Jun 27, 2017

My First Impressions With Using ViaCAD

I had some time to play around with ViaCAD and it looks really interesting. I've downloaded the 14-day trial version and used a few simple daily tasks to see how it performs.

First steps in the program interface are very easy and you are greeted with a simple video tutorial on how to create a 3D goblet from 2D drawing in 60 seconds:

From the beginning, I wanted to focus on 3D printing tools which are a part of this CADs features.

The toolbar with 3D Printing tools can be activated in the "Window" menu.

The interface is fast and fluid.

You can define your printer settings from a list of the pre-defined machine or set it manually:

To see how other functions work, I imported the Voronoi "Broken benchy" by T-E-C from Thingiverse. It is a more complicated and harder version of the standard Benchy.

You can check the printability of your model with "3D Print Check" tool. Here is the output screen with some of the errors found, with several being my mistakes of not properly aligning the object or setting the parameters correctly (like print volume).
Very useful!

"Surface normals" tool shows, you guessed it, surface normals :-)

There are tools to show overhangs and wall thickness.

"Slices" tools will show animated slices base on several parameters, they can be saved into several formats. This is not a slicer which generates g-code for printing.

"Support structures" tool enables you to create support pieces and attach them with a mouse click.

With the "Position" tool you can place the object anywhere in selected print volume coordinate manually or with the automatic positions like "Center".

These basic tools were easy to use at this level, time will show how they perform in everyday work during a longer period. For now, I'm satisfied with this CAD software and will continue to us it.

You can get ViaCAD here and test it yourself and download a trial version from PunchCAD homepage:

There are additional 3D Printing "power packs" for ViaCAD with 70+ 3d printing tools, you can see them here:

Punch! PowerPack v10

Here is a video demo:

Maybe I'll get them also in the future. The pack seems to have many tools in one place instead of using multiple apps and sites.

In next post, I'll describe some of my experiences with actual design and learning curve.

Large Arcs Made with TrussFab 3D Printed Hubs

To learn more about TrussFab go to:

Jun 24, 2017

Printrbot Printrbelt

Printrbot just teased their Printrbelt 3D printer with the heated conveyor belt print surface or "Infinite Z" as they described it.  The belt is a steel belt covered in Kapton with adjustable bed height and tension.
It is a direct competitor to BlackBelt 3D printer (which has a bigger print surface) and knowing Printrbot, it should be low cost and open source.

Brook responded in a Tweet:
Yes, Printrbelt will be open source & affordable. I'll do larger sizes. Already have bits designed for 12"x12" window, but this first.
So we can expect larger models in the future.

Short teaser:

More detailed presentation by Brook:

Brook writes:
The Printrbot Printrbelt allows for very long prints, multiple copies of one print, or a whole project of files to be printed in one shot. It is a beta, but too fun to keep to ourselves.
We are working with Polar3D, who has already hacked a printer like this onto an existing printer frame. They are working on the firmware magic in a cloud service to make this mind-bending twist on 3d printing easy for anyone. This will be a neat partnership that takes an important step forward in desktop manufacturing.
Stay tuned for more on this wild 3d printer that brings a new superpower to your desktop at an affordable price.

Looks like we will see much more conveyor belt 3d printers coming up! Competition is great.

Update (02.07.2017.):

Here are videos of Printrbelt working.

Jun 20, 2017

Maslow $350 Open Source CNC Cutting Machine

Maslow CNC is a novel approach to the cutting of large material sheets. It is a hanging or suspended CNC router.
It is open sourced and it comes at $350 price point.

Tech specs:
  • Work Space: 4' X 8' 
  • Encoder Resolution: 8148 steps/rev
  • Repeatability: +- 1/64th inch (.4 mm) or better
  • Max feed rate 48 inches/minute
  • AC Voltage: 110-250 volts
  • DC Voltage: 12 volts
  • Connection: USB
  • OS for Software: Mac, Windows, Linux
  • Size: H: 6' 8" W: 10' D: 1' 7"

Here is the design overview:

Video showing Maslow cutting out an OpenDesk chair:

On Tested show:

Maslow CNC homepage:

Jun 19, 2017

Desktop Metal 3D Printing with Microwave Enhanced Sintering

Here is another revolutionary step forward in 3D printing: the desktop metal 3d printer. It deposits metal "paste" made from metal powder with a polymer binder in a similar way as any common FDM machine and the parts are then sintered in a microwave enhanced furnace chamber.
The price is comparable to higher-end professional FDM machine from a few years ago. They also sell production cell that has much higher capacity for more demanding production facilities.

Tech specs:

  •  Build volume: 12 in x 8 in x 8 in (305 mm x 205 mm x 205 mm)
  •  Materials:  Steel, Titanium, Aluminum, Copper and other undisclosed materials
  •  Layer height: 50 μm (minimum)
  •  Dimensions: 60 in x 49 in x 30 in (1500 mm x 1250 mm x 750 mm)
  •  Technology: Microwave Enhanced Sintering
  •  Price: $120,000 for the desktop version, $250,000+ for manufacturing cell production system

Desktop Metal presentation video:

Here is a much more in-depth video by GoEngineer with many details about the machines, materials, and the process:

Company homepage:

Jun 18, 2017

New DIY CO2 Laser Cutter Project

Here is a new DIY CO2 laser cutter project from Instructables. It was developed by Michiel Deschout and uses relatively available materials and parts like 3030 aluminum T-slot profiles, Arduino and some 3d printed parts. The total cost was some 1900 Euro.
The presented setup uses 40W laser, but the power could probably be increased.

Very detailed step-by-step build guide with all the files can be found at:

Here is the back side with 3d printed holders for the CO2 laser tube:

The latest fashion trend for all you 3d printing geeks

If you are into 3d printing then this is THE style of jacket you should wear!

Detailed project description:

This jacket has 40 neopixels sewn to the back to display the status of the 40 3D Printers in Duke’s Innovation Co-Lab Studio. Each light corresponds to one printer and is either blue (in use), green (available), or red (offline) to show the real-time status of the printer. The printer status is retrieved via Duke’s Innovation Co-Lab’s 3D printer status API, documented here:

Instructables page with all the steps and code:

3D Printable Parametric Slew Bearings

Christoph Laimer published  another very useful project. He developed a fully 3D printable and working parametric slew bearings. Since they are developed to be sturdy they can be used in many different project where a simpler 3D printed ball bearing would fail.
Since the design is parametric, you can adapt it to fit your needs. One version even has conical bearings.

Project description:
Ball-bearings are very popular for 3d-printing. However they often fail for real applications. Using Fusion 360 I've created a parametric design of a "Crossed Roller Slew Bearing". The result is a pretty accurate and robust bearing. The bearing including the rollers is 3d-printed in separate parts. There are a few screws needed to clamp the two halves of the inner race together.

Here is the full video:

Thingiverse page:

A360 download page:

THERO project

THERO is a privacy project developed by Román Torre and Ángeles Angulo, that uses a Raspberry Pi with TOR routing. By moving the front panel you change your connection to the external Internet and your privacy.
It uses 3d printing to make the full enclosure and mold for the concrete encased version.

Here are two videos showing how the project was developed:


Project homepage (in Spanish):

Jun 11, 2017

PrusaControl - a new software interface from Prusa3D

Prusa released a new software aimed at beginners: the PrusaControl, which is a simplified interface for Slic3r Prusa Edition.

Here is the description from the news release:
PrusaControl is an alternative user interface for Slic3r Prusa Edition.
Slic3r Prusa Edition was the first step with a great success and we are extremely proud when people mention they switched back from S3D. But Slic3r has one problem, it is rather complex and intimidating for new users. We cannot do much about this, it is its nature. And that is why PrusaControl was born. It is parallel to Slic3r PE for newcomers to 3D printing, we distil the settings down for the user and put our knowledge to the backend to get the same results. The main goal is to open an object and hit print. PrusaControl is simple, novice friendly and smart.

PrusaControl home page:

Source news article:

Jun 5, 2017

Formlabs Fuse 1 Desktop SLS 3D Printer

Formlabs just released their Fuse 1 3D printer which is a desktop selective laser sintering machine priced at 9,999 USD. It has a 165 x 165 x 320 mm build volume and uses nylon powder.

This is a small revolution on the market and a big step forward in 3D printing availability and affordability!!! Laser sintering machines used to cost in hundreds of thousands and were very large. This will push the competition to respond and lower the prices even more in the future.

Fuse 1 introduction video:

Here is a different promotional "The Human Touch" video:

Fuse 1 homepage:

Here you can see the Fuse 1 size on a table next to a Form 2 SLA machine:

I wonder what will the price of the powder material be? Will it be recyclable and reusable? Will it come in proprietary cartridges with chip control unit?



Here is a much more detailed review by Tested. It shows how the Fuse 1 works and accompanying equipment like recovery station and material mixer. The material is recyclable and the mix of new and used material is determined by the user to get different print qualities.
The material is gray to absorb more energy from 10 watts fiber laser.

ViaCAD by Punch!CAD

I'm always on a search for the new and interesting software tools and when I received a tweet from Punch!CAD about their ViaCAD product I decided to take a look.

ViaCAD looks like an easy to use CAD that has an acceptable learning curve and feature set. You can start from the easy models and move into more complex stuff as you learn. Since it has support for many file formats I was able to open and edit things from various sources. The community behind it and support/tutorials available helped me find answers quickly.

The price seems very affordable and there are no additional fees or vendor lock-in features. It runs both on Windows and Mac machines.

ViaCAD has some powerful 3D printing features and tools:

  • 3D Print Check: This tool checks a part for print viability, displaying warnings or errors to the user.
  • Surface Normals Check: Facet normals define the inside and outside areas of a part. If facet normals are pointing the wrong way, the 3D printer may have problems creating the part. If you have a normals issue, there are several commands that can help you fix this problem.
  • Overhang Analysis: The Overhang Analysis tool provides a means to visually inspect modeling areas that may require structural support for 3D printing. Meshes, surfaces, and solids facets normals are compared to the work plane direction. Angles that are less or equal to 45 degrees are highlighted as red.
  • Wall Thickness: The Wall Thickness Analysis tool provides a means to visually inspect modeling areas that may be too thin for 3D printing. Meshes, surfaces, and solids facets are examined using ray intersections. 
  • Preview Slices: The Preview Slices tool provides a user interface to slice models given a direction and thickness. The dialog box allows for animation through the slices and single stepping. One use of the Preview Slice tool is to verify a part has closed, non-overlapping sections, a requirement for 3D printing. The Save Slices option provides several options to save slices to DXF, STL or adds the results directly into your drawing.
  • Auto Position: The Auto Position tool translates the model to the positive x, y coordinate system at z=0.
  • Support Structure: Manually adds geometry to support material as it is created by the 3D printer. Support structures controls, include Attach Radius, Midpoint Radius, Base Radius, Base Thickness and Drag base and midpoints to modify structure location.
  • Show Printer Volume: Toggles the boundary of the default 3D Printer. The volume is defined within the Printer Definitions dialog box.
  • Printer Definitions: Sets key parameters of the 3D printer, including length, width, and height of the volume accessible by the printer. The parameters in the Printer Definitions dialog box are used for commands such as 3D Print Check and Auto Position.

Here is the ViaCAD presentation video:

For much more information go and check out the company website:

In the future, I'm going to explore ViaCAd further and see if it can bring a CAD noob like myself on to the next skill level.

Jun 4, 2017

Aluminum Profiles DIY 3D Printer by Thomas Workshop

I always like to see new 3D printer designs and builds by different people. Recently I found this larger volume (40cm3) machine by "Thomas Workshop" on Instructables. It is fully made from common aluminum profiles and Thomas did put some effort to document and present his work process.
Test prints look good and the frame seems sturdy.

Here is the final video from three part series showing electronics and printing:

Here is the detailed step-by-step build guide with videos, documentation, and picture construction log:

Make a DIY Waterjet Cutter From a Cheap Pressure Cleaner

In my youth, I used to work at a local car wash place. If you traveled trough Balkans you probably saw many of them, and they all use handheld pressure washers. When I saw this video it reminded me of that time and I thought you guys would enjoy and find something useful in this project.

Ben Krasnow used a very cheap pressure washer and attached a DIY abrasive sand container combined with AccuStream professional cutter head to make a low-cost DIY waterjet cutter.
It can cut thin aluminum, wood, and plastics. it looks like the cuts are very precise and controllable. In water only mode it cuts trough soft materials like foam.

Here is the full video with all the details.

Next step would probably be to mount this cutter on a CNC gantry and turn it into a fully computer controlled machine.
Since there are much more powerful pressure washers, like the Karchers I used, this could be made into a more capable device.
With right settings, it could potentially cut plastic 3d printed parts or use it as a sand blasting device for surface finishing.

Applied Science YouTube channel:

Ben's blog:

Jun 3, 2017

Steam Powered 3D Printed Mechanical Computer

Here is something you don't see every day: a steam-powered mechanical computer with nylon 3d printed parts.
It is a version of a Babbage Engine from the 19th century.

Project description:
A simplified version of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine no. 2 has been constructed by Piers Plummer as part of a project with the Computer Science Department at Royal Holloway University of London, funded by The Leverhulme Foundation. In this video, it is performing calculations while being powered by steam!

I just love the looks of it, with all the pipes, valves, and a steam boiler! Even a hand crank!