Are your 3D Prints Toxic?

With the rising popularity and increasing availability of 3D printers, it was inevitable that someone would start looking into the potential environmental impact presented by them. And now we have two researchers from the University of California Riverside sounding the alarm that certain plastics are toxic to zebrafish embryos (abstract only; full paper behind a paywall).

As is often the case with science, this discovery was serendipitous. Graduate student [Shirin Mesbah Oskui] was using 3D printed tools to study zebrafish embryos, a widely used model organism in developmental biology, but she found the tools were killing her critters. She investigated further and found that prints from both a Stratasys Dimension Elite FDM printer and from a Formlabs Form 1+ stereolithography printer were “measurably toxic” to developing zebrafish embryos. The resin-based SLA printed parts were far worse for the fish than the fused ABS prints – 100% of embryos exposed to the Form 1+ prints were dead within seven days, and the few that survived that long showed developmental abnormalities before they died. Interestingly, the paper also describes a UV-curing process that reduces the toxicity of the SLA prints, which the university is patenting.

Of course what’s toxic to zebrafish is not necessarily a problem for school kids, as the video below seems to intimate. Still, this is an interesting paper that points to an area that clearly needs more investigation.

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Autodesk Open Sources Ember 3D Printer

If you’ve ever been interested in what goes on inside a (roughly) $6000 DLP stereolithography printer, you might want to check out the recent announcement from Autodesk that open sources their electronics and firmware for their Ember 3D printer. The package includes the design files and code for their controller (which is more or less a BeagleBone black with a USB hub, and more memory. It also has two AVR controllers for motor and light control.

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Creating PCBs with 3D Resin Printers


The folks over at Full Spectrum Laser are Kickstarting their own 3D printer – a stereolithography machine like the Form 1 and B9 Creator printers. During their testing, they discovered a new application for these SLA printers that should prove to be very useful for the makers and builders using machines – manufacturing PCBs with UV-sensitized copper clad boards.

Full Spectrum Laser’s printer – the Pegasus Touch – uses a near UV laser and a galvo system to build objects in UV-curing resin layer by layer. In retrospect it seems pretty obvious a UV laser would expose UV sensitive boards, but this discovery simply reeks of cleverness and is a nice ‘value added’ feature for the Pegasus printer.

The Pegasus printer has a laser spot size of 0.25mm, meaning the separation between traces on Pegasus-produced PCBs will be just under 10 mils. That’s a bit larger than the limits of laser printer-based PCB fabrication but far, far less complicated. Making a PCB on an SLA printer is as easy as removing the resin tank and putting a sensitized board on the build platform. Draw some traces with the printer, and in a few minutes you have an exposed board.

We’d really like to see if this technique can also be used with other SLA printers. if anyone out there would like to experiment, be sure to send the results into the tip line.

Video from Full Spectrum Laser below.

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3D Printering: You Want UV Resin?


Just a few short months ago, 3D printing with stereolithography was an uncommon and very expensive proposition. Consumer-oriented SLA machines such as the Form1 and the B9Creator are as expensive as the upper echelons of squirting plastic printers and the community behind these machines isn’t even as diverse as the forums for the fly-by-night printers featured on Kickstarter every week.

This may be about to change with last month’s reveal of the Peachy Printer, a remarkably clever stereolithography printer that requires no special equipment, hardly any electronics, and costs $100. Even if the folks behind Peachy never ship a single unit, their clever engineering ensures that stereolithography will be a staple in the makers toolbox in the near future.

There is, of course, the problem of material. While plastic filament can be bought  just about everywhere, UV curing resin is a little harder to come by and much more expensive per kilogram or liter. Where then does the stereolithography experimenter get their hands on some of this magical material from the future?

Before we get to the article…

I’ve been writing a 3D Printing column once a week for a few months now, and I’m running out of ideas. If you have something in the 3D printer world you’d like to see covered in a little more depth than the standard Hackaday post, send in a tip. I’ll send you a few Hackaday stickers if it’s a good idea.

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A $100 Stereolithography 3D Printer

The Hackaday tip line has been blowing up with a new Kickstarter for a 3D printer. Although this is a pretty common occurrence around here, this printer is actually very interesting: it’s quite possibly the simplest and cheapest laser resin printer ever.

Most of the 3D resin printers we’ve seen, like the Form1 use mechanical means to raise a print up to the next slice. At $100, the Peachy printer doesn’t have the budget for such luxuries as servos or motors, so the layer height is increased by dripping salt water over the liquid resin. The X and Y axes are controlled with mirrors and voice coils, allowing this printer’s electronics to be controlled by a computer’s sound card. It’s really amazing in its simplicity, and from the looks of it the Peachy can produce some fairly good prints.

For a great explanation of how the Peachy printer works, you can check out the video below.

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Interview: Another Kickstarter round for the B9Creator

The Dawn of the 3D Printing Age - Art by Dennis HarrounNearly a year ago, the 3D printing scene saw a few new printers based on a technology other than squirting plastic out of a nozzle. These printers used DLP projectors underneath a vat of UV curing resin to build objects one layer at a time with incredible resolution.

Probably the most successful of these printers is the B9Creator from [Michael Joyce]. His original Kickstarter took in half a million dollars – 10 times his original goal – and still managed to deliver all the kits to backers within 2 weeks of the promised date. Now, [Michael] is running another Kickstarter before taking his printers to select distributors. We played some email tag with [Michael] for an interview discussing the perils of a hugely successful Kickstarter, and the future of the B9Creator ecosystem.

Check out our interview after the break.

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And so the deluge of resin-based 3D printers begins

It looks like 2012 is shaping up to be the year of the resin-based 3D printer. The latest comes from [Michael Joyce] and is called the B9Creator.  Like other resin printers, [Michael] used a DLP projector to cure the print one layer at a time. The layer height is on the order of 100 microns – crazy for a kit-based printer.

There is a  Kickstarter for the B9Creator where kits are available for $2400 USD. Everything is included in this kit, including the DLP projector and a kilogram of resin. $2400 is much more expensive than even the fanciest melted-plastic 3D printer such as a Makerbot or RepRap, but that’s the price you pay for high-quality prints.

Of course this project comes a month after an earlier, similar, and shadier project called the Veloso 3D printer. The B9Creator promises to be open source once all the Kickstarter machines are shipped out, and [Michael] is very open about his designs and his resin formula – an admirable quality in a maker.

You can check out a load of videos of the B9Creater we found after the break.

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