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Dr. Mike

Setting up a Printrbot Metal Plus

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Embodi3D member Beth Ripley posted an outstanding article on setting up a Printrbot Metal Plus printer. A good setup is necessary for high quality 3D prints. Anyone have any personal experience with the Printrbot? What printers are other Embodi3D members using?

 

I personally have my eye on a Form 1+, but I'd like to see a sample of the print quality before buying. Anyone have any experience with the Form1+?

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I have been using the Ultimaker 2 for about a year now and am very happy with the print quality. I have not used a Form 1+ but have seen prints and they are very high resolution. My original printer was a B2 Creator which, like the Form 1, is also a SLA printer. The problems I had with the B2 was: 1. small build volume 2. the resin is messy to use 3. print cost is higher than filament printers 4. the prints are somewhat fragile. I eventually sold my B2 to a jeweler. SLA printers are perfect for making jewelry patterns since the resin burns out cleanly and the high resolution allows for very nice detailed patterns of small objects.

 

I looked around for a while for a new printer and narrowed my search to printers with the largest print volume with the best quality print. That led to the Makerbot Replicator II or the Ultimaker 2. I chose the Ultimaker 2 because it had a slightly bigger build area. I am happy with its performance. It is easy to set up and has been trouble free. Ultimaker recently released their next gen printer with even a bigger print volume! One note on resolution and print volume. You can only print so big and so fine before it gets impractical. The longest continuous print I have done was 30 hours. That was at 100 micron resolution which is the Ultimaker's "normal" mode. If I printed at 50 microns it would have taken over 2 days to print! That is a bit crazy! At that point it is probably better to slice up the object and have multiple printers working concurrently.

 

One place to see "hobby" level 3d printers in action is at the Makerfaire. Makerbot, Ultimaker, Formlabs, and well as many other smaller manufactures are there and available to answer any questions. There is a Makerfaire in San Mateo, CA in mid May. Probably worth the visit if you absolutely have to see machines working live and in person.

 

Right now I am trying to determine if the resolution of the Ultimaker is adequate to use to fabricate surgical guides for placement of dental implants in the maxilla and mandible. I have been using patient's DICOM files from scans then working them thru Osirix, Blender, and Meshmixer. It really is a work in progress. I just started another case I am going to try to work up this week. I know there are companies which provide this exact service, but I want to see if I can do the same using a $2,500 printer and open source software. Plus there is certain amount of fun involved when you figure things out on your own!

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I love the Form 1 printer- it does a beautiful job and because of the way it prints, it deals much better with more complicated, organic shapes. For example, it is fantastic for a hollowed out aorta. 

 

Where it has an issue is with bulky prints. For example, a whole heart or a kidney to scale is much more difficult to pull off...because the model is basically hanging upside down from the build platform, if it is too heavy it will fall off. This is disappointing and also a serious mess to clean up because you will have cured resin "chunks" floating around in your resin tray which you will have to skim out. 

 

I think in a perfect world (budget version!), you would have an inexpensive FDM printer (for bulky prints, bone, etc) and an SLA printer (for more delicate prints such as vascular structures and fine bony detail). This would put you around $1500 + $3700, or just over $5000 to pull off a lot of basic medical applications. 

 

In a more perfect world (limitless resources version) you would have a printer like ab Objet Connex which could handle multiple tasks. But the price tag here is $200,000. 

 

Anyone know of a happy medium? 

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