Only a few days ago, a significant proportion of the Hackaday crew was leaving Goshen, Indiana after the fourth annual Midwest RepRap Festival. We go to a lot of events every year, and even when you include DEF CON, security conferences, ham swap meets, and Maker Faires, MRRF is still one of the best. The event itself is an odd mix of people rallying under a banner of open source hardware and dorks dorking around with 3D printer. It’s very casual, but you’re guaranteed to learn something from the hundreds of attendees.
Hundreds of people made the trek out to Goshen this year, and a lot of them brought a 3D printer. Most of these printers aren’t the kind you can buy at a Home Depot or from Amazon. These are customized machines that push the envelope of what consumer 3D printing technology. If you want to know what 3D printing will be like in two or three years, you only need to come to MRRF. It’s an incubator of great ideas, and a peek at what the future of 3D printing holds.
Alongside printers from all walks of manufacturing, one can naturally expect to find people selling different kinds of filament at a 3D printing festival. One of these purveyors of plastic was Proto-pasta out of Vancouver, WA. Proto-pasta prides themselves on unique offerings and complete transparency about their manufacturing processes.
Almost all of their filaments are either PLA or HTPLA with something special added during extrusion. The menu includes steel, iron, carbon, and finely ground coffee. The coffee filament was one of our favorites for sure. The print they brought with them looked solidified light roast and had a transparent kind of lollipop quality to it. I couldn’t detect the coffee scent due to allergies, but [Alex] assured me that printing with this filament will make your house or hackerspace smell terrific.
[Alex] was giving away samples of their stainless steel composite PLA. This one can be polished to a smooth shine with a series of papers that run from 400 to 8,000-grit. Another of their newer offerings is PLA infused with magnetic iron particles. Prints made with this stuff can be rusted to achieve an antique, steampunk, or shabby chic aesthetic.
Proto-pasta also has an electrically conductive composite carbon PLA. This one is great for capacitive applications like making a custom, ergonomic stylus or your own game controller. According to the site, the resistivity of printed parts is 30 ohms per centimeter as measured perpendicular to the layers, and 115 ohms along the layers.
Have you made anything awesome with conductive or magnetic filament? Have you had any problems with unorthodox filaments? Let us know in the comments.
Think laying down molten plastic on a 3D printer is as easy as squeezing plastic filament out of a hot tube? It’s not, and anyone who had a 3D printer in 2009 would tell you as such. There were hobbed bolts that stripped the plastic into a gooey paste, extremely large x carriages that made everything wobbly, and nothing worked as well as it does today.
Technology marches on, and this year’s Midwest RepRap Festival had people showing off the latest advances in pushing plastic, and something that hasn’t seen much use yet – dissolvable filament.
3D printing is obviously best used in printing three-dimensional objects. Laser cutters, jig saws, and CNC routers are obviously well-equipped to machine flat panels with intricate shapes out of plastic sheets, plywood, or metal, but these devices have one drawback: they’re subtractive manufacturing, and 3D printers add material. What good is this? [Jason Preuss] demonstrated a very interesting 3D printing technique at this year’s Midwest RepRap Festival. He’s producing 2D paintings with a 3D printer, with results that look like something between very intricate inlay work and a paint by numbers kit.
[Jason] is using a 3D printer, a series of very specialized techniques, and a software stack that includes a half-dozen programs to print multicolor 2D scenes. This isn’t pigment, paint, dye, or ink; the artwork becomes a single piece of plastic with individual colors laid down one at a time.
The best example of [Jason]’s work is a copy of a paint by numbers scene. Here, [Jason] makes an outline of all the shapes, separates onto different layers by color, and prints each color, one layer at a time. It’s an incredibly labor-intensive process to even get models into a slicer. Actually printing the model is even more difficult. [Jason]’s paint by numbers scene uses about twelve different colors.
We’ve seen [Jason]’s work at MRRF before, including last year’s exhibition of a fantastic chocolate clock that was a 3D printed version of an old scroll saw pattern. Taking what is normally a 2D design and translating that into something that can be built with a 3D printer seems to be [Jason]’s forte, and the results are remarkable. If you don’t know what you were looking at, you would just think these art pieces are a strange industrial fabrication process. Once you look closer, you have an immediate respect for the artistry and craftsmanship that went into a sheet of plastic only a few millimeters thick and no bigger than a piece of paper.
[Jason] hasn’t documented his build process for these 2D pictures on a 3D printer quite yet. There’s a reason for that: it’s supposedly very complicated, and it’s going to take a while to get all the documentation together. Eventually, the process will be documented and a tutorial will pop up on [Jason]’s website. He’s also on Thingiverse, with a few semi-related designs available for download.
From what we’ve seen at MRRF, in the next few years, a dual extrusion printer will be a necessity. While dual extrusion won’t be able to recreate such colorful pictures, it will make the creation of these 2D plastic panels much easier, and they will surely be popular. We can’t wait to see what [Jason] comes up with next.
MRRF, the Midwest RepRap Festival, is in full swing right now. The venue is packed, attendance is way up this year, and the panorama is impressive:
MRRF is not really a trade show. Yes, there are companies here (Google is picking up the tab for Chinese food tonight), but this is assuredly a community-based event around open source hardware. That said, Lulzbot is here, SeeMeCNC is hosting, E3D, and Ultimachine are all here. This year, there are a few new printers.
Lulzbot’s Taz 6 – the latest update to their flagship printer made its first public appearance at MRRF this year. A product update from Lulzbot isn’t like a product announcement from a normal company. Lulzbot is using rapid prototyping for manufacturing (!). They can iterate quickly and release two new printers in the time it takes Stratasys to come up with a design. This also means the releases are incremental.
The 2016 Midwest RepRap festival is a yearly celebration of blue tape, aqua net, and tangled strands of 3D printer filament held at the Elkhart county fairgrounds in Goshen, Indiana. This year, the fairgrounds has fiber Internet, and we have a Dropcam. This can only mean one thing: live streaming from the best 3D printer convention on the planet.
The livestream is down because MRRF is over
This stream should be active the entire weekend, with the requisite breaks for sleep and to take the entire crew to the Chinese buffet down the street. Of course, if you’re in the area, you’re more than welcome to stop by. Registration is free, although a small donation would be appreciated.
The schedule for the event is as follows:
Friday: now until 10pm Eastern
Saturday: 10am to 6pm Eastern
Sunday: 10am to 3pm Eastern
The (incomplete) list of speakers (which might be livestreamed) is as follows:
E-Nable 3D printed prosthetics
B3 Innovations From MRRF to retail
IMade3D STEM + Jellybox
MakerOS Make Money with 3D Printing
J. Conway 3D Printer Adaptive Scanning Technologies