This week, Riley Hall of Fictiv joins the podcast to discuss how Fictiv connects engineers and designers to job and machining shops.
Our guest this week is Scott Hansen, Founder of Retro-Brite which restores yellowed plastics by reversing the chromophores degradation.
Are the founders of electrical engineering lizard people or is big electricity have a dark secret that they don't want you to know about? Tune in!
3d Printing – Is It Time To Get Into It?
Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.
In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.
In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.
Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.
Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!
Welcome to the macro fab engineering podcast, a weekly show about all things like tronics engineering, DIY projects, manufacturing, industry news and 3d printing. Where are your host, electrical engineers, Parker,
Dolman and Steven Craig.
This is episode 313. Lucky 13.
So we're going to be talking about 3d printing today. And kind of a little bit further into, is it time for me to get into it? Is it time for me to actually get a 3d printer? Just the other day I texted Parker, sort of out of the blue. No, not sort of it was completely out of the blue completely,
because you've so we'll back up the clock a little bit more about this is Stephen has historically been against hobby 3d printers.
Let me let me amend that against his not the right word. It's just I haven't had a purpose or a use for them myself. Like I'm not against other people using the machine. Cool. Yeah. Yeah,
that's that's the wrong word. I would say you haven't been impressed. Got there.
That's that's good. Yeah, that's right. impressed enough for me to spend money to get one. Let's put it
that way. Yes, yeah.
So out of the blue, I texted Parker the other day. And I was like, if I had, say, 400 $500, could I get something decent? Could I get a 3d printer that could actually like that? I shouldn't even say that, because $100 printer will actually work. But today, I want to explore with a budget in that range, could I get something that would meet some requirements that I'm looking for I so we can kind of go over those requirements and figure out a little bit further. Is this something that would be looking into?
Yeah, and I responded with the normal thing we do on this podcast with? It depends, of course, right? And the first question is, what do you want to do with this printer, because that dictates everything about what tool you buy?
Well, and here's the thing. So just a moment ago, we were saying like, I haven't been necessarily impressed or impressed enough to build anything with a 3d printer, or to purchase a 3d printer. Until recently, Parker, just not that long ago, Parker has been doing some things where I'm like, okay, that's really cool. Okay, that looks good. Okay, that seems like something that like I could get on board with. And that would be really useful, or something that, you know, if I were to print something, and then utilize it in a prototype, people aren't going to immediately point out and be like, That's not part of the prototype, right? Or, like, that's not going to be in production, right? Like I those are the kinds of things that make me avoid 3d printing is like it, everything kind of looks homemade. And not great. To the point where, like, if I'm going to make something 3d printed, I want it to not be the focus, because it doesn't look good. I've just been in that situation too many times, that whenever I whenever I show people prototypes now, like I won't show people, something that isn't really close to looking like the final project product, because I hate the conversation of like, always having to hedge things and be like, Well, don't don't pay attention to this thing. Or don't look at this thing that's not ready yet. And I feel like 3d printing. Although it is, like, amazing what can be done, it doesn't meet that threshold yet. Or at least it hadn't in my mind. And then I started seeing some of the prints that Parker has been doing more recently. I'm like, Okay, we're getting there. And I want to back up and see like, I don't want to sound elitist or anything in it at all in this way. Like I'm not crapping on 3d printing. I'm just saying like, those are those are criterias that matter to me is having something look good enough that I can show it to someone and they don't immediately crap on
it. You can spoof a production part.
Exactly, exactly. And I feel like some of the stuff that park has been doing more recently has been really close, if not exactly that. So that's what started getting me thinking like, okay, would would now be a good time for me to get a 3d printer? And to start thinking of different approaches to how does how it could design because like, I haven't even considered 3d printing as an option in my designs, or even even prototype stuff. But if I had one available now I could start thinking of like the, the ways that 3d printing allows you to do things that other forms of manufacturing don't.
Exactly, it's a another tool in your toolbox. Example you'd design and prototype and build things well, and
I think manufacturing is changing. And I want to be able go along with that I want to have the knowledge of 3d printing in case, say, if I work at another job, and they are more into 3d printing, I'd love to have that skill set. And the skill set needed in there, in my opinion, is just like the ability for your mind to consider options that are only available to 3d printing, because right now, whenever I design things, I design things with CNC in mind, or just whatever my circuit boards can do. Or if I need to, you know, farm out to a fab shop, sheet metal stuff, I think of, I think of those as my options. But, you know, I'd love to be able to open that as a as just a new tool in the toolkit, you know,
exactly. I mean, that's, that's why I ended up getting one was to add that to my toolbox of ways to design and build things. And it does, it's like the same thing is, I think we've said it on the previous podcast, we're talking about welding. And once you learn how to weld, like, like MIG welding, it just opens up how you look at projects, instead of having to fasten with bolts, everything together, like a frame structure. Now, you can effectively hot glue it together with steel.
Well, actually, I think a great example is look at the past probably two or three years of the projects that both Parker and I have done, I have had for years access to really nice CNC machines. So I utilize them a lot, but I don't think you have had as much, no, I mean, you've had access to them. But for me, they're basically free to use. So I utilize them a lot, whereas you don't utilize them as much. And so that that really impacts my choices as to what I do. And one of the big things that I'm thinking about with 3d printing is at home, a lot of the projects, virtually all the projects I do are one offs. So it would be really great to have a machine that is easy to utilize to create one off things that can be implemented into the designs. And I have a lot of projects lying around. So So yeah, that was one of the one of the things I was thinking about one particular project and I've resurrected from the grave, I've always had an idea for doing some wire harnesses that could be 3d printed, that hold wires in particular ways. And I think that's a perfect example of where 3d printing goes is exactly, like what it could be used for. Especially given that I'm never going to build another one of these, it's going to be one thing and it's from for me only, and I would love to hold the wires in a particular way. And I could probably make something out of aluminum, I could probably even make something out of wood, like very, you know, simple if I wanted to, or I could design something directly into the product or the sorry, the the project was using a 3d printer and that would probably be the easiest actually. So that's sort of what what kicked this off in my mind where it's like, okay, I'm not itching to spend the money. But if I had the money, like what what could what could we start looking at here?
So since that your budget is 400 to $600 Yeah, summary basically looking at two technologies that you have access to, you get what's called FDM or fused deposition modeling or Yeah, which is basically that's your materials to solid. Yeah your your your material is on a roll of almost like looks like wire and it gets heated up in a nozzle and extruded out and then it cools back down in whatever shape the machine is moving in. And in whatever tool path is moving in. And then you have SLA and this is like LCD based SLAs which are UV based and use a basically a curing resin and you expose each layer as an image across an LCD and it cures each layer and then that's how it builds your your model up. You that's basically the two that you get in that price range. And they both are. It's amazing what you can do in that price range. It's amazing what you can do with each one of those, but they do completely different things in that price range. Yeah, right. And especially when you were talking about you want to get as you want to get 90% to a production looking part in my eye so I have I have both of them I have an FDM and a SLA resin printer and most So the prints I think you are impressed with, come off the SLA printer, because they do. If you I think I don't remember where I said this, but if you on your design, this is a tip for everyone out there. If you're on your design, if you just add a little bit of like a draft angle to everything, so not everything's 90 degrees, but like, make think about it as it was coming out of an injection molding machine. So you add a little draft angle, and for some reason, it makes it look more professional. I don't know why. It just does. And I'm not the only one that thinks this. I think we said this couple of years ago, and I think it was Derek in chat said that, that they did that same thing. And it was just like half of their project, maybe one degree. Yeah, just a little bit. And it just for some reason your eyes do subconsciously pick it up. And for some reason, it just it tricks your brain a bit. That's part of it. But FDM is always going to have layers because of how you're laying down a, a circular material down, because it comes out as a thing about toothpaste, right, you kind of see when you bring it out into a layer you're squeezing up. So when the toothpaste is on, it makes a round shape when you extrude it out on the surface. And so when you put two cylinders on top of each other, you have a ridge there. And it's not really there's some technologies get around that like you can use some post processing smoothing, which is like, if you're using like ABS plastic, you can do like a vapor bath and acetone. And that will basically smoothie outside of it. Now it smells outside, right? Yeah, you're melting the outside together. Now you lose dimensionally accuracy, you lose some accuracy there and precision with your part. But it's mainly used for like sculptures and that.
And I'll also make some kind of glossy, right or does it depend on the base materials on the
material. But yes, it will make it glossy sometimes. Now, the great thing about FDM is this is why I still have my printer is you get you can get a lot of bed space. And for not a lot of money, and the variety of materials. And your prints are going to be stronger out of FDM first an SLA at least a hobby SLA because I've never used a high end SLA printer that uses some use lasers to fuse everything together. Some use different wavelengths of light, stuff like that. But an FDM printer on a hobby level, like I print in polycarbonate. That's actually all I print on my printer. I don't print PLA I don't print abs, I just print polycarbonate because I am printing brackets, functional prints that kind of stuff on it. And I'm not printing Christmas ornaments, for example.
Which, you know, I have to admit, like if you go search, 3d printing on whatever, Google YouTube, whatever, yeah, I feel like I feel like a disservice is done to how amazing 3d printing is. Because what it does is it what you what you the results you get seem to just be a bunch of people printing a bunch of toys. Like it's almost everyone printing like action figures, or like anime figures, or like Max or something. And don't get me wrong. I love that. That's freaking cool. But you're not selling the thing as like a practical device. You're selling it as a toy maker. And I think that does it a disservice. Because, you know, if I had a 3d printer, I probably would print something like that because it's cool, but that would not be its purpose.
Yeah, a lot of people get into it because of that. They want to be custom models, like I made a Starfox our wing that you can't buy in our wing model. So I printed one you do get a lot of people getting into it that way, which is fine. I just don't think I got into 3d printing not because of that I needed to build custom bracketry and designs and housings and stuff like that. That's exactly what I'm looking for. Yeah, and so FDM is honestly really good for that except that it won't, it will never look like a non FDM printed part right unless you do a lot of post processing like filler and, and sanding. So I don't like you can try reducing layer height, which is the Z, Z hop, basically, in between each layer, you're still going to get those lines, there's honestly not a lot of way to get around that. In chat, they're mentioning TPU, which is like a really flexible filaments. And that's actually what I want to try doing next. Because TPU has a really high temperature melting point, which my polycarbonate machine has a really high melting point to you, I'm probably actually just gonna get another one of these and set it up the same way as my polycarbonate machine. That's one thing that if you switch materials a lot, it can be annoying, because you got to purge the the filament head and tweak a bunch of settings. I honestly set my printer up and dialed it in and just, it's done. Like, it prints the material, I like, never, never going to change it. So I'd rather get a another printer actually, just the front TPU. That's just how I view it as a tool. It is not my hobby. To have a 3d printer. Some people treat 3d printers as a hobby, because they'd like to experiment with different materials. They like optimizing every parameter about it. Which is awesome, because I can go look at their stuff and like get the best ideas. But I treat mine like a tool. I honestly I also have it set up on a print server using octopi. So like, I honestly don't have to get out of my chair. I just like, tell it to turn on and I send the G code like wirelessly to it and it starts printing. It's pretty awesome. But yes, FDM you're never gonna get to your quality like that. A long time ago, I printed that 45 degree microphone bracket for you. Yeah, that is. Honestly, that looks amazing out of FTM printer, it looks like a really good part. That is what you want to get out of FTM printer at best. That's point two millimeter layer height, right. So a lot of people like to do point one. I think point one just takes forever doesn't look any better than point two and it prints tries to slow. Yeah, now point one, you might do that because you might have some z resolution that you need point one at that point, like you have features that you need that but most of my stuff is it's brackets and that kind of stuff and I'm not doing super complex geometry shapes out of it. Now, my SLA printers are LCD based they're elegoo brand and those have never liked those immediately impressed me one from how honestly setting up the settings. Like I honestly just use the defaults on those printers and they prints the downside is there's a lot less materials that you can use out there. There's like there's like resin and then there's like abs like resin which I haven't tried yet. But I have tried like this super strong materials in quotes. And yes, they are stronger than most of the other resins out there. They are still nowhere as near as strong as like a polycarbonate print off my FDM printer. If you I will want to look up if there's a way to like relax an SLA print because the problem is they're actually really strong in a different way. Whereas like an FDM most plastics will bend and then break and that's the light prints kind of is super rigid and then shatters like super super brittle almost like like like kind of like that naturally occurring glass with like when lightning hits the ground. You get some of those naturally occurring glass where it's super like bubbly and shiny and if it drops it like splinters in a bazillion pieces because it's so under tension. It's like that. I was honestly shocked when I dropped something and that's my first satellite print. I dropped it and it exploded into like 1000 pieces and there was sharp pieces to like it was not a fun thing to clean up. But you don't get layers
so and And what I have experienced in the past with with a few things that I've 3d printed on FDM with layers you have, what is it? I guess, depending on how you apply the stress, like stress against the layers is actually the weakest point on it. Now with with an SLA style, do they have like, directional strength? Or is it like
I haven't formally found there to be any directional strength so far? Got it? Now, there probably is, if you go on YouTube and search for it, that probably is I haven't experienced it.
It Yeah. Shearing against the layers is the weakest point on an FTM. Four FDM. For sure. Yeah. So SLA is different in that sense.
That in my experience, that could be completely wrong, though. Because I've, I haven't, like, empirically tested that, right, right. Now, so that that's, that's, that's where it gets into, it's like, if you're making a knob for like a stomp box, and it's a knob that you're not going to be using in production, but you want it represents what it could be like in production. Honestly, SLA all the way because it will look like an injection molded piece of plastic.
And I think I think like but for like my personal projects, like my pedals that I put there on the floor, I could throw a natural a knob on there indefinitely, and it would be fine. And it would work out fine.
Yeah, probably. Yeah. And honestly, it's not as weak as you would think. It just they break differently. And there are some people that are experimenting with mixing you can this is actually the crazy thing with resin is if it cures at all the same wave links, then you can technically mix stuff together and then tweak set. I haven't even gotten near that yet. But you can like scan some people taking some flexible resin and have mixed it with regular resin to kind of loosen up the print, so to speak, and so it's less susceptible to this shattering effect. I really want to try that just haven't my printers are like non stop printing stuff for work right now. So I haven't even had time to mess with that yet. Okay,
excellent. Let's, let's let's talk about that for a second. Because I wrote out a list of like, I was thinking earlier today, I was like, Okay, if I were to get a 3d printer, what are the things I would get it for, and I came up with a handful of things. And and maybe this will help guide one way or the other. So actually, what's funny is most of these things are actually for my job. But I would love to have the capability for you know, whatever is necessary. So jigs and fixtures like if I design a product at work that could utilize a nice thing where like you've put a PCB in it, and it holds things in place. Well, I sawed her in place, or well, I snapped something else in place, a jig or a fixture for that, that I don't have to mill from a block of aluminum because that's a giant pain in the butt. Something 3d printer would be awesome for that, I think. Now, the other thing was I had mentioned earlier on one of my projects, like wire harnesses things that hold, you know, cabling or things like that. I know I could loom things. But if I had something that looked nice and like held in a particular way, I liked that idea. One other idea I had was, I was actually talking to Parker about this a few weeks ago was it was an air manifold. So if I have like a computer fan, and I want to create a manifold off of it, that that guides and directs some of the flow of air across some heat sinks, something custom like that, I think that would be really cool to 3d print. And then one other thing that is would be really big, for me is testing adjustments to injection molded parts. Like right now I have a part that we've been getting injection molded for a handful of years. And I have some ideas on how to adjust the parts to make it easier when we utilize it in our products. If I could just print some of those ideas, like I want to adjust the some aspect of it. And I'd love to be able to try different angles with without having to physically modify my mold. So doing using a 3d printer to try like, I don't know, five or six different variants of it, pick whichever one works, and then send that off and say like, Hey, make the mold this. I think that would be unbelievably valuable. In fact, just alone. If I could get a 3d printer to just solve that one problem right there, it would be worth $500 Because I would save $500 worth of labor on my team, just from the problem we're having with the what we already have. So like those are the kinds of concepts I'm thinking about. And so like some of those ideas seem really better suited for FDM like a jig or a fixture to hold things because it can be big enough, but it
can be big enough and that's why that's why I use my FDM for
right But testing of small injection molded plastic part ain't ever going to happen on an FDM I'd never get the accuracy or anything. That's SLA. So the question
I think long as the material doesn't matter SLA for that. Well, I
mean, I wouldn't be testing purely dimensional stuff. Yes. Yeah. Then you're fine that actually can Can you print clear things in SLA?
Yeah, that's clear resin. Okay. That would be really useful because I'm just some resin that's like, insanely clear. That'd be cool. Like the only reason why you if you dunk it in water, you only really see it because the fraction is slightly different. Wow. Yeah, it's pretty crazy.
That's nuts. That would that alone would be really helpful right there. For some of the stuff because I'm talking about light pipes. We're making LED light bikes.
So you can totally make custom light pipes. You know, I should try that I should get some that resin then try some custom light pipes out.
Yeah, we get injection molded light pipes, I would love to, I want to chamfer an edge, basically not chamfer. I want to I want to make a portion of it conical. Right now we don't have a conical. So that alone, if I could actually 3d print that clear one, that'd be awesome.
So there's a, there's a divide here is if you're not using it as a structural part. The resin sounds like the good way to go for you. The only problem is in your price range. SLA printers are not as big as FDM is like my FDM is 200 by 200 by 200 millimeters, which is like eight by eight by eight inches roughly. And that's 500 and my Mars three elegoo is I want to say seven by four by eight or nine inches somewhere in that range. It's like a small shoebox stood up right? At really tiny shoebox.
Like kids, you
know, it's a box for one shoe. I was right a shoe box. Yeah. Not shoes box.
Oh, yeah. One shoe. Yeah. So yeah, it's like, it's funny, because like, half of my stuff is one style and half is the other style. And here's the thing, like, if I were to, okay, back to my original thought of like, if I'm putting something on a prototype, and I'm gonna hand it to boss man and say, Hey, this is what I hope to make something look in the future. I would never even think about FDM that would have to be SLA. But if I dreamed up a jig that was, you know, two foot by one foot by an inch thick, you know, you know, obviously, you'd have to print multiple pieces. That would be a nightmare in SLA, right? You'd have to print a zillion pieces and glue them together. And then it looks awful. But yeah. So yeah, I don't know. It's tough. Because like, when you open your mind into saying, okay, here are the things that 3d printing allows for, will it splinters and it gets into? Yeah, like,
it's having the going back to beginning the podcast is you have to have the right tool. You have to Yeah, and that's I started with FDM. I had FDM only for six years. And then and then I finally broke down, get an SLA. And then I was like, now I can do i It's like getting another toolbox now. Because now I could print so many different things.
So here's here's another I have this under my hopes and dreams category, because I just wrote this list as as hopes and dreams. And I have to admit, watching Parker play with his 3d printer. When I was at McAfee, he always had one on his desk, and I even printed a few things on it. And what I mean by I printed them as I handed a model to Parker and he pressed go yeah, when you're
talking actually the one that you're I had was my Monoprice which is my polycarbonate FDM printer now, which was $350 when I bought it, yeah. And then I put a what's called an all metal hot end in it so I could increase temperature. And then I put in a octopi basically a Raspberry Pi and there to control the print server side. And then I've got a flexible metal bed that pops off so I can like snap parts off. I didn't have that when when you were at the fab. That's more of a recent thing. And I would say at the end of the day, probably $600 printer right now. Yeah. If you added up all the parts I put into it and all that good stuff. And yeah, back then I was trying And to figure out how to print polycarbonate out of it. And so I was tweaking the snot out of it. But I haven't honestly, I haven't adjusted it in like three years now.
Well, but okay, so that goes to one of the one of the points I've written down here. One of the things I if I was to buy a 3d printer, a big hope and dream would be that it only requires the initial setup, the initial calibration, and whatever maintenance is necessary. I don't want to have to purchase other crap. I don't want mods, like I've watched Parker go through like 10 different prints of like cooling fans and things that like, oh, yeah, trying to figure out how to make, like, I watched her struggle for years to just try to get it to print something reasonable, and it got there. But I wouldn't spend $500 Just to add a project, you know, I want to spend $500, to have something that prints out of the box. And I understand that's really ridiculous. When you could
No, no, no, no, you're correct. When I got this printer, I wanted to print polycarbonate, right, you had to modify the hell out of it. And so, and in my price range that didn't exist, I don't know about now, if you can buy off the shelf for $600, an FTM printer that can print polycarbonate off the get go you because you need a hot melt, you need something that can print. What is it 270 Celsius. And then you have to have a heated bed that can at least go to 110 and it needs to be enclosed, you have to have an like enclosure around it. Oh, that's the other thing I have like plexiglass sides on it. So like and that's also something you had to purchase. Yes, that's in that $600 I put together there
you see. And I think one of the big reasons why I'm even where I'm at now is because Parker had mentioned that he bought this elegoo Mars, turned it on, it did just print and the prints I saw come off of it were fantastic. Amazing. It's honestly amazing. Yeah. So that's, that's the point where I'm like, Okay, well, so I think I think that's that's sort of guiding my decision towards like, Okay, if I were to buy it, SLA would probably be it because it seems more one to one I buy it works, you know, yeah. Although it's a lay, you also have to buy a washing or you have to have some way to wash it. And then you have to have the station station. So you
have to water wash, you can get away with not having a washing station. Since i i use water wash for most of my prints, because honestly, I'm a little lazy in that regard. But if I need to print a, quote, strong unquote print, you have to wash it with basically 99% isopropyl alcohol at the end. And I have like a well I do is I have I take my ultrasonic cleaner, I put the rubbing alcohol in the jar, put my print in the in the jar, close it up, dunk it and ultrasonic cleaner, let it run for like 10 minutes, take it out and toss it in the cure. Yeah. So that works. Because that's the, that's the downside with SLA compared to FDM is FDM is seriously, like the moment that prints done, I get my like hot glove and I pull the metal off and pop the print off. And I can put the thing back in like the bed back in there and then start the next print. And the print is I can use it right then. Whereas SLA, you have the post, process it with washing and then you have to dry it as well. So I just use my I use my compressor, I just blow all the water off the bore off the apart. And then I put it in the cure because that's the downside to SLA if there is more nasty processing. So and as as craft lab and our Twitch chat says FDA has improved though, just like SLA craft labs, a slave printer is in pieces because it was a pain in the ass get working. Whereas now you can go like I did off Amazon and just buy one it works. Same thing with FDM though you can buy one just works. It depends on what materials and like if all you care about is printing like PLA or ABS. Like you don't need to print polycarbonate, you can. You can buy like something in that price range that will just work for you. And it will just work. Like they have gotten that good. Yeah, I was trying to print polycarbonate on a machine that was never designed to print polycarbonate, so I had to upgrade some stuff. Yeah, honestly, I don't know if $600 I mean gets you a printer that can do what this printer does yet. I don't know where the high temperature printers really start to come in to. Well, let me I'd love to be able to be like, because right now my plan is to buy another Monoprice printer just like this one, and then modify it the same way that print TPU. I'd love to be able to be like, Oh, I can just spend $600 and not have to do all that work. And it just it prints TPU now, that'd be nice.
Yeah, yeah. Well, and maybe I'm asking for too much. And that's the whole purpose of having this conversation.
No, I don't think you're asking for too much. You're looking for the right tool.
Exactly, exactly. I'm looking for the tool that meets the most amount of my requirements. So check this out. Okay. I'm sending Parker link. But anyone can can check this out. If you go to play wood.it PLA y wo od.it. I saw these the other day. They're like 90 degree connectors that allow you to basically bolt together furniture. And they're basically 90 degree fingers that look almost like they're 3d printed, and they have a little allen screw on him. And this was something that I was like, Okay, I have some ideas that I could do in my basement for organization. And I looked at the price of these. And then I was like, what if a 3d printer did something of this sort? Like that seems really fairly simple to print, and, and really reasonable to do. And given the price of just buying these in packs versus printing them. I don't know what that would look like. But my gut feel is 3d printing would be cheaper to do these kinds of things. And that's not my go and say you definitely want to FDM this. Yeah, this would not be an SLA and you'd want to put a insert into the threaded part. 100% Yeah, 100% J press in an insert or design some way that a nut could be in it.
You can do Captain nuts, I would just do a heat threaded like a heat insert. Yeah, that's definitely the easiest way. That's what I always do.
So if I were to go with an SLA, this would not be a good move. You
know, you would probably shatter pretty quickly on that. Okay. Okay.
These are things I didn't know.
Yeah. I would love to try with an SLA printer and also the like the the strong X resin I have, it would be interesting. It just the strength of SLA prints have never impressed me so far. But again, they look really nice. Like I made talked about in podcasts, I made those pin gulps, or that's like the brand name right, I made cupholders for my pinball machines. And I FDM printed one out of polycarbonate and I made one on my resin printer and the resin printer. One looks like it looks like a product. Get on Amazon. Yeah, it looks amazing. Yeah. Now the FDM one is the same model, but it's got lines. And honestly, it does still look really good. I put them on both. I put one on one machine one the other machine both have not broken yet.
So take that for whatever it means.
take that for what drunk people playing pin balls have not broken either one. I don't think the polycarbon one is ever going to break though. Because like, that thing is dense.
Yeah, well. And so you know, these are the these are the kinds of things that I'm weighing, like, I would love to be able to 3d print something of this sort, but maybe it's outside of the realm of one or even both machines.
My printer could definitely, because I'm printing polycarbonate could definitely probably replicate that. Okay, I would say I would be pretty confident that making a part that works for that. Okay, so I know my SLA printers. No, and I would say even you'd be hard if you printed that out of like a Joe Schmo PLA printer. Probably not gonna be strong enough either. Right? Maybe abs? I bet you they are abs. Oh, no. It says high tech reinforced heat resistant plastic, so probably not ABS could be a glass reinforced nylon. Which they do. You can get FDM that is glass reinforced nylon. I just kind of cool.
Just thinking about the process of how that works. That's got to be hell on the nozzle right? Yeah, you get
a so most printers especially in this price range, they come with brass nozzles, and you have to get a steel hardened nozzle
that was about to say yeah, because like hot glass and plastic being shoved. Like that just probably destroys the nozzle.
Oh, yeah, mine, I've got a point four millimeter, which is the standard point four millimeter nozzle diameter. And mine's a hardened steel one. And I do check it every so often. But it seems to be fine. I'm only printing polycarbonate probably cover it doesn't require that kind of nozzle but I was in there doing the, you know, the hot end upgrade anyways, and I was excited to do the hardened steel because it doesn't change really anything I guess you make might be a cooler nozzle, because it's it doesn't transfer the heat as well as like braeswood doesn't seem to matter though. You can calibrate that out?
Well, speaking of calibration, that was the next thing I wanted to talk about what is needed on both FDM and SLA for calibration and how often do you need to calibrate
Alright, so this is just my experience once so on my FDM printer, I have an auto bed leveler, I have a BL touch, basically it goes around and it's like you know CNC machine where it goes around and profiles, the finds the edges, profiles the surface, that's another thought I had to purchase for it. Yes, that is also in that $600. I quoted how much I've spent on this printer. And so what it does is it goes around and probes the entire surface and figures out how flat in quotes it is. And so you can adjust and it lays that map out on the z axis so that when it drives over, it always keeps the same distance between it and the nozzle and the surface. You could do it the other way, which is like you have to basically zero it out every single time and like adjust it with springs. And you can adjust it with springs and little knobs. That's how I used to do it. When you saw me do that. Whenever I would set up a print, I had to get a piece of paper and like slide it underneath the nozzle all the corners and make sure it was level. I got rid of all the springs and just have aluminum spacers and just crank them down and Loctite did. And so all it does is it uses the touch probe to calibrate it the Z offset. Now you also have to calibrate like the X Y driving like how many steps is a millimeter for example. But once you set that it's good to go. You never really have to change that ever again. So I haven't calibrated like a calibration for my FTM printer in I want to say three years. At this point. Like I even put a new bed on it. My new Flexi bed, like metal spring bread. I didn't even calibrate after that. I just let it run. It was fine. So yeah, you can tweak it, I basically doubt I basically printed cubes calibration cubes and basically went, Okay, I designed a 20 by 20 by 20 millimeter cube, it printed a 20 by 20 by 20 million v cube. I'm good. I guess if you ran it a lot, you can get belt stretch, that kind of stuff. But you should probably just replace the belt at that point. That's the late printer. I, what kind of calibration would there. So there's Okay, so there is one. And it's basically the Z offset. It's almost the same thing. The big one is the Z offset. And as a calibration routine where you basically at least on these printers is you have a piece of paper down, it goes down touches it, I guess has some kind of like torque sensor on the motor because it knows it touched it. When you tighten the head up, do it again. And then take the paper out and you put your resin that in there. And you can when I first started I was zeroing it out between each print. I stopped doing that. And it's been fine. I basically set it up. I zeroed it once and it's been fine. Like I will take it off, take the prints off and put the head back on and tighten it and it seems to be fine it back to the same place. Yeah, I think you could have issues where like, if you if you if you drop the head, you could probably mess up its calibration between the mount and the trans get pivots. Yeah, you can mess up the trim and then your bed would crash into your LCD panel and probably break it. But as long as you don't drop it, I don't see any reason why like it just keeps working. Yes, there's also calibration in this same thing with FDM those calibration materials. So once you change them because each printer is different, like you can get, you get a starter list of values, and you have to slightly tweak based on your, it's like your CNC machine like they tell you a value and you go, well, that works. But it's slightly better if you do it this this one parameter this way, that's where you get at. But honestly, with SLA printer, since I'm using off shelf resins that are like the same manufacturer as the printer. I just use their defaults and it works fine. haven't had any problems with it yet. Yeah, calibration is as deep of a hole as you want to go on. I did for my FDM printers, since I only print one material, I did a lot of research on that one material and set up my printer for that. And that's why like, I kind of refuse to put any other material in it because I don't want to go through that again. With this printer. It prints amazing.
Don't mess up a good thing. Right. Right. Right, you're done basically, yeah.
Which is completely opposite to how most people use 3d printers, a lot of people like to use different materials, different colors, that kind of stuff. And but again, I'm using it to print polycarbonate brackets. So in jigs that like a different use case,
I in my mind, I don't see a huge need for different colors, I don't see a huge need for different, like sparkling materials or anything like that, because it's not my intent to make like sculptures with it. I want to make fixtures and jigs, and, and things of that sort. So I'm more interested in getting the numbers right, getting dimensional accuracy as best as I possibly can get calibration as best as I can and then just run with it.
Yeah. So with I bet you there is a way you can design with dimensional accuracy and mine. What I found out with my two printers is it is better for me to design something and I'll put a little like, oh, it's it's probably because I'm not a mechanical engineer either, right? Because I'm an electrical engineer. So my I'll put in some tolerance of like, oh, maybe half a millimeter? Or maybe a millimeter might be enough? I don't know. But I'm gonna try it. And I print it and I go that it fit well or not?
Well, I mean, that right there is the beauty of 3d printing, like you can make a mistake, and then you just press go again.
Yeah, you can tweak it and press go again, I have found with my FDM printer, if smaller features tend to it's also because I'm also printing with polycarbonate, it's really hot. And you have to smoosh the layers together to get really good adhesion. So you don't have the lamination, which is, you know, which is what you're talking about sharing on the lines, that's called delamination. And so to prevent that polycarbonate, you have to really squish it together. And so might not be more viewed printing a PLA or ABS, lower temperature, this might not be applicable to that. But smaller features like holes are the big ones. Like, once I get to a certain size on my FDM printer, like the holes just don't don't really show up anymore, because it's just smooshed together, right? Whereas on SLA like I've printed like a half million know, how big is that whole half millimeter hole? And it was fine.
I've seen SLA prints where people print, like full on like really usable threads in
Oh, yeah. I print. The smallest threads are printed that were usable. So for M three threads. M three is great. Yeah. Yeah. M three course. Was that n three by
I don't remember points by half millimeter, I think yeah,
that sounds right. Yeah, it's been fun. So that again, it depends on what you you should just buy both.
I love that idea. I love it at macro fab can sponsor me, and that would be great.
I well, I feel like it really depends on what's the most important. What is the most important for you would it be to be able to use it to show off your latest prototype? Or is it because you want to do functional brackets, jigs fixturing. Like honestly wire harnesses like I'm talking, I'm thinking like, you're talking about like standoffs. And like, I guess in the harnesses,
or like a block that had holes in it that you could pass wire through or things of that?
Like I my opinion, that's would be awesome for FDM as well. Yeah. Because it is inside the cabinet. And it's not something that everyone will see. So you can get away with FDM printed part. So it's one of those what's more important there? Right?
It's really tough. It's tough because I could see applications for both. And the problem is I wouldn't, if I was going to spend the money on something like this, I wouldn't want to like, divide. And by two bad ones.
Yes. Well, you're in that budget range where you can be, it can be really good or really bad.
Exactly. Exactly. And that's like, the thing is, like, in my mind, I kind of have a budget put together where it's like, okay, could I get some? If not, most of the things I want out of one or the other for this budget? If the answer's no, then like, I'll just continue the way I've been going. But like, if I can get that extra tool in my, you know, tool chest, this, like, that'd be great, but it has to meet the requirements, or it'll just sit on my shelf. And I don't want to five $600. Thanks. I agree. Yeah.
From a you learning about it, FDM is a really good way because there is a lot of different materials. And you can you learn more about the process itself. Because you get the Tweak more you can tweak more the machine, like the settings, it's like a CNC machine. I mean, it is one right. Yeah. Whereas I SLA resin printer is not a typical CNC machine. It has exposure time.
That sounds fantastic. The thing is SLA is the first 3d printer that your SLA is the first 3d printer that made me think maybe I want to spend money on it.
And then get get an SLA and just you just have to lay in this Boolean
those constraints, right? Yeah, playing the constraint the idea. Okay, so those playwood connectors are the first thing that I've thought of where I'm like, Okay, I would like to 3d print something that has strength. But this these might even require more strength than a FDM would be able to provide,
I would say my polycarbonate could do it. But a normal FDM printer in this budget range probably couldn't print that hot to make material like that. I got it. I don't know. I don't know where this budget range and it's been six years since I bought the FDM printer. Were in that range a six does a $600 printer now have all metal hot in? And does it have a a enclosure? And does it also have a bed that gets up to 110 degrees? Think about you can boil water on my bed on the my print bed?
Assuming your bed could dump enough energy into the water, that's also the thing is probably can't Yeah, it's enough for it to get to 110 Yes, it's not to get it in the surface on top of it. That's right, right. Putting putting energy, water takes a lot of energy to get it to bring it up. Okay, so how about consumables? Let's just talk real quick about those. So in FDM, you have spools of material. And then in resin, you have jars of goop
jars of goop. And also in that you have the cleaner, right? So if you if it's water, it's water if it's if you need a solvent, it's the solvents, whereas FDM you don't typically unless you're doing smoothing, but we're not talking about that. So you just have your material that is that is the only consumables I can think of. Oh and SLA you have you should wear gloves. So that's a consumable item. disposable gloves. Yeah,
so So what about what about the price difference between the consumables or are they comparable like when they
are, I think FDM for the less expensive materials like ABS and PLA are a lot cheaper. I think you can get like a spool PLA for like $14 which is insanity to think about. Now I print with polycarbonate, which is a lot more expensive. And I think I pay $140 for a three kilogram we spool with so it's like a normal spool you think about is one kilogram. So I get a triple size one but it's basically the biggest my dry box is can hold. Oh, that's another thing to think about is once we get past As consumables when you think about the end price, whereas the goop, a kilogram of goop is like $40 for like the normal Joe Schmo
stuff. Yeah. So it's more, it's a little more expensive. It's like 3040 bucks ish range. Yeah,
it's a little bit more expensive for the group. So now, that's one thing to think about is my FTM printer, I have a dry box. Basically, it's a enclosure with like, just doesn't get bags at the bottom, as whenever I put a newer spool in there, I just put a new desk in there. And it's ready to go whenever like it's already hooked up ready to go, like I can start a print, like right now. Whereas this delay printer, you can really only leave that resin in that pool for about 24 hours after you last print. And then you kind of have to like mix it up again. Because it this it settles out. And so that's honestly that is the biggest downside I have for the my SLA printers is I can't treat it just like a printer. I have to go in like actually, I need to start another print after this podcast. And I haven't printed anything on this one in like couple days. And that means I need to pull the resin out of it. Pour it back into the bottle, basically all the back and bottle, shake it back up and then pour it back out. Kind of a pain in the butt. I mean, it's only like five minutes, but it's one of those. But you have to do it. I have to do it. Whereas like my FDM I can just print go and it just does it.
Sure. Sure. Yeah.
So it's half laziness, half reoccurring maintenance.
Well, and speaking of maintenance, in general. Do you feel that these machines are you know, once you have them up and running they go or like take for instance with the FDM do you have to grease the rails on occasion like so the maintenance are we looking at?
On my my FTM every i don't know i Whenever I feel like it, I guess once a quarter. Yeah, once a quarter. There you go. I do clean the rails. The slider rails on it, and then re lubricate them I use honestly, oh, we talked about this. I use hops number nine gun oil. Yeah, remember that? Yeah. Cuz I just have a bottle of it. And I'm like, I wonder if this work and it still runs great. Okay. I know a lot of people were like, oh, you should use like a degreaser and then like three in one or some other kind of like sewing machine oil. Honestly, hops. Number nine has worked pretty good as a like, combo cleaner lubricants. I just put a little bit on a lint free cloth and just wipe them down. It pulls off bunch of gross stuff, and then it runs. He's running. That's the only that is the only maintenance I do on that machine. That's reoccurring and on SLA. I don't know, I don't know what kind of maintenance we're looking at. I think the LCD panels do wear out. I've read that though. I can't really find any like evidence of like, this is how many hours you get on an LCD panel. I haven't really found that you know anything like that at all. I've been printing on one of these for like almost constantly for the past like six weeks now. Minus a week when I was out of town. And it still the parts look just the same.
That's impressive. That's that's a that's a big positive right?
Yeah, it just keeps going. Now I better my FDM would do the same thing I just don't print that often on my FDM sorry I little frog in my throat.
Okay, well I mean it's a lot to consider here. Because what's funny is after an hour of talking about this so I did some prep beforehand where I wrote out my hopes and dreams about what it is and my budget and then an hour worth of talking about it. I feel both closer and farther away from an answer.
Craft flat brings up the big one on on SLA printers I completely forgot I was going to mention it is forgot is at the bottom of your resin tank on SLA printer. There's a really thin film I can't remember the material but that will wear out and what I've been doing is between each my print I don't know where I read this but I just rotate my resin bed around so it like prints evenly in quotes like rotating your tires on your car. Oh fvp Yeah, FTP material. And that does wear out. But that's, I think you can get like five sheets for like 20 bucks that fit these printers. So it's not. I mean, it's a cost. I haven't replaced them yet. I did buy a box of them just in case. But you haven't had I? Yeah, I don't know when they were out though, like, they do start to get cloudy hasn't really affected the prints yet. So I guess I'm gonna keep running it until I guess my prints stop printing well, then you replace it. Yeah. Or I guess maybe you can rip it. If it like sticks too hard. The print sticks too hard to the fvp material. And that like rips the plastic, which would be disastrous, by the way, because then you dump all your resin all over the place.
I guess that's another doubt. We haven't talked about the fact that the resin stinks, right?
Yes, the resin does stink a little bit. I'm out here in my garage. So I have a lot of ventilation. And I also have little carbon filters. inside of them. You can get these little like towers that are like USB rechargeable. And so I just I have two of them. I just swapped them out every every day. Well, obviously I can't smell them.
If I were to get an SLA printer, it would live in my basement. Or if I were to take it to work, it would be in an office where nobody is. So I don't think that that's much of a concern.
And it depends on the resin, like the strong X brand stuff I have. Like as as potent, like I, when I printed that I put it. That's bold, I actually put it in the garage properly. Because it stunk so bad. Wow. Now the water washed up. Stinks a little bit. That's about it. And then once you put the enclosure on and went the little carbon filter that I have in there, it is fine. You don't really smell it. Like I have these printers running and then I had Chris Craft and Ben Heck in town. And they couldn't even tell. So no, that's cool. But I had the carbon filter. So the enclosure lids on it. And inside there, it's purifying itself. So you can't earn tell. Yeah, it's a lot to think about. I do recommend it because it is another tool in your toolbox to have. It's just thinking about which way you want to go. If what is more important in day is basically in your case is strength and build volume more important than something that looks nice that you can show off as a potential MVP prototype.
Yeah, I don't I don't know the answer to that. That's, that's the hardest part. Like I feel like, if I were to just pick SLA is the one that comes to mind. Because if it matches the prototype makes things look nice kind of thing. And when I'm working on my own stuff, I would want it to look nice. But if I wanted something to be able to make jigs for things at work, the SLA doesn't make much sense at all for that. But also, I've gotten this far without having a 3d printer for anything at work. And I have a monstrous CNC that if I really need a jig, I can just mill one.
Yeah, so you might want to start with a a SLA. Yeah. And see how that goes. Yeah,
yeah. So yeah, I don't know maybe maybe that's that's an actually come to think about it. The dimensional accuracy of a 3d printer will never be as good as my CNC. So if I'm making a jig and I need to hold you know sub one thousandths of an inch, I can do that on my on my
jig. I like Halloween your hopes and dreams you said one mill accuracy. The I just typed it out lol next to that.
It's a hope and a dream. You know, that's, that's that's as much as the other day I was actually calibrating our machines, and I was holding 110 thousandths of an inch on this thing on my CNCS. So like, you know if I need accuracy, I'll do that. You know, that does bring up a quick point. And I won't belabor this very long. What kind of accuracy? Just gut feel, what kind of accuracy Do you think we can hold with a three 3d printer?
My FDM probably does. Well, you got to think about on the z axis. It's point two. Yeah. Well, that's, well, less than that. But
it's less than that. But
yeah, you are. That's what resolution of the layers is point to. I don't know what the school drive accuracy and positioning is. I would say it is in that range though. Like point one to point two is probably the accuracy of that machine in all dimensions. Like when If you pull it I printed a 20 by 20 by 20 millimeter cube, it would probably be plus or minus point 1.2.
So in freedom units, we're talking five out of 10 Tao is the overall what you can expect.
Yeah, probably. I was I should check it. I should, after this calibration cube and just see what it turns out actually being SLA printer. No idea right now.
I would love I would love to know if you could print a 20 by 20 by 20 on both machines, and then see which one's actually closest. Yeah, yeah, well, and here's the thing. I'm thinking SLA is the most repeatable, because the thing that determines its XY accuracy is a screen. And that's not changing.
Right? Correct. Yeah. Whereas less chances
of error. Yeah, right. I guess I guess the biggest error on an SLA when it comes to that would be a new Z direction, because that's the one thing that has the most ability to change.
Yes. And it's a school drive, right. So Right.
Whereas with the Yeah, they would, if if, if the day is a little bit more humid or something goes off your FDM can be different, right?
If you are, if you have your material exposed to or atmosphere, then yes, for sure. Because your your filament will absorb absorb most moisture. Excuse me. Which is why I have a dry box and a dry box is saying it's 12% humidity inside that box. Did you we do
you keep your spool in the dry box and it pulls from the box? Oh, that's legit. Okay. Okay.
It has actually a straw that like goes all the way into the printer. So like the, the materials never actually really exposed to the environment?
Well actually come to think about it with SLA. It's resin that has to be cured. And it has shrinkage, right.
Earlier material resins did. I haven't really found that to be a thing anymore. It could still exist. No, let's test it. I'm after this podcast, I'm going to throw the same STL mesh file of my calibration cube to both printers. Yeah. And just see what happens. You know, and
if you wouldn't mind do this on the SLA. When the SLA is done, but you haven't cured it, wash it, measure it, measure it again after you carry it and see if it changes. Because I've seen figures anywhere from point point two to like one and a half percent shrinkage somewhere in that range based off of your resin.
It could be material, it's definitely material differences or how long you cure it for.
Yeah, it's a chemical process. So yeah.
Oh, that's one more thing. One more thing before I sign off for this podcast is if you are depending on where you want to use your prints at. If you are if your part is going to be outside, you can't use SLA because the sun beams UV at it and it will destroy that resin. Really. Now most materials off your FDM also get destroyed by UV like ABS plastic and PLA but there are UV resistant like polycarbonate The best thing about polycarbonate is it's naturally resistant to UV and I've had prints polycarbonate prints outside for years and they look almost still brand new. So still haven't broken yet whereas I bet to the moment like a resin print stays outside for like a week it will probably be so brittle that you touch it and it's probably shatter I could be wrong about that but I'm gonna guess that's
well when you're done with your little calibration cube set it outside.
I would it's been it's been like cloudy for the past couple of days. Yeah,
I will set it outside but just give just torture it for a week. Anything outside in Texas is tortured.
You think mosquitoes will bite it?
So that was the Mac fab engineering podcast. We're your hosts Parker Goleman and Steven
Gregg later everyone take it easy
thank you yes you our listener for downloading our podcasts if you have a cool idea, project or topic or have something to add to this 3d printer discussion. Let Steven and I know Tweet us at Mac fab at Longhorn engineer or at analog EMG or emails at podcasts at Mac fed.com Also check out our Slack channel you can find it at macro fab.com/slack and also our live stream which is every Tuesday at six o'clock Central. It is twitch.tv/macro Fab comm hanging out
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