Tuesday, 30 July 2013

#3DPM@MadLab 29th July 2013

Our latest meeting was really pleasing for me, and the other co-founders of #3DPM (Mark & Keith).  The fourth meeting in as many weeks was qualitatively different in tone to previous weeks.  We got our first repeat offenders: James, Craig, together with Richard who'd visited us back when we used to meet at Tech-Hub.  This was a great sign that we were getting something right, and that #3DPM was offering enough for people to come back week after week.  We've also begun to attract interest from commercial interests as well hobbyists, in the form of Peter Holden from Holden and Sons creative communications agency.

I kick-started the evening by beginning a group discussion about what people from different backgrounds would like to see in a series of formal 3D print-courses to be run by #3DPM@MadLab.  We got some great feedback, and these will be presented soon for members and non-members of the group from anywhere to attend.  Details will follow, so keep checking the blog and the MadLab site!

Keith and Mark started to discuss aspects of basic and advanced 3D printing to the assembled masses of newbies and not-so-newbies. Everyone seemed rapt, and everyone seemed to have learnt something new! I know I did! There's still so much information going around, that everyones doing their best to soak it up.  It's important to us that we get as much as possible into the first iteration of the #3DPM 3D printing course.

MadLab will soon be opening a store to support the sales of various accoutrements related to the various groups that make it their home. Rachael from MadLab asked us to be part of the 3D printing offerings they're considering hosting, in collaboration with the 3D print guys at HackSpace.  We're going to eventually offer a place to buy 3D printers, consumables, and come for consultancy and expertise care of #3DPM. Watch this space for when we go live!

So far so good, we're building courses to get the message and skills out there, and we're organising a physical presence to cement 3D printing in Manchester. The only one we know of outside of London!  So what are we doing with #3DPM?  The group has matured in the space of four meetings at MDDA and MadLab (see our previous blog posts!).

From now on in, we'll be asking all attendees to bring along a laptop with a downloaded and installed version of Google Sketch-up (other dl sites are available other than the link!).  #3DPM is supporting this as we know we've got in-house advice and experience to give on this software. You're free to use any other 3D modelling software, but we can't guarantee that there will be expertise to help you in advance.  This will change as time goes by, as we're looking to expand on this!

Wrought iron signs used to be ubiquitous - perhaps 3D printed signs will take their place?

The whole point of getting people to bring a Sketch-up loaded laptop, is that we're enthusiastic about giving members the chance to work on their own designs, or the #3DPM group project of a 3D printed art installation that will join, at roof-top level, MadLab to Holden & Sons building (opposite each other on Edge Street, Manchester).  The art installation was inspired through a chat between myself and Peter, and my memory of wrought iron signs across the north of England.  Wrought iron signs were more than just a device for communication, with aesthetic design cues, the signs would project what these companies stood for and what they could manufacture for you. #3DPM will get all interested group members to contribute towards a 3D printed art-installation that will cement our area in Manchester, as the birth-place of a manufacturing revolution.

We've so much going on now, and we're always looking for people to volunteer their skills, or just come along and see whats going on. All are welcome, and we're here to get everyone involved, so see you at the next meeting on the 12th of August at MadLab!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Just put my first item on Thingiverse.com

There is a first time for everything and my first 3D mashup is now available to the world; first of many I hope.
FYI: visit http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:123844 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

#3DPM@MadLab 22nd July 2013

Firstly a huge thank you to MadLab for hosting #3DPM and making us feel so welcome! MadLab is really interested in making our widening participation objectives happen, and together we're going to achieve something really special for 3D printing in Manchester!

Whilst the ground floor was the scene of mass permaculture, #3DPM had the top floor to house the 3D printers provided by Mark and Keith.  As I bundled into MadLab fifteen minutes late (thank you traffic jams), I found a room full of new faces - I wondered what new directions the group would take this week!

Keith kickstarting the event introducing the 3D printer to all the new faces!

Today Keith set about explaining how to set up his modified Mendel with ABS plastic.  Much the same as with PLA, but he used Kapton tape to prepare the base for the printed item to sit on.  He also began to explain Google Sketch-up, the free design tool supported by Google.

An example of a model designed on 'Sketch-up'
This week, the group began to fluidly switch between groups working on basic and advanced projects, the possibilities of 3D scanning, and discussions about where the group was heading and legal implications of 3D printing and OEM parts.  Part way through the meeting, Dave from MadLab dropped in to see how we were getting on and to talk about a survey they were putting together to see how all groups inter-connected.  At #3DPM has plans to begin projects with the groups of programmers and DIY biologists at MadLab.

Dave captivating an audience!
After Keith had run through the basics of 3D printing from the printer set-up to design, we set them to it to design something for themselves that could be printed and taken away with them. James stepped up to the plate and designed something akin to a small church!

The 'modernist' church!
However in an object lesson of how things can go wrong when you don't check to make sure all the lines are closed and attached to something else, this was perfect.  The bottom half of the printed object corresponded to the design, darker with higher density of plastic, with a high resolution recess where required.  However the top half was not properly joined up in design and the result was mostly supporting 'in-fill' plastic. This looks less black due to its lower density.  What would have been found if we etched away the in-fill, was that the designed structures were buried inside.

A valiant first effort!

Mark came and brought his 3D scanning tool, which is his own effort using a Kinect originally from an Xbox console, and available software called ReConstruct Me.  This software allows you to scan anything into an object that can be converted into a printable file. Using Craig as a guinea pig we had him pose whilst Mark rotated the camera around him for the scan.  We then watched as the software quickly reconstructed what it had seen after a quick, less than optimally stable scan.  We even had a little red printed model of a scan Mark had done earlier, and it left us wondering why it looked like Max Headroom, and more importantly what we could each do with this kind of technology. Especially as with the arrival of Xbox one and the improved Kinect this Christmas, high-end scanning was at the tips of our fingers!

We had a really fruitful discussion about intellectual property, and the hypothetical situation of wanting to recreate an OEM engineered part using a 3D printer.  Would the designer of the part decide that they would litigate to protect their R&D investment? We all began the discussion, which brought everyone up to speed about what intellectual property (I.P.) was, and what it meant for the user on the street - the war between Apple and Samsung recently a case in point.  It became clear to us that the we wondered whether there could be dispensation from usual IP if we were making a copy for ourselves on a private basis. I.e. would our printed items be treated as a cassette tape copy, which we could make freely; or as a digital MP3 which was not legally allowed to be copied.  In the future we'll try to bring in an I.P. lawyer for a brief discussion of of their opinions.

There was some progress on other projects, but we'll discuss them when we've more to say!  Our next meeting is on the 29th of July, and we'll be meeting fortnightly after that. We'll post the dates in each weeks blog, but check out the MadLab site to get the low-down on future dates.  So until then, come one and all, all new members are welcome!

Friday, 19 July 2013

#3DPM@MDDA 17th July 2013

After our first event at MDDA, a few things became obvious to the people that attended #3DPM. The first was that we really were passionate about 3D printing, and that despite the different backgrounds we'd got involved with a group of fellow 3D printing 'groupies'.  No matter which direction we'd come from career-wise, we could all see what 3D printing could do for us.  We'd also realised that even with a few people, it had become an intense learning session, whilst giving us the space to learn what we wanted in the time we wanted.  Given that the first week was so fruitful for all involved, what would our second event have in store?

Note the control panel - Panelolu 2
Keith's Modified Mendel 3D Printer - note the control panel - a Panelolu 2

Courtesy of Mark and Keith, we all had access to three Mendel derivative 3D printers.  Keith went further this week, describing how he'd managed to bring layer resolutions of his prints down to a minimum of 0.1 mm (100 micrometres). The modifications he'd made to his Mendel allowed for greater control He then set about showing us how he'd made some night-lights for his home. The 'corkscrew' prints were created such that you could fix LED lights within them, creating a safe soft glow.  Mark discussed how he'd made a part for a Yamaha motorcycle engine for his brother, which was still a work in progress. In the weeks to come we'll find out whether the part worked, and offered a decent replacement for OEM parts.

An example night-light being fabricated

I finally bit the bullet, and decided to build my own 3D printer. After having done some research I realised that Keith's Mendel derivative had some great modifications, which put it up there with some more expensive solutions offered by the better known manufacturers.  We'll detail more of these as time goes by, but I'm going to document on the blog my time building the Mendel so that everyone can see how we're getting on and what we're going to do.

John looking on bemused as Keith puts the sales pitch on me -
SOLD to the guy obsessed with objects in black PLA!
(Note Mark's 3D printing set-up in the foreground)

The event got more exciting as #3DPM spawned ideas for two start-up companies.  Keith decided to commercialise his modified version of his 3D printer, and we'll be talking about that soon.  Mark decided that given the Government's ideas about bringing 3D printing to schools, he was going to begin the creation of a training academy directed at the school curriculum through his company Mesalatina3D.  This was exciting for me, as the whole point of #3DPM was to build a club of hobbyist volunteers, who gave something of themselves, and then managed to build their ideas into real commercial entities.  Watch this space for more details as to how they go.

A close-up of Mark's Mendel set-up.
He has his laptop directly attached to the printer,
but in Keith's you can plug in an SD card with your .STL files.

In preparation for our move to MadLab, we're also starting to organise some courses for new attendees. John suggested that some people would be interested in design, some in the printer itself. So we're going to attend to both these.  From Monday's event at MadLab (22nd July) we're going to start off people designing on Google Sketchup for 'would be' designers, and have you all designing a key-fob with your name on it. Something for you all to take away with you.  We'll then go through the thought-processes, ordering of parts, and building over the new few weeks of my own printer. Those who attend and want help building their own are more than welcome to do so, and we'll all pitch in. The expertise within #3DPM and other groups at MadLab, means that larger more complicated projects for people to attempt are within the realm of possibility.  See you next Monday!

Monday, 15 July 2013

The number of materials we can use expands....

3D-printed liquid metal brings stretchable gadgets closer


#3DPM will start its meetups at our (hopefully!) permanent new home at Manchester Digital Laboratory, known as 'MadLab' (http://madlab.org.uk/content/3d-printer-group/).

We've got meetings at 7pm on Monday the 22nd and 29th of July. This should carry on weekly.  We have these two weeks and MadLab wants us to go fortnightly, but this depends on members attendance. The more people attend, the more we get out of the meetings, and the more chance we have of MadLab giving us a coveted weekly spot. We're already one above everyone else getting fortnightly spots!

In the mean time, we're at MDDA on the 17th of July at 7pm (as detailed on an earlier post), and we're going to meet to discuss and get on with some actual 3D printing projects. Get your thinking caps on and tell us all what you'd like to see happen, and what you'd like to get involved in.

Why has #3DPrinting ‘suddenly’ become popular?

   It has been possible for a long time to create or take a design from a computer and make it real almost immediately using some form of #3DPrinter or CNC machine.

   While there are many reasons why this relatively old technology is now attracting the media’s attention, one reason is affordability brought about by the DIY culture of building your own from common components available from places like B&Q and Maplin. The sharing of information over the internet has allowed many DIY-ers to build #3DPrinters of amazing sophistication to rival machines once only available to those with budgets on a par with NASA.      

Printing organic material – real, living cells!

   However, the main driving force behind this renaissance is the realisation that making money is of little use if we can’t earn enough of it to afford to buy the real things needed to sustain life and make it comfortable. This came about for many people when the financial service sector, i.e. banks, became a liability to the economies that relied on them back in 2008. Those affected, with a modicum of intelligence were then able to initiate inquires and question the true value of our financial services; and made a case to reclaim back the manufacturing industries lost to our Asian cousins.

   However, making a case for bringing back manufacturing is one thing, but the reality of doing so when the expertise and infrastructure is no longer available, makes it very difficult. This is where the potential of #3DPrinting has been jumped on by the politicians, even President Obama gives it a mention in his "state of the nation" speech.

   Tech start-ups that can exploit #3DPrinting will have a significant advantage in the brave new world of manufacturing, this conclusion has been reached because the #3DPrinting development cycle is at a point very similar to the early days of computing, at the time when the IBM Personal Computer (aka PC) was introduced. This cycle will have its differences such as it will be faster and more people are aware of it therefore more competition.

   Those of us, who lived through and understand the early days of computing, will see the similarities and having learned a lot from that experience; myself and many others, will be taking every opportunity to profit from the knowledge and remind ourselves of the good old days, when being a programmer was fun.
Printing Buildings and Statues
   Interestingly back in the 1980’s we in the computing world did our best work in collaboration, which was counter to the ethos of the average yuppie of the day (a young upwardly mobile professional individual; a well-paid middle-class professional who works in a city – source http://www.thefreedictionary.com/yuppie)
Views expressed here are mine!
I hope this is useful to you.

"A 3D Printer is like a Yamaha Piano, some people can play them better than others!"

Quote from 'Mark-the-#3DPrinter,2013'

Okay you have the tool 'the 3D printer'; now you need to learn how to use it.
Like a piano you need the right music and you need to know how to play it.
What works for one musician may not be appropriate for another.
The analogies go on, but when you are struggling to get that 3D print right,
remember this: when the day comes everybody can do it with a push of the button!

Looking back will you be thinking..
It was a complete and utter waste of time and my life, or
I'm glad I stuck at it and made a ton of money, or
Those were the days, or
That was fun?


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Some software for your #3DPrinter

Check out Repetier-Host Windows version!

The windows installer comes already with everything you need.
It includes Slic3r, Skeinforge, Python and Pypy.
Requires .NET 3.5 SP1 framework.

Download it from here... http://www.repetier.com/download/

.NET 3.5 SP1 from here... http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=22

Saturday, 13 July 2013

#3DPM Event Night - 10th July 2013

Mark and I turned up outside the offices of the MDDA on portland street, with some trepidation after getting through the tail end of Manchester's rush-hour traffic. This was the first time #3DPM had put together some 3D printers for members to use and we wondered if our great plans to really push forward 3D printing, and provide us with proof we could create something sustainable.

Meeting John Keys of the MDDA for the first time (not for Mark), we were introduced to their swish offices and our space for the evening. We got access to their largest very comfortable meeting room, so a big thank you to John Keys and everyone else we've worked with at the MDDA for that! Parking around the offices didn't appear to be that much of a problem, as by this time the daily office types had moved on and the evening revellers had to arrive. The only issue we had was one of Manchester's finest traffic wardens was just about to ticket Keith's car as we unloaded the two 3D printers and the tons of ancillaries he'd brought with him for #3DPM. Swift diversionary tactics whilst Keith bought his ticket prevented him 'winning' one of Manchester city’s lottery tickets.

We all went about setting up Mark’s Mendel 90 and Keith’s two MendelMax 1.5’s 3D printers. All three self-built machines set up to print ABS or PLA. Keith and Mark went through the basics of each machine. The initial designs were created on Sketchup, and saved on a USB stick so that the designs could be read directly by the printers. One of Keith’s MendelMax’s was heavily modified to make movement of the printing head more efficient and reliable. Keith outlined his top-tip being that in order to remove your printed item from your base layer, pre-spray the base-layer with Insette hairspray. He swears by it, and the proof was in the pudding after printing a lettered key-ring, it came right off!

Between chats about printing, and swapping tips and how-to’s, we ratified our principles and decided to cut the list down to seven. #3DPM now has a solid set of principles that we’ve posted earlier in ‘The ratified operating principles’. John was on hand to discuss at length the ideas MDDA had for the future of 3D printing in Manchester. Suffice to say we’re doing everything we can to help move that forward, as per our principles. We also wanted to start from the next meeting a few projects for all group members with varying levels of difficulty, together with carrying on the teaching and learning element.

Our next meeting is at MDDA again on Wednesday the 17th of July at 7pm. All are welcome, and we’re going to concentrate on putting people together for projects. In the mean time, if you have any questions about things we did, or discussed, don’t hesitate to contact #3DPM.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The ratified principles

  1. To establish regular meet-ups that share and develop interests concerning 3D printing
  2. #3DPM encourages the cross-pollination of ideas and development of expertise not bound by commercial interest
  3. To establish a modest operating fund; paid for by all members to cover costs of meeting places, communication and group projects; transparent and openly accountable to all members
  4. #3DPM seeks to bring together in one venue enough printers and resources for members to explore ideas, learn skills; and to develop the venue as a permanent 3D printing resource and local forum of exchange
  5. To actively promote #3DPM, members are encouraged to post content and links directly and indirectly related to 3D printing
  6. To develop #3DPM as a professional charitable organisation with lobbying strength to further the network aims in 3D printing
  7. Members will periodically (at least every year), democratically review #3DPM operating principles, expenses, procedures, rules, organisation, codes of practice, and other issues

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Wednesday 10th's Event site confirmed

Hey everyone, the next #3DPM social event is at the MDDA offices:

Manchester Digital Development Agency
Lower Ground Floor
117-119 Portland Street
M1 6ED

  • 7pm 10th July
  • We'll be introducing ourselves, having a chat about what everyones interest is in the technology, having a play with 3D printers, and ratifying our group principles
See you all there!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Group update!

Hey everyone. It's been a few days since my last update about group activities, and it's a few days before our next event on Wednesday 10th July; so we though we'd get everyone up to speed.

Firstly a huge thank you to everyone who's said they're attending, everyone who's given something of themselves large and small. With the help of group members we've organised possible venues for Wednesday and long-term (we'll discuss this in a bit!). We've also organised things to do, and special mention goes to Keith Bradburne for the offer of not one, but two 3D printers for attendees to play with and see what this technology can do right now.

Right venues..as we've said already, the event starts at 7 pm and is in Manchester. Mark and I are very close to getting a venue space in the MDDA offices in Manchester, and long-term, hosting by MadLab in the Northern Quarter.  No promises, but we'll update as soon as either or both are confirmed.

Either way, the event is definitely going ahead, 10th July, 7 pm, in Manchester! All welcome, hobbyists and commercial developers!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Keith's 3D world..

Keith Bradburne has kindly volunteered to bring along a 3D printer for us all to see and explore on the 10th of July.  He's also sent us some pics of his printer, and some of the things he's made since he started 3D printing.  He's got a lot of experience, and I think he'll be a great asset to the group as time goes on for expertise and ideas!

If you've got any 3D printing-related pics or links you'd like to post, get in touch with us via twitter or by email!

Monday, 1 July 2013

whats happenin'

Hi everyone,

After a great couple of meetings, I'd like to keep us all together and take us forward.  I hope you've had a look at the operating principles for an established 3D printing group in Manchester (first post in this blog!).  The hope is that this will allow us as a group to stay together, contributing either socially, commercially or both; on a regular basis.

In summary what we'd like to start is a group that meets once a week, creating a central core of hobbyist and socially minded people from myriad backgrounds to get their hands on 3D printers, so we can experiment.  Side by side, strengthening this solid core group, will be encouragement for everyone's commercial endeavours. This would make us a strong group, with access to all sorts of 3D printed things from expertise and tips, to fully fabricated 3D products, and 3D print services; for the world to see!

To this end, we need people to volunteer their 3d printers and control computers, their graphics skills, their time for admin or anything they feel they can contribute towards an initial meeting of #3DPM (3D Print group - Manchester).  The notional next meeting date is the 10th of July, a Wednesday evening. We're trying to organise a venue which will hold us all, and will allow us to become a weekly permanent fixture without bankrupting the group. Again, if you've any ideas of where don't hesitate to jump in!

Meetup.com will be closing down soon, as its a paid-for site.  We've set up a blogger site, a twitter account, and an email account (links at the bottom). Feel free to email us your intention to come to the next meeting, your opinions, whether you can contribute your help or printer for the evening, anything at all! We'd also like anything you'd like to post on the blogger site, be they adverts or just text posts of comment or pics of things you've made.

Let's get this going people! #3DPM!



what has #3DPrinting ever done for you?

It may or may not come as a surprise to you that #3DPrinting has been around for a 
while since 1984 here is an extract from 'explainingthefuture.com'  by Christopher 
Barnett 2013.

“3D printing is an additive technology in which objects are built up in a great many 
very thin layers. The first commercial 3D printer was based on a technique called 
stereolithography. This was invented by Charles Hull in 1984. Stereolithographic 3D 
printers (known as SLAs or stereolithography apparatus) position a perforated platform 
just below the surface of a vat of liquid photopolymer. A UV laser beam then traces the 
first slice of an object on the surface of this liquid, causing a very thin layer of 
photopolymer to harden. The perforated platform is then lowered very slightly and 
another slice is traced out and hardened by the laser. Another slice is then created, 
and then another, until a complete object has been printed and can be removed from 
the vat of photopolymer, drained of excess liquid, and cured. Stereolithographic printers 
remain one of the most accurate types of hardware for fabricating 3D output, with a 
minimum build layer thickness of only 0.06mm (0.0025 of an inch).”

Models created by early #3DPrinters were very expensive because hardware and computer software in the 1980’s was very expensive, so was the cost and time involved in the design and printing of models. Now the costs are significantly cheaper because the groundwork has already been done; the returns on investments for research and developments on some types of processes have mostly been recovered.

Since the early days it could be cost effective to use expensive #3DPrinting in the processes for making the moulds used by mass production injection moulding machines, where the unit costs are usually very small.

#3DPrinting is also used for rapid prototyping of new or redesigned components; and is common in many manufacturing and design processes to check aesthetics or suitability of fit in final assemblies, before committing to mass production.

Stone Spray Project from Stone Spray on Vimeo.

From a different perspective any use of CNC and Robotic arm could be seen as a form of #3DPrinting; what is different about today’s hi-tech #3DPrinters is the flexibility to precision manufacture efficiently, very complex designs in many types of materials. One such printer is the EnvisionTEC 3D Printer... 

It is highly probable #3DPrinting has already had an important effect in your life.

Views expressed here are mine!
I hope this is useful to you :-)


#3DPM was co-founded out of a series of meetings put together originally by Mark Concannon.  He's started a 3D print academy called Mesalatina3D.  He's mixing entrepreneurial people together with 3D printing, and looking to commercialise.  He's got a great spot on his site linking us, and Mesalatina3D can found at mesalatina3d.com

It's part of #3DPM principles that we want to get everyone involved in voluntary hobbyist 3D printing, and commercialising when they feel they want to too.  If you've got any links for your 3D print related business (or hobbyist endeavour for that matter!), then contact me with your links!

a great way to understand what 3D printing is all about?!


Check out the first section of this recent BBC tv programme trying to get kids into science. The programme will be pulled soon from the iPlayer list, but you should note that it's 3D printing that will  allow independent creatives to get value for their intellectual property.