Monthly Archives

July 2016

Automaker 2.01.02 – New Feature! – Support Material Gap

By | AutoMakerNewsflash, Design, Materials, News, Software Updates | 6 Comments

As we start to key up CEL and Robox for dual material printing we have introduced a lot of new concepts. Most of our users will have seen some of these multi-material features creeping into AutoMaker over the most recent few releases. Today we’ve added another new feature with AutoMaker 2.01.02 Download here.

We think that one of the most useful features of multi-material printing is the ability to use one material for your part and the other as support structure. This means with the correct choice of material, support can be greatly improved. One of the Materials we been testing is PolyMaker’s PolySupport, we’ve found it to print well in a wide range of temperatures and have consistent structural and functional properties. PolySupport is designed to be a support material for PLA and we found that although its a PLA based material it delaminates easily from PLA and other materials making it very easy to remove. It has elastic and flexible properties which mean its a joy to peel from your model, infinitely easier than using any other Peel-able support material we’ve tested, in-fact its so good we’ve added a this new support gap option.

To further improve the support that an easily peel-able material can give your part we can remove the gap between the top and bottom surface, this gap was necessary when you needed to break-away support structures of the same material. We semi-automated this option, when AutoMaker sees that you are using a different material for support than the one chosen for your parts it will automatically deselect this option.

Support Gap OptionI hear some of you say “Why peel-able, why not focus on dissolvable support?”, well, we thought the same when we started to print with multiple materials but quickly discovered that dissolvable material solutions are messy, take a long time and are often difficult to process and store. Peel-able support can often be removed in a few minutes, where dissolvable support material can take hours if not days to disappear and often require some peeling as well. One thing you might have read about on the internet is the use of limonene to dissolve HIPS away from ABS prints, this is not a reality, after only a few tests we found that limonene does dissolve HIPS, but it also damages the ABS beyond usefulness. The other thing is that unless you LOVE the smell of oranges you quickly grow tired of all your parts, the office, your finger and pretty much everything you own having that pungent smell. Don’t misunderstand me, dissolvable materials will have their place, but for a large majority of support applications we feel easy peel-able is the way forward right now.

We’ve also exposed some of the controls around the generation of support structure to you so that you can tune your profiles to get more perfect parts.

Support Gap Options Profile

 

Version 2.01.02

  • Autoupdate now uses port 80 rather than port 8001
  • Added Support Gap function
    • This controls the vertical distance between the support material and model material which affects how easily support material can be removed
    • Disabled automatically if support material is different to model material (useful when using specialised peel-off support material)
    • Horizontal (Support XY Distance) and vertical (Support Z Distance) offsets are configured in the Print Profiles page
    • If Support Gap is enabled the system will introduce a vertical gap between support and model material
    • If Support Gap is disabled there will be no gap between support and model material
  • Improved filament saver function for dual material printing (automatic heater control during prints)
  • Grouped advanced mode controls onto an Advanced Mode menu on the Preferences page
  • Automatic selection of correct head type on profile page
  • Modified status display to make use of Material 1 and Material 2 clearer

When AutoMaker updates are available your system will usually find and offer an update automatically. If you are behind a firewall or some other system which prevents this, please visit www.cel-robox.com/downloads/ and download the most recent AutoMaker package.

AutoMaker sometimes needs to update the firmware on your printer. Please allow the firmware to update as requested by AutoMaker. If you do not allow the firmware update to take place, AutoMaker may not be able to communicate with your printer.

IMPORTANT NOTE: a firmware update will power cycle your printer so ensure no operations such as a print or calibration are running at the time of the firmware update.

Why Robox is making such an impact in education

By | Education, News | No Comments
 

Learning about insect anatomy

10-year-old pupils at Blackfield Primary School use Robox to model and print insect anatomy.

 

Getting to grips with 3D design using free software

Martyn Hendry at St Andrew's Primary School takes a group of 10-year-old pupils through the process of designing custom name tags using Autodesk's browser-based Tinkercad software.

 

Working in partnership with the James Dyson Foundation

Gears are 3D printed on Robox in a Year 10 James Dyson Foundation project.

 

Designing and making a more inclusive society

15-year-old students discuss their GCSE James Dyson Foundation projects aimed at aiding people who experience physical disabilities.

 

Engaging young people in STEM

9-year-old pupils at Blackfield Primary School learn to combine multiple models for printing in two materials.

 

Understanding the additive manufacturing process

Students of all ages at King Edward VI Community College and its feeder schools use Robox in combination with other manufacturing processes such as cold casting.

 

Complexity made simple

Robox can print in two materials at the same time, allowing more complex geometries to be printed with ease using dedicated support materials.

 

Inspiring a new generation

8-year-old pupils in Blackfield Primary School use free Tinkercad software and Robox to create stationery organisers for a school project.

 

Mendip Studio School

Year 11 students discuss their GCSE projects.

 

Ashlyns School

A student upgrades his A-Level project with Robox.

 

Safety and Security

Robox is the only 3D printer with an interlocking safety door to prevent accidental injury.

 

FAWE School, Rwanda

Students from Writhlington School provide 3D printer workshops to Rwandan students.

When I first used a 3D printer in 2005, Stratasys and 3D Systems were the only players in town and the costs of their systems were truly eye-watering. The Stratasys Dimension BST we used then cost over £19,000 and reels of filament over £200 each.

In the decade since, key 3D printing patents held by those once pioneering manufacturers have expired and the open source RepRap project has triggered a wave of desktop 3D printer innovations. The cost of 3D printing technologies has now plummeted (Robox costs less than £1,000 with reels of filament under £30 each) at the same time as we’ve seen significant advances in speed and capabilities – thanks also in part to the recent proliferation of very high quality, but totally free, 3D modelling tools. The technology has become much simpler, more affordable and therefore more accessible to everyone.

3D printers are fast becoming staples of secondary school D&T departments. Our work with the James Dyson Foundation is seeing us develop some truly exciting and innovative STEM programmes aimed at encouraging students and teachers to use 3D printers and inspiring them to think creatively about design and technology. While our work has initially focused on programmes in secondary schools, our efforts to help stimulate young people are now leading us to help develop new programmes with partner schools at even earlier stages in the education curriculum.

One exciting programme is being pioneered by Josh Rigby, D&T Leader at Blackfield Primary School, part of the Inspire Learning Federation. His Year 6 ‘Lift Off’ project is now in its second year and engages pupils to develop and build remote controlled hovercraft. They use Robox and free 3D modelling tools from Autodesk such as Tinkercad and 123D Design to customise their hovercrafts for identified target audiences.

Pupils at Blackfield Primary School use Tinkercad to create custom parts for their hovercrafts.

Another project he leads, titled ‘Dyson Design,’ engages Year 4 pupils in the design of modern desktop equipment for the classroom of the future. The project helps 8-year-old pupils get to grips with technical drawings and requires them to consider a range of materials for their designs, which are then developed in Tinkercad.

We’re also helping to introduce 3D printing to a pioneering, ambitious education project targeting primary age children in Scotland. Martyn Hendry, STEM Co-ordinator in East Ayrshire Council, has just completed a Robox pilot programme in a number of primary schools in his authority to see how 3D printers can be introduced into the curriculum. Working with projects he’s developed to inspire creative thinking, and supported by entrepreneurs and people from industry, teachers have reported a very enthusiastic response from pupils. One school has even broadened the project to the Primary 2 year group of 6-year-olds.

Malachy Ryan, from engineering consultancy Alan White Design, demonstrates design innovations to pupils at St Andrews Primary School as part of the DYW programme.

Martyn is helping to ensure Robox plays its part in the Scottish government’s youth employment strategy, Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) – a seven-year programme that aims to better prepare children and young people from 3-18 for the world of work. The success of the Robox pilot programme and Scottish government programmes such as DYW herald the beginning of a much more ambitious rollout of 3D printers to schools and organisations in the region.

Dumfries House Education, a cluster of six bespoke training centres situated in the stunning 18th century Ayrshire Dumfries House estate, is one such organisation using Robox to help deliver experiential, hands-on activities for young people. The centres offer a selection of education and training programmes designed to support learners in Primary and Secondary education with the Engineering Education Centre’s aim being to excite young people about science and technology. Dumfries House Education grew from HRH the Prince of Wales’ desire to see young people engage in learning experiences that promote confidence, personal development and offer training in real life skills. Their inspirational workshops are available to schools, youth groups and local authorities in the region and Martyn is actively involved helping to integrate 3D printing into their programmes.

Robox is providing schools with a more cost-effective, straightforward option to bring 3D printing to classrooms and workshops around the UK. As a British 3D printer manufacturer making the world’s only desktop 3D printer with an interlocking safety door, we are uniquely placed to work with the James Dyson Foundation and schools across the country to help improve learning outcomes and empower teachers and schoolchildren to invent, to think creatively about design and technology and not be afraid to make mistakes. Martyn Hendry reports how 3D printers and computer-aided design (CAD) software have helped children as young as 9 understand mathematical concepts such as negative numbers: “There was just no justification for using CAD without a 3D printer. 3D printers embed the technical drawing while the teaching and learning is embedded in the use of CAD.”

For more information about what we’re doing, read a previous article here or contact me directly using the links below.

SLA vs FFF / FDM workflow and space requirements

By | Education, Healthcare, Materials, News | No Comments

SLA (Stereolithography ) is often compared to the FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) / FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) process of 3D printing and always shows very impressive results. The detail level is far superior for SLA but there are a lot of complications to the process. Due to the huge numbers of dentists, dental labs and orthodontists contacting us recently I thought I would share some of what I have learned.

The most common comparison is the strength of the parts created from resin vs those created with fused filament which always comes out on top. Next are the many resin handling issues which make filament printers much easier and safer to use.

It is easy to discount FFF/FDM completely by just looking at pictures of the excellent smoothness of an SLA print vs an FDM print. The SLA process can create a smoother and more detailed surface finish and and can create a fully solid, partially transparent part which is difficult to achieve on FFF /FDM machines without post processing. This makes it harder for those of us demonstrating fused filament fabrication printers to keep a viewers attention.

To someone viewing the printed results of 2 models side by side it would be hard to choose the FFF / FDM print if visual quality or surface detail was the goal. In a comparison of useability which requires strength, the FFF /FDM print is far more likely to come out on top particularly due to the huge selection of material types available. The SLA materials tend to be closely linked to specific printers, it is unlikely a 3rd party resin will be allowed or compatible. This limits the SLA user to the resins developed by that manufacturer. In a comparison of workflow the SLA process is quite scary, warning labels and notes on resin handling and cleanup dominate but the consumption of core components of the SLA printer along with litres at a time of IPA (Isopropyl alcohol) and the expensive resin is certainly worth exploring before any decision is made to exclude filament printing. The accuracy of the two methods should theoretically be the same but I have yet to see an SLA print which has been perfectly dimensionally accurate while my Robox is within 0.01mm in all axes without my input all day every day. Cost comparisons are far further apart than the price of the printers would suggest. SLA resin cost is high, plastic filament cost is low. This expensive resin is wasted with every print, plastic filament is only extruded as required. This cost in particular is not shown in “part cost comparisons”, nor is the very wasteful rinsing in IPA to remove excess resin following a print or the cost of the consumable resin carrying and curing parts, or the disposal and storage as well as low shelf life for expensive SLA resins. Oh and the space required for SLA printing is rarely mentioned, you really need a spare room and some strict policies to control the spread of sticky resin the smell and the harm to the environment.

Click the image to make it bigger.

In the chart below I’ve listed some positives and negatives of each method along with typical usage and costs. Blue indicates the best in my opinion for each row. I obviously support filament printers in this, perhaps your comments can sway my opinion?

FDM SLA
Limited detail, high accuracy, layer lines visible High detail and accuracy, layer lines hard to see in some cases
Parts and excess material can be disposed of in regular waste Resin waste and printed parts require special disposal. H413: May cause long-lasting harmful effects to aquatic life
No material wasted except with support creation, no mess Wasted resin is washed away in IPA and disposed of regularly in build tank, sticky residue from resin spreads around work area and is hard to clean. Disposal of cleaning products restricted
No use by date on filament with low cost 12 month shelf life and high cost
Material is inert and harmless before and after printing Requires special handling equipment
Can be used in any work area Requires special work area
Materials are widely available and cross compatible Only specified resins can be used with most SLA printers
Minimal requirements for storage of material Requires special storage conditions for resins and required cleaning chemicals in large quantities
No additional equipment Cleaning baths, UV Light booth, safety, storage and disposal equipment
Minimal space required to function Considerable space requirement to keep several large pieces of equipment away from other equipment and work areas
Range of materials in many colours and with a huge range of mechanical properties Very limited range of materials, locked to manufacturer
Opaque parts unless post processed Optical clarity in some materials
Material dependant useable indefinitely  Low shelf life of parts due to UV exposure
Low cost of consumable parts High cost of consumable parts
Material cost is low $25 per kg Material cost is high $99 per kg + processing and waste!
Medium flexural strength  (material relevant to medical use) Low flexural strength (material relevant to medical use)
Low upfront equipment cost High upfront equipment cost, printer and additional equipment
Potential for dual material with dissolvable or peel away support Single material with mechanical removal of support
System allows dual material for overmolded parts and pause features for inserting captive objects No system for inserted or overmolded parts
No training required for use or handling High level of materials handling trainingrequired

 

My conclusion is this:

SLA is not a threat to FFF / FDM printing, if anything the 2 methods can work side by side as their benefits do not overlap. Personally I would not let the resin (or the smell of it) near my home or my family but if I had a dedicated space within a business and the training and staff to run this then I would consider SLA as an addition to several far lower priced FFF /FDM printers. I could print many iterations of a design on the filament printers and perhaps a surface model on the SLA machine once the design was final, actually it might be best to just outsource that part…

SLA should remain in the hands of professional labs or dedicated service providers, FFF /FDM is for everyone. In fact with the low cost of filament printers, every designer should have one on their desk.

The Ferguson Technique – Dental implants using 3D printed surgical guides

By | Design, Healthcare, News | No Comments

Dr Rick Ferguson DMD presents a webinar hosted by Michael Saltzman, Director of Guided Surgery from Blue Sky Bio.

Dr. Ferguson is a Diplomat of the ICOI, Associate Fellow of the AAID, Clinical Assistant Professor University of Florida. He has lectured nationally and internationally He teaches live surgery and is a visiting lecturer at the University of Miami GPR Program. He has a full time private practice in Davie, FL. His course in dental implants can be viewed on his website here http://www.implanteducators.com/index.php/courses/3d-course

Dr Ferguson gives a brief look at previous guided surgery techniques and guides and compares them to the current method he uses and teaches in using 3D printed surgical guides. Rick describes the development of his technique which enables in practice low cost guided surgery.

Several cases are presented during this webinar including each stage of the workflow for each case, reasoning and options, costs and alternatives. Please note that case documentation includes 3D scans of bones as well as photos and video of guided surgery taking place which is quite graphic, the information presented is more suited to dentists than patients.

Examples of workflows in past high cost methods and current low cost 3D printed guides. Dr Ferguson shows examples using Robox and provides comparisons to Form2 DentalSG workflows and printed surgical guides.

The free software Dr Ferguson uses in this video can be found in the links below:

You can buy a Robox as used by Dr Ferguson directly from Blue Sky Bio’s US website (select United States from the dropdown on their site) https://blueskybio.com/store/cel-robox or from a Robox reseller closer to you www.cel-robox.com/where-to-buy/. The material used to print surgical guides with Robox is nGen by Dutch company Colorfabb, you can buy this from Robox resellers on Robox SmartReels. Robox does allow printing with materials from other suppliers and the range of materials available on SmartReels is constantly being updated.