) but FDM printers and material are pretty cheap.
  3. The post printing effort that goes into preparing a print for use is the greatest for FDM, then SLA, then SLS.   FDM requires a fair bit of support removal and then cleanup from the removal.  You will note on the tracks of the FDM print that some of the support has not been properly cleaned up.  The SLA print also needs support removal but the process, while not trivial, leaves a very clean result.  The SLS print requires no support removal at all.
  4. The FDM print has some surface imperfections (holes) that are noticeable in this magnified image but are not to the unaided eye.  These holes are the areas at the corners where extrusions have not merged properly.  They are not uncommon but are also not supposed to be there!  I can tune them out but wanted to get this article done...so there they are.
  5. The surface of the SLS print is an artifact of the printing process where a laser is used to compress, not melt, plastic in a powder form.  This surface also seems to drink paint.  I don't like it for AFVs.
  6. The SLA print is the most predictable, the most crisp, and portrays less evidence of support material having been in place than the FDM print.
Based on the above, if I had no constraints I would want an SLA printer.  There are some major downsides to the SLA printer though with the first being the cost of the printer (though they are coming down) and the second is the cost of the material (resin) that it uses.  The other downside, for me anyway, is that resin and it's potential for mess and the requirements for cleanup of the print.  Support structure removal on an SLA print can be as challenging as from an FDM print as well.  I am sticking with FDM!