Do you consider yourself the type of person who would like to design your own household gadgets? Or maybe you have ideas that you wish you could bring to life with the click of a mouse, as I do. 3D printing has begun to expand our creativity by allowing people to consider the ability to manufacture desired products in the comfort of their own home. Though the availability of 3D printers isn’t quite yet in the economic picture for the average consumer, Staples has taken the first step by introducing the technology as a retail service to its already established customer base.
Coined "Easy 3D," Staples has partnered with Mcor to bring 3D printing to the retail market for the first time. So, how does the service work? Much like Staples’s current business card service, users will first upload a 3D design (OBJ, STL, or VRML formats) to the Staples website. The product is then printed at a Staples location and either picked up or mailed to the customer. Simple as that.
A 3D-printed skull showing a stunning example of multicolor 3D resin printing. Quality at this scale will be available to anyone at their local Staples office supply store starting this year. (Source: Mcor Technologies)
The Mcor Iris printer implements a unique fabrication method based on laminated object manufacturing, which uses reams of paper that are blade-cut, selectively glued, and stacked together resulting in a product with a high-resolution layer thickness of 0.1mm. Unlike most 3D printers that use a single color polymer resin, the Mcor Iris can simultaneously add different colors to the end-product at a resolution of 5,760 x 1,440 x 508dpi. Though the printer’s use of paper is particularly fitting for Staples in terms of cost savings, some questions are raised for design consideration when using paper rather than plastic. Mcor reassures customers by stating that the glued-paper results in a wood-like hardness that can be drilled and screwed into -- but the evidence remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the wider availability of the service at a lower cost is sure to attract customers to the new concept.
This may sound familiar as Kickstarter announced that Form1 3D printer uses the same technique. The Form1 had a price low enough to make its way into most homes at around $2,600 to $3,300. Recently, 3D Systems, maker of "The Cube," has sued Formlabs for infringing on several of its patents. One in particular is central to how the Form1 operates. "We intend to enforce our patent rights," 3D Systems stated publicly. As the Form1 printer is sure to be tied up in court proceedings for an indeterminate amount of time, Staples sweeps in to save the day.
The Staples 3D printing service will be available in Belgium and The Netherlands in the first quarter of 2013; no timeframe for expansion into other countries just yet. What kinds of nerdy replicas or obscenely hilarious models can you picture Staples printing out with its first batch of customer orders? I’m sure our fellow Dutch and Belgian techies have plans underway.
For now, most of us will have to wait for Staples to make this service available worldwide. If all goes well, other major printing and retail distributors such as HP and Office Depot are sure to follow suit. Until then, it is time for those interested to start thinking up design ideas, or simply learning how to model. The availability of 3D printing is but another step in bringing our ideas to life more quickly and affordably.
My grandson just turned 9. He keeps talking about building a robot. I've been trying to find way to get him involved and learning about all that entails. In my carreer I've done lots of 3D design, worked as a CNC programmer for a while, and I can machine on a manual lathe or mill, not to mention welding of all kinds. I also have an extensive background in PLCs and motion control. I own a seat of AutoCAD and Rhino, and a home license from work of Solid Edge. I also own a bridgeport mill, Southbend lathe, and a cold saw, plus a fair amount of machinists tools.
This week I found on Ebay a set of four precision THK linear slides with ball screws, ready for the motors to be mounted. Travels are all about 18". Today I picked up a 24" x 24" cast iron surface plate to mount them on. I've gotten a copy of Mach 3 Mill and we have a desktop PC available. So we are going to build a 3 axis machine, with a positionable spindle drive for the 4th axis. I'm planning on mounting dovetail mounts on the 3rd axis so this machine can be used as a CNC vertical mill and horizontal mill. The spindle can be mounted to the table to give us a small CNC lathe. The Mach3 software can also drive a knife, and follow a path rotating the knife as needed, so we should be able to do stencil type cutouts. Finally we are going to use the machining capability to build an extruder head for 3D printing. I am hoping that it can be mounted along side the mill head. That way a part can be printed, and finish machined before it is removed from the platten, while you still know exactly where it is.
So I hope to teach him a lot about 3D modeling using Rhino, then printing and machining parts too. We also have a product I'd like to try to sell. 15 years ago I got a patent on a paint scraper for removing bottom paint from boats. The company I worked for, and where I had access to machining facilities was forced to close by a lawsuit and I lost my job. So I didn't have the $10,000 I needed for molds and such to produce the product. It only has two main parts, a small aliminum blade holder, and a plastic hinge. So we are going to try making the parts one piece at a time and selling them on a website or Ebay. I don't care about profit, breakeven would be good, but what a great way to teach about business!
Robot, Mill, Lathe, Router, Knife cutter, Plasma cutter, 3D printer, and more.
It's nice to think one process will be all you need, but that simply isnt the case. The reprap guys talk about building a printer that can build printers. If all you can make are the low strength low precision stuff then you aren't really able to clone the original by any stretch of the imagination.
I've built a lot of automation projects, I've got 3 patents on electromechanical machines for the commercial greenhouses. Someone once suggested a product I should build. I thought about it for a few minutes and then asked him if he would pay $20,000 for such a machine. He said that was a lot, but yes he would buy one for that much. I said good, then give us the $100,000 for the first one, and we can start selling them for $20,000!
I got a 24" x 24" cast iron precision surface plate at the scrap yard the other day. It weighs about 200 lbs. That is going to be the base that I'm building on.
Last night I was looking at Sherline parts for building a milling head and lathe attachment. I started realizing that it was going to cost about $750 for the parts I thought I would need, but without holding them in my hand and measuring them I wouldn't really know if I was buying the right stuff. So I went on Ebay to look for some used parts. I happen to run across a Sherline 4000 lathe, with the milling column attachment, two lathe chucks, a faceplate, mill vise, compound slide, 5 collets, a drill chuck, two tool posts, a fly cutter, various tool bits, and a quantity of necessary hand tools. So for $635 I own a WORKING manual lathe/mill!
The next purchase is the motors, drivers, power supply, and various bits and pieces of the electrical system.
By the way, Steve Jobs isn't really dead. He's just been downloaded into Apple's next great product. It's a round sphere whose entire surface is a video screen. It's called the IMortal.
I suggest avoiding the mill/lathe combos. It is better, and in some cases cheaper, to get separate machines that can do the jobs better. On the lathe side, you can get a 7" swing CNC lathe from www.gunhead.com
Mill on the other hand, is up to you. Look up the Grizzly X2, and get a CNC kit for it.
Routers range from $100 kits to $1000 turnkey machines lately. They are quite abundant.
The 3D printer choice is also vast. But I recommend the Formlabs "Form1."
Plasma cutter... you might want to consider a waterjet instead.
I already own an old full size bridgeport mill, and a really sweet 1953 10" Southbend lathe that is virtually new, it came out of a lab. I also have a 14" Soco cold saw. At one time I owned a Spindle Wizard CNC knee mill, and big Shizaoka CNC knee mill with a toolchanger. I also worked as a programmer in a job shop programming a Fadal 4020 and a 6030. None of htat stuff though fits in my garage!
Parts are arriving for the Ifactory. I got a nice hand scraped 24" x 24" surface plate for the work table at a local scrap yard. It weighs 205 lbs! This is a moving head machine, the work sits still on the plate, so while it is a small machine the part being worked on could be very large and heavy.
I've got 4 THK Gl20 ball screw slides coming, surplus off of Ebay. I bought the fourth one just for spare parts.
The 48 volt transformer for the DC power supply showed up today. OOPS! I wanted about 1.5 Kva, and I thought the name plate said 3 Kva but it's actually 5 Kva. Ah well, 100 amps of 65 volt DC for just $25 ought to be enough. At 93 lbs it'll help hold the stand down. Tommorow I pick up another batch of surplus parts. I hope to start assembling it over the weekend.
I picked up a complete Sherline lathe with the milling column and a large assortment of tooling and accessories. So I can make parts manually right away. and the spindle is going on the CNC as soon as it is done.
Motors, drivers and a breakout board should be here shortly. So I am in about $3500 right now. The CNC mill at gunhead.com was $2900.
It dawned on me that with the long strokes that I have to work with that I could mount a saw blade to the head and use it as a cutoff saw too.
I've been hanging out on the RepRap forum learning about 3D printing. I getting excited because I think I have all the right components to 3D print tougher materials like nylon, PVC, and polycarbonate.
If you are a sailor like I am you'd understand that it is often the journey, not the destination that counts.
You do save a lot of money building machines yourself. Sometime one has to ask, do you want a project before you get to one's projects. If the goal is to make parts, launch an idea, what is your time worth?
Anyway, sound like you have a lot of equipment. What is your ultimate goal?
Right now the project is the machine. Lots to learn, lots to teach my grandson who is nine. But my dad taught me how to use a manual lathe and to weld when I was only ten. He always tells everyone about the time he got a contract to build some heavy steel tables for the company he worked for. We were welding them up in the driveway and a car stopped by to complain that the arc welding was blinding drivers going by. Then I put the helmet up and he was beside himself that the welder was a kid only 11 years old!
A former customer of mine scrapped out a couple of watering spraying robots I built for them about 15 years ago. They gave me about $2000 worth of Item T-slot extrusions and a couple hundred feet of servo cables, solenoid valves, DC motor controller, a small PLC and such. So now I have the frame to support the machine and provide guarding around it.
It was kind of sad to see the machines get scrapped. On the other hand they replaced them with new machines of a different type, that I also designed about 25 years ago. It's nice to those machines are still in production.
Sounds like a wonderful project, especially as you'll be sharing it with your grandson. Sometimes the project to build the tool for all the other projects, is the real project (even if you never get around to building any of the other projects). Especially if you have some of the parts laying around, and the expertise (or desire to learn the expertise) to build the tool. My latest project is to build a bending brake using an old shop press (I'd be better off just paying a shop to bend things, but where's the joy in that?)
Adding the extruding head to make it a 3-D printer (basically one tool to both additively and subtractively create) is just icing on the cake. Mmmmm, extruding icing ... now there's an idea I can sink my teeth into!
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