The 3D printers of CES

CES is over, and now we can take a step back, distance ourselves from the trade show booths, and figure out where 3D printing will be going over the next year.

The Hype Cycle is a great way to explain trends in fads and technological advances. VR and autonomous cars are very early on the Hype Cycle right now. Smartphones are on the plateau of productivity. 3D printing is head-down in the trough of disillusionment.

For this year’s CES, 3D printing is not even a product category. In fact, the official documentation I found at Prusa’s booth listed their company in the ‘Assistive Technologies’ category. These are dark days for the public perception of 3D printing. The source of this perception can be brilliantly presented in a pair of graphs:


The perception of 3D printing has been tied inexorably to Makerbot. Makerbot presented the only 3D printer on The Colbert Report. Only Makerbot had their 3D printing storefronts featured on CNN. It’s been like this for half a decade, and hopefully things will get better.

This doesn’t mean 3D printing isn’t improving. In fact, it’s the best it’s ever been. CES had the most innovative printers I’ve seen in years. I caught a glimpse of this year’s top-selling printer (and it launches in April). Resin machines are going to be very popular soon. What did CES have to offer? Check it out below.

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CES2017: Lulzbot Has the Best Names for Stuff

Lulzbot is the poster child of the RepRap project. Everything they do is big-O Open. At CES, Lulzbot launched the MOARstruder, a tool head with a 1.2mm nozzle diameter. That pushes a lot of plastic out, allowing for faster print times. This is the same nozzle diameter as the largest E3D Volcano, and from the big prints sitting around the booth, the results are similar: you get faster prints at larger layer heights, and the layer lines become a design feature.

Also announced by Lulzbot this week is the release of Cura 2 (Lulzbot edition), a partnership with the Blender Institute to develop a streamlined version of the best Free 3D modeling software available, and a collaboration with Monkeyprint to develop Free Software for resin-based 3D printing.

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Maker Faire Multicolor and Multi Material 3D Printing

The next frontier of desktop 3D printing is multi-material and multi-color prints. Right now, you can buy a dual toolhead for a Lulzbot, and dual toolheads from other companies exist, although they are a bit rare. In the next few years, we’re going to see a lot of printers able to print dissolvable supports and full-color 3D printers.

Printing in more than one color is almost here, but that doesn’t mean we’re on the cusp of a complete revolution. Multi-material printing is lagging a little bit behind; you’ll be able to print two colors of PLA next year, but printing an object in PLA and ABS is going to be a bit tricky. Printing something in PLA and nylon will be very hard. Color mixing, likewise, will be tricky. We can do it, the tools are getting there, but think of this year as a preview of what we’ll be doing in five years.

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Hackaday Links: May 22, 2016

Lulzbot’s TAZ 6 has been released. Lulzbot’s printers consistently place in the top three of any 3D printing list, and the TAZ 6 will likely be no exception. [James Bruton] was one of the lucky ones who got a review unit, and first looks are promising. The TAZ 6 has the auto bed leveling found in the Lulzbot Mini, and a ‘power tower’ for all the electronics. There are completely unconfirmed rumors (or someone told me and I forgot who) that the power tower will be available separately at some point.

The most impressive circuit we’ve seen this week month year is the dis-integrated 6502. It’s a discrete 6502 CPU, about a square foot in size. It’s slow, but it works. RAM and ROM is easy to make embiggened, which means someone needs to build a dis-integrated 6522 VIA. Who’s game?

[Jeremy Cook] wanted to learn another CAD package, in this case Onshape. Onshape is the ‘first cloud-only CAD package’, which has one huge bonus – you can run it anywhere, on anything – and one huge minus – it’s in the cloud. He designed a bicycle cupholder.

Last week, several thousand Raspberry Pi Zeros shipped out to retailers in the US and UK. For a time, Pi Zeros were in stock in some online stores. Now? Not so much. Where did they all go? eBay, apparently. It’s called arbitrage, and it’s the only risk-free form of investment.

Remember those ‘bed of nails’ toys, that were basically two sheets of plastic, with hundreds of small pins able to make 3D impressions of your face and hands. No, there is no official name for these devices, but here’s a Kickstarter for a very clever application of these toys. You can use them to hold through hole parts while soldering. Brilliant.

You should not pay attention to 3D printers on Kickstarter. Repeat after me: you should not give money to 3D printers on Kickstarter. Here’s a 3D printer on Kickstarter, promising a 3D printer for $74. I own several hats, and will eat one if this ships by next year.

Remember It’s being reimplemented on

Hackaday Links: May 15, 2016

The Hackaday Overlords (or Hackaday family) are running a series of AMAs on SupplyFX. What is SupplyFX? It’s a social network for EEs. Who’s in the first AMA? [Brady Forrest], the guy who runs Highway1, a Bay Area hardware accelerator. They’re the accelerator responsible for the lustworthy Keyboardio, and the startup that is purely mechanical and has shipped zero lines of code, CoolChip. If you want to talk about hardware startups, [Brady] is your man. The AMA is tomorrow, May 16th, at 13:00 Pacific.

Makerbot is dead, or at least they will be soon. Whatever. Nothing of value was lost. Lulzbot, on the other hand, is going gangbusters. They saw eight hundred percent growth over the last two years. and $15M in revenue in 2015. They did this all with open source hardware and software, and using 3D printing in a manufacturing context. They’re the jewel of the Open Hardware movement, and a shining example of what Free Software can do.

The current generation of software defined radios started with the ubiquitous TV tuner dongles, and quickly graduated to the HackRF. You can only get so much bandwidth out of a USB 2.0 socket, and the newest and bestest SDR is the LimeSDR. They’re about halfway through their crowdfunding campaign (and halfway funded), and have finally changed out the USB A connector to a USB micro B connector. Good choice.

The ESP8266 is quickly becoming the go-to device for when you want a cheap way to put a sensor on the Internet. The only problem is programming it. No problem – here’s a bunch of Lua scripts that do 90% of everything. Need to read a PIR sensor? Light up a few LEDs? Put the data from a temperature and humidity on the Internet? There you have it.

The Vintage Computer Festival West is back on this year. We’ve gone to VCF East in New Jersey for a few years now, and had a few occasional outings to the southeast and midwest Vintage Computer Festivals over the years. This is the first time the west coast has had a Vintage Computer Festival in several years. It’s in Mountain View, on August 6th and 7th. Yes, that’s the same weekend as DEF CON.

E3D, makers of fine hot ends and 3D printer paraphernalia, have released a new kind of filament. It’s called Edge, it’s based on PET, and it prints as easily as PLA, with better mechanical properties than ABS. A few sample prints made from Edge were at this year’s Midwest RepRap Festival, and the Edge’s bridging ability is crazy. You need a heated bed for Edge and it’s sensitive to moisture, but it has some very interesting properties that can be cleverly exploited.

In other filament news, Colorfabb released a filament to print clear parts. Yes, that’s very weird. Clear parts require 100% infill, meaning it will use a lot of filament. It’s still very advanced wizardry, and I’m very interested in seeing the first print of a sanded and polished convex lens.

Holy Crap it’s the 3D printing edition of the links post. [Prusa] just released the latest version of the i3. It’s now bigger: 250x210x200mm build volume. The heated bed – [Prusa] was one of the first to experiment with PCB heated beds – is now vastly improved when looking at it through a FLIR. The Mk. 42 heated bed doesn’t have a hot center or cool corners. PEI sheet removes the need for blue painters tape, glass, aqua net, or glue sticks. The printer has self-test capabilities. The mechanics of the printer, especially the Z axis, are improved. [Prusa] will be selling this as a kit for ~19000 Czech Crowns or $699 USD, but he’s RepRap to the core. Buy a spool and start printing your next printer.


Hackaday Links: It’s Mother’s Day And You Forgot

[AvE] noticed someone was having trouble with their Nepeploid Shilden Inversker, and after a sinusoidal lambda deplanarization test, noticed the dinglebop wouldn’t pass through the grumbo. [AvE] is probably just some guy who wears overalls to bed, but he does know a polyfractal magnetorestrictor when he sees one. To wit, he has a novel application of Eularian magnetronics resulting in a friction factor over unityGame changing stuff here, from the guy who brought you the beer stein made out of an oil filter.

It was soft launched at the Midwest RepRap Festival this year, and now Lulzbot’s TAZ 6 is finally out. The biggest new feature? The electronics ‘brain box’ holds everything, including the power supply. This tower of brain box makes the Taz 6 harder to build from source, but there are unconfirmed reports that Lulzbot may sell this brainbox separately.

Boldport, and founder [Saar Drimer] are the cream of the crop when it comes to artistic PCBs. Boldport’s catalog and [Saar]’s portfolio include a tribute to [Bob Pease], a beautiful board with multicolor solder masks, and an emergency business card. Now Boldport is doing a beautiful PCB of the month club. It’s called Boldport Club, and each three-month membership gets you three months of pretty PCBs. The shop will also stop taking orders for the Boldport club 25 hours after this post goes live. If you missed the boat on the club, you can still get in on the pretty PCB action – we have the Boldport cordwood puzzle available in the Hackaday store.

The Apple IIgs was the last gasp of the Apple II before that platform was phased out for the Macintosh. Despite being mostly forgotten, except for thousands of units in middle school computer labs until the 2000s, it was a very interesting machine, with a wavetable synth, real multitasking, a GUI, and very high resolution graphics. After 30-odd years the IIgs now has quadraphonic sound. The 4soniq card was introduced at the WOzFest III conference last month, and it will give an Apple IIgs with four channels of audio output.

There’s a lot of stuff happening next weekend, and Hackaday is going to be there. If you’re at the Maker Faire Bay Area, Hackaday is taking over a pub. It’s on Saturday night, so it doesn’t conflict with the bring-a-hack at an undisclosed location on Sunday night. Me? I’m going to hamvention, mostly for the purposes of documenting the two parking lots full of swap meet. Find me and I’ll get you some Hackaday swag.

Colorful Fan and LED Controller for 3D Printer

[Dave] just couldn’t take the ambient noise from his Lulzbot Mini anymore, so he built a fancy fan controller for it.

He measured some points on the printer’s Rambo controller board to see what actually got hot during a print. The hottest components were the motor drivers, so he taped a thermistor to them. He also placed one in the printer’s power supply. He replaced the main fan with a low noise model from Noctua (which have the most insanely fancy packaging you could imagine for a computer fan). The software on an Arduino Nano now idles the fan at an inaudible 650RPM, if an unacceptable temperature increase is detected, it increases the fan speed for a period, keeping everything nice and quietly cool.

The graphics display was added because, “why not?” A classic reason. The graphics runs on a hacked version of Adafruit’s library. It took him quite a while to get the graphics coded, but they add that extra bit of high-tech flair to keep the cool factor of the 3d printer up before they become as ubiquitous as toasters in the home. The code, fritzing board layout, 3D models, and a full build log is available at his site.