Friday, April 12, 2019

It is Wonderful When a Vision Becomes a Reality

As I wrote in my previous article, I am more than a little thankful for the start that the Cube printers provided me.  Among other things, the Cube was a significant step forward in my quest toward my ultimate goal... finding a way to help my sculptor daughter realize her dreams with the assist of 3D printing.

DREAMS TEASED

In reality, the Cube came my way out of the ashes of an earlier product in my trek on the quest that went up in smoke when the DeskTop Factory was swallowed up in 2009 by 3D Systems.

Desktop Factory 3D Printer 2007-2009

Cathy Lewis was the CEO at Desktop Factory, and a tireless advocate for consumer 3D printing, and in the acquisition became the Vice President for International Marketing of 3D Systems.  Cathy and I had become acquainted in 2007 through my interest in the Desktop Factory development and years later, in 2011, remembering my deep interest and help in testing and providing feedback on sample Desktop Factory prints, she contacted me to be on the lookout for a new consumer printer from 3D Systems... the 1st Generation Cube released in 2012, the same year, this blog began.

I knew that the Cube FDM printer was not the ceramics printer of my dreams. But, I also knew it was a first step in gaining 3D printing experience so that I would be poised to be ready when a real ceramics printer became a reality.  And, not too many years after starting this blog, it appeared that ceramics printing was right around the corner.

Those of you that have followed this blog know that 3D System's tantalizing 2014 announcements of the $10,000 Cerajet and, in particular, the $5,000 CubeJet were greeted with extreme happiness around here.  It appeared that the end of my quest was near at hand. 

DREAMS SHATTERED

But, that was not to be.  When 3D Systems closed down the Cube family production line, the CeraJet and CubeJet became collateral damage and my dreams of seeing my daughter's art rise from a bed of powder went down in flames.  It was a hard blow.... made harder by learning that the engineers on the project had probably been scattered like ashes.
 
There some are creating amazing art with 3D printers capable of extruding clay.

      https://www.emrecanceramic.com
      https://tomlauerman.com/process

That isn't the process that I prefer.

I know, from years of experience printing with YouthQuest Foundation's Z450 "sandstone" printer, just how much I enjoy working with a powder based printer.  Yet, neither the Z450 nor the newer CJP (Color Jet Printing) ProJet series printers are true ceramics printers.  The powder used in the CJP printers is NOT clay-based ceramics and the binder is, I am relatively certain, NOT something you want to put into a kiln and fire!

And, being able to apply the glaze of your choice and fire your creation is a huge deal.

CeraJet / CubeJet 3D Printed Pottery
DREAMS REKINDLED!  THE KWAMBIO CERAMO ZERO MAX

Now, out of the Ukraine, comes a 3D printer that has rekindled those long smoldering dreams.  I don't even remember how I found out about the Ceramo Zero Max.  But, however it was, or whoever it was, that pointed me in their direction I am truly grateful.  Here, finally, is a desktop, powder-based ceramics printer that creates objects meant to be fired!

Kwambio Ceramo Zero Max Desktop Ceramics Printer
I am not going to try to post an image of the ceramics output of the Ceramo Zero Max because it would be misleading.  The Ceramo Zero Max does not print in color.  But, the most beautiful examples online are in color.  And, that is because printing the part is simply one step in the process of turning a creative idea into a stunning piece of art.  And, that process is already familiar to clay artisans.  I cannot even begin to tell you just how incredibly important this fact is to an artist.  They can print out a 3D design of a cup and, if they wish, not a single one would be the same as another.  Each can be imbued with the vision of the artist in a completely unique way using varying patterns, color, firing techniques and other personal touches.

But, I WILL point you to their materials pages to see exactly what I'm talking about.  First, the ceramics powder page:

http://www.kwambio.com/#/materials/ceramics

Next, a bonus, the GS ONE page:

http://www.kwambio.com/#/materials/gsone

I am assuming that one would need two Ceramo printers to EASILY use both materials, as they seem so different.  But, the fact that both are available is very cool.  I'm guessing that the GS One would be great for creating molds for slip casting.  But, since I have no real experience with it, don't hold me to that conclusion.

KWAMBIO HAS A USA HEADQUARTERS

I mentioned that the Ceramo Zero Max was developed in the Ukraine.  Actually, this didn't surprise me as 3D-Coat, a marvelous 3D sculpting application we've written about in earlier posts, is also the product of a Ukraine company!

But, Kwambio's international headquarters is in New York City.  And, they recently opened a new lab in Harford, Connecticut where it can continue to develop consumer, industrial and, I believe, biomedical products and materials. Both Stanley and GE use their industrial ceramics products.

Here is a story from this year's CES that overs both the industrial and consumer ceramics printers.

https://3dprint.com/233630/kwambio-new-ceramic-3d-printers/

I wish I could tell you more; but, until I get a chance to actually seen one in action, I'd simply be guessing.  But, hopefully, I will get that chance in the next few weeks, either at Ceramics Expo 2019 in Cleveland at the end of this month or their offices in Connecticut sometime in May.

I can tell you this.  Whichever visit works out, I am REALLY looking forward to it.  While not a life-time, twelve years is a long time to be on a quest!  And, I am extremely optimistic that the goal is very, very near.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

From 1st Gen Cube to ProJet3500 HDMax, 3D Systems Made it all Possible!

Yesterday, The YouthQuest Foundation received a vital piece of equipment.  It was a 3000VA UPS that will help us power up our latest acquisition.  And, that acquisition is a donated ProJet 3500 HDMax multi-jet printer that we plan to be used to support our mission of changing the trajectory of the lives of at-risk young people.

A piece of equipment that requires such a massive UPS is a far cry from the 1st Gen Cubes with which we started.  While it did not come directly from 3D Systems, it found its way to us through their support network.  And, it would not have happened had 3D Systems not generously donated the very first printers with which we began our work with young students who had dropped out of school and had entered the Youth Challenge program in an effort to turn their lives around.

The steps 3D Systems took, over 4 years ago, made it possible for us to expand our 3D design and printing educational program across four states touching many lives in the process. 

One of our students, Dalonta Crudup, a cadet in the DC Youth ChalleNGe Academy, had been shot shortly before entering the program and his cousin had been killed.  He went on to go back to school and was recruited with a basketball scholarship to the University of Kentucky.  He credits the 3D design class for teaching him important life lessons.  As he puts it, “And I tell them taking that class has helped me a lot because it showed me how get through obstacles in life.”

While the Cube line of printers has come to an end, we know from our own experience, and the experience of other educational organizations and charitable programs, that STEM and STEAM initiatives begun with the help of 3D Systems continue to benefit students in profound ways.

I won't bore you with the steps that took us from our first gift of a consumer 1st Gen Cube to the remarkable gift of a professional ProJet3500 HDMax.  But, to us, it is a remarkable series of events that began with Cathy Lewis of 3D Systems agreeing with our vision of helping turn around lives through experiencing 3D design and printing.

Now we step up to the next level in our ability to serve at-risk young people by offering experience with actual additive manufacturing equipment and processes.  We believe this is going to be particularly beneficial to our graduating students on the autistic spectrum that have shown extraordinary potential for careers in 3D.

We are really excited about this new chapter.  But, we cannot and will not forget those who helped us get here.

Thank you 3D Systems!







Sunday, September 10, 2017

Of Flutes, Irma and 3D Printing

I was first an inquiring potential customer, looking to buy a bamboo Irish Flute.  But, the more I learned about Erik The Flutemaker, the more I admired not only his skills as a flutemaker; but, his passion to help those in the deepest poverty through his not-for-profit, Flutemaker Ministries.

I ended up not only buying several flutes from Erik; but, a bamboo saxophone for a friend of my granddaughter since the first grade to benefit Erik's ministry to special needs kids in Nicaragua.



Ultimately, I have become a friend, attempting to use my 3D design and printing skills to help him in his work with the goal to design and print a mouthpiece suitable for some of his flutes.  It's been quite a challenge to find the "sweet spot" that equals the wonderful tone he is able to generate through more expensive and labor intensive alternatives.  I have learned a LOT!.

His bamboo grove is in Davis, Florida which is now being affected by Irma.


He just sent me this link, knowing I was concerned for the safety of him and his family.  I just had to share it with you as Erik's skill and his spirit comes through so impressively.   The sound track is him playing one of his flutes.

I'm hoping that you, like I did when I first learned about Erik the Flutemaker, will completely explore his web site and enjoy the beauty of his music.  And, I hope that some of you might consider buying one of his flutes that benefit Flutemaker Ministries.  





Tuesday, August 15, 2017

WOW Scope! A tool for the whole family

UPDATE:  I contacted Gorilla Scientific and the scope in link #1, IS an SMD-09 having two sets of eyepieces.  It is in a different box; but, functionally the same.  In fact, the ones I purchased so far are in the 1st version of the packaging and say "Worlds of Wonder Scope".  So, I'm confident that either source is a great one.

As many of you know I have relied on a variety of microscopes to evaluate and explain issues in my 3D prints.  I've previously posted that my favorite scope, among many that I own, is also one of the least expensive.  That scope has now been improved and expanded and, not only does it remain a terrific bargain, it expands on its price / performance value by adding two levels of magnification.
WOW Scope from C & A Scientific
The first versions upon which this product is based were 20x magnification.  That was wonderful for viewing things like 3D prints, bugs and just about anything curious that you find around the house.  But, the WOW Scope also includes eyepieces that boost the magnification to 50x!  And, it adds a bottom light along with the top LED light.

When searching for the correct microscope, I wish that we could simply enter "WOW Scope" to find it on Amazon.  But, you will have to enter "WOW Scope SMD-09".  Even then you will have to be careful and look for the following feature to ensure you are going to recieve the proper scope.

For instance, I found two entries...  Here is SEARCH RESULT ONE:

It's just $44.95 and comes with a box of minerals.  It MIGHT be the most recent SMD-09; but, before ordering I would send the vendor a note requesting verification.  Here's why.

Possible SMD-09

 Notice the little button just in front of the microscope's riser?  That is no longer the light switch for the most recent version.  It may be that the vendor did not have an image of the most recent SMD-09 version and simply used the image of the prior version of the My First Lab Stereo Scope.  If that is the only reason for the discrepancy, it is a great bargain at only $44.95 with Prime shipping.  The ad DOES mention the 50x capability.  But, would still confirm that it is the one you want.

SEARCH RESULT #2 is a bit more expensiv, at $69.99; but, it DOES have the image of the correct scope.

SMDZ -09 - Correct Image
Notice that there is no button switch in fron of the rise.  The rocker-type light switch is to the right of the base.  You can buy this one with confidence that it is the latest WOW SMD-09 scope.

 WHY I CONTINUE TO ENCOURAGE BUYING THIS SCOPE

There is a reason why I keep encouraging my readers to invest in a low-power stereo microscope for themselves and their children.  It grows our brains.  Every time you use a microscope of ANY type, you see something entirely new and every new experience that we and our children have adds new molecular structure to our brains.  I am convinced that the reason my granddaughter is planning to go to a school like Johns Hopkins is, in part, because she was exposed at an early age to the very first version of this particular scope and has used it year after year to examine bugs, flowers, stuffed toys and a whole host of other things she wanted examine more closely.

Conversely, I am convinced that many of the inherently bright, young at-risk and dropped out students with whom I work now were denied those mind expanding opportunities at an early age.  They had little opportunity to grow new connections that a microscope like this in their homes that would have provided that brain growing stimulation.

It dawns on me that all of us might have an opportunity during the holidays to donate something to a toy drive for Christmas.  Think about the SMD-09 when considering a donation.  Help grow a brain!

 



Saturday, July 1, 2017

PolySmooth - Another Reason for Expanding Our View

I know that 3D Systems was working on expanding the material offerings to 3rd Gen Cube and CubePro owners because I was included in some of the new material testing and in one case received a new material by accident.  These included infused filaments like wood and metal.

But, the minute 3D Systems decided to drop their FDM printers, any hope that 3rd Gen Cube owners would have the benefits of newly introduced filaments vanished.  And, there are some great new filaments!

One of the benefits of adding the JellyBox (kit), M3D Micro, M3D Micro+, M3D Pro and M3D ProMega to our lab serving at-risk young people is that all of these platforms allow us to use 3rd party filaments.  They don't all allow us to use ANY filament; but, some do... including the potential for eventually printing extremely high temperature filament like PEEK, PAEK and Ultem (PEI) using hot ends capable of reaching over 400C degrees.

My focus in this post is to introduce a filament that, unless we broaden our view and consider other 3D printers, would allude Cube/CubePro owners... PolySmooth from PolyMaker.Com.

PolySmooth prints at just a slightly higher temperature than PLA, 210C-230C.  Like PLA, PolySmooth is sensitive to moisture and spools must be protected when not being used for printing.  But, UNLIKE PLA, it can be smoothed using isoprophyl alcohol vapors in a similar way ABS can be smoothed using acetone.  I've tried the acetone vapor method and find it to be way too scary and way too toxic to be safely used in my home or the lab.

That is not true of the preferred nethod of smoothing PolySmooth, which is a device called the Polysher, which works like an enclosed cool-mist vaporizer using a nebulizer system.   I will soon be making a video of my own experience using PolySmooth and the Polysher system; but, until that happens, this video is very helpful in seeing exactly how well it works.


I can attest that it does work, and works very, very well.  Obviously, results vary based on the underlying quality of the print.  As you can see in the above video it is well enclosed so, while alcohol is flammable, the vapor is well contained and, unlike the acetone methods no heat is used, reducing the danger exponentially.  If the user is patient and lets everything settle down after a part has been processed before raising the elevator, fumes are minimal.  So, I feel confident using the Polysher in my home and around our cadets and at-risk students in the YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink Lab.

The truly cool thing for me is that even the $200-$299 M3D Micro/Micro+ can print using PolySmooth, so it's not just for the highest end 3D printers.

The black PolySmooth that I purchased with the Polysher system doesn't photograph well enough to truly see the remarkable changes that occur between the original and processed versions of a print.  I have orderd some light blue PolySmooth and will immediately print some objects and post an update with images showing my personal results.  But, trust me, it is VERY cool.

My goal with this blog has always been about helping Cube owners have the best possible 3D printing experience.  And, that extends to that phase in our journey where it becomes necessary to expand our view beyond the realm of the Cube experience.  It doesn't cost a lot, relative to our investment in the Cube printers to use our experience to expand what we can do.

On Amazon, PolySmooth is $39 and the Polysher system is $299.  New 3D printers capable of printing the PolySmooth can be had for as little as $200.  That means the total cost of new printer, Polysher and Polysmooth is less than our investment in any of the Cube printers we've owned.  While I love owning each of the Cubes (1st, 2nd and 3rd Gen Cubes), I am finding I have been able to leverage that experience best by moving to new 3D printing platforms that offer me a much wider range of materials and 3D printing possibilities.  The PolySmooth/Polysher system is just one more reason for expanding our view.   PolyMaker.com



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ProMega 15.3"x15.3"x15.3" from M3D

One of the unique things M3D does best is to minimize the outside footprint relative to the size of their print area.  That continues with their newest offering, a commercial 3D printer for industrial production applications.

The newly announced ProMega provides a 15.3"x15.3"x15.3" build area in 20" all metal enclosed housing and was revealed on a new crow funding site Fit For Launch
M3D ProMega


The roll-out includes a novel pricing strategy.  The official MSRP is $3,500 after the Fit For Launch funding period.  But, the Fit for Launch opening price was $1,000.  Periodically, the price is raised and at the time of this writing the pre-order price is $1,170.00. 

In contrast to earlier M3D printers, except for the proprietary heated bed, the ProMega is almost entirely open source in both hardware and software.  This should be assuring for anyone who has never had experience with using M3D products.  This means that replacement parts and software improvements can be obtained from a variety of vendors.

I am confident that it is an incredible value and will deliver on every promise.  So what are these promises?  Let's look at the specs as published on Fit For Launch.




I have seen the ProMega in action and, as a backer, follow the progress on a daily basis. I have never experienced such an open and candid process.

With a 20" footprint, it probably not for everyone.  But, for those looking for a fast dual material switching printer that uses a single nozzle (avoiding nozzle leveling problems) this is, in my opinion, a really great value.  CubePro users will especially appreciate that ANY filament can be used and print tips can be interchanged for different materials and temperature requirements.

I do want to mention the unique heated bed strategy.  There is a center area and a second surrounding area so that one doesn't have to heat the entire bed when printing an individual object that completely falls within the center zone.  Leveling and gap are entirely automatic using a sensor that actually works.

We bought in at the $1,000 launch.  Quite frankly, having already purchased more than a dozen  Micro and Micro+printers from M3D, we knew we could trust them to deliver the ProMega, giving our lab a large platform dual extrusion printer that could superior prints with high speed performance.

It would be foolish for us to NOT pursue the ProMega at the entry price of $1,000.  It's going to be a bargain at $3,500!  All of our CubePro Duo and Trio printers cost more than the ProMega and while they performed for us, the ProMega is a big step up in terms of print quality and cost of materials.  We're really looking forward to its arrival.

I hope to be able to see it in action again in the near future and will keep you up to date on its progress.  But, if a large platform commercial caliber printer with a heated bed fits your 3D printing needs, I urge you to take a serious look at the ProMega Fit for Launch page.




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Super Excited About the New M3D Micro+ at $299!!!

I've been telling you about the upcoming M3D Pro printer.  While they are still in ALPHA testing, I have one and it promises to be everything I had hoped it would be.

BUT!!!!~

While my attention was on the Pro, M3D made MAJOR upgrades to the Micro and quietly released it today through Sharper Image.  And, it still just $299!

M3D sold more than 50,000 Micro 3D printers.  And, this upgrade is destined to sell even more.

Here is a link to the MICRO+ FEATURES PAGE.

The major changes include self-leveling bed and an optional heated bed.  The other major change is the ability to speed up prints to about 2.5 times of the original Micro.  The temperature control is also more accurate!  The printer also includes a special "Micro Motion Chip" which provides "intelligent positioning feedback for precision."  Frankly, I have no clue as yet what this does.  But, it certainly sounds impressive.  :)

I'll nail that one down after I finish this article.  Whatever it is has GOT to be a good thing.

It still requires connection to the printer during the entire print job. But, I have not found that to be a show-stopper.  

 STRIKE THAT!!!  I just learned that it no longer has to be tethered to the computer during the entire print job!!  THAT'S HUGE!

I use my Micro all the time, preferring it over the Cubes due to the issues with filament quality and the Micro's ability to print flexible materials, nylon and carbon fiber.

The software can take any .STL, .OBJ or .ZIP (with an object in it).

The great thing about the cost of running a Micro is that you can use any filament you like.  And, the filaments directly from M3D ar anywhere from $13-$18.  The filament page is being updated as I write this so hey may be adding the new larger Pro reels which, of course, would be a bit more.

When I heard the Micro+ was now available through Sharper Image, I ordered 4 of them.  So, by this time next week, I should be able to give you a rundown about what I find, including a comparison with the first generation Micro.

In the meantime, I can tell you that I am super excited about the potential of the new Micro+ and the MicroPro in our work with at-risk young people.  They are destined to have a role in turning young lives around in a very positive way!