Thursday, June 30, 2016

M3D Micro: Balancing "Stick" and "Remove" When setting the Gap

With my Cube series 3D printers, setting the gap was straightforward because we only printed with two basic materials, PLA and ABS.  But, I am finding that things are little more nuanced when it comes to setting the gap with the M3D Micro.

That is because of the much wider variety of available materials with which we can print.  While in theory, one gap could, potentially, meet every need, I've not found it quite so simplistic.

The Goals of a Proper Gap

The role of the gap between the print head and the printing surface is to satisfy two competing needs.  The first need is for the object being printed to adhere to the print bed with enough adhesion as to not come loose during printing.  But. this goal has a bit of a conflict with the need to be able to remove the piece from the print table once the print job is down.

And, this is compounded by the fact that different types of materials have greater tendency to stick than other materials.  This largely due to different melting temperatures.

The trick, therefore, is to be able to find the proper gap that effectively balances both needs for a particular material.

The Tool To Test Balance

To initially test a particular gap setting, it would be a mistake to print a larger object.  I use a small, round disk that is just 20mm in diameter and 3mm high.  In addition, I chamfer the bottom edge so that I have a lip of 1mm under which I can insert a palette knife for removal.

Gap / Removal Test Tool

It's a simple object that only takes minutes to print.  Yet, it quickly allows me to determine if the gap is small enough to produce the adhesion I need during print jobs and if the gap is wide enough to allow for relatively easy removal of printed objects once the print job is completed.

There is little value of printing an object only to have it broken due to it sticking to the print plate too tightly.

Watch the Gap Tool being printed

The first layer is critically important.  If you see layers that don't lie flat, then the gap is probably too wide. When you remove the test print, check to see that the bottom beads of filament have a uniform flatness.  (You will see the individual filament lines and that is OK.)

Remember the Chamfer Trick

Creating a chamfered lip around the bottom of your design goes a long way to helping you safely remove items from the print table.  But, even that won't help if there is too much adhesion.  There should be some,; but, not a huge amount of resistance when removing items from the print table.

The Starting Place

Using a piece of 20lb bond paper to measure the gap is a great place to start if you are printing standard PLA 3D Ink.  But, when printing with Tough 3D Ink or other more exotic materials,  the paper gap might be too small.  I have found that, in fact, objects printed with Tough Ink can be very hard to remove if printed with a gap that worked perfectly fine for regular PLA.

So, when switching materials it probably isn't a bad idea to reset your gap based on your own experience with that material.

Fortunately,  the M3D print client offers a very convenient way to adjust gap height without having to go through the entire gap setting process.  More on that later!

M3D Micro: Exploring Ways to Minimize Stringing

Stringing has been an issue with every FDM (filament) printer I've ever used, including those costing more than $5000.  So, it isn't any surprise that with some materials and settings we can experience stringing with the M3D Micro.

String occurs when the print head stops laying down filament in one place and jumps to another place to begin laying down filament.   As it travels, a small strand of filament is drawn across the gap from one location to another... much like a spider spinning a web.

I first noticed the issue when creating an object with Durable Clear using 50 Micron layers and Solid fill.  Contacting M3D support, I was told to try less resolution and less infill.  That seemed reasonable from my experience with other printers, so I decided that if choosing a resolution and infill could remarkably alter the final output quality I wanted to know more and perhaps find my "go-to" setting for the Tough 3D materials.

I am now committed to testing each combination of settings to see how they affect the final outcome.  So far, I have tested three settings and I actually can see some quantifiable results.   I have not, as yet, gone back to the 50 Micron / Solid Infill because that setting demands a LONG print time.  Instead, remembering the result with the Durable Clear, I have chosen settings that would help me to see if there is a difference with shorter print times.

Because the Durable Clear does not photograph well, I have chosen to run the tests using Tough 3D Ink Utility Grey.  My method of evaluation is to use a photo copy stand with a single light to one side that will emphasize strings and other surface issues.

Test Object

Because I am convinced that the M3D Micro is a perfect 3D printer for crafters and those that enjoy sewing and fabric construction, I chose to design a piece that could be sewn onto a garment or fabric accessory.  It is intended to be printed in a flexible material and Tough 3D Ink is perfect for the job.  It's a simple design just to demonstrate the concept.

Stringing Test #1: 250 Microns / Low Infill

Based on the suggestions from M3D support, my first test settings were 250 micron layers with Low infill.  Clicking on the image will allow you to see it at full resolution.  Remember, I am purposely lighting to accentuate even the most minor of flaws.

250 Micron Layers / Low Infill Setting
At this setting, there are only two places where I could detect any stringing at all.

Stringing Isolated to one quadrant

It seems to be isolated to two strings in a single quadrant as marked in the above image.  Stringing was limited to a single string between each affect petal.  I would call this a very successful print with negligible stringing.  So, what of the other tested settings?

Stringing Test #2: 300 Microns / Hollow Thick Infill

Base on the first test, I decided to lower the quality settings on both fronts.  I moved up to 300 micron layers and took the infill setting down to Hollow Thick.  While I was amazed at the over quality at his setting, I definitely could see some stringing issues.

300 Micron Layers / Hollow Thick Infill
This time the stringing radiated around the entire object.  Moreover, like a spider's web, it showed up at various radii.  While not entirely unacceptable, it would require some cleanup.  Oddly enough, this test more closely resembled what I had first seen at the 50 Micron / Solid settings that started me on this quest.

So now I went in the other direction, I used a setting of 150 Microns with Medium Infill to bracket the 250 / Low test.

Stringing Test #3: 150 Microns / Medium Infill 

 This is the last test I will include in this post.  But, it will not be my last test in searching for an optimal setting to reduce stringing with Tough 3D Ink using this particular design.  Interestingly, while stringing certainly exists, and perhaps as much as the 300 Micron / Hollow thick test, it seemed to be confined more to the outside perimeter of the piece.

150 Micron Layers / Medium Infill
While these tests are not anywhere near comprehensive, we can at least say that, for now, a setting of 250 Microns with Low Infill is a pretty good place to start.  The next series of tests will concentrate on 250 Micron layers with changes to the infill selection.  This will be followed by test 200 Micron layers starting at the optimal infill we find for 250 Microns.

One of the things you will find about my approach to 3D printing is that I don't mind the time and materials that it takes to help all users have the best 3D printing experience.  Not only do I personally enjoy it; but, it helps our students to avoid unnecessary and needless frustration.  I know that the ability to print in flexible material is going to really appeal to our students.  So, it's important for me to learn as much as possible about its characteristics.  And, I hope it is helpful to you as well.

I am very impressed by the M3D Micro and if I can help others have the same positive experience with it as I am having, then I will be one happy camper!  Keep looking for updates!

Monday, June 27, 2016

The M3D Micro Transforms a Hotel Room into an Idea Room.

I have traveled with 3D printers many times over the past 3 years.  But, none were more suitable for travel than the M3D Micro 3D printer.  It's small and extremely quiet.  This allows me to create projects in response to the needs of my classes without fear of annoying my neighbors in adjacent rooms... or, my wife in the same room, which is even MORE important!

I know the quality of this video is very poor on several counts.  First, hotel rooms are generally darker than video cameras like.  Secondly, I had some issues trying to upload it to YouTube so I simply used the Blogger uploader which degrades the image further.

But, I could not resist the opportunity to demonstrate how one can set up a complete 3D workstation with scanning, design and printing on a small hotel desk, using a tablet having Intel's Real Sense and the M3D Micro 3D printer.  So, I hope you'll overlook the technical quality and concentrate on the wonderful ability of the M3D Micro 3D printer to turn any hotel room into a true Idea Room!

As seen in the video, the size of the filament spools is an important factor for concluding that the Micro is THE perfect travel 3D printer.  While the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cube printers could be carried on road trips, the size of the filament cartridges limited the number and variety of filament that could accompany it on the trip.  The size of the M3D spools allows them to be easily stored in commonly available air-tight containers.  Don't throw away the silica moisture protection bags that come with each spool.  Include them in the air-tight container to fully protect the filament from moisture damage.

If you have a food dehydrator, it can be used to refresh, or recharge, the silica bags so they can be used and reused for a long, long time.

Convenient traveling is just one more asset that makes the M3D Micro a wonderful tool to have.

M3D Pro 3D Printer Announced

Anyone that has followed any of my blogs knows that I don't ever cut & paste news releases.  But, I will use the information in news releases as a basis for trying to analyze trends and the true value of announced products.  There are several reasons why I take this cautious approach.  But, one reason stands out.  Early product announcements scare me.

Many years ago, I was happily collecting royalty payments from Mindset Computer Company.   It had been introduced as a game computer using the unique Intel 80186 chip; but, had struggled and, as you can read on the linked page, had refocused to serving the video and graphics industries using the Video Titler software I'd designed and sold to them.  The original computer was floppy drive only.  They announced a hard drive version.  Unfortunately, people stopped buying the original, waiting for the Mindset II.  But, it was delayed by technical problems and the company subsequently folded. 

By the way, you can see a an example of using the Mindset to overlay computer animation over live video footage in this 1985 video made for the U.S. Army.  Yes, It's crude by today's standards; but, hopefully, you will find it fun from a historical point of view.

Side Note:  The demise of the Mindset led to the formation of Pinnacle Video Systems by Ajay Chopra, one of the former Mindset management team members and I was asked to design the software used in their initial video product... so, it wasn't a total disaster.  :)
All that is to say, that I do not relish the idea of sales of great existing products to be adversely affected by announcements of future products.

I Love the M3D Micro

I'll repeat that.  I LOVE the Micro.  The designers at M3D have accomplished a brilliant product.

I am loath to do anything that might influence anyone to not buy the M3D Micro if that is the perfect 3D printer for their real needs.  But, because I do understand that the Micro might be less suitable for some than the new M3D Pro, I will encourage potential 3D printer buyers to carefully consider both.  In fact, I don't see it as an EITHER/OR proposition.  They are uniquely suited to a BOTH consideration.  We certainly will be approaching it that way.  So, let's take a look at the announced M3D Pro.

Why Consider the M3D Pro?

New M3D Pro

Once again, the designers at M3D have appeared to come up with a brilliantly designed 3D printer.

Here are just some of the prospective specs and benefits:
  • Heated Print Bed
There are many 3D printers with heated print beds.  But, what struck me abut the M3D Pro version is that the glass heater apparently can automatically adjust temperature. 
Why is this important?  
Different materials have different heating requirements to reduce warping.  Being able to automatically adjust the bed temperature by filament type should allow us to run things like ABS without warping and PLA without heating the bed.  This is an important safety consideration around small children.  NOT having to heat the bed is as important as having a highly heated bed for some applications.
There is also the implication that the heating circuitry is able to ramp the heat up or down,as needed, as the print progresses, much like that of higher quality ceramic kilns.  This may result in a print bed being at the perfect temperature at the end of print run for safe removal of parts.  This is a question I want to pursue further.
  •  Large Build Volume 
The build volume of the Pro is 7.8”H x 7.2”D x 7.2W.  This is larger that the 3rd Gen Cube in a printer that has a significantly smaller footprint.  Frankly, I don't believe that we have printed anything of that size on our Cube Pro printers with the capacity to print objects 11.2(w) x 9.06(h) x 10.6(d) inches. 
So,  the build volume of the M3D Pro can certainly be described as large taking into account the actual needs of most 3D printer users.
  •  Embedded Recovery 
Ok.  This a HUGE one.  Being able to recover from power outages, pauses, and filament shortage or jams is an enormously positive reason for wanting an M3D Pro.  Note the "pauses" reference.  Is anyone thinking, "Color Change" or "Material Change" when combined with the ability to use 3rd party slicers?  Hmmm.... this is intriguing.
  • Stand Alone Mode 
Stand alone operation is an important addition to the M3D line of 3D printers.  However, in the following description, we are not told if the transfer is via a USB cable or WiFi.
"M3D’s software will automatically start printing and transfer print jobs to an internal memory chip, allowing the print to continue without being tethered to a computer"
  • Advanced Sensor Network 
I will try to gather more information about the ARM sensor network functionality.  For now, I'm assuming things like more consistent print head temperature control and automated gap and print table leveling.  But, it may go well beyond this.
  • Accuracy
25-350 micron layer heights means that the Pro can print layers twice as fine as the Micro... which is already beautiful,
  • Print speed
It's apparent that the Pro will print considerably faster than the Micro.  But, will it be as quiet?  There is no way to know until we see a production version in action.  But, the build techniques look similar just from the available images.  So, I am guessing it's also going to be a very quiet printer.
I'm Opting for BOTH

There is no question about the fact that the M3D Pro is a step up in size, capabilities and automation over the original Micro.  But, to me, the Micro still holds a very special place in our ability to democratize 3D printing well beyond the typical hobbyist and maker communities. Its low cost, small footprint and quiet operation make it uniquely suited for small homes, apartments and the special needs of security conscious educators.

On the other hand, I see the need for at least one or two higher speed, higher volume printers capable of delivering parts in a variety of materials in a more timely fashion.

Even combining the cost of a Micro and a Pro, you are still way under the cost of the popular competitors!  So, BOTH is certainly a viable option and offers so many benefits that it is certainly worth considering. 

M3D Micro: Perfect Protection for Your Traveling M3D Micro

I have enjoyed traveling with my previous 3D printers; but, the M3D Micro has to be THE most suitable 3D printer for traveling that has ever been created.

What is REALLY pun intended... is just how convenient it is to use a cooler for protection when traveling.  Knowing I would be traveling all last week introducing our 3D ThinkLink 3D Design & Printing Curriculum to Horizons Hampton Roads teachers and knowing that they just HAD to see this little gem of a 3D printer, I scoured the shelves for suitable protection.

It didn't take long to find it in the form of the Igloo Ice Cube 14 Can Cooler.

Igloo Ice Cube 14 Can Cooler
 While I found mine in a local store, it's also available on Amazon.

There are two reasons why this is the perfect protection for the M3D Micro 3D printer.  The first is that it fits perfectly and is wonderfully protected using the original packing bubble wrap!

M3D Micro - Protected by Igloo Cooler
 The recessed top even provides relief for the cable/filament guide.  I stored the power supply and USB cable in the original accessory box that came with the printer.  It's hard to beat this for traveling convenience and protection.

But, this little cooler has something else to offer.  There is a lid on the top and a recessed area usually used for ice cubes.  It makes the perfect storage place for an extra spool of filament and silica moisture protection.

M3D Micro Filament with Silica Moisture Protection

Now, you have to admit it. This combination of a lightweight, strong cooler and the most portable 3D printer ever is a perfect match for having fun on the road with fear of damage

One evening, in my Hampton Inn hotel room, I created a quick video demonstrating some of the reasons why I call the Micro 3D printer THE most perfect traveling printer ever.  It truly does turn an otherwise bland hotel room into a true 'Idea Room" and I was able to create some very nice prints to show the Horizons teachers and, on a little side trip to North Carolina, Jeff Epps of the Richmond County G.R.E.A.T. 3D Academy.  He was as impressed as I am about the Micro.

The only problem?  They were so shocked at the quality, they took all my print samples!!!

Friday, June 17, 2016

M3D Micro - Pushing the Envelope With Detail

Base on the incredible detail I've seen in prints from the M3D Micro, I decided to give it some tough love with an object that was specifically designed to push the limits of using no raft and no supports with other 3D printers..

The difference in this test, from that of other 3D printers, was the scale.  At just 2.7" (69.5mm) The Micro printed version is about 1/2 of that of the other printer tests, resulting in extremely thin features hanging out there with no support!  I used Medium Quality (3rd selection from left) and Low Density (3rd selection from Left) for this test.  All check boxes were unchecked.   Here is the result:

Fire Vase - 2.7" (69.5m)

(Sorry for the barely adequate iPhone image.)

Ok... I know.  Who in their right mind would do this to a 3D printer?  But, as my granddaughters would say when they pick on me, "Because it's FUN... and SPECIAL!"

And, in fact, it WAS!!!

Remember... NO raft and NO supports!

As can be seen by comparing the size of the printed "Fire Vase" to the quarter, this print is very, very delicate,  The flames flare out with absolutely no support except the integrity of the layers.

The only artifacts were some stringing at the last 5mm from the tips.  While it's difficult to see in an iPhone image of a white object, the ornamental detail around the base and the top was nothing short of spectacular considering the scale.

The remarkable thing was that all of the flames and the tips of the flames were completely printed and intact until I clumsily damaged a tip and one of the flames by dropping it while admiring it.  Bummer!

I plan to print it again in a color that photographs better and at that time I will also use a much better camera.  I really want you to be able to see the amazing detail I'm experiencing.

Believe it or not, when I think about which of the 3D printers with which I work is most like the Micro in terms of detail, I would have to say it is the professional liquid based ProJet 1200 which costs $5,000.  That's not too shabby for a printer selling in the $400 neighborhood.

If this is what Medium Quality at Low Density looks like, I wonder what using the Expert Quality with Extra High density might yield?  Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

M3D Micro: Why I will only recommend and use M3D Filament reels

M3D offers a fairly comprehensive range of filaments for the Micro 3D printer.  But, the printer can work with most other brands of filament.  This leads some users to take that concept to ridiculous levels by running the Micro with very large and heavy spools of filament on some DIY spool holders.

Will it work.  Probably.  Is it wise? Probably not.

There are two reason why I do not plan to use anything other than M3D filament reels.

Would you pull a fifth-wheel RV with a Miata?

 Fifth wheel RVs are great.  But, it takes the proper vehicle to pull them.  Trucks are perfect for that purpose.

Truck pulling Fith Wheel RV
Miata's are perfect for the purpose for which they were designed, too.

But, would you REALLY want to pull one of those massive RV beasts down the road with a tiny Miata?  I sure wouldn't.  That would not only end up with the tail wagging the dog; but, it could probably be considered suicidal!

Those hefty reels of filament were designed to be used with even heftier large 3D printers.  To ask the Micro to pull filament from a reel that weighs more than the printer comes close to being abusive.

The Micro is designed for certain stress loads that are in line with the design goals of providing us with a wonderful small footprint printer.  If we want the best prints and the longest life from our Micro printers, then we need to consider its design goals and respect them.

Just because something CAN be done, does not make it a wise choice.

 PLA Filament Slurps Up Moisture from the Air.

Anyone with long experience with PLA filament that lives in the southeastern part of the USA knows that the enemy of PLA filament is high humidity.  It simply destroys PLA.

The RapMan 3.2 was a relatively large 3D printer.  It could easily deal with large, heavy reels of filament.  Yet, it didn't take me long to realize that I never seemed to be able to use all the filament on a reel before the printer started clogging.  While I didn't know it at the time, the culprit was moisture in the air.

The best defense against the issue of moisture contamination is to use up all the filament in a reel as quickly as possible after it is opened.  Obviously, a small reel of filament is more likely to be able to be finished before being made unusable by moisture than a large reel.  I expect to get a very high percentage of use out of my M3D reels of filament, with little waste.

M3D Filament is easier to store and protect

In addition to the filament that came with the Micro, I ordered 10 more reels. with no two alike.  It would be wrong to think that I am disciplined enough to use each reel in turn.  No, I am sure that I will open and test every single one of them leaving me with 10 open reels of filament.

But, fortunately, I don't need to leave those reels out and subject to the damage that moisture would inflict one them.  The small diameter of these M3D reels affords us LOTS of options for protecting them once the package is opened.

Let's consider just a couple.that can be found at your local Container Store. The first candidate is 6" in diameter and up to 9" tall.

Clear Acrylic Containers - Air Tight

While these are air tight containers, I suggest including a bag or two of desiccant just to be on the safe side.

But, there are even better choices from that very same store.  The Good Grips 6" square POP containers are an excellent choice for storing M3D filament.

Good Grip POP Containers

Here is a vidoe that describes their system for removing air from the canister to enhance storage.

So, think of the M3D filament reel as not only the perfect size and weight to complement the Micro; but, actually a good investment as well, since they are easily protected, over a long period of time, with convenient storage options.

This is certainly the way we plan to store our filament for the M3D Micro.  It's a whole lot more compact than the huge 5 gallon buckets we use for our other 3D printers.  And, I'm betting it will look pretty cool to visitors as well.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why the "Idea Room" theme for this blog?

Idea Rooms have been with us since the first artists decided to work in a studio.  If we tour historic home of highly creative thinkers, the library, filled with books and a writing desk always seem to be a central part of the owner's life.

The more advanced ancient cities had libraries holding vast collections of writings available for contemporary thinkers to probe past thinkers for inspiration.

And, of course, it's hard to image a school without a library or media center.

All of these spaces are places where ideas can be born and flourish.  But, these days, they are not the only places where creativity can be sparked and nurtured.  Based on my observations in my own life and the lives of others having access to 3D printers, it seems that the mere presence of a 3D printer, if that printer is used, becomes a center of creative thinking in an unparalleled way.

I have a passion for 3D printing because I have a passion for creativity and invention.  It's that simple.  I have always been in careers where I was surrounded by highly creative people doing highly creative things.  These include Dave Nutting, the designer of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Enstrom Helicopter and inventor of the electric pinball machine.  I was also fortunate to work for Nolan Bushnell, of Atari fame, as a consultant on a game system for Hasbro.  It was at Time-Life Software where I came to appreciate the importance of personalized space to the creative process.  It was a place of true renaissance people who I greatly admired.  Each office was different.  Some had rocking chairs.  Others had piles and piles of books in every nook and corner.  In short, it was a joy to be a part of such a wonderful team.

But, with all that background being with and around creative people and doing some creative things myself.  I have never felt so empowered to create as I have from the moment I owned my first 3D printer.  There is something about being able to turn abstract thoughts into actual physical reality that simply generates and unleashes new ideas ever more rapidly.

So, for many of us, any room into which we can install a 3D printer becomes a room full of ideas.

We see this same phenomenon with our cadets.  At first, they are simply curious.  But, soon, the biggest problem we have with them is that their minds are so full of ideas that they want to get right down to designing to the point of having to be reminded by the instructor that a lesson in more techniques is going on.

I believe, that for most children and adults, bringing a 3D printer into their lives will make the room in which the printer resides a place where new ideas are spawned and creativity is unleashed.

That is one reason why I wanted to focus on the Micro 3D Printer by M3D.  The small footprint means that it can fit on a child's desk or in the smallest of apartments.  It's quiet operation means that media centers can not only store a school's 3D printers; but, actually run them without disturbing library visitors.  And, the remarkable print quality means that users who understand 3D printing boundaries should not face frustration from poor prints.

Prior to the Micro, I've owned five different 3D printers.  I've always wanted to give one to my already creative granddaughters; but, none were small enough or quiet enough to be really suitable for their home.  The Micro 3D printer changes all that.  I can't wait to transform one of their rooms into an Idea Room by surprising them with a Micro! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Any Room Can Be an Idea Room with a 3D Printer

The purpose of this blog is to communicate to teachers, parents and grandparents the power of 3D printing to literally transform the direction of young lives. In my work with at-risk young people for the YouthQuest Foundation, I have seen this transformation take place in class after class, year after year. But, it doesn't just benefit the young. Now in my 70's, I can testify to the fact that even those with a few years behind us can experience the satisfaction of new levels creative energy by having a 3D printer to be able to turn our ideas into reality..

I am passionate about spreading the news that 3D printing is not just about making cheap plastic parts. It's about waking sleeping brains and energizing them with new possibilities for creativity and ingenuity. As this blog begins, it is going to be primarily focused on two 3D printers that could not be more different. It's probably going to be very confusing as to why I would select two printers with such obviously different classroom experiences as the focus of the same blog. But, I can assure you, this decision was not made in a vacuum. It is based on years of actual 3D printing experience with a wide range of 3D printing equipment.

While this blog solely contains my personal opinions, those opinions have been formed by years of personal experience beginning with my first RepRap style RapMan 3.2 printer and my professional experience at The YouthQuest Foundation where I create 3D design and printing curriculum targeted toward serving at-risk youth. In addition to our work with educational facilities in four states, we have a central 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab utilizing multiple 3D printers ranging from consumer FDM to professional micro-SLA and full-color powder printers. The stable of 3D printers includes:
  • 2nd Gen Cube Printers (30)
  • 3rd Gen Cube Printers (7)
  • JellyBox Reusable Kit Printer (4)
  • CubePro Printers (1 Duo & 2 Trio)
  • ProJet 1200 Professional Micro-SLA Printer (1)
  • ZCorp 450 Professional Full-color Powder Printer (1)
We have recently complemented this list with the Micro 3D Printer, from M3D, that is destined to fill a unique niche in our educational strategy for at-risk students which now includes those with autism-spectrum disorders.

Micro 3D Printer from M3D

The micro M3D is small enough and quiet enough to transform any classroom, living room, family room, bed room or any room into an Idea Room. True, it is slower than most 3D printers and it has a relatively small print area. But, the low noise, small footprint, light weight and low cost more than make up for any percieved shortcomings. As you can see from the image below the print quality is extremely fine and very impressive. 

First production part created on the Micro from M3D

Our job here will be to help you set up your printer and use it to the best possible outcomes with articles designed to get the most out of this wonderful little printer.

The best advice I can give you is to embrace the Micro as it was designed, for the purpose for which it was designed and to be used as it was designed.

To me it is a marvel of beautiful engineering that opens up many special educational opportunities... particularly in homes and apartments where space is limited and budgets are tight. As a grandfather, I think it is the perfect first 3D printer for our grandchildren. More on this later.

 JellyBox Reusable Kit Printer from iMade3D

On the completely opposite end of the spectrum is the Jellybox. It is a kit 3D printer. But, unlike most kit 3D printers it is designed to be built, used, dismantled and rebuilt multiple times. It can perform this marvelous feat due to the fact that it is held together with common zip ties!  Obviously, a printer with a clear acrylic frame is hard to photograph.  And, one could be excused for thinking that any printer held together with zip ties would have to produce very poor prints.  But, not only is the Jellybox the FASTEST extrusion printer in our lab, it also produces the FINEST prints.  That's quite a feat considering some of our FDM printers cost more than four times as much..

A year or so ago, I declared in one of my blogs that the 3D printing marketplace had matured to the point that it no longer made sense to go through the 'build experience' just to end up with an average or below average printer.  My own past build experiences were anything; but, fun.  But, I thoroughly enjoy building the Jellybox.  In fact, I've participated in 4 beta builds!

We plane to have the cadets in our week-long Immersion Class build Jellybox printers.  The goal is to complete the build and have a working 3D printer in less than one day!  But, what is really cool is that at the end of the week these same cadets will tear down the printers to their component parts to be ready for the next Immersion Class in the winter. 

Again, we'll have more on this fascinating printer in future articles.  But, like the Micro 3D Printer, the designers have done a marvelous job of designing the printer for it's specific educational tasks.  They have also done a superior job of demanding the highest quality components to withstand the rigors of multiple builds and still produce superior printing results.

Bottom Line

Together, one or both of these 3D printers have a special place in the education of our young people.  Not only can the Jellybox be used to learn about 3D printing; but, it also has industrial education applications allowing student to learn about optimizing assembly processes.  I'm excited to be covering both of these printers and I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.