Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pushing the Limits of the Cube

As a blogger focused on a particular product and user community, I feel a responsibility to be tough; but, fair when it comes to testing and evaluation.  I could print objects that I know will print beautifully all day long.  But, that would be of little use to anyone.  Not even the manufacturer.

We need to know, clearly and with confidence, what the Cube can and cannot do.  And, the only way to truly find that out is to ask it to do the miraculous and next to impossible.  And, in this post I'm going to introduce one of those "out there on the edge" tests that I asked the Cube to perform just to see if what I was asking for could be done.

In general, I try to avoid having to use support materials because it means cleaning up the piece after printing.  So, I thought I would kill two birds with one stone in the form of a very complex object that had some features that just maybe the Cube might be able to handle without supports.

The best way to explain the test and the outcome is to show you this short video.  As you can see, I ended up having to use support.  But, in doing so I learned that the Cube support is remarkably easy to remove because of a special design feature.  Take a look...

I was amazed how far I got in printing this piece before it became obvious that the Cube was not going to be able to bridge a gap that was simply too wide.  But, did you notice that it didn't need support until it came to a perfectly flat feature that no extrusion 3D printer is likely to be successful at bridging.  It had no trouble at all with features that curved or sloped.  That's pretty good.

In the final piece that was printed with support, there was some evidence of minimal warping.  Somone has mentioned that this can be caused by a draft and I was in and out of the studio checking on the progress.  But, it could also be sue to the design itself that juxtaposed thin and thick features in close proximity that may lead to different rates of cooling.  But, these minor instances of warping are small potatoes next to the accomplishment of printing such a large and complex pattern non-stop for 30 hours.  The Cube continues to impress me.

Oh... one thing I learned that wasn't on the lesson plan.  If you print enough large objects, you will eventually run out of filament.  Keep a spare handy if you suffer from withdrawal easily.  :)


I've created a new video that demonstrates the plan for making another attempt at printing this complex vase without supports and a bit larger, which should preserve some of the smaller holes better.  Here is a video of that plan.

Very often, a simple change of orientation can bring about our goal when the first orientation fell short.  I'm looking forward to being able to give this orientation a try!


  1. Great videos as always Tom! Keep producing - we are watching and learning!

    I finally called 3D Systems customer support, was given another number in Atlanta (QuickParts Division) and then told an expected ship date for the last week in June. Keeping my fingers crossed! Have you received your additional spools of filament yet?

  2. What is that number I need to call for my order. When did you place the order I place mine on May 31st.

  3. I would call the 3D Systems office in Rock Hill, SC. Feel free to write me directly through the "requests" address to the right.

  4. Hey Tom, what software did you use for the lazy Susan anim at the end of the first video.?

    1. I used Vegas Movie Studio HD. It allows me to determine how long a still will be when brought down to the timeline. I have Stop motion software' but, no longer use it because of Vegas Movie Studio works as well or better if you don't need an "Onion Skin" capability.