Programming has been my main job for the past 6 to 7 years and I’ve always had a passion for digital fabrication. I have a bachelor in Computer Science, but I think deep down I knew I had a creative side within me. 3D graphics and digital fabrication are self-taught skills through tutorials and online courses.
How I Started …
I started getting into digital fabrication when I first heard of a 3D printer called the Cupcake. It was featured on the cover of Make magazine.
My first Make magazine! At the time it was the size of a small book and not today’s full book size. Bre Pettis was holding the marvelous 3D printer made out of plywood on the magazine cover. (I believe its the Cupcake model on the cover.) I bought the magazine, but I didn’t have the cash to buy the printer at the time.
It was a couple years later until I saved up enough money to get one, I found out Makerbot had a clearance sale going on for their Thing-o-matic, which was the newer model after the Cupcake. It took me 2 weeks to fully assemble the Thing-o-matic, but little did I know at the time, that it was very hard to calibrate the machine.
My Thing-o-matic has gone through some upgrades after the heating block stopped working. I installed a laser cutter in replace of the heater block so I could cut paper and etch wood. The orange plexiglass in the picture is a special type of plastic that redirects light so the laser won’t blind you if it ever falls out of position.
Ordering Laser Protective Plexiglass Online
Just a quick tip, if you’re ever ordering this laser protective plexiglass online and expect it to be delivered through customs, the border officials will open your package. Simply because the laser protection feature of the plexiglass refracts light in a way that X-rays won’t be able to scan the parcel. Just FYI.
I stopped using the laser etching device shortly after because the smell of burning wood was very intolerable and I didn’t have a space with good ventilation.
A few years later after I got the Thing-o-matic, Printrbot came out! It was the smallest and cutest printer I have ever seen to this day. Sadly Printrbot closed down in June of 2018. Very very sad for me. I am a big fan of Brook Drumm’s designs.
I have the old wooden Printrbot Simple with strings that worked with the pulley gears! They didn’t even have belts yet. Sadly I tore that apart for a remake many years ago, so I wasn’t able to take a picture.
I then got a Printrbot Simple Metal and I used that for 2-3 years as my main machine. It went through so many hacks and upgrades so I could achieve the best possible results. It currently has a 0.2mm nozzle installed with a heated bed. Before installing the heated bed, I had an acrylic bed that I bought on Kickstarter that was the first flexible bed plate I had heard of at the time, however that didn’t work with the auto bed leveler so I had to manually set the z-height every time. And I endured that for more than a year!
Powerful Cooling Fan
I also added an extra cooling fan on the side as seen in the image. It’s attached to the red fan shroud. Don’t let this small fan fool you, it is captible of blowing airflow at 11.54 CFM and at Presure of 9.90 mmH2O. The challenge was finding some extra power pins on Printrbot’s motherboard (aka Printrboard), because the fan needs 12 Volts of DC power and is rated at 0.18 Amps. So the normal cooling fan pins on the motherboard wouldn’t cut it since those power pins were rated at 5 Volts. Luckily I found some power pins that I reused from the Z-sensor for the bed leveler. Since I was using the Printrboard F6, it had a mosfet attached to the Z-sensor pins used for swapping out the switch (old way of bed leveling) for the metal detector device that needed more power. Unfortunately by plugging in my new power cooling fan, it caused the board to operate a little wacky probably because you’re not suppose to use both power pins at the same time, the mosfet acts as a switch only allowing use of one or the other.
The Printrbot Simple is my all-time favorite design to this day. The mechanical design is very elegant and it is an all metal printer, making it very sturdy.
Even though I’m a big fan of Printrbots, time has not been kind to Printrbot and 3D printers are advancing very quickly. The Printrbot machines suffers due to the lack of fancy software upgrades that newer printers have today. However in terms of mechanical stability, I think Printrbot wins by a long run considering when these designs were first released. You can still compare the mechanics with today’s printers and I think Printrbot doesn’t fall short in terms of structure.
Printers have changed a lot through the years. Prusa machines auto-calibrate themselves! And they don’t even need endstops (or a.k.a. limit switches) to detect the edges of the printer structure. Today, I use Prusa’s mk3 as my main go to machine due to the fancy automation features installed making it very easy to maintain and use.
Auto-calibration is hard to resist.
Software I Use Today
Quixel's Mixer & Bridge
Adobe After Effects
AutoDesk's Fusion 360
Epic's Unreal Engine
Atom Text Editor
Microsoft's Visual Studio