What To Expect From 3D Scanning, And How To Work With It

3D scanning and 3D printing may sound like a natural match for one another, but they don’t always play together as easily and nicely as one would hope. I’ll explain what one can expect by highlighting three use cases the average hacker encounters, and how well they do (or don’t) work. With this, you’ll have a better idea of how 3D scanning can meet your part design and 3D printing needs.

How Well Some Things (Don’t) Work

Most 3D printing enthusiasts sooner or later become interested in whether 3D scanning can make their lives and projects easier. Here are a three different intersections of 3D scanning, 3D printing, and CAD along with a few words on how well each can be expected to work.

Goal Examples and Details Does it work?
Use scans to make copies of an object.
  • 3D scan something, then 3D print copies.
  • Objects might be functional things like fixtures or appliance parts, or artistic objects like sculptures.
Mostly yes, but depends on the object
Make a CAD model from a source object.
  • The goal is a 1:1 model, for part engineering purposes.
  • Use 3D scanning instead of creating the object in CAD.
Not Really
Digitize inconvenient or troublesome shapes.
  • Obtain an accurate model of complex shapes that can’t easily be measured or modeled any other way.
  • Examples: dashboards, sculptures, large objects, objects that are attached to something else or can’t be easily moved, body parts like heads or faces, and objects with many curves.
  • Useful to make sure a 3D printed object will fit into or on something else.
  • Creating a CAD model of a part for engineering purposes is not the goal.
Yes, but it depends

In all of these cases, one wants a 3D model of an object, and that’s exactly what 3D scanning creates, so what’s the problem? The problem is that not all 3D models are alike and useful for the same things.

Continue reading “What To Expect From 3D Scanning, And How To Work With It”

3D Printering: Why Aren’t Enclosures Easier?

For 3D printers that aren’t already enclosed, why is easily adding a cheap and effective enclosure still not a completely solved problem? The reason is simple: unless one’s needs are very basic, enclosures are more than just boxes.

Different people need different features, printers come in different shapes and sizes, and creating something that can be both manufactured and shipped cheaply is a challenge in itself. In this article I’ll explain how those things make boxing up your printer a tougher nut to crack then may seem at first glance.

Enclosures Have Different Jobs

People have different expectations of what an enclosure’s job should be, and that determines which features are important to them and which are not. Here is a list of meaningful features for 3D printer enclosures; not everything on this list is important to everyone, but everything on this list is important to someone. Continue reading “3D Printering: Why Aren’t Enclosures Easier?”

3D Printering: The Things Printers Don’t Do

3D printers are amazing things, but if one judges solely by the successes that get showcased online, it can look as through anything at all is possible. Yet in many ways, 3D printers are actually quite limited. Because success looks easy and no one showcases failure, people can end up with lopsided ideas of what is realistic. This isn’t surprising; behind every shining 3D print that pushes the boundaries of the technology, there are misprints and test pieces piled just out of sight.

If you have ever considered getting into 3D printing, or are wondering what kinds of expectations are realistic, read on because I am going to explain where objects come from, and how to recognize whether something is a good (or bad) fit for 3D printing. The important thing to understand is that printers have limitations, and to get a working idea of what those limitations are. The result will be a better understanding of what they can do, and what problems they can reliably solve.

3D Printers Have Limits

I recently had a talk with someone who wanted to know if a 3D printer could help with a problem they had. As I listened to them describe their needs, I realized I had in a way heard it all before many times.

My colleague actually had a fairly good idea of what printers could do, in theory. But they had very little grasp of what printers did not do, and that disconnect left them a bit adrift when it came to practical applications. To help address this gap, here are some tips that can give anyone a working understanding of the things 3D printers do not do well. Continue reading “3D Printering: The Things Printers Don’t Do”

3D Printering: Wash Parts Better And Make Solvent Last Longer

SLA printing in resin is great, but part washing can be a hassle. The best results come from a two-stage wash, but that also means more material and more processing steps. Fortunately, there are ways to make it easier and more effective. One such way is to use a part washing machine, and I’ll cover a DIY option to make your own, but despite what the advertising implies for the commercial ones, a wash machine isn’t a cure-all.

Let’s go through how to get the best results from part washing, how to make the solvent last as long as possible, and how to dispose of the eventual waste.

Resin-Printed Parts Need Washing

All parts printed in resin emerge from the printer coated in syrupy, uncured goop. This needs to be removed completely, or the print ends up sticky and no amount of drying or additional UV curing will change that. (There is a way to fix sticky prints, but it’s better to avoid the situation in the first place.)

Simple part washing can be done with nothing more than a jar in which to rinse and soak a small part for about ten minutes, but agitation and a secondary wash will go a long way toward better and more consistent results. As mentioned, part washing machines like to present themselves as a one-appliance solution, but best results still come from a two-stage wash, and that means some additional steps.

Continue reading “3D Printering: Wash Parts Better And Make Solvent Last Longer”

3D Printering: The World Of Non-Free 3D Models Is Buyer Beware

There are more free 3D models online than one can shake a stick at, but what about paid models? Hosting models somewhere and putting a buy button in front of the download is certainly a solved problem, but after spending some time buying and printing a variety of non-free 3D models online, it’s clear that there are shortcomings in the current system.

What the problems are and how to address them depends a little on the different ways models get sold, but one thing is clear: poorly-designed 3D models are bad for consumers, and bad for the future of pay-to-download in general. Continue reading “3D Printering: The World Of Non-Free 3D Models Is Buyer Beware”

3D Printering: Selling Prints, And Solving The Pickup Problem

After getting a 3D printer up and running, it’s not uncommon for an enterprising hacker to dabble in 3D printing to make a little money on the side. Offering local pickup of orders is a common startup choice since it’s simple and avoids shipping entirely. It’s virtually tailor-made to make a great bootstrapping experiment, but anyone who tries it sooner or later bumps up against a critical but simple-seeming problem: how to get finished prints into a customer’s hands in a sustainable way that is not a hassle for either the provider, or the customer?

It’s very easy to accept a 3D file and get paid online, but the part about actually getting the print into the customer’s hands does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. This is what I call The Pickup Problem, and left unsolved, it can become unsustainable. Let’s look at why local pickup doesn’t always measure up, then examine possible solutions.

The Problems with Local Pickup

Local pickup for delivery of print jobs is great because there is no mucking about with shipping supplies or carriers. Also, many 3D prints when starting out will be relatively low-value jobs that no one is interested in stacking shipping fees onto, anyway.

“Your order is complete. Come to this address to pick up your order.” It is straightforward and hits all the bases, so what’s the problem?

Continue reading “3D Printering: Selling Prints, And Solving The Pickup Problem”

3D Printering: Sticky Resin Prints And How To Fix Them

After going through all the trouble of printing a part in resin, discovering it feels sticky or tacky to the touch is pretty unwelcome. Giving the model some extra ultraviolet (UV) curing seems like it should fix the problem, but it probably does not. So, what can be done?

The best thing to do with a sticky print is to immediately re-wash it in clean isopropyl alcohol (IPA) before the UV present in ambient light cures stray resin. If the part remains sticky after it is dry, more aggressive steps can be taken.

We’ll get into those more extreme procedures shortly, but first let’s understand a bit more about how resin works, then look at how that applies to preventing and removing tacky surfaces on finished prints. Continue reading “3D Printering: Sticky Resin Prints And How To Fix Them”