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  1. #1
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    An introduction to three-dimensional printing




    BRIEFING SESSION


    An introduction to three-dimensional printing


    By Patrick Marshall
    From pens to prosthetics, from working handguns to human tissues complete with blood vessels, 3D printers can now create a bewildering array of functional objects.
    The price of entry into this rapidly developing technology has dropped to under U.S. $500, putting these powerful tools within the reach of almost anyone with a PC.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/briefing-session/an-introduction-to-three-dimensional-printing (opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  2. #2
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    I would add OpenSCAD to the list of 3D modeling tools, and Repetier Host to a list of integrated 3D printing tools (object positioning, scaling, slicing, and printing). Both of these are free.

    Also, while thinner printing layers can help with resolution in the vertical dimension, if the extruder has an opening of 0.4 mm, that limits resolution in the X and Y directions.

    Finally, printers with more than one extruder can slow things down because each extruder needs to be primed before it is used. The ability to print with more than one material (whether it is different colors, or support material) is useful, but it comes with a performance penalty.

  3. #3
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    As Jon mentioned, adding heads does NOT increase printing speed. Due to the time waiting for a head to cool down, the new one to heat up, then prime, multiple-color printing is MUCH slower than single-head printing, not the other way round.
    One additional piece of software may be needed to control the printer once the slicing has completed. Pronterface (www.pronterface.com) is one of the most common.
    In addition to the number of heads, whether or not the printer has a heated bed or heated compartment will have a significant effect on whether large parts can be printed. If the temperature of the part is not maintained, the part will warp and pull itself off the print bed if it has large horizontal dimensions. If you're lucky, all that will do is result in a ruined print. If not, the head can be damaged by hitting the warped print.

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