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3D Printing

182 posts

So this is ridiculously good, but is it vaporware?



The supposed 'full color' filament 3D printer called the 'da Vinci Color' uses something similar to an inkjet to be able to print out in full colour from white filament.


Introduce More Vibrancy in Your Life

The da Vinci Color is XYZprinting's first FFF desktop 3D printer with true color technology achieved through the combination of inkjet and 3D printing technology, there are worldwide 40 patents pending.By using CMYK inkjet technology, droplets of ink attach itself to the color-absorbing PLA filament, allowing the da Vinci Color to create prints of various colors by combining the droplets of ink on the filament. The da Vinci Color was designed with consumer accessibility, creativity and ease-of-use in mind.


Apparently it's not available to buy yet, and is available to pre-order for €3,599. However, they've apparently been giving out the 3D printer to testers, as this post on Reddit shows. Well, the results are nothing short of awesome.




{gallery} 3D Printer Color Filament


PRINTING IN PROGRESS: Colours coming out well

IT HAS EYES: Yes its the rear of the model

SHARP POINTY TEETH: Does well with overhangs


FULL PRINT: Then the front of it

FULL FRONTAL: A good resolution print overall


As you can see, the print came out ridiculously well, I haven't seen prints this good out of most single colour printers, and the fact that it's in full colour is crazy.



Bonus video:


The element14 Community was recently hit by a spat of Game of Thrones episode spam (thanks for the hits spambots!) so I figured we may as well have something GoT related on the website. It's a little old, and yet, still relevant:




I wonder now if it could be redesigned with intentional moving pieces?




Frankly, I might purely upscale it for some tabletop roleplay, Dunegeons and Dragons style!


You can download and print this model from Thingiverse:, I've also mirrored the files and attached them to this blog post.


Michelin unveils Vision, a proof of concept tire that uses biodegradable materials and 3D printing to its advantage. These sleek looking tires won’t be available for a while (Photo from Michelin)


The other day I was crushing a 3D printed part in a vice to see how strong it was. Some prints are crazy-strong, especially when they’re made of Delrin or ABS. I thought it would be cool to have a 3D printed bicycle tire. A loose idea for the IoT on Wheels Design Challenge I was thinking about. But, Michelin too it even further than I was imagining!


It seems like every product is turning into a smart device: cars with park assist, refrigerators with touchscreens, and systems like Google Home that can control elements of your house. But ever think about how an ordinary car tire can be smarter? Michelin shows they’re ahead of the game with their new concept tire, Vision. The tire looks like something out of a sci-movie with its blue webbed design and sleek appearance. The tire is set with various environmentally friendly features along with some abstract ideas. Right now Vision is just a proof of concept, so don’t expect to order a set yet. Making its debut in the States last week, Vision shows off various features that the company hopes will work its way down into future mass-market tires.


It looks good, but what exactly makes it different? For one, Vision is a wheel and an airless tire. Because the entire mechanical structure is strong enough to support a car, it doesn’t need rims. It’s also flexible enough to absorb impact and pressure meaning there’s no need for inflation. Imagine not having to dread driving over a ragged road or keeping a spare tire in case of a random blowout. This structure isn’t entirely new. Some of the company’s existing tires, like ones for golf carts, use similar structures.


Not only are the tires strong, but they’re environmentally friendly as well. Similar to traditional tires, Vision is made of rubber, but it comes from compounds from organic, recyclable materials. For example, the resin uses orange zest instead of petroleum. Other materials used to make the tire includes natural rubber, bamboo, paper, tin cans, wood, and plastic. So once the tire is unusable, the whole thing can be recycled instead of sitting in dumpsters. The attempt to go green is notable, but it will be a while before whole production lines make tires using organic materials.


Another issue traditional tires face is tread degradation. Over time, tire treads wear down due to friction. Vision overcomes this by using 3D printers to repair the read as needed. Michelin envisions 3D printing being useful if you need a new tread pattern for different terrains and environments. Built in sensors in the tire monitor help you keep track of tread wear along with giving you real time information about performance and maintenance via a companion app. This is also how you order 3D printed tread replacements.


It all sounds promising and useful, but since this is a proof of concept, we won’t be seeing Vision on the road anytime soon. Hopefully, we can look forward to some of these elements in our standard tires as Michelin aims to do. For now, it’s best to keep that spare tire in the trunk for emergencies.



Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com


The isokinetic structure is based on the Hoberman Sphere. (Image credit The People’s Industrial Design Office)


Taking a 3D image of yourself can be a difficult endeavor to undertake unless you have access to expensive equipment such as full-body scanners or handheld imaging devices. You could also go the DIY route, but that takes time, money and talent. Or perhaps you could take advantage of the People’s Industrial Design Office’s (PIDO) option- take over 100 DSLR cameras and fit them to mounts inside a geodesic, illuminated dome, to capture your entire body in high-resolution detail.


The Beijing-based company designed the 3D Copypod around the Hoberman sphere- an isokinetic dome capable of expanding and contracting through the scissor-like action of its joints. With this design, users can scan both large and small objects using minimal effort and without the need for intensive reconstruction/repositioning efforts.



The panels attached to the frame are lit from within, eliminating shadows. (Image credit the People’s Industrial Design Office)


According to PIDO, “With minimal adjustment, the 3D Copypod can contract to scan small objects and expand large enough to scan a group of people.” They go on to state, “With minimal adjustment, the 3D Copypod can contract to scan small objects and expand large enough to scan a group of people.” Keeping the design simple is what makes the scanner unique, outfitting it with over 100 DSLR cameras is what makes it effective- “with the snap of a camera, even subjects in motion can be captured in high quality and full color.”


What’s more, each light panel is illuminated from within, effectively eliminating any shadow on the subject or object, making for clear and precise images. Each DSLR camera mounted to the dome takes a high-resolution image, which is then stitched together to create a 3D model, however PIDO doesn’t specify what software they’re using to do so.



External view of the 3D Copypod, complete with lighting connections. (Image credit the People’s Industrial Design Office)


PIDO’s design is truly ingenious and fairly easy to construct using six interlocking ‘great circles’ or geodesic panels, which are interconnected to one other using scissor joints to form an icosidodecahedron shape. On the other hand, getting your hands on a hundred DSLR cameras might set you back some serious money.



Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com

Previous blog e14 adventures in 3D: #1 New Toy in the e14 Office 


Last time, I confessed my schoolboy error of running 240v through my printers PSU while it was set to receive 110v.

This poor little guy got the shock of its life!


Now time for some trouble shooting, First item on the replacement list was the PSU which went pop.


PSU has been switched out, next job is to power on the printer after carefully checking the voltage!


Power on,


No movement.... not recognized on a Windows PC, a Mac, or Raspbian linux distro.

LED light on the board is illuminated, so it is getting power but not talking via USB.






Checking out the schematics found on the Reprap wiki:  cstanton identified that there could be two components could have taken a beating... one easy job, one not so easy.


ESD Protection Diode:






Atmel: Datasheet for AT90USB1286, AT90USB1287, AT90USB646, AT90USB647


Firstly we had hoped the protection diode had stepped up and taken one for the team, stopping the brains from a nasty shock.


Luckily both items are in stock with Farnell and we were able to get hold of them next day delivery.



Soldering of the (not very good at) protection diode:


First Job is to check the schematic for placement and orientation:




Desoldering the Protection diode did not go as well as wanted, some of you eagle eyed reader will notice the lifted pad. Some of you SUPER eagle eyed readers will have also noticed that LUCKILY it was on the one pin that is not used!




Replacement of the diode .... it is a bit messy but mechanically and physically connected.




Before attempting to solder the Microcontoller with its 483 pins (I counted) we thought it would be a good idea to believe in the little Protection Diode, We plugged it all back in to no avail. LED still illuminated, no communication via usb. Not even coming up as an unknown device.


Next on the proverbial heatgun and flux chopping block is the Atmel MCU, again soldered by cstanton



Bit of flux here and there and some of the connectors are a little toasty but.... SHES A LIVE!



Using a Raspberry Pi 3 we followed the device logs:

tail -f user/log/messages

We let the Pi boot, Follow the logs, power on the board,  nothing... nothing... nothing....THERE IT IS, the ATMEL bootloader listed as a USB device.


Massive thanks to cstanton for the diagnosis and soldering.


Next step is to change a few of the jumps and attempt to flash the firmware!


More updates to follow soon!


A team of researchers at Dartmouth re-create a Utah climbing route using 3D printing, 3D models, and scanning. Researchers analyzed photos of actual climbers to successfully recreate the route (Photo from Dartmouth)


I've 3D printing a lot of parts lately, here's one I didn't think of! From creating clothes to making 3D food, researchers and creators all over are constantly looking for ways to push the boundaries of the technology. This includes a group of Dartmouth researchers who used 3D printing, modeling and scanning to recreate a full-scale replica of an outdoor climbing route. Led by assistant professor Ladislay Kayan and Emily Whiting, two decided to recreate the popular Pilgrimage route located in St. George, Utah.


The issue with a lot of 3D printing is durability. So how did the team manage to re-create this route, which has to be strong enough to support humans? First, they created a 3D model of the route using hundreds of photos taken from various angles. But attempting to create the mountain face based solely on 3D printing would be expensive and difficult. Instead, they decided to recreate the handholds and footholds climbers depend on while traversing the route. They did this by filming someone climbing the route and mapping out their skeletal structure. They then took the mapping and overlaid it onto the 3D model of the mountain. This allowed the team to correctly place footholds and handholds.


For creating the climbing aids themselves, they relied on a computer-operated router to form models of the various holds, followed by overlaying them with a silicon mold. From there, the mold is filled with a casting resin for the final process. The fabrication phase is still a work in progress. The team is still trying to find the best materials for recreating the textures of rock for a more realistic climbing experience.


While this creation process would be ideal for climbing walls in gyms, the team believes it has more potential. Recreating historical rock features and reassembling crime scenes are just some of the ideas they have for their creation process. They also think it’ll be possible to crowdsource other routes where climbers submit photos to a special database, which maps out and models routes from around the world. Kind of like having your favorite climbing trail, but in the comfort of your own home.


The project also shows conservation potential. An issue with natural climbing routes is the more they’re used, the more the surface begins to erode and wear down. Choosing to climb on a 3D printed replica could reduce the number of climbs, helping preserve the environment and keep other climbers safe.


This is all still a work in progress, so it’s not ready for the masses. So, you’ll still have to hit up your local gym if you want an “at home” climbing experience.


Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com

Check out the shiny new toy sitting on the desk in-front of me today!


A Printrbot Metal Plus and Raspberry Pi 3.

We will be playing with OctoPrint and OctoPi. We will be keeping you all in the loop.






Next Post: e14 adventures in 3D: #2 Dr. is in the house

heart attack.jpg

Researchers from various universities have created a 3D printed patch that goes on the heart and heals scarred tissue. Tests being conducted on a mouse heart (Image via University of Minnesota)


Whether you’re scrolling through Facebook or watching the news, we are constantly reminded how important it is to take care of our heart. Heart disease is the top cause of death in the States killing more than 360,000 people a year, according to the American Heart Association. Heart attacks play a big role in that statistic and is still a major problem in the US. Even for those who survive heart attacks, there is significant damage done to the heart that may never get repaired no matter how hard doctors try. But that doesn’t mean we should give up. A team of scientists may have just found a way to patch up your heart with a 3D printed patch.


Researchers from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham have developed a 3D-printed cell patch that heals scarred and heart tissue. They used laser-based bioprinting to fit stem cells based on an adult human heart, to a matrix based off a 3D scan of heart tissue’s native proteins. Once the cells grew, the matrix replicated the structures of normal heart tissues and began beating in sync.


Initial tests were conducted on a mouse who wore the patch after a simulated heart attack. Over the span of four weeks, researchers noticed an increase in functional capacity. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the patch was eventually absorbed into the heart eliminating the need for further operations.


Results so far are promising, but the team knows there’s still a lot of work to do before the patch can actually be used on a human heart. The team remains optimistic saying patches for human hearts should be ready “within the next several years.” To help achieve this goal, they’re moving on to the next step, which involves running tests on a pig heart; it’s similar in size to a human heart.


Other researchers have tried to create a similar patch, but what makes this research different is how the patch is modeled after a digital, 3D scan of proteins in native heart tissue. 3D printing makes it possible to reach the micron resolution required to replicate structures of native heart tissue.


If this all pans out, then recovery from a heart attack would only require implanting a small patch. You would still have to be cautious and take care of yourself, but with the patch, there may be no need for additional surgeries. Still, it doesn’t change that fact that any surgery involving the heart is a delicate process. The team made no mention how invasive the procedure may or may not be. But you can’t discount how amazing this prospect would be.



Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com

xo images.jpg

GE Ventures has previously worked with Xometry and recently gave them $23 million in funding. Xometry is an online platform that provides pricing, time leads, and feedback for manufacturers (Photo from Xometry)


When online shopping started over 20 years ago, no one could’ve imagined half the things you can buy online: cars, houses, groceries, and furniture. But buying products and parts online isn’t so easy for manufacturers. The process is long and arduous involving a lot of bidding and losing precious time. Xometry is a new software program looking to take the pain out of buying parts.



A sample of what the website looks like (Photo from Xometry)


Xometry is a software platform that offers on-demand manufacturing to a wide customer base. Some of their biggest customers come from aerospace, automotive, defense, medical, technology, and telecommunications industries. The platform offers on-time and efficient service by using industrial 3D printing technology to make the parts. And unlike standard industrial machines, this process offers parts in many different materials, including nylon, ABS, ULTEM, and aluminum alloy.


xo Infill_comparisons.jpg

Some of the infill 3D printing options Xometry offers. That 100% fill looks nice! (Photo from Xometry)


So how does it work? Think of Xometry as Amazon mixed with Uber for manufacturers. Orders are placed through the company’s website, which offers pricing, times, and feedback. This makes a previous time-intensive process, simple since connects small to medium sized manufacturers to their customers in various industries.


This is where Xometry acts as a “network orchestrator” to connect manufacturers to their customer base. All customers have to do is upload a 3D file and place your order. The service is already doing pretty well on its own. Their network has grown with over 4000 customers and manufacturing partners in 35 states. Now it’s about to get bigger with some help from GE Ventures.


Recently, Xometry scored $23 million in funding from GE and other investors, like Highland Capital Partners. Ralph Taylor-Smith, managing director of Advanced Manufacturing at GE, believes this new partnership will “transform American manufacturing.” GE’s been interested in the company for years since they’ve used their services and found themselves impressed with the result.



Xometry offers a wide variety of materials for their parts (Photo from Xometry)


Any company that’s interested can easily sign up for free without worrying about bidding for jobs. Rather, partners get notifications when orders that fit their capabilities get placed. They can also get access to pricing and lead time 24/7. Hopefully, this new service will make it easier for companies to finish their jobs faster and more efficiently.


This all might sound like a commercial, it isn't. I am always looking for printing services. Shapeways, and similar sites, have room for competition. And that means more options for us makers.



Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com

gyroid graphene.jpg

MIT has come up with a structure using just carbon which is ten times the strength of steel, but only 5% of its density. Lighter than air, 3D graphene structures could take engineering and design by storm. A 3-D printed model of gyroid graphene (via MIT &


Steel has thus far been the gold standard for construction materials. Steel is strong, resists compression and stretching, and supports heavy weight. What if it were possible to build with materials even stronger than steel, but with only a fraction of its weight?


This is just what engineers at MIT have been working on for years, and recently, they have created a material which does exactly that.


Graphene, made entirely of carbon, is like a piece of paper-it’s two-dimensional. Much like the graphite in a pencil or the diamond in a ring, the strength and functionality of graphene lay in the way the carbon atoms are arranged. Graphite has one arrangement of carbon, whereas diamond has another. What the MIT researchers did was simply take the two-dimensional, paper-like arrangement of graphene and rearrange it into coiling shapes.


Those coils are what give the new graphene its incredible strength and lightness.


The coils are also known as gyroids, a term coined by NASA scientist Alan Schoen back in the 1970’s. Gyroids have no planar symmetry; they are bendy, twisty shapes that increase the flexibility and strength of any given material, and as it turns out, are remarkably abundant in the natural world. Viruses, the DNA double helix, and proteins are some examples of gyroids. So, what happens when gyroid models are used to make life-size, man-made materials? Things get stronger and lighter than ever before.


Using compression tests, the material demonstrated resistance to compression ten times greater than that of steel, presently the gold standard for engineering and construction materials. Unlike steel, however, graphene is incredibly light. It has less than 5 % the density of steel, making it much lighter, almost bouncy.


The graphene models used in MIT’s compression tests were made using 3-D printers. It is not yet possible to produce graphene for industry uses with current technology. There just aren’t enough 3-D printers in the world to make such complex materials to scale.


That may be the next design conundrum for MIT-how to make graphene available to the industries it would benefit the most. In the meantime, that this material exists means exciting things may be ahead for many industries.



Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com

Blue LED Pic .jpg

Chemists at MIT have found a way to add new polymers to things already printed, which allows them to create more complex objects that have different chemical and mechanical properties. Blue LED light is used to add monomers to an existing polymer chain resulting in growth. (via MIT)


Research funded by the National Science Foundation helped MIT researchers discover a way to add to, and alter 3-D printed objects after they’ve been printed. Until this advancement, objects that were 3-D printed were “dead” upon completion, meaning that polymer chains in the printed object could not be extended upon. As described by Anne Trafton of the MIT News Office, this new technique enables 3-D printing technology to, “...add new polymers that alter the materials’ chemical composition and mechanical properties”, and also, “...fuse two or more printed objects together to form more complex structures.” This technological development appears to have opened a door for further creativity and complexity in 3-D printing.


In 2013, these researchers tried using ultraviolet light to add new features to 3-D printed materials. Trafton describes this process when she writes, “... the researchers used ultraviolet light to break apart the polymers at certain points, creating very reactive molecules called free radicals.” She goes on to explain that these free radicals bind to new monomers from a solution surrounding the object that incorporates the monomers the original material. Ultimately this approach was unsuccessful in that it was damaging to the material and generally uncontrollable due to the reactivity of the free radicals.


Recently though, the researchers have designed polymers that are reactivated by light due to the chemical groups, known as TTCs, within them. Trafton describes these polymers as acting like “a folded up accordion”, and when the blue light from an LED hits the catalyst, new monomers attach to the TTCs, causing them to expand. As the new monomers are distributed into the structure uniformly, they inevitably change the material properties of the printed object.


According to Trafton, the researchers have demonstrated that they can insert monomers that, “...alter a material’s mechanical properties, such as stiffness, and its chemical properties, including hydrophobicity (affinity for water)” and, “...make materials swell and contract in response to temperature…”. Although these innovations are promising, there is a single, but a significant limitation in that this technique’s organic catalyst requires an oxygen-free environment. So, the researchers march onward, and Trafton reports that they are testing other catalysts that work for similar polymerizations in the presence of oxygen.


Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com

Filafab-pro-350-ex-3DHUB.gr_.jpgPossibly the biggest growing technologie today is the 3D printer, this is partly due to its decreasing cost. This drop in cost of 3D printers is largely due to the standardization of the technology as more printers use the same base technologies. The cost of filament however, whether standard or exotic, still remain relatively high.


D3D Innovations has been working to change this. Their filament fabricators allow anyone to create their own filament using various plastics, combinations and fillers. While the Filafab is meant for plastic “beads” the Filafab has had no issue working with plastic regrind from recycling plants.



HDPE regrind and ABS pellets



Unboxing the Filafab, even with its weight, wasn't a difficult task. Upon opening the box you are presented with a small cardboard tray that holds the accessories. These include two nozzle adapters, three nozzles, a nozzle protector and a region specific power cord.


Filafab accessories


Once the accessory tray has been removed the Filafab is visible although covered evenly with packing peanuts. After scooping out the the peanuts (which incidentally could be turned into filament) it is a simple matter to lift the Filafab directly up and out of the box. Its nice to know that even a relatively small detail such as unpacking the unit was considered by the D3D Innovations team in order to make this step a simple one.


User Interface / First Impressions

The interface and controls on the Filafab are well organised. The side of the unit that faces the user has most of the controls. These include switches for the heating element and auger motor that moves the plastic forward into the extruder. Below and to the left of the motor on/off switches is the temperature controller. The controller uses a feedback loop to maintain the temperature within a tight tolerance (1 °C ~ 2 °C ). There is also the ability to add a few setpoints so that commonly used temperatures can be easily recalled. There is no setup necessary for the controller other than choosing the temperature. If however you would like to make changes to some of the control setting this is possible through the controllers menu.


An important and very encouraging addition is an emergency e-stop switch. While it may be argued this is not needed, the reality is, the power behind the motor is quite large, and the speed at which something could potentially go wrong for a careless user is fast. The e-stop once pressed instantly shutdown the machine preventing anything from getting further out of control.


The two concerns that were noted with this current version of the Filafab is the placement of the power cable and the placement of the auger speed knob. The power cable is currently on the same side as the control panel and in some regards hides the master power switch.



Filafab control panel and power cord


This makes connecting power akward, instead of connecting in a location that would be less intrusive such as the back, the cord comes out towards the user. The placement of the speed knob on the back of the unit next to the motor on the opposite side from the other controls is also awkward. In response to this issue, it was explained, the Filafab 350 EX is an adaptation from its previous version. The current placement allowed for easy modification and extension of capabilities without doing an extensive redesign. I have been informed that both of these issues have been remedied in the next version of the Filafab. I will update with pictures and information when I receive them.

Initial Setup

Once unpacked and powered up the Filafab is ready to be used. The only prerequisite is to know the temperature at which your plastic begins to flow. This may be simple for some plastics (melting point) but for others it gets a bit more difficult (plastics that have a glass transition point).


This glass transition point is where some plastics get soft and lose their brittleness. While this may sound like the point you are looking for, this is where the material starts to become more forgiving when bent or hammered. The actual flow point may be tens of degrees celsius higher than this.


Once that temperature has been selected and the temperature controller has been set there is little to do. On my unit, which has an older version of the power supply, it took ~15 minutes to reach 180 ℃ and ~25 to reach 200 ℃.


Temperature vs time for current Filafab


The current version and soon to be improved power supplies provide more power. The temperature curve with the new power supply show a drastic improvement. The test below was done starting from a temperature of ~11 ℃ with the housing removed reducing its heating efficiency. Yet even in this setup and with the temperature set to 250 ℃ it takes only slightly more than 20 minutes to reach a stable temperature (249.8 ℃).


Temperature vs time for new Filafab


FilaFab Temp Probe.jpg

Temperature test setup for new Filafab


Once reached the ability of the power supply to provide enough power to maintain the desired setpoint is clearly not an issue.


Filament Production

Producing filament takes a bit more practice than the initial setup of the unit. It does, however, not take that much time and any material used during your trials can be reused. There are a few factors that dictate the final outcome of the filament being extruded. First is the temperature to which the extruder is heated. Second is the rate at which the material is passed through the extruder. Thirdly is the diameter of the extruder nozzle. And lastly is the distance to the point where the filament rest in conjunction with the ambient temperature.


The easier of the variables to get right are the temperature of the extruder and speed at which the auger turns. These two, although controlled separately, amount to the same factor, too what temperature the plastic is heated before it exits the extruder. This is definitely not the place to go into the details but it amounts to the longer the plastic remains in the extruder the closer to the set temperature the plastic will reach.


The extruder nozzle works with the distance to the point at which the filament “rests” as well as with the ambient temperature. This is because to achieve the final diameter the extruded plastic needs to be pulled. If there is no winding mechanism then the plastic coils on the floor or table below. The time it takes the plastic to cool versus the duration for which the filament is stretched for will give the final diameter.


Therefore although there are five variables in the extruding process and they may be grouped as the first two and the last three. In reality the variables met earlier in the extruding process affect the later variables and in the end all the variables affect the final product. The Filafab team is also working to produce some guidelines for different materials to help users get the best output from their units.


Filament Production Method and Outcome

In my tests I used both ABS and HDPE. As I do not have a winding mechanism, I tried two other methods for spooling filament. The first method was hand winding. This allowed me to better understand how distance between the extruding nozzle and the winding spool affects the diameter and consistency of the filament. While I did consider briefly constructing my own basic winder (stepper motor and speed controller) this was not needed for the testing I was conducting. The second method was allowing the filament to spool on the floor. While this took a bit more trial and error it is definitely doable. The hardest part here was setting the height above the floor to achieve a nice even diameter.


During the hand winding test an old spool was used to wind the filament. After playing round for maybe an 10 - 20 minutes the consistency and evenness of the filament was impressive. To the bare eye the diameter of the full extruded length appeared consist and even. Using a caliper the diameter ranged between 2.21 mm - 2.49 mm which is well within the tolerance of most if not all 3D printers. That being said, the samples from Filafab I received had much tighter tolerances easily beating the mentioned tolerance by D3D Innovations of +/-0.05mm using a winder. One sample had a diameter between 2.83mm - 2.90mm and the second sample between  2.63 - 2.69mm. Even without a winder the Filafab team has seen better tolerances than I did, but then they probably spent more than 30 minutes perfecting their technique.


I conducted two tests of floor spooling. The first was an even speed and used ABS the second was as fast as I could get the auger to push out filament using HDPE. While the ABS produced a nice usable filament the HDPE seemed to have some issues. I believe the issue was partially related to my choice of temperature. As previously mentioned the speed and temperature are tightly coupled. When I increased the speed to be as fast as possible I should have also increased the temperature. Since this wasn't done, my filament had some unmelted regrind mixed in. Another difference between the HDPE and ABS test was the nozzle used. The HDPE had the smaller nozzle making extruding more difficult and allowed the filament to stretch to a thinner diameter. The ABS had a larger nozzle which just seemed to allow for a more consistent filament to be extruded.


The goal of the speed test with HDPE, while it did have its issues (incorrect temperature and smaller nozzle size) was to try and understand what output could be expected from the Filafab. For this test a set amount of regrind was weighed out and put into the hopper. The plastic was than left to extrude for a considerable amount of time and the remaining regrind was then weighed. Taking the difference of the initial weight and the final weight an approximate value was reached for the amount of regrind extruded. The starting weight selected was 500g. After extruding for ~2.5 hours, ~300g of filament had been extruded.


While this value appears low there are a few factors that must be remembered and taken into account. Firstly had the temperature been set correctly (20℃ - 30℃ hotter) the output would have been increased. Secondly, a small nozzle was used, impeding the rate of production. A larger nozzle along with an increased drop height to achieve the desired diameter (this was not done and the diameter was not important for this test) the rate of production would have been increased. Also, 500g is a decent amount of filament, with the Filafab running pretty much by itself, leaving it in a room for a day while it spits out a reel of filament, is not an issue. Overall my feeling is the Filafab could have doubled, if not tripled my output if the variables had been set correctly.


Power consumption and True Cost

As part of my review and something that has become increasingly important in my reviews is a look at power consumption. While my test was done with the older power supply, it is still representative of the overall power consumption. This assumption is made because the temperatures used in extruding were less than or equal to 200 ℃, well within the power supply’s capable range.


Over the relatively short test of 85 minutes, 30 of which was to get to temperature and 35 for extruding, ~219 watts were consumed. Of these ~219 W only 99.12W were used for extruding.


Temperature and power consumption vs time


The cost of the plastic used was mid priced at ~30¢ per pound (HDPE) or 66.14¢ per kilogram. The expensive plastics (nylon) are ~60¢ per pound or ~$1.32 per kilogram. Adding the cost of the plastic used with that of the energy needed to extrude the plastic gives the true cost of the filament. Using a rate of 18¢ per kiloWatt and 67¢ per kilogram of plastic one reel of filament would cost ~$2.77. This is using an unrealistic number of 8 hours to extrude one kilogram (if setup correctly this should be a third or even less). Even with the extra long extruding time and high electricity costs it is still approximately 12.5 times cheaper than purchasing a commercial reel of filament. This would amount to ~77 (cheap) reels of filament before the (top of the line) Filafab pays for itself (38 reels to cover the cost of the cheapest Filafab). If you were to use anything remotely specialised or for a non standard printer then the number of reels needed drops pretty quickly (makerbot…).


Engineering design

The design and manufacturing of the Filafab is well thought out. At no point during my use and testing of the Filafab did I feel the need to be gentle. The unit is sturdy and solidly built. The few drawbacks mentioned above, while slightly detracting from the overall user experience, are not a major issue. One very slight issue not mentioned above is the design of the hopper. Currently if you plan to changing between materials often, the space under the auger in the hopper catches some material. The material that gets stick can become mixed with a different plastic producing an unwanted blend. A simple remedy is to tilt the machine to its side and brush the remaining plastic out.


Because the design team has been working closely with their customers and listening to both their ideas and concerns these issues have been resolved. In the next iteration of the Filafab (available February) all the concerns raised so far have been designed out and corrected.



Original auger guard inside the hopper


The new hopper - auger assembly is apparently made from a single piece of metal. Either that or the guard is bolted to another piece of metal that prevents plastic from getting stuck under the auger shaft. A 3D CAD rendering can be seen in the image below, it may also be seen in the temperature test set image above.



New auger guard with integrated material feeder


Changing nozzles is also a relatively simple matter. While the machine is still warm (NOT hot) use a wrench to unscrew the currently attached nozzle and attach the new size. When the nozzle is warm to the touch you can try pull out the existing material to clean it out.


The user manual suggests regreasing the main bearing every 40 hours of use or so. For this a T25 screwdriver is needed. While slightly inconvenient, the T25 allows for the Filafab to be used in a general setting without worrying someone may open the unit to “fix” something.


The heating block is heated by multiple heating elements distributed around the heating block to ensure even and adequate heating of the auger and nozzle. A thermocouple is inserted in the block and well shielded to ensure an accurate reading and prevent noise in the measurement. All the wires are well insulated and the auger shaft itself is thermally insulated to increase heating efficiency.



Heating block with temperature sensor (metal braided cable) and heating elements (red insulated wires)


What I have taken away from the Filafab team is their desire to constantly improve as well as keep the product as open as possible. The ability to use the filafab with any printer or winder, not locking a user to any one specific product is a huge plus and something the team has been working to maintain. The ability should the user decide to modify their unit (at home) in some way to make their use simpler or to provide other uses is also available with full mechanical schematics available.



The degree with which the the design team has taken safety into account is quite impressive. The implementation of an auger guard preventing fingers or other foreign object from entering the auger is important. During my testing I did remove the guard to allow for larger regrind to be used but this will become more difficult in the future. The increased difficulty can be seen from the next iteration of the auger guard/feeder. Due to bolts coming from the bottom, removal of the auger guard will be a lot more involved. While this may be frustrating, after experiencing the sharpness of the auger and the power behind its motor first hand, this is a positive and beneficial decision.


The inclusion of an estop was done solely for added safety. The possibility of something getting past the auger guard is very small. Yet even with this small chance the decision was made to add an estopt.


Also the provided nozzle guard to prevent users from accidentally coming in contact with the heated nozzle is useful. While again not strictly needed this is included to provide that one extra layer of safety and prevent possible injury.


An often overlooked safety concern is operating sound levels. If a piece of equipment produces excessive noise for long periods this can have a detrimental effect. The measured sound levels of the Filafab are within normal environment levels. While it is a constant hum and I would not necessarily want it on the edge of my desk while I am working, it's not over bearing. Using an uncalibrated app on my phone the average value measured was 56 dB. From what I can determine this is the volume of a normal conversation or slightly louder.



Sound level profile for 30 seconds


Conclusion & Moving forward

Overall the Filafab is one well made easy to use extruder. The well thought out design makes getting the Filafab up and running an easy task. The over designed mechanics and housing gives me confidence in the longevity and resilience of the unit to wear and abuse. The careful design and respect for safety would make me confident using such a machine in any maker or educational setting.


Having spent some time playing with the Filafab 350 EX and understanding the various aspects of the current version I am looking forward to the next iteration. The improved user experience, heating curve and other improvements by the Filafab team are things I am looking forward to test and experience.





Original blog entry here:

Create Your Own Affordable, Specialized and Creative Filament With the Filafab

More pictures here:

The Embedded Shack

Upcoming reviews and info here:


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A new software developed at MIT enables laypeople to 3D print prototypes of their own design. Much like traditional image editing software, Foundry lets you edit designs, with the added twist that they can be printed 3 dimensionally using up to 10 different kinds of materials (via MIT)


Printing 3 dimensional designs has been around for awhile, but the materials used have often been limiting. Most 3D printers can only print using one kind of material as well.  A lot of good designs end up being pretty limited, due to the constraints of the printer and the design ability of the user.  Printing objects with multiple materials has presented a big hurdle as well, due to the nature of the materials and the time required to functionally put them together. After spending days working on a design, engineers would often discover it wasn’t really a feasible prototype.


Enter MIT’s MultiFab. Based out of the university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, a team of researchers has launched a software and printing system which allows people with limited programming ability to print their own multiple-material  prototypes. Much like image editing software lets you make all kinds of fanciful pictures, Foundry enables you to make them a reality. How does it work? You design your prototype on the software, which has various parameters and possible materials that can be incorporated into the object. The software communicates with the printing system, and your image, edited in Foundry, is brought to life.

How nice are the designs? Currently the resolution is 40 microns, just under half the width of a strand of human hair.


In addtition, the 3-D printer designed by the team is self-correcting. The machine vision detects errors made while  printing and is able to fix them, without human input. The printers also self-calibrate. These processes historically took time and skill to get just right, so this system frees you to focus more on actual design.

Unlike traditional 3D printers, which squirt material through an extruder, the ones in use at MultiFab print more like an office printer, with an inkjet squirting tiny dots onto a surface. This lets you make complex, tiny layers of material throughout the printing process.


The team has already used Foundry and the 3D printers to make smartphone cases and diode casings. They predict that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The 3D printing system they made cost just $7,000, which is easily affordable by many companies and universities. With more people able to make progressively complex objects, they may be right.



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The organ on chip has integrated sensors that allow scientists to test synthetic tissue instead of testing on animals. This organ on chip gets us one step closer to synthetic organs (via Harvard)


It’s easy to forget the importance of organ donors. Truth is there are still people waiting on long lists looking for their chance at survival. If everyone committed to being a donor, there may be chance for everyone waiting, but people are free to not be a donor and that’s just fine. But lately the medical field has been working to create organs via 3D printer. It’s a difficult feat, but a team of researchers at Harvard University did it. They created the first organ on a chip entirely made with 3D printing.


So what does organ on chip mean anyway? These are devices that imitate the structure and function of native tissue. The chip was built by a fully automated manufacturing method and is equipped with integrated sensors, which allow scientists to test synthetic tissues during long and short term studies. This way, they won’t have to test them on animals. Thanks to this, the researchers create micophysiological systems that have the build and functions of hearts, lungs, tongues, and intestines. Currently, they’re working on a heart on a chip and have developed six different inks that integrated soft strains with the tissue.


According to the researchers, this new development allows them to change and enhance the design of the system. They also to use this new approach for research involving in vitro tissue engineering, drug screening, and toxicology.


This development may get us one step closer to synthetic replacements for human organs. But with everything that sounds too good to be true, there’s a downside: the cost. It takes a lot of work and money to create the organ on chip devices as well as collecting the data from them. For the time being, the devices are built in spotless rooms using a complicated lithographic process. Researchers collect the data using microscopes or high speed cameras. So don’t expect to see these in hospitals just yet. There’s still a lot of testing researchers have to do.


Right now, researchers are testing the efficiency of the organ by studying the MPS drug responses and development of cardiac tissue made from stem cells. This is not just a huge development in synthetic organs, but in collecting data related to the field. Thanks to the integrated sensors in the organ on chip devices, researchers can gather data more effectively, which can lead to new solutions for challenges faced by the medical field.



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4D printer example 1.jpg

A new kind of 3D printing uses flexible polymers that can change shape depending on temperature. Image: A 3D flower changes shape due to changes in temperature. (via MIT)


Making useful things with three dimensional printers has been changing a lot of design and manufacturing processes in recent years. There was the kid who made his own braces, and even 3D printed shoes given as awards at a recent athletic event. All of these objects, however, are rigid: they stay the same after the printer makes them. But recently a team of researchers have developed a technique that allows printable objects to change shape. Currently under development at MIT, microstereolithography allows 3D printers to make very precise shapes in very small sizes out of bendable materials.


When heated to within a certain temperature range, these materials ‘bounce back’ to their original shapes. And they can be very, very tiny-one prototype had the thickness of a human hair.


How do you make a tiny bendable flower? Thus far, the process is akin to using a tiny camera to scale an image down to size, then chopping the image up into different layers, like different levels of parfait. The sliced up images are then connected to a printer through a series of beams.


3d to 4d.PNG


The specific polymers used to make the product bendable are mixed during printing, using rays of ultraviolet light to catalyze the reaction. Making a tiny flower that can unfold is thus a combination of two different systems: creating a series of two dimensional images from a single three dimensional shape, and mixing polymers as the image is printed.




What kind of polymers have been used? So far, pretty typical plastics-industry molecules have been used to make the bendable Eiffel Tower and flowery shapes in miniature. Because they’re used so much already, the chemistry is pretty basic: just add polymers with known elastic properties together. Scaling the process down even further could expand the applications.


Imagine taking a drug that was so specific it would only work at certain body temperatures, or tiny implantation devices for surgical procedures. Imagine being able to print single molecules. Making small things has never had such huge implications.


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