Saturday, February 1, 2014

3D Printer World Expo - Burbank, CA

I came back to California for this primarily.  Have been without reliable internet for about a week, which is why haven't had time to post my musings.

Initially went to a campground around Acton, CA.  The campground was nice but the Wi-Fi was horrendous at times and cell phone signal (at Wi-Fi area) was nil to non-existant.  I somewhat need both for work.

The almost MAIN reason for actually wanting to come here is for the chance to get a free printer..  OK, silly reason, but they did give away 16 printers for FREE.  One of the printers they gave away is from a company who I backed on KickStarter.

The 3D Printer World Expo


Now, since this blog is all about me, and my thoughts, I want to mention, while not the reason I came here, did see MakerBot there.  I was a HUGE supporter of them and bought my first, and their first model, 3D printer, the Cupcake, #1670.  Went to their HQ in Brooklyn and everything.  I had nothing but problems with it and they offered no support at all in regards to it.  Someplace haveHere written down my logs, similar to this blog, about what had to do/change/etc to make it even work part way.  In short, completely replaced electronics, rewrote software, yada yada yada.  So, now I tell people to avoid their products at all costs.  The new ones today come with a 14 day warranty, 14 days from time of shipment.....  Whoop dee dooo!

They were innovative, but innovation left and inflated prices took over.  They were purchased by Stratysis, who are a little sue happy and sued them for something.  Long story short, they settled and bought MakerBot for umpteen million bucks (overpriced IMHO).

I truly believe in the technology, so enter the KickStarter project I backed!


"Normal" RigidBot Give-Away
The RigidBot printer is a KickStarter project which was created by a company called Inventapart, which is a rapid prototyping company.  I thought they were only giving away a printer, but to my surprise, they actually had a booth here!  YAY YAY.

Went and talked with the two people manning the booth.  One is doing an internship there from one of the local colleges (major is mechanical engineer), and not sure what the other one does.  Schmoozed them a little, well, not at all actually, and they gave me a T-shirt, after I mentioned backed them on KickStarter.
Give-Away? detail frame/bed

Prior to finding their booth saw the "give away" printer on the front table and it was an interesting sight.  Snapped most of the pictures shown here from the prototype.

Now, judging from my limited experience with a sub-standard printer (see MakerBot #1670 above) am very impressed with how this looks so far.  To say I am utterly disappointed in that MakerBot is an understatement.

Closeup of side rod and gear. Interesting
Upon talking with the intern, and some people won't like this, it turns out that he's the one doing at least a portion of the setup guide.  Have seen many people question that.  It sounds, and looks, like there is a lot of activity underway which we don't see through the KickStarter updates.  And, some more people might disagree, but I truly think that with said intern doing at least a portion of the documentation this helps the backers as he would generally think of things that the creator (Michael) might not think of.

Power supply and connecting cables
 One thing, upon looking at the give-away machine, that I am not particularly fond of, is the propietariesh (yes, made up word) parts.  Most everything seems like it has some sort of proprietary component to it.  Some things it's hard to avoid, like the heated bed and the frame.  I hope, and have faith, that Michael put in enough thought into the complete design of this printer.  Going in knew about the number of proprietary parts, but seeing them just made me go humm.  Still have a good feeling about this project, and am very happy to be a part of it.  Will just see how everything lines up when we get to that point!

One side of Exturder (print head)
 A lot of people backing the project have had specific questions about the extruder.  While I don't claim to know much about them, and people will claim to know infinitely more than I do, this looks to be a very compact, lightweight, and simple design.  There are some things I noticed about it that seem rather interesting.

First was that the hole in which the filament fed in seemed to be able to support up to 3mm filament.  This could work great for me as I have about 30 pounds (yes pounds, or ~15 kilo's, of 3mm ABS filament).  Unsure if this could cause any problems in the long run when using 1.7mm, or maybe it's extra room for a hose to enclose the filament, unsure.

Rear of Extruder
Second was how small and dinky it looked.  Though it's been awhile, I'm used to the big and bulky Makerbot initial extruders, with the long cylinder and gads of insulation and who knows what else.  Here it looked like the thermistor(?) was fairly tiny and the melt area was also very tiny.  Hopefully that tininess is a result of great engineering!

While there, also had a talk with one of their engineers(?), the other person manning the booth.  Because of all the 3mm filament I have, inquired about a some options for me, such as other extruders, etc.  He pulled out a small bag with some filament parts and said that if I had the tools, i.e. drill press, it might be possible to drill out the inside so it can take the larger filament.  I'd then have to tune things to control the melting, maybe adjust flow rate through the software and other things like that.  Will see what happens.  He did mention I could order a bag of those extruder parts from the website to fiddle around with if wanted to.  If the mood strikes will do.

"BIG" build plate extended
From my meager software engineering mind, everything did look surprisingly well built and very sturdy.  The aluminum plate securing the extruder to the platform was very solid.  All of the rods and connection points (to the frame) had very tight tolerances.  The 3D printed connector parts (they were the prototypes after all) seemed very solid as well with tight tolerances.  The whole construction seemed very solid, from top to bottom.

One thing did notice, and it will make me rethink where this goes in the RV, is the build plate extends past the frame.  When ordered this printer had no inkling that would be in an RV now, otherwise things might've changed.  This, at least in my humble mind, is a design flaw.  Am unsure if it's due to these being the prototype machines, unsure if they have remedied this in the final version, I didn't say anything and they never said anything.  Take what you will from that, but this is the only thing which causes me concern.  Was going to enclose everything to keep the heat in, this puts a wrinkle in that.  One of my concerns is that things don't always go bump in the night, they go bump in the day too, and afraid that this could bump into other things.

The machine was humming along smoothly, and very quiet, though it was hard to hear much machine noise in a crowded hall.  The prints were small little keychains but still didn't see any hiccups at all.  On the control panel, in front of the machine at the booth, saw the USB plugin, which is where assume we can attach a thumb drive of sorts to load jobs.  The prints were controlled from a laptop that was right there and didn't notice any communication glitches.  There were some limit switches, saw one for lowering the extruder rig, and think there was at least one more, but didn't see that.
 As said before, am still happy I backed this project.  There are very few printers, if any, in this price range, that doesn't have any "flaws".  What I perceive as a flaw others might not, and vice versa.

1 comment:

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