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Stuff and Things

Why pay when free software can do the job?

By | Design, Robox User Blog, Stuff and Things | 4 Comments

A key driver of desktop 3D printing technology adoption over the last few years has been the proliferation of completely free 3D modelling tools that are, crucially, user-friendly and extremely high quality. Since these tools are such powerful enablers of 3D printing technology and, during meetings with customers, I often end up sharing my thoughts on the merits of various 3D modelling software tools anyway, I considered I should offer a short summary of tools I use personally and would recommend for use with any 3D printer.

Each tool listed here performs distinct tasks in the 3D modelling process so there’s no overlap of functions between them. The purpose of this list is purely to inform of the tools that I use personally, not to offer any kind of comparison. Some more advanced users may scoff at my 3D modelling arsenal, but I’d ask that they bear in mind my non-engineering background. Despite my novice experience and skills, I’ve found that the following tools work very well together to do pretty much anything I want to do – from designing high-precision mechanisms to personalising Xmas gifts. All of these software tools are free to use because, like most people, I don’t like spending money when I don’t have to.

1. 3D Builder

I use this tool from Microsoft all the time to edit 3D models as it has the cleanest, most user-friendly interface of any 3D modelling tool I’ve used. It looks and feels great, especially when I use it to demonstrate how easy it is to customise and personalise any one of the thousands of free 3D models available from online repositories such as Thingiverse or MyMiniFactory (the latter is integrated into Robox’s AutoMaker software). While 3D Builder is in its element when used to emboss text, logos and other images, it’s equally superb in other areas such as splitting and resizing large models into smaller parts.

3D Builder

2. 123D Design

This is another free tool that I use all the time, but for creating 3D models rather than editing them. 123D Design is made by Autodesk and, as a result, it’s clean, simple and easy to use with a range of features that satisfies virtually all of my modelling needs. While it lacks most of the advanced features found in 3D modelling software tools such as SolidWorks or Autodesk Inventor, it does boast a key feature not found in most expensive 3D modelling tools – the ability to save to the cloud.

I frequently recommend 123D Design since it’s completely free and offers versatile, powerful functionality with an interface suitable for novices and professionals alike. Its high quality is thanks to it being made by one of the best 3D software development companies in the world, which also happens to make the next 3D modelling tool on this list.

123D Design

3. Meshmixer

Meshmixer is my tool of choice for touching up 3D models. The thing I like most about Meshmixer is the way that models can be sculpted naturally by pulling and pushing on surfaces or cutting parts of a model away. Packed with a wide range of versatile, powerful features which perform extremely useful functions such as smoothing and distorting a surface or hollowing out a model, Autodesk’s Meshmixer is an essential tool in my box of freebies.

An important point to note is that Meshmixer is used to edit organic, rather than geometric, models. An organic model consists of natural, flowing curves and shapes whereas a geometric model is one that comprises perfect, uniform shapes that don’t often appear in nature. The model created in 123D Design above, for example, from geometric shapes such as rectangles, triangles and circles wouldn’t edit well in Meshmixer. However, models captured from 3D scans, such as the duck below, are perfect for editing with this tool, which brings me to yet another Autodesk product…

Meshmixer

4. 123D Catch

The final free 3D modelling tool on this list is, without a doubt, the most accessible 3D scanning tool out there. Again, it’s completely free but, unlike the other software listed here, it’s designed to be used on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet computer. 123D Catch is an extremely cost-effective (free!) and convenient alternative to dedicated handheld 3D scanning equipment, which starts at around £300 and typically looks like something airport security would get out if you set off a metal detector. I’ve used the app to scan people, objects, buildings, you name it. The app is easy to use and can produce good quality scans, which can be improved further and touched up using Meshmixer. The only drawback to this app is the length of time it takes for photos to be uploaded to Autodesk and processed. It can be a little frustrating – especially if you have poor mobile phone signal! – but I understand frustration to be a feature of all current handheld 3D scanning technologies to a greater or lesser extent.

123D Catch

I did consider adding a fifth 3D modelling tool to this list since 4 is an unusual number to end a list on, but since these four tools take up around 95% of my 3D modelling time I didn’t feel it was appropriate to add another. Tinkercad would most likely have been the fifth free tool , which you can see in action below:

The combined value of this small collection of tools is considerably more than the sum of its parts. When used together, these apps can transform any 3D printer from a novelty to magic. Although I’m currently experimenting with more heavy duty 3D modelling software such as SpaceClaim (I’ve received a free trial) and may end up adding more software to this list, for now I think I’ll be sticking with the free stuff.

Please note: CEL has no commercial ties with Autodesk. They just so happen to make a great suite of free 3D modelling tools.

Congratulations to Aurora – ESERO UK CanSat Team 2016

By | Competitions, Design, Education, Robox User Blog, Stuff and Things | No Comments

Congratulations to the Aurora team for 2nd place with a very ambitious (and successful) design which went way beyond the requirements set for the challenge. The team, consisting of 4 students aged 17 (S6), used a huge range of skills to design and develop their competition entry with prototypes and the final design printed on their Robox 3D printer.

cansat

Some details about the team from their excellent website www.aurorasat.space

Who are we?
We are a CanSat 2016 team from Glasgow, Scotland. The team consists of four pupils from Hutchesons’ Grammar School. Our supervising teacher is Dr Walker, and our sponsors are Pulsion Technology and CEL Robox.

What is CanSat?
A CanSat is a simulation of a real satellite, integrated within the volume and shape of a soft drink can. The challenge for the students is to fit all the major subsystems found in a satellite, such as power, sensors and a communication system, into this minimal volume. The CanSat is then launched to an altitude of a few hundred metres by a rocket or dropped from a platform or captive balloon and its mission begins: to carry out a scientific experiment and achieve a safe landing.

Why do it?
CanSats offer a unique opportunity for students to have a first practical experience of a real space project. They are responsible for all aspects: selecting the mission objectives, designing the CanSat, integrating the components, testing, preparing for launch and then analysing the data.

Team

Rishabh Manjunatha
Team Leader
Electronics Engineer

Cheryl Docherty
Mechanical Engineer
Design Engineer

Jack Leslie
Software Engineer
Online Administrator

Wan-Ian Tran
Mechanical Engineer
Aeronautical Engineer

Guidance from
Dr Walker
Mr Walker
Mr McCormick

Primary Mission

Measure air pressure and temperature. Minimum 1 result per second transmitted to ground control/computer.

Secondary Mission

• Our can will split into two parts, and will land in two different areas on the ground.

• The can will split horizontally; the top part will land using a parafoil to glide to the ground, and the bottom part will land using a quadcopter-like motor/propeller system to navigate to the ground.

• The aim of the mission is to successfully demonstrate the splitting of the can, demonstrate two different landing systems and demonstrate the prospect of comparing two separate sites on one mission.

Optional – Targeted landing to both sites using high accuracy GPS and autonomous movement.
Optional – Rover on ground to pick up two capsules and return them to team base.
Optional – Implement camera to capture splitting of cans.

Challenges overcome:

Small space to fit 2 satellites. Designing a modular system to access parts easily and still retain a strong structure was challenging.
New pyboard with very little online guidance or information, we had to program and wire everything based on our own knowledge.
Brushless motors and ESC’s are fiddly to set up and get going.
Designing and constructing a stable Para-foil.
Programming in a new language and programming electronics and understanding how they function together.
Learning how to use inventor and rendering the simulations of the satellite.
Using a 3D printer, learning how different plastics behave and how best to print small scale intricate models.

CAD software used:

Autodesk Inventor Professional 2016
AutoCAD 2016

Other software / programming tools used:

Python IDE
Arduino IDE
Command Line Tools

Robox made the following possible:

Printing of our satellite using ABS and PLA plastic. The Robox support team helped us to with recommendations and settings to ensure each part was accurately printed.

Other resources used:

Technology department supplied the majority of the equipment used, including soldering irons, hobby drills, glue guns, desktops.
Our other sponsor Pulsion supplied us with the £500 budget we had to stick to.
Physics department supplied digital callipers and high accuracy balances.

The Robox 3D printer we have was purchased by 3 of our Arkwright Scholars and is kept in the Technology department for students to use on request.
The Scalextrics club, which is aimed at younger years, design and build model rc cars. They have already printed one model.
The Formula 1 club also uses the 3D printer.

The printer will be used for further competitions. (possibly the Google science fair or other independent projects)

A link to the competition website:

https://www.stem.org.uk/esero/cansat
http://www.aurorasat.space/

A note from the team leader:

I would like to thank you once again for not only sponsoring us and helping us when we had problems using the 3D printer but also for your kind words throughout. You have motivated us and kept us going when certain aspects of our project didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. Your quick and informative responses have aided us greatly. – Rishabh

100% of Robox users recommend Robox in the 3D hubs 2016 printer guide

By | News, Press Release, Stuff and Things | 3 Comments

Here at CEL, we’ve received some great news this week! The Robox has topped the Plug and play category at joint number 1 in 3D Hubs 2016 printer guide scoring a rating of 9.0 out of 10!

ScreenHunter_73 Nov. 26 11.21

Thank you to all of our customers who took part in the 3D hubs 2016 printer guide survey who gave us such great reviews, here’s a few of our favorite snippets

'This is the best of all the printers I have used. Great support with a real warranty.'

They have great support and community which helped me a lot when something goes wrong.

The latest major software update unleashed immense improvements in print quality and the upcoming Dual Material Head will be a game changer.

It's a great machine to have by my side. Offering great value for money and I can't stop making on it.

One of the most advanced and innovative printers on the market. Great value and really high quality and precise prints, thanks to the 0.3mm nozzle.

 

Whilst we lost out on build volume and reliability (despite our score of 8.5), we scored highly on print quality, ease of use and over all value for money!

ScreenHunter_72 Nov. 26 11.20

You can check out the Robox in the guide here and find us on 3D hubs here.

100% of the current Robox owners questioned said they would recommend the Robox to a friend. Well if you do this right now, and they buy a Robox, you’ll be able to snag yourself some free filament!

To claim your filament – Get the serial number and details of the place and date of purchase from your friends new Robox, send it along with your own serial number to us using the contact form. Please copy this information into the message section of the form and complete the missing fields:

Name:

Email:
Phone:
Postal address:
My Robox serial number:
Friends Robox serial number:
Friends place of purchase:
Friends date of purchase:

Please note that we may stop or alter this offer at any time without notice. This offer will only apply to Robox units purchased from Sept 8 2015 onward from official Robox sellers. Vouchers may only be used as described and will need to be used within 14 days of receipt. Other offers will not be valid in conjunction with this offer. We reserve the right to limit the number of vouchers in any way. No compensation is offered or implied for unused vouchers or any other event surrounding this offer.

So what are you waiting for? Get recommending and get 3Dhubbing!!

3D PRINTER GUIDE – SHOULD I BUY ONE?

By | Stuff and Things | No Comments

Thinking of buying a Robox, or another 3D printer, but not sure if you really need one? Then read our guide to help you make your decision.

Here at Robox we are the first to acknowledge that 3D printing is not for everyone, and unlike many other manufacturers of this exciting new technology, we’ll also be the first to dissuade you from buying our printer if we don’t think it’s for you.

A year ago we may have said differently, but a year on from the launch of the Robox 3D printer and we’re a little wiser about our customer base and who will and won’t benefit from owning a 3D printer right now.

Our conclusion is that while 3D printing IS making its way gradually towards the masses it’s still a long way off – and while the Robox printer is closer to being suitable for mainstream consumers than any other on the market we’ve still some way to go.

Don’t actually know what 3D printing is?

Then buying a 3D printer definitely isn’t for you. Don’t buy a 3D printer because it’s the latest must-have gadget and you want to see what the hype is all about, because hype soon wears off and you’ll be stuck with a purchase you never really wanted to make.

ColorFabb_XT_tinkerplay_dino_front-copyAre you a dinosaur when it comes to technology?

Do you still own an old Nokia 3210 mobile phone, and dismiss the latest smart phones as a fad? Do you feel the kitchen calendar is a more reliable way of tracking the family’s movements than the home computer? And do you long for the days when watching television meant tuning into four simple channels and to record the latest episode of Corrie you simply popped a video cassette into the VCR? In that case, we’d suggest moving forwards with some of the other technology in your house before investing your hard earned cash into one of the newest technologies currently on the market.

If your computer crashes are you more likely to opt for ‘impact technology’ (beating the cr*p out of it), phone your dad in a panic (because you literally have no idea what you are doing), or take it back to the shop (because it’s a pile of cr*p obviously)?

If you fit any of these descriptions DO NOT buy a 3D printer. We want our purchasers to be lovers of technology, and not go into a meltdown at the slightest hiccup. Remember, 3D printing is a NEW technology, every single machine on the market fails at printing sometimes and finding a fix can be part of the enjoyment. If your computer crashes and you a) try to sort it out yourself by reading the instructions or b) phone customer service for help, you might just be ready to buy some new tech.

When you have some spare time on your hands are you more likely to gravitate towards the pub with your mates, the arts and crafts cupboard with your kids or the sofa with your partner?

3D printing is perfect for anyone who loves to use their hands, and who gets pleasure out of model making, designing, painting, drawing, sculpting and so on. If you’re the sort of person who loves nothing more than welding together bits of scrap or sifting through the recycling bin for plastic bottles and cardboard boxes for the kid’s latest homework project, 3D printing is likely to be right up your street. What’s more, the children will probably understand and want to use the tech quicker than you!

Are you familiar with the terms ‘filament’, ‘support material’, ‘raft’ and ‘guide hole’?

Think a ‘raft’ is something you float in and a guide hole is where Girl Scouts hide? Then perhaps you’re not quite ready to enter the world of 3D printing. However, if you’re genuinely interested in the technology, and you’re not willing to let a few confusing words put you off, you’ll learn fast if you read the instructions which come with your unit. You might also benefit from reading a handy glossary such as the CEL glossary of terms or http://3dprintingindustry.com/3d-printing-basics-free-beginners-guide/glossary/

Exploded-Assembly_overlay-for-websiteDo you worry you’ll have no idea what to print?

Well, this doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy a 3D printer.   Look around your home right now, if, in the next 10 minutes you can identify more than 10 things you think you could print, you might just be the perfect 3D printer owner. And if you’re still at a loss (what about those door handles, coat hooks, cup holders, pen pots, cookie cutters?) why don’t you try looking at an online repository such as www.MyMiniFactory.com which has tried and tested objects suitable for printing and free to download! Or visit our own Printables page.

If you’ve read through the above, and you’re sure you still want a 3D printer for your home, here’s our final tip:

DO YOUR RESEARCH –

£999 is a lot of money right? It’s not an impulse buy, it’s a considered purchase, so don’t buy any 3D printer on a whim. Do your homework, work out what you want, read guides such as https://www.3dhubs.com/trends which compares over 20,000 printers over 150 countries each month (Robox comes 6th this month in case you’re wondering).

And then if you’re still not sure, or have any questions about the Robox 3D printer in particular, contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

TOP 10 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

By | Design, Robox User Blog, Stuff and Things | One Comment
  1. Can I design things in AutoMaker ?

AutoMaker is our software for controlling the robox hardware; it allows you to send your design to the printer and set any parameters you need to get your design made. You can change the size, quality and strength of the print you’re about to start but currently you can’t design an object from scratch.  AutoMaker in also integrated with the world’s largest library of proven 3D printable designs – ‘My Mini Factory’.  You can download and place some of the millions of objects contained in the library and even customize some of them before printing in the material and colour of your choice.

  1. What will I print ?

Anything you want or desire!! I know, this doesn’t really help when you’ve been given a space age box of tricks. We would suggest browsing one of the online libraries to see what kind of things other people are printing – this can give you inspiration about how you can use your 3D printer to fix problems around the home, make toys, fashion items, decorations, replacement parts and so much more… 3D printed parts can be practical or just plain fun, the material is cheap so don’t be scared to have a play and print something just for fun.

  1. Where do I download things to print ?

There are lots of online libraries of parts to download and print, some these can be customized before you download them and all can be tweaked when you’ve got them. Our favourite repository is ‘My Mini Factory’ because they print all the items before uploading to make sure they are printable.  Not all libraries do this so there will be some downloads which aren’t specifically designed for 3D printing.

  1. What setup is required out of the box ?

To get 3D printing with Robox all you need to do is install the AutoMaker Software, unpack and connect the Robox to your PC and install the filament. Everything else will be done by the hardware itself. (a short video here)

  1. What ongoing maintenance is required ?

For normal users there is no maintenance other than keeping the Robox clean and tidy. For heavy users we include some high temperature oil that should be applied to the Y and X rails if the Robox makes an unusual noise while moving.

  1. How much does it cost to print ?

There is nearly no wastage when using Robox,  apart from a very small purge before a print, when swapping types of material and if you elected to use support material to make difficult shape objects. Cost is dependent on the type of material the Robox is consuming but typically it costs around £0.042 per gram and the cost of an object can be measured by the weight of material used. For example, a print case may use 18g of material so its cost to make is 18 x £0.042 = £0.77. The cost of electricity is less than a light bulb so even long prints will be extremely low cost. (all the different types of filament)

  1. Why do I need a 3D printer ?

If you are someone who enjoys making things rather than buying stock items, or if you want to find a solution for something you really need, 3D printing is for you. With a 3D printer you can easily realize all the designs you’ve been storing in your mind. Unlike all other skilled ways of making objects because the design is created on a computer using computer Aided Design(CAD) software you can improve your design every time you make it.  And unlike any other process, there are no additional costs involved so you can change and improve designs as many times as you want.

  1. What can a 3D printer make ?

You will often hear that “3D printers can make anything!!” and this is true, but the easiest things to print are those that have been designed for the process. Like any manufacturing technique the thing you want to make has to be designed in such a way as to take advantage of the process. There are things that 3D printers can make that some other manufacturing processes find impossible and there are aspects of designs that 3D printing struggles to do, with this in mind it’s important to understand the process so your designs aren’t restricted by your tools.  But to give some tangible examples of what desktop 3D printers can make, you could print door hinges and knobs, cutlery and cake cutters, pen pots and school homework accessories, bespoke decorative items for the house, gifts for loved one, the list is endless.

  1. What if the thing I want doesn’t fit onto Robox’s bed ?

You will be surprised what will fit into a Robox.  And most things around the house can fit into the palm of your hand, and will therefore fit onto the Robox bed.  A good way to find out what you can print inside a Robox is to make a cardboard box with the internal dimensions of 210 x 150 x 100mm.  Place any object you imagine you’d like to print into the box and you’ll discover that most things will fit.  If you do find something that won’t fit it’s very easy to cut the model into several parts and print each part next to each other or in separate jobs. Free software such as Microsoft Builder can easily cut up your models. We are soon going to include this function into our AutoMaker Software.

  1. Why isn’t it sticking to the bed ?

Prints that don’t stick to the bed are the most common reasons for failed prints. Even though we have a revolutionary ThermoSurface to remove the need for any preparation, if the head height isn’t calibrated correctly the type of bed surface can’t help. There are a few steps you can take to make sure your prints stick; use the supplied wipes to remove any finger prints or debris from the bed; ensure you head is calibrated; and the filament you are using is kept dry and in the sealed bag when not being used. If you still have trouble with first layer adhesion there are software options to increase the contact area of your part with the bed.  Brim, raft and support will add material to the first layer and thus improve adhesion. (more info. here)

Not the right order I’d say, but they are definitely the questions I get asked a lot…

MODIFI3D

By | Stuff and Things | No Comments

Check out the excellent new Kickstarter campaign from Robox customer Steelmans3D – it’s a low-cost finishing/repair solution for your 3D prints. He’s already making excellent progress having doubled his target, but we think it’s a great idea at a great price so be sure to take a look!

You can visit his website here for 3D printing bureau services, or check out his Kickstarter campaign here.