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Marlin a beginners guide


So many times it seems the simplest thing is the most complex and annoying, like a dirt road that you just can’t get to the end of but there is hope a light at the end of the tunnel. Marlin is one of the many flavors of code that is used to run a 3d printer. It is an operating system of sorts in a basic machine level code. Hence the reason so many people get lost in it. Marlin can be a bit daunting at first and everyone thinks well if I change it how do I know what is the right thing to change well I am going to walk you through the basics of what is necessary to more or less get it working.
To begin with there is one simple basic rule read, read the entire thing no it won’t make any sense to you that’s ok but read the whole thing a few times over get a feel for the word structure and take not of how its laid out it is that way for a reason, the programmer laid it out so that 1 it was in clusters or groups that like over each other 2 you could jump from section to section to define the necessary parameters as needed and 3 it makes it simple to solve a problem because all the code for that one part is right there grouped together.

Various types of firmware

There are several flavors of firmware some are brand specific others are generic and can be used with any type of 3d printer there are also a few that are only for CNC machines which are simmiler but very different to 3d printers.
1 Sprinter
2 Teacup
3 sjfw
4 Marlin
5 Sailfish
6 Grbl
7 Repetier-Firmware
8 Aprinter
9 RepRap Firmware
10 ImpPro3D
11 Smoothie
12 Redeem

Further reading go here => http://reprap.org/wiki/List_of_Firmware

These are the most common and regularly used flavors out there but were going to stick with marlin as our base of reference since that is what most 3d printers use.
firmware Marlin
Firmware just what is it?
Firmware is the code which resides on the printer’s motherboard. The firmware is the link between software and hardware, it deciphers commands from the G code and controls the motion of the 3d printer accordingly. The firmware configuration is unique to your 3d printer. It knows the properties of the 3D printer, like the dimensions or heating settings. It plays a major role in the quality of the print and how the machine works. So how do you work with in the firmware to make it work for you?
Well first you are going to need an Arduino board and a ramps board as they are the most common and the most cost effective to buy. Then you will have to pop on over the Arduino site and grab a copy of their software it free to download and use here is the link for the site https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Software download and install this is where we will be able to see the firmware and make any changes that we want.

Programming rule #1: comments

Sometimes we need help and comments to understand the programmer, but we don’t want the computer to see the comments so we use separators. In Arduino IDE the separator between computer language and comments is a double slash //, it works for every line. The compiler will not try to read after this separator. This is the only programming rule that we need to understand to configure the firmware properly. Sometimes we will activate some options by removing the comments and other times we will comment-out options to deactivate them
Ok so let’s open the file Configuration.h in the Marlin folder.
Got it open? Ok great let’s have a look here and get a basic rundown of what you are looking at
Baud rate this is how fast the computer can talk to the 3d printer so well Set the communication speed in baud to: #define BAUDRATE 250000
This is a base point that most 3d printers can communicate on so like a bit faster others a bit slower but you will know if you need to drop it down or raise it when you connect it and you run a few tests.
There are two speeds commonly used by 3D printing software, the 250000 and 115200 baud rate. If one doesn’t work with your hardware or software, simply try the other one and see if that works.


Just above the line: #define MOTHERBOARD you will see a list of different motherboards. You have a list of boards find yours and use the appropriate number. For example a RAMPS 1.3 / 1.4 (Power outputs: Extruder, Fan, Bed) will be configured:
#define MOTHERBOARD 33
It doesn’t matter if you don’t use a fan or heat bed for now.
Defines the number of extruders
If you use more than one extruders you can write it there.
#define EXTRUDERS 1
Thermal Settings
Temperature sensor choice
Among the list (in configuration.h), choose the thermistor number that you use for each of the hot ends and for the heat bed. Caution should be taken here If you pick the wrong number, you will get an inaccurate temperature reading.
#define TEMP_SENSOR_0 1
#define TEMP_SENSOR_1 0
#define TEMP_SENSOR_2 0
TEMP_SENSOR_0 is used by the first hot end and TEMP_SENSOR_BED is connected to the heat bed. If you don’t use a sensor, use 0 to disable it.
Minimum temperature
Use a minimum temperature different than 0 to check if the thermistor is working. This security will prevent the controller from heating the hot end at max power indefinitely. This is important. It should already be set by default
#define HEATER_0_MINTEMP 5
#define HEATER_1_MINTEMP 5
#define HEATER_2_MINTEMP 5
#define BED_MINTEMP 5
units are in °Celcius

Maximum temp

Depending on your hardware material your hot end will have a specific maximum temperature resistance. This security will prevent the temperature from going over it. For example a J-Head extruder may use a PTFE tube to guide the filament in the hot zone which can be damaged over 240°C. Notice the controller can overshoot the target temperature by a couple of °C, it is better to keep a security margin here.
#define HEATER_0_MAXTEMP 230
#define HEATER_1_MAXTEMP 230
#define HEATER_2_MAXTEMP 230
#define BED_MAXTEMP 120
PID temperature controller.
This is an advanced option which needs to be tuned later. For now you can use the default options.
Prevent dangerous extrusion:
These settings are set by default.
For a security reason you may want to prevent the extrusion if the temperature of the hot end is under the melting point of the material. You don’t want to push the extruder over solid material and risk breaking it.
If there is a mistake in the code like a dot position for example, you would want to prevent a very long extrusion command.
Here you can set the values for the minimum temperature:
Mechanical settings
End Stops
End stops are switches that trigger before an axis reaches its limit, It will move each axis in a specific direction until it reaches an end stop, this is the home for the printer.

Pull-ups resistances
It is a good practice to use a pull-up or pull-down circuit for a basic switch. To keep it simple the pull-ups resistance are needed if you directly connect a mechanical end switch between the signal and ground pins.
Fortunately there is already a pull-up resistor integrated in Arduino that can be activated via the software.
Web links for more specific info on that can be found here:

#define ENDSTOPPULLUPS // Comment this out (using // at the start of the line) to disable the end stop pull-up resistors
The Marlin firmware allows one to configure each limit switch individually. You can use multiple end stop types on the same printer.
For a total of six that’s 2 for the X axis 2 for the Y axis and 2 for the Z axis, one each for the MAX and 1 each for the MIN (front back top bottom left and right of the printer)

Invert end switch logic
Some limit switches are normally closed (NC) and turn off when triggered and some are normally open (NO) and turn on when triggered. Ideally the limit switches would be normally on and turn current off when triggered. The printer would interpret the same signal if the end stop is hit as if the end stop is broken or disconnected.
NO = true
NC = false
const bool X_MIN_ENDSTOP_INVERTING = false;
const bool Y_MIN_ENDSTOP_INVERTING = false;
const bool Z_MIN_ENDSTOP_INVERTING = false;
const bool X_MAX_ENDSTOP_INVERTING = false;
const bool Y_MAX_ENDSTOP_INVERTING = false;
const bool Z_MAX_ENDSTOP_INVERTING = false;
Use three or six end stops?
Under normal circumstance the printer only needs 3 the zmin xmin and ymin this is how it finds the home position but on some printers they “get lost” and you have to set up a xmax ymax and zmax so that the printer can know where the edges of the build plate are
Uncomment the following lines to disable all max or all min end stops.
Invert stepper motor direction
There is only way to know if the stepper motor direction is correct you have to try it. I would wait until the configuration is completed, compiled and sent to the controller before you try. You can come back here after know if there is a problem or not.

1: Position the printer axis at the center of each axis.
2: Keep your finger close to the stop button.
3: Send a command to move the X axis a little amount like +1 or +10 mm
4: If the printer moves in the other direction, you will have to reverse the axis direction.
5: Repeat for each X Y Z axis
To inspect the extruder you would need to heat the hot end to the extrusion temperature load a sample of filament and Send extrusion command of 10 mm and check the motor rotation direction.
You can invert the stepper motor direction if it was wired the wrong way. It doesn’t make a difference if you invert the stepper motor wiring or if you invert it in the code. *Remember to power off the printer before unplugging or replugging the stepper motors.
#define INVERT_X_DIR false
#define INVERT_Y_DIR true
#define INVERT_Z_DIR true
#define INVERT_E0_DIR true
#define INVERT_E1_DIR true
#define INVERT_E2_DIR false
Set home direction

Here we set the home direction when the home button is pressed. It tells the printer which direction it should go to reach the end stop and get its reference position.
#define X_HOME_DIR -1
#define Y_HOME_DIR -1
#define Z_HOME_DIR 1
The Z axis is the one which will get the printing surface very close to the nozzle. It needs to be very precise and very quick to trigger otherwise there will be a collision between the nozzle and the surface and this can damage the heat bed and the hot end

If you use optical end stops for instance you can position the end stops at the center of the moving area. You can tell the printer to move over the end stop signal. I never use it. If you placed end stops at the end of each axis, then keep these options set to true. (I highly recommend not using optical stop ends not because they don’t work but they are hard to calibrate and keep calibrated with the printer)
Don’t go over the minimum limit:
#define min_software_endstops true
Don’t go beyond the maximum limit
#define max_software_endstops true

Printer area
Here we can define the print size in the firmware by telling it what the limits are of the travel zones. The travel distance is not calibrated yet and the practical distance will be different than the calculated distance. So for now it is better to reduce the travel distance to less than the actual size once were sure it works we can come back and change it then
#define X_MAX_POS 190
#define X_MIN_POS 0
#define Y_MAX_POS 190
#define Y_MIN_POS 0
#define Z_MAX_POS 190
#define Z_MIN_POS 0
Movement settings

Define the number of axis
It is the total number of axis (3) plus the number of extruders (1).
#define NUM_AXIS 4
Homing feed rate
This is the moving speed of the axis when homing in [mm/min]. Oftentimes in Marlin, speed or acceleration are expressed in [mm/s] or [mm/s2] but the feed is expressed in [mm/min].
#define HOMING_FEEDRATE {5060, 5060, 4*60}
Axis steps per unit
The stepper motor receives step by step moving command from the controller. The controller needs to know the steps/mm ratio to send the appropriate steps to reach the required distance.
Just how many steps are needed to move an axis by 1 mm?
Belts and pulley (usually x y axis):
steps_per_mm = (motor_steps_per_rev * driver_microstep) /
(belt_pitch * pulley_number_of_teeth)
lead screw (z axis)
steps_per_mm = (motor_steps_per_rev * driver_microstep) / thread_pitch
Direct drive extruder:
e_steps_per_mm = (motor_steps_per_rev * driver_microstep) /
(hob_effective_diameter * pi)

Extruder with gear reduction:
e_steps_per_mm = (motor_steps_per_rev * driver_microstep)
(big_gear_teeth / small_gear_teeth) / (hob_effective_diameter * pi)
#define DEFAULT_AXIS_STEPS_PER_UNIT {80,80,200.08/3,760}
Send the firmware to the 3D Printer via Arduino

In Arduino IDE, save the modification done to Configuration.h
Verify the code
If everything is fine, Arduino should say “Done compiling” otherwise you will get one or more error messages. If this happens, there is usually a mention about the line of the error. Check your code for a comments error //, dots or other special characters that may have been mistyped.
Once it is compiled properly you can connect the Arduino board to the computer with the USB cable.
Select the proper port, Tools menu / Serial Port /
Upload the compiled code to the Arduino

Now your printer is ready to move. It’s alive!!! Yes you did it you have set up your own custom firmware for your printer!

But wait there is still more……. Test the stepper moters make sure they move like there supposed to
Just one more thing. You need to try the stepper motor direction as mentioned above. You will need to use a host software connected to the 3D printer. The instructions to use this software will be explained in another post, for now I will stick to the basic guidelines.

You can find more info on Pronterface here: http://reprap.org/wiki/Pronterface
You can also use Repetier –host which has an awesome G code viewer: http://www.repetier.com/documentation/repetier-host/gcode-editor/
To test the motor direction, connect the printer to the computer with the USB cable.
Position the printer axis manually at the center of each axis.
Power up the printer
Open a host software like Pronterface or Repetier-host
Click to connect the host to the printer
Keep your finger close to the stop button of the motherboard (just in case).
Send a command to move X axis a little amount like +1 or +10 mm

If the printer moves in the other direction, you will have to reverse the axis direction.
Repeat for each X Y Z axis

To inspect the extruder you will need to heat the hot end to the extrusion temperature, load your filament and make a mark on it with a marker so you can see it. Then send the extrusion command of 10 mm and check the motor rotation direction.

as a final note
You can invert the stepper motor direction if it was wired the wrong way, it doesn’t make a difference if you invert the stepper motor wiring or if you invert it in the code. *Remember to power off the printer before unplugging or replugging the stepper motors.
#define INVERT_X_DIR false
#define INVERT_Y_DIR true
#define INVERT_Z_DIR true
#define INVERT_E0_DIR true
#define INVERT_E1_DIR true
#define INVERT_E2_DIR false

Dont forget to join the Marlin Group on Facebook Click here! 

Selecting Good 3D Printing Filament

You just spent a few paychecks on a fused deposition modelling (FDM) type 3D printer. Desktop printers use plastic filament as the source materials to 3D print an object on these printers. How do you selecet the best 3d printing filament?

Beer filament
3D filament made from Beer waste products – best 3d printing filament

Just like inkjet printers, there are good and bad brands of filament. There are also other factors to consider when you order filament. Here is my list of things I found out the hard way to look for when it comes to getting good filament.

What are you 3D printing?

This may seem like a dumb point, but it really should be your first consideration. Are you printing a car part that will require nylon/Kevlar, or a simple toy that can use PLA?

Carbon Fiber filament from Colorfabb - best 3d printing filament
Carbon Fiber filament from Colorfabb – best 3d printing filament

      Something that all printers are guilty of is buying filament for the WOW factor alone. We see blogs that report on a new filament made of beer or carbon fiber, and we quickly buy it online before considering what we will even want to print with it. After dropping serious cash on exotic filaments, I’ve seen many printers print items that were just fine printed in PLA. They also are stuck with a spool of expensive filament that they become gun shy about using. The end result is a spool of exotic filament that sits on a shelf, becoming brittle and difficult to run through their 3D printer.

Wich one is the best 3d printing filament?

This is another consideration that printers forget when they are looking at different materials. Not all 3D printers can handle the temperatures for every filament. Other 3d printers may say they can, but in reality can’t cope with the viscosity of certain materials. For this you will have to do research for your 3D printer. Look on Facebook or other forums to see what people have experienced with different materials and your 3D printer. Never trust the reviews you see on Amazon. Printers have already tried running every filament through their printers, so you might as well learn from their mistakes.


For this point you have to think about how much you use your 3D printer. If you use your 3D printer occasionally, storing filament between prints becomes a concern.

PLA filament is the main offender in this category. PLA has to be stored in a cool, dry place when not in use; otherwise it turns into stiff brittle plastic bits in a few months. I’ve had spools of PLA go bad in as little as 3 months. If you 3D print daily, you can use up PLA before it goes brittle.

Other filaments have a better shelf life, but should be likewise stored in a cool, dry place. You will have to check with the manufacture and online for their recommendations.


spool diagram - best 3d printing filament
Diagram of the parts of a filament spool. – best 3d printing filament

How the filament is rolled on the spool makes a world of difference. I have experienced more heartache from bad spooling than anything else in 3D printing. At the factory, warm filament is wrapped around the spool. As the filament cools, it tightens and forms to the radius of the spool core. This results in the filament coming off the spool in an arch. If the core is too small, the filament will snap instead of feed smoothly into the hot end.

I hit a problem with off-brand filament spools. The diameter of the core affects how the filament feeds as it reaches the end of the spool. What I found is that the filament at the end of the spool tends to have a tighter radius and be a bit more brittle. When you run a long print, that may result in a print dying after 6-8 hrs.

Off brand filaments can come on spools with a core 30 mm OD. While this makes for a smaller spool, it turns the filament on the end into a brittle spring instead of proper filament.

The worst I found for this was Bee Supply filament. A client gave me 4 0.2 kg spools of their PLA, and every one turned into shards because they were wound around the tight spool radius.

When you get the spool, look at the filament on it. Is it wound so tight it has started fusing to itself? Is it so loose it falls off the spool?

    Is it uniform and lying flat? Are their loops sticking out and bumps in the filament? Badly spooled filament will tangle as it rotates. This tangle will prevent feeding, which will clog the printer head and burn out the motor.

How to test your filament

a. Cut a section about 100 mm long.
b. Look at it closely, and under a magnifying lens if possible. Do you see any bubbles or hairline cracks? Bubbles come from bad extrusion, and are weak points that the filament can snap at. Check other parts of the filament to see if there are any bubbles. If there are a lot of bubbles, your filament may turn into shards.
Hairline cracks can be from stress or bad mixing at the factory. If there are a lot of cracks, run a test print at a slow feed rate to make sure the filament does not turn into bits.
c. Roll the sample straight in your hands like a clay snake. Does it straighten out, or does it fight you? If the filament is not flexible, consider running this at a slower feed rate.
d. Bend the sample around. Is it flexible enough to bend into a tight loop, or does it snap instead? Good filament will bend and kink before breaking, while brittle filament will snap like dry spaghetti.
e. If there is any doubt after this, run a test print. Many printers have test files built in, or you can find them online.

What is a best 3d printing filament?

Good filament should come cleanly off the spool. It should be flexible enough to bend around the feed tube into the printer head. Filament should be continuous enough that it flows uninterrupted through the hot end. It should print at the temperature listed for the material.
If you want to try new brands and filament materials, look around at forums for 3D printing to see how they perform.

3D printing, Jurassic World, STEM Education

The US is making efforts to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. As a science teacher, I am always looking for new ways to help my diverse class of students.  Thanks to 3D printing it is now possible to make affordable models of complex ideas in science (3D printing on education). Traditionally schools had to save up and fund raise to purchase science equipment from specialty companies. But with school funding stagnant, science teachers are often stuck making equipment from craft supplies, or buying them out of their own pocket. The budget this year for my science class is around $200, to use for around 50 students.
Another problem in science education comes when we teach complex topics like genetics to our students. Most curriculum for genetics are based from the textbook and videos. For students that are not visual learners, DNA becomes a foreign language. In my high school bio class, many of my students are kinesthetic learners. They need hands-on labs and activities to remember the lessons.

“I CAN PRINT THAT!!! ” – 3D printing on education


DAN building blocks - 3D printing on education
DNA manipulative set, designed by the Author

The 16 year old biology textbook we use had an activity to make a model of DNA with paper cutouts. Like all 3D printers, when I saw that I said the mantra of many 3D printers, “I CAN PRINT THAT!!! ”
After a couple hours in TinkerCAD, I took the textbook design and turned it into 3D printable building block set that can be found here.

After 3D printing and testing the DNA set, I realized that I had something I could build on in the future. The beauty of 3D printing is that a teacher can quickly build more content into their 3D printed creations. This lead me to submit my DNA set to the Thingiverse MakerEdChallenge.

Field Testing

Any teacher can tell you that a lesson plan is good until the students show up. As I started the class, it was clear they were interested in the DNA set that I made. As I had them model DNA, I could tell that they were enjoying the feel of the tiles and how they assembled into DNA. They modeled DNA, RNA transcription, and protein synthesis with the set, and I was amazed at how quickly they were able to do it without guidance from me.
The students continued to impress me with how quickly they learned from manipulating the DNA tiles. As I challenged them further, they were able to solve the problems through the DNA tiles.

RNA expansion set designed by the author. - 3D printing on education
RNA expansion set designed by the author.

Expansion – 3D printing on education

Over the next couple of classes I expanded upon the original set. I wanted my students to practice transcribing mRNA into amino acids, so I designed an amino acids expansion set.

Indominus Rex from Jurassic World, featuring DNA in the background - 3D printing on education
Indominus Rex from Jurassic World, featuring DNA in the background

Another students asked about gene splicing and the film Jurassic World. My first thought was “Rock ON!!!”.

Then I realized in the teachable moment I could expand on the DNA set further to make a set of restriction enzymes.

DATA Driven results – 3D printing on education

The next week I had the students demonstrate their knowledge with the DNA set. They were able to build a model of DNA, transcribe it to RNA, and produce a protein from it. All without a word of correction from me. As a teacher those moments of comprehension are valuable.

3D Printing for Teachers 

3D printing is an amazing tool for Teachers. They can make models of complex science ideas. Another positive is that teachers can quickly replace lost and stolen parts, or make more if their class size increase. These models can then be stored or shared with other science teacher. There are whole catagories on file sharing sites for education.

    Thingiverse has even hosted design challenges for education, including the recent MakerEd challenge.
Teachers can 3D print replacement parts for items that the school can no longer find. As a teacher I’ve been driven mad by lost projector lens caps, tape dispensers, and pencil boxes.
Teachers can also share their work freely with the world. Free is a teachers favorite world, and thanks to file sharing sites, teachers can find the files for anything they need in class.
Teachers also benefit from 3D printing by differentiating to learning styles in class. They can now use 3D printed items to help kenisteic learners, and Special Education students. Now they can show to parents and administrators that they are fulfilling their legal obligations in class with 3D printed items and lessons.

3D printing on education

Students stand to benefit the most from 3D printing. For them 3D printing is accessible and easy to use. With 3D printers in schools and public libraries, students are learning how to make their own items in school. They are also combining 3D printing with other technologies.
Students also benefit when teachers use 3D printed models to demonstrate complex ideas. STEM is quickly adopting 3D printing as a major tool in education. Students also benefit from using 3D printed models in the classroom.

The Tantillus Part 1

The Tantillus 3D Printer

First Tantillus ever.

Is a truly portable opensource 3D printer . Tantillus provides easy computer-less printing in a stunning beautiful small package. With the ability to reproduce its entire case Tantillus comes the closest any RepRap has become to being a self reproducing machine.

The designer of the Tantillus on youtube

Sublime and the Tantillus

Please click the link above to watch and see what you are going to build

Background information

The RepRap project was conceived in 2004 by Dr. Adrian Bowyer to build an opensource machine capable of making usable items in 3 dimensions and eventually be able to make complete copies of itself. Only a short time after the idea had been seeded the RepRap project was born. In the spring of 2007 the very first Replicating Rapid-prototyper was built at Bath University in the U.K. which started a landslide of development over the past 5 years to bring us to this point. Essentially we now have a desktop factory for your home capable of making replacement parts for all your broken toys, gadgets and remote controls missing battery covers.

Why is it needed

If your friends ever wanted parts or if you wanted to go to a maker faire you had to carry round an i3 or Makerbot which to me is sheer madness – each time you have to reset everything  , so portability was required and the  Tantillus was born to meet this need.

First Tantillus ever.


  • Compact case (240mm x 240mm x 300mm).
  • Light weight (4kg with power supply).
  • Capable of reproducing its entire case.
  • Commonly-available parts.
  • Computer-less printing via LCD screen and SD card.
  • Mobile printing.
  • High speeds of 300mm/s + are possible.
  • High resolution printing (X/Y step resolution of 8 micron per step,  Z step resolution of 0.4 micron per step) minimum X/Y radius limited by nozzle diameter, Z resolution limited by the properties of the plastic being used.
  • Quiet operation.
  • Build area of 100mm x 100mm x 100mm.

What can it do

Most items available on Thingiverse fit on Tantillus’ build platform.

You can also design your own parts using a CAD package and also replicate all the parts and build another one!

It does not have a heated bed as a standard so printing with PLA is the best option.

Where can I get one?

Well unless you can find a ready built one somewhere online you will have to build it yourself and source all of the parts.

What you will need – without all of the specifics

  • 1   –   Hardware kit
  • 1   –   Acrylic parts kit
  • 1   –   Printed parts kit
  • 1   –   16×2 LCD screen.
  • 1   –   SD card break out board.
  • 1   –   20 click encoder.
  • 2m –  10way rainbow ribbon cable.
  • 4   –   1×4 2.54mm (0.100″) connectors.
  • 2m –  14g zip black/red zip wire.
  • 1   –   Roll of 8mm Kapton tape.
  • 2   –   J-head hotends. 0.5mm and 0.35mm (0.5mm recommended to start, 0.35mm is for experienced users with patience)
  • 4   –   Nema 17 stepper motors.
  • 1   –   Electronics. (RAMPS)
  • 4   –   Stepstick stepper drivers.
  • 1   –   90watt laptop power supply.
  • 1   –   Q type power connector for power supply.
  • 30cm – Heat shrink tubing. (2.5mm and 3.5mm)
  • 1   –   2gb SD card.
  • 2   –   12v 40mm fans.
  • 4   –   Crimp connectors for hotend.
  • 1   –   3mm glass build surface.
  • 1   –   Roll of 50mm 3M Scotch blue tape.
  • 1   –   Hex keys for supplied hardware kit.

What do I do when I have all this stuff

Download this [download id=”939″] – This is the link to everything technical that I could find.

So you have all the hardware , the Laser cut frame , the 3D printed parts – if you cant get anything then reply on this blog as I am able to help you find what you need.

Time to sort out your workshop or work area

You will need some tools – this is what I feel is the minimum amount that you can get away with

  • Utility knife

  • Drill

  • Sand paper

  • A hex set in millimeters

  • 13mm spanner

  • Pliers

  • Soldering Iron & Solder

  • Wire Stripper

  • Wire Cutters

  • Wire Crimpers

  • Assorted drill bits

  • Tap and die set

Make sure your work area is clean and tidy  and safe to work in . Health and safety is of paramount importance.

Finally make sure you have somewher{e to go for help and guidance during your build.I would suggest the forum on here,your local hackerspace ,maybe good old Facebook and the guys on github.


So we are ready to get started – In part 2 we will be building a Tantillus







Censoring 3D Printed Guns


Are the digital files for 3D printable gun an object, an idea, or military secrets? How do we as a society designate the digital files for physical objects? Should we censor digital files the same way we have censored print media in the past? Can we even censor anything in the age of the internet?

All of these are amazing legal and social questions that we have to face as 3D printing becomes quickly mainstream.
In a previous post, I discussed how the fears of a 3d printable gun are over-hyped by tabloid media. Now I want to take a look at 3D printed guns in depth.

Digital, physical or other?


Cura view - 3d printable gun
A digital view of 3D printable objects, designed by the author

All 3D printed objects start life as a digital file. The idea for a physical object is designed in a CAD (computer aided drafting) program, and then converted into a digital code that can be read by a 3D printer. The 3D printer then takes the file, puts it into a slicer program to 3D print the object.
With this concept, a 3D printed gun exists on two planes as digital and physical matter.

As a digital matter, the codes for 3D guns are digital instructions for a 3 dimensional shape that can be seen on a computer screen. It has no physical form that can cause physical harm to anyone. The digital files are subject to laws regarding digital information.

The physical object 3D printed from the digital files show. Designed and 3D printed by the author - 3d printable gun
The physical object 3D printed from the digital files show. Designed and 3D printed by the author

As a physical object, a 3D printed gun has a physical shape. As a gun it can function to harm or kill anyone (though if you read my previous article, 3D guns can hurt the shooter as much as any intended victim). As a gun they are subject to gun control laws.
Current laws are written for digital files, or physical objects, but not both. 3D printed objects are trapped by their own duality.

Birth of an Idea

      In the US making your own gun for personal use is legal (You can’t sell it without a FFL). There are plans available online, military surplus stores, and bookstores for zip guns made out of plumbing parts.

With the advent of affordable 3D printing, the idea of a 3D printed gun was bound to happen.
On July 27th, 2012 Defense Distributed launched the Wiki Weapon Project to produce the first 3D printable gun.

DD’s efforts resulted in the release of the Liberator Pistol on May 5, 2013.


DD also has produced AR-15 Lower Receivers.


DD has ignited the debate about high capacity magazines, and provided the files so anyone can make them.

The digital files for the Liberator were hosted briefly on Thingiverse before they removed it for Term of Use violation. DD then hosted the files on their own DEFCAD site, and were downloaded millions of times before the US Government ordered them to be taken down.

Caging an Idea

      The US State Department ordered the Liberator files down, citing ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). Under ITAR, State Department is treating the digital files for the gun as a physical object. ITAR is designed to prevent military weapons and classified information from going to our enemies.

         It is at this point I’ll state the obvious.

    Defense Distributed and founder Cody Wilson are civilians. The files for Liberator were released Open Source to the public domain. DD does not make physical guns for export under ITAR. The liberator is not classified as military hardware or munitions.
DD is being censored under laws that do not apply to it. DD is fighting the Dept. of State in Defense Distributed v. U.S. Department of State.

Holding onto Sand

       Trying to cage the files for 3D printing is like holding onto sand. The tighter you grip, the more sand falls through.

By this point the genie was out of the bottle. The files for the Liberator can be found hidden in all major file 3D file sharing sites. The dark net also freely host the digital files for the Liberator.

Others have taken up the torch for open source 3D guns. FOSSCAD has released the original Liberator files, along with other 3D printable gun designs developed by others. FOSSCAD members have produced working revolvers as well as their own AR-15 lowers. In the future DD may be able to host the files again.


Any civilian can access the digital file for a 3D printable gun; and with a good 3D printer and weeks of time that same civilian can produce a 3D printed gun.

Enforcement of these laws has been non-existent in the US. There is only one know arrest, Yoshitomo Imura of Japan, for making and firing a 3D printed gun.

The Sand Slips from Grasp

Are the digital files for 3D printable gun an object, an idea, or military secrets?

3D guns are objects only when they are 3D printed; but when they are shared digitally, they are a digital idea. It is their fluid duality that will need further legal classification. 3D guns files designed by civilians for a civilian market are not a military secret.

How do we as a society designate the digital files for physical objects?

If ITAR and other laws set the precedent, then the digital files for 3D printed guns are physical objects. However ITAR is NOT the precedent, it’s a legal red hearing. Never before in history has there been a case where an idea so freely turns into a physical object. As a society we must decide on the legal definition of 3D printed files while the technology is still in its infancy.

Should we censor digital files the same way we have censored print media in the past?

Censorship in any form is abhorrent under the best of circumstances. Censoring civilian ideas is even worse. Censoring the digital files for a plastic gun is hypocritical, given that printed blueprints for any gun can be found anywhere, and produced by anyone with a drill press. 3D gun files cannot be censored with the laws written for print media, given the enforcement of paper censorship is non-existent.

Can we even censor anything in the age of the internet?

NO. Censoring the Liberator files has shown how impossible it is to censor digital media now. If you generate controversy over a file like a 3D printed gun, it goes viral and impossible to contain.

NO. The internet is an amazing ocean of ideas. Even if you remove one drop of information from it, the rest of the ocean flows in to take its place.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is written as commentary on 3D printing and gun control laws. Always check your local laws or with a lawyer before constructing your own 3D printed firearm. 3DPT is not responsible for what a reader chooses to do.

Finding the right printer for you.


The Right 3D Printer..

So you heard about 3d printing, maybe you spent years reading news articles about the magic a 3d printer can produce or you’re someone who wants to build things. You have to choose your first printer. These days the waters are pretty deep which is both a blessing and a curse. We have just enough options to make competition, which makes it possible to see better printers being made. This can cause quite the headache for just about anyone that hasn’t spent some time researching what’s available. Well, this will be step one. In this article, we will address the types of printers available and some of the companies that make them. We will also discuss your budget, knowledge, and mechanical skills and see if we can’t find a printer that will fit in just about everyone’s maker space.Dice tower Print

First, we should ask some questions. Let’s start with the obvious.

What can I afford?

Buying a 3d printer is a lot like buying a car sometimes you can afford a new car and sometimes you can’t. So where does your budget set?There are a lot of good printers in a wide range of prices and if you can afford it or don’t mind spending a little more you can get some quality printers but even in the high-end community there are some lemons and there are quite a few really good printers to be had in the sub 500$ market as well so don’t think that money is the only way to get good printers.

The next question you should ask is..

What do I know?

So we have the money but what do we know about these printers. Depending on your answer you may or may not be stuck with just a few commercial printers. At least to start.This is also a good time to think about learning to 3d model if you don’t already but that’s something for another time. Right now let’s focus on what makes them tick. Almost all the 3d printers on the market are the same inside and pretty simple as well. So once you know what makes them tick you can make a better decision on what you should buy. For the sake of time, we will focus on the most abundant choice the FDM 3d printers. All the ultimaker’s, Prusa’s, Kossel’s and the like are FDM it just means they melt plastic and apply it one layer at a time. This means that for the most part, they all operate the same as well. To do that they all use the same basic parts. A driver board, stepper motors, Extruder and build surface. The thing is most use the same exact parts but charge more for a fancier package or better tech support. So when you are shopping check the forums. A printer that costs thousands may have the exact same parts as one that is only 400. we would like to think that because it costs more it must be better but that is often not the case here. Keep that in mind when you open your wallet.

Ok well, how do they work then?

Much the same as your paper printer at home only with one more axis and less intelligence. Yes, I just said these 3D printers are dumber than that Kodak printer sitting in the corner collecting dust. More on that in a minute. So the printer works by taking a file sending it to the 3d printers driver board either directly from your PC or through an SD card. From there the driver board heats up the extruder and the bed ( if it’s heated) and tells the stepper motors where to move and how much filament to extrude. Bear with me I have a point And that point is this. Only spend what you can justify on a 3d printer because it doesn’t matter what you buy they are all going to work just like that. There are some exceptions to the rule but most just don’t offer enough intelligent design to justify their hefty price tags and once you own a printer you can upgrade it yourself. Even those commercial printers are still improving. So unless you want all the bells and whistles or you actually want the security that buying tech support gives you Save some money and look into a kit. The thing is because they are dumb machines they are prone to errors. Your Kodak printer collecting dust has had years of innovation to make it print your pictures without any effort at all. Home 3D printers are still very young and they haven’t worked all the bugs out. Might as well skip the markup if you can and build your own.

How good are my mechanical Skills?

Most kits these days build like a Lego set If you shop around you will find some quality kits under the 500$ that can be assembled in a day or two with basic tools, a little knowledge and can give really great prints. The downside being that you will now have to assemble your own printer and do a little more calibration (Maybe) than if you had just bought one that was shipped in a box ready to print. I personally feel that everyone should start here regardless of where you sit. My reasoning is this by the time you have assembled the printer and successfully printed your first part, toy or test cube you will have a greater understanding and respect for these machines. You will also know just what to look for in the pricier models. Things like enclosed heating areas, heated beds, bed leveling features. All of which can be done on a kit printer as well. I’m not going to get into scratch building a 3d printer because that is a deep rabbit hole that unless you like puzzles, will only put a bad taste in your mouth. That being said you can build a ultimaker clone on less than a third the cost of the real one if you spend enough time planning and shopping for parts.

Now we will put it all together and do some shopping. There isn’t one printer that is better than every other but there are some that make printing a breeze and we will start there.

the right 3d printer
Ultimaker – The right 3d printer?

The right 3d printer?

If you can afford it The Ultimaker 2 is the top of the FDM market. It will print PLA, ABS and even some exotics without batting an eye. The build size is respectable and the community is large so there is little to worry about. They are one of the large companies that are open source. Which has helped build a strong community of maker? As the choice for high-end, this is what I would choose.

Hatch box Filament - the right 3d printer
Hatchbox Filament – the right 3d printer

Maybe you would like something a little bigger.

A Gmax Printer

is a great option in that same price range it’s great at big format prints. The downside is the open build area can lead to warping issues on abs if not looked after. This is more for prototyping large parts though so unless you plan to print large all the time I would give it a pass. I have seen detailed small prints done on them but they can be a little finicky on the smaller side. Overall a good printer but more for a serious maker. I would call this a second printer not a first.

Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the ready to print the world. The everyday workhorse’s that fit under or at the Thousand dollar range.


has really stepped in with a quality set of machines ready from the box that don’t break the bank. They offer a printer in just about every dollar range and all of them give great prints. Overall if you plan to do lots of printing these machines have you covered. They print in just about every filament on the market and have a growing community. Plus for the cost of 1 ultimaker, you can get 3 wanhao Duplicator 4s or close to 6 I3’s. No matter how you look at it that’s a great deal.

Now let’s talk saving money and buying a kit.

All of those printers operate the same and use the same major parts. What you are paying for is the R&D they put into an out of the box print ready machine and that’s nothing to be ashamed of they are an all great printer that will give good out of the box results. But let’s face facts if you could buy a supercar for fifty thousand instead of two hundred thousand you would jump on the chance or at the very least ask why it’s so cheap. When they tell you it’s because they ship you the car in a box with instructions on how to build it yourself, well that’s when you have to decide. Am I skilled enough to build it or not? Now cars are much more complicated machines and unless you are a skilled mechanic it’s not a task for a beginner. The same isn’t true for 3d printers these days. It used to be you had to be able to code, solder, and assemble these machines but these days kits are to the point where you can buy one screw them together, level the bed and print right away. One such company making this happen is Folgertech. Not only do they offer a wide verity of machines, however, they are all extremely simple to assemble and very affordable.

Chinese Sources for 3D Printers

I started with a kit because like a lot of us I just couldn’t afford the more expensive model, however, as from a Chinese source that had no support and little help in how to assemble the printer. In the end it worked out fine for me but that’s because I’m stubborn. Like a dog with a bone I wouldn’t let go tell it was finished and I eventually got it to print some pretty good prints. If I had it to do over again I would still buy a kit But it would be a Folgertech. They won’t print straight out of the box but you can be printing in the same afternoon with a couple of the models. That frame is very solid and easily assembled and you will notice it looks a lot like the gmax from earlier. That is because they are exactly the same. The Gmax is just scaled up. There are lots of kits on the market and it’s a good idea to look around but if there is a standard for kits Folgertech is it. Low cost, Solid design,easy assembly and a solid community.

The 3d printing waters are deep and getting deeper every day.

We didn’t look at SLS or SLA printers because the only options are high-end or DIY and because the every day maker isn’t going to need one as a starter printer. You have so many more options and if you want you can compare them to this list. I made this list to give beginners a jumping off point and an idea of the costs and abilities of the printers they would buy. With 3D printers it’s more about how much work you want to put in. If the answer is little to none buy a ultimaker it will do just about all the work for you. Sure you will get a hiccup from time to time but odds are it is the filament and not the machine in that case. But if you are willing to put in effort or are just cheap like me a kit is really the way to go. Once you get it printing you can start upgrading. Maybe add that self leveling feature or an extra extruder. Most important is to do the research don’t just buy what everyone says to buy because in the end it’s what fits your needs that matters.

Tricking Out Your Lulzbot 3D Printer

3D printers are amazing tool on their own, but like any piece of commercial hardware they scream out to be customized for a better user experience.
Lulzbot taz 5 3D printers are known for their ability to be customized. The printers themselves are made from many 3D printed parts which are available open source from the company website. Other users have contributed to the universe of files available to customize your printer.
For all 3D printers, here is a set of improvements that I recommend that you 3D print to improve your experience.

1. Tool Box 

       Every printer needs a set of dedicated tools close at hand while printing. This tool box should hold at least your putty knife, pliers, hobby knife, and picks. I recommend that you also have a flashlight, wire cutters, tape measure / calipers, and a set of  metric Allan wrenches.

Taz 5 y-arm tool tray - lulzbot taz 5
Taz 5 y-arm tool tray made by the author. Found online http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1012326

There are free files available on all file sharing sites as well as the manufactures site. For my Lulzbot Taz 5 I decided that a tool tray under the y-arm would be the easiest to get to. It slides under the y-arm, but keeps them all next to the build plate. My tool tray can be found here.

2. Spool Holder

    The factory standard spool holder is designed to fit the factory filament spools. They tend to be bars or tubes that have a lot of friction and can cause filament feeding problems. While they are fine for getting started, you’ll soon find there is a whole universe of filaments. These new spools may not fit on the factory spool holder. Even worse, these off-brand filaments will not fit into the cartridge holders of exclusive 3D printers like Makerbot or Cube.

Lulzbot top spool holder - lulzbot taz 5
Lulzbot Taz 5 top spool holder, designed by author. Published http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1294036

Having a flexible external spool holder will give you more options when you order filament. I found that Colorfabb has bulk deals on 2.2 kg spools. However, these behemoth (300 mm OD) spools take up a lot of space on the side of my Lulzbot. I also did not like having spools on the side of my printer, so I decided to make a top-feeding spool holder for my printer. This spool holder is beefy enough to handle the heaviest spools of filament, and also gives me the clearance I need to use the full build volume of the Taz 5. My Taz 5 spool holder can be found here.

3. Spare Parts 

     All 3D printers have parts that you can 3D print a replacement for. When you research your 3D printer, look around to see what parts wear out first on your printer. You can then print replacements while your printer is new. If you do not like the flat black coloring of your Lulzbot, this can be a great way to make the machine you will spend hours with more colorful.
The Wade extruder on Lulzbot has one part that wears through the most. The idler arm that holds the filament against the hobble bolt tends to get chewed through at the top. Over time this may wear through, or catch on smaller diameter filaments. The idler arm is easy to replace, and even easier to print. I printed the replacement in clear colorfabbXT to get more light inside the print head. The files for the lulzbot taz 5 idler arm can be found here.

4. Lights 

     Different printers will or will not have a light in them; even then it’s not enough light. While you can play around with desk lamps to start printing, having a dedicated light inside your printer will help greatly. If you plan to do time-laps videos, you will need a dedicated light source inside your printer. Look at a set of LED strips to illuminate your print at different angles. I found that it helps to also have a flashlight on hand. This way you can quickly check if layers are going down right on the print.

5. Décor`

     If there is one truth about 3D printing, it is this: You will spend a lot of time at your printer. So decorate it with pieces you can easily move around. While you can use stickers, I’d avoid them unless you want to deal with the gunk they leave behind.

Corner bracket - lulzbot taz 5
Steampunk corner bracket designed for Lulzbot printers. From http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:160502

Décor’ pieces are a great way to explore different techniques in 3D printing. For mine I changed the factory black corner plates with these steampunk themed corners. I practiced printing in two colors as well, which helps my printer look a bit less black. This will help you enjoy your printer; even after a print turns into a blob after 4 hrs.

You can practice using your 3D printer while making these parts. Even if they don’t turn out well, you’ll be the only one to see them.

Fashion and 3D printing: Print your own clothes.


Would you like to make some 3d printing clothes?

It´s not surprising to read that clothing has become an essential way to express ourselves freely, but have you ever thought about what does it involves? Yes, we are able to send messages to the people through what we wear, just take a look about what people use to say:

“If you want to look like a professional person, wear a suit”.

“If you want to look like a sophisticated person, wear a pinstriped scarf”.


In resume: clothes not only cover our intimate parts like Adam and Eva did. Clothes define us!

That’s why nowadays we would like to wear custom clothes, with unique patterns and fully customized designs, or what is even more original: clothes made by ourselves!

Designers already know the change that 3d printing clothes are bringing in all manufacturing processes, they don’t want to stay behind. Some of the results below:

Danit Peleg project; Danit is a design’s student at Shenkar School in Tel Aviv (Israel). She created a fashion collection 100% made with 3D printing technology in her home using only RepRap printers (and a lot of Israeli creativity).


Dani Peteleg Project - 3d printing clothes
Dani Peteleg Project  – 3d printing clothes

Cool, isn’t it?


She used several sheets of FilaFlex a malleable and soft filament; Dani worked for more than 2000 hours to print her dresses, finally she managed to have five sets with cool geometric patterns that includes:

And now, The Spanish girl Rocío Izquierdo just put back up the words:

Fashion and 3D printing


Thanks to her fashion collection called: “Darkness”, she also used the FilaFlex filaments as its raw material. Even though her “Darkness” collection are only fashion accessories, Rocío says his next “Darkness” collection will be fully made with 3D printing technology.


Darkness collection by Rocío Izquierdo - 3d printing clothes
Darkness collection by Rocío Izquierdo – 3d printing clothes

She knew this technology on her design school and starts using SolidWorks Software; met a lot of great projects since prosthetic devices to footwear, and thanks to the truthful support of her family and team members of Relieves3D, she began the production of this magnificent “Darkness collection”.


Darkness collection by Rocío Izquierdo - 3d printing clothes
Darkness collection by Rocío Izquierdo – 3d printing clothes

¿What kind of clothes would you like to 3D print?


-Answer in the comments.

Sintron Prusa i3 Review

The Sintron Prusa i3 is a build it yourself Prusa i3 kit which is one of the most popular 3D printer on UK Amazon. Sintron has the same printer listed twice, one with Amazon Prime delivery and one without. The one with Prime delivery is about £20 more. Both seem to be the exact same printer. The printer is similar to other Prusa i3 variation. It features a heated bed, MK8 extruder which is direct drive, 0.1 to 0.3 mm layer height with a good sized 200 x 200 x 180 build volume.

Assembly – sintron prusa i3  

The assembly of the printer was surprisingly easy and straight forward. I emailed Sintron and they sent me a link to password protected Dropbox files of instructions. These were very clear and mostly easy to follow with basic electronics knowledge and some common sense. One problem was that the endstop switches for the Z,Y and X axis were not documented very well, however Sintron was happy to send my pictures and written instructions on  how I should connect them. This is my first 3D printer as well as my first 3D printer build, I managed to get the printer built within a few days. Like I said I do recommend a very basic knowledge of electronics as well as the ability to solder, although 90% of the electronic assembly is done with plugs. Like any Prusa i3 build you will need some initiative to complete the printer but the instructions will cover just about every step.

The Frame  – sintron prusa i3  

The frame is made out of laser cut acrylic and the standard metal rods as well as 3d printed parts. The frame has two main parts: the acrylic frame with the X and Z axis and the metal rod base joined by 3d printed corners which holds the Y axis. The Y axis is very sturdy and heavy, it is all constructed by metal threaded rods. The Y Axis is held on by 2 smooth rods attached to the base. The Y axis is a heated bed which I am able to get to about 80*C, you are required to cover it in painters tape, kapton tape or but some glass on it. On the other hand there is the acrylic half of the printer. This side of the printer is a bit more flimsy than the Y axis. It holds the 2 Z axis stepper motors and the X carriage, the acrylic frame has several pieces which join by small bolts and nuts which are very fiddly to screw in. One problem I have noticed is how the two parts join together: The acrylic frame slots onto a pair of the threaded bars on the base of the printer. This is supposed to be held in place a nuts and fender washers, however I didn’t get any fender washers in my kit so I used regular washer. This makes for a flimsy joint which allows the acrylic frame to sway back and forth, this means you will have to secure it some how so it doesn’t interfere with printing. Another problem I encountered was the fact I didn’t place the acrylic frame perpendicular to the y axis, this caused the printer to print circles in a weird oval shape, the problem is mostly my fault as it was my first printer and I had no prior experience with 3D printers, let alone building one.  Other than these 2 issues which are an easy fix the frame is (in my opinion) looks professional and strong.

base of Sintron Prusa i3 - sitron prusa i3
Base and acrylic frame joint – sintron prusa i3

The Electronics – sintron prusa i3  

Like just about every reprap printer this Prusa i3 uses a ramps 1.4 board which slots on top of a Sintron made ‘arduino’ mega 2560 which comes programmed with the firmware. The printer runs of an LCD interface using just one dial and an emergency stop switch. The LCD screen is clear and bright as well as easy to navigate. The LCD display also houses the SD-card reader which means that the printer does not need a computer to run it, however you can plug it into your computer if you so desire.

The cable management is up to the builder, there are holes cut into the acrylic which allow you to run wires neatly. Saying that, it is very hard to get the cable management to a good level and you will have to incest some time into doing this as it will make repairs and general use in the future much easier. The cables going to the print head are attached loosely and I recommend either fitting some kind of cable management sheath or printing out a cable chain which was what I did.

The electronics are reliable as long as there are not any user made short circuits. With the ramps 1.4 board I received in my kit the polyfuse (a polyfuse is a fuse that can be used multiple times without a need to replace it) installed in the heated bed circuit, this fuse was faulty and would trip every time I tried to heat the bed. This meant that I could not use the heated bed. I once again emailed Sintron about this and they were happy to send me 2 new fuses for free and they even covered the shipping cost.

In the package you get a generous amount of jumper wires to aid you in the wiring which I found very helpful and I still have plenty left. One part of the electronics I do not like is the endstops for the axis’s. The switches are physical switches which is not good for the accuracy of setting the Z axis height. If the Z axis home height has to be accurate otherwise  the hot-end will drag across the heated bed or the first layer will be too high up and will not stick to the bed causing a massive mess of plastic. However there is a more manual solution to this problem which is far from ideal but it does work: You need to turn on skirt and set it to at least 2 perimeters, by doing this your printer will extrude a out line of the model you are printing about 1cm away from it. What this allows you to do is to is to pause the print on the LCD controller and change the Z height and adjust it to first the correct home position by using a piece of paper then to set it to the correct first layer height (which may be different to your main layer height) mine is usually 0.3mm. This should solve the issues with the Z axis home position.

Z endstop l - sitron prusa i3
Z endstop on Prusa i3 – sintron prusa i3

Customer service – sintron prusa i3  

One major advantage to buying this printer is the outstanding customer service. It is the best customer service I have ever seen. I was in a long chain of emails to someone called James who answered every question I had as well as sending me parts if they were faulty. I had problems some issues with my printer and they would send me out a part whenever necessary, they even sent me a new mega 2560. I would highly recommend buying from this seller, you can get their email on their website.

Print Quality – sintron prusa i3  

The prints I have achieved with this printer is amazing. With much tinkering to my printer I have been able to print precise, accurate models. With this printer printing printing non-mechanical parts and basic models are a breeze. Printing mechanical objects can be a bit more tricky, I have been able to print  objects with moving parts inside such as a rotating scuba hose holder, a Geneva drive model (a mechanism that changes continuous motion into intermittent motion) and recently a ‘mostly’ working adjustable wrench. I recommend playing around with extrusion multiplier to get the best prints ( I use 90% in Cura for PLA). With this printer, like any you will get failures and this will happen more likely than a pre-built machine. However the knowledge you gain from the failures is invaluable as the best way to learn is to learn from your mistakes. The printer is able to preform well in PLA, ABS, PETG and flexable PLA from my experience.

sample prints - sitron prusa i3
Prints printed on the Sintron Prusa i3 – sintron prusa i3


Overall the printer is really good: It can print complex shapes and figures as well as complex mechanical parts if you tinker around a bit. The fact you have to build it and make it work well, as well as giving you satisfaction, gives you knowledge on the ins and outs of your machine and how it works, how to make it better and how to fix it. The print quality I have achieved with the printer is very good as you can see from the image above, but I feel like it’s unfair to compare it to a printer like an Ultimaker because those kinds of 3D-Printers go into the regions of £1000+ at least and for about £ 270 and some time and effort you can achieve similar results to a high end printer like that. So whether you are looking for your first printer or another one for your fleet the Sintron Prusa i3 should be put on your short list.

The Good, Bad, and Errors of 3D Printing

3D printing is a fine art in a world full of beginners. Fortunately the internet is full of support and sympathetic ears from other printers.
There are many ways a print can go from a Pinterest – perfect picture to a plastic spaghetti pile. Recently Simplify 3D released a printing guide that covers the full range of issues that you can face. Different brands of 3D printers are known for their quirks that cause their own problems. Kit built printers are notorious for having all of these 3d printing errors. Among these errors  I’ll cover the ones I ran into on my Makerbot 5th gen and Lulzbot Taz 5 printers.

1. 3d printing errors: Not Extruding at Start of Print.

Print not extruding at the start. - 3d printing errors
Print not extruding at the start.

When you start printing, the filament has to be hot enough to flow into the nozzle of the print head. If your temperature settings are off for your material, it may not melt enough to flow into the head. Check the info from the filament manufacturer for the recommended settings for each filament material. When in doubt, I found it better to run your filament on the higher end of the temperature range. For example, if I’m printing PLA/PHA, the recommended range is 190 – 210 C and I run it at 200 to start.

    Fix 1: Check you temperature settings, especially when you change filaments from PLA to anything else.
Fix 2: Check that your build plate is level and offset correctly. If the head is too close to the build plate, you’ll see track marks in the blue tape. In Makerbot Desktop it can adjust the offset under the device settings. For Lulzbots, you have to adjust the offset manually.

2.3d printing errors: 1st layer is not sticking to the bed.

     The first layer is the important foundation to your print. Always monitor your print to make sure this layer goes down flat and smooth. If your print has complex curves, circles or tight angles on the base, you will really need to monitor your 1st layer.

A bad print that did not stick to the build plate - 3d printing errors
A bad print that did not stick to the build plate

   Fix 1: Slow down your print speed. I know when you have a long print it is tempting to throttle up your printer. But if it goes faster than the plastic can bond, you end up with a stringy glob around the print head.
  Fix 2: Clean the build plate. I use blue painters tape on my build plate, and sometime the tape loses the ability to grip the material. Other printers use glue stick, hairspray, acetone, or kalpton tape to hold the print to the bed. You have to experiment with what works with your printer to get something that works consistently.
Fix 3: Heating and cooling. My first printer, a Makerbot 5th gen, had a unheated glass build plate. Without that slow plate heating, the PLA shrunk like mad, especially on the first print of the day. Other materials like ABS you have to keep warm while printing or they will warp. Lulzbots thankfully can heat up, which will give the plastic time to bond to the build plate. For cooling, check the fan settings. If the fan is full on at the start, that may be cooling the plastic too quickly. You can change the settings in the Gcode.
Fix 4: Brim and rafts. Small prints, or prints with holes and complex shapes will need a brim or raft to hold them in place. With all the complex curves, the shrinkage will pull holes out of alignment and keep the shell from sticking to the plate. Explore using brims and rafts on different prints to decide what works best. Use brims if you have to use supported prints. Use a raft if you have a large or odd shaped flat print.

3. 3d printing errors: Over / under extrusion.

       This is a problem when going between different materials and diameter of filament. While Makerbots are set at 1.75 mm filament, Lulzbots can run 1.75 and 3 mm filaments.

over extruded test cube - 3d printing errors
Over Extruding filament causes uneven layers and bulges

    Fix 1: Check the settings on your slicer. I occasionally forget to do that on the Lulzbot when I go from 3 mm to 1.75 mm filament. The difference causes a thin string (under extrusion) or thick wavy blob (over extrusion) in the layers. You have to cancel the print and restart if this happens.
Fix 2: Check the flow rate. If it is over or under constantly, the print head motor may be running like it’s supposed to (Makerbot “Smart” heads are notorious for this). You can play with the flow rate to see if this helps.

4. 3d printing errors: Gaps in top / bottom layers

     Gaps in the layers make your print look like a sieve, and makes the print brittle. I’ve done this when I try to rush prints by making every shell and layer as thin as possible.

Gaps in top layer - 3d printing errors
Gaps in the top layer caused by a thin top/bottom layer.

     Fix 1: Thicken the top and bottom layers in your slicer.
Fix 2: Use more infill to support the top layers. Large gaps between infill supports are hard to bridge and can droop, leaving you with bulges or lumpy quilting textures on the top of your print.

5. 3d printing errors: Grinding filaments.

You are printing when you hear a steady “click, click” sound from the print head. If you have a Makerbot, that sound is the famous click of death from the “Smart” head. That click sound is the filament catching and grinding against the hobble bolt.

grind mark in filament  3d printing errors
Grind mark in filament, caused by wrong setting or bad filament.

    Fix 1: Check the temperature and make sure you’re printing hot enough for that material. All printers will try to force filament into the hot end, but if it does not melt you will get a jam and grind the filament. This is what kills the “Smart” heads on Makerbots.
Fix 2: Use a pick or toothbrush to clean out the teeth of the hobble gear.
Fix 3: Check the filament to see how brittle it is. Bad filament will chip and break instead of bending with the hobble gear. I’ll write more about bad filament in a future blog.

6. 3d printing errors: Clog / jam.

   This is the hardest thing to fix, because the jam tends to happen deep inside the hot end of the print head. If you hear a clicking sound and don’t see any material coming out, you have a jam. Makerbots are infamous for jamming inside their “smart” extrudes due to electronic and quality issues.

jamed nozzles - 3d printing errors
Jamed nozzles caused by bad temp settings or filament

    Fix 1: While the head is still hot, unscrew the nozzle. This will open it up to hopefully clear the jam on its own.

     Lulzbot Fix: On Lulzbots you can open the idler arm and pull the filament out while its hot. If you have a problem you will see it on the end of the filament. Hopefully you can remove any kinked or bad filament from the head without having to clean out the whole head.
If that does not work, the jam is caught at the start of the hot end. You’ll have to break out the Allen wrenches and dismantle the printer head. Carefully use a drill or punch to get the jam out of the body.

    Makerbot Fix: On Makerbots you can try to reverse the filament jam through the printer controls. When that fails, your “Smart” head may be jammed to death. You can try drilling it out after you remove the nozzle (which will void the factory warranty). After this, take a shot of hard liquor and call Makerbot customer support. You can also try a guitar E string to try to floss the jam out, but that will also void the warranty.

This is the short list of problems I have encountered while 3D printing with Makerbot 5th Gen and Lulzbot Taz 5 printers. Check the support for your particular brand for printer specific issues.

For more info on makerbots, click here. For Lulzbot, click here.

3D: Fear of Terrorism or Fear of Ideas?

      When I tell people I have a 3D printer, I get a lot of questions. Among the top 5 is “Can you 3D print a gun”?! In the US it has always been legal to make your own gun, and anyone with a drill press and some plumbing parts can make a working zip gun. 3D printed guns fall under this legal provision, provided they have a chunk of steel big enough to set off a metal detector.

Cody Wilson, DD holding liberator 3D printed pistol - 3d print a gun
Cody Wilson of Defense distributed holding the Liberator pistol.

Now thanks to 3D printing, it is possible to 3D print a gun out of plastic without the technical skills required to make a metal gun. In 2013 Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed (DD) published the digital files for his Liberator pistol. After that police departments and media tested the stealth of the gun by bringing them through metal detectors into public meeting to demonstrate their possible “terrorist” applications. The US government ordered the files removed from Defense Distributes website, but a simple search of any file sharing site will reveal the files.

3D print a  gun the fear of terrorism?

Recently the Daily Mail (DM) a UK based paper, published a quick and disjointed article about 3D printed guns. DM clams (without proof) that ISIS may be interested in 3D printed weapons. It attacks Cody Wilson and his plans to try and release a 3D printed AR-15 assault rifle in April. It should be noted that DD has already published the files for the AR-15 lower. The printed lower does not have a government serial number, meaning that it is not registered with the government (a so-called “Ghost Gun”).

The rest of the DM article jumps around, but suffice to say it hypes a lot of fear by combining ISIS and 3D printed guns.

Fear of Ideas

crazy-slow-motion-video-shows-what-happens-when-a-3d-printed-gun-misfires - 3d print a gun
3D printed Liberator pistol misfiring and exploding.

DM wrote this puff piece without any knowledge of 3D printed guns. The Liberator Pistol was never made as an assassin’s tool. DD made it as a thought experiment, legal challenge, and engineering challenge. Shooting a single .38 cal bullet out of snub nose barrel, it also requires additional barrels to fire again. The process of loading the Liberator is slow. On top of that, the barrels have a tendency to explode in the shooters hand. All of these are not properties that ISIS or other assassins consider desirable in a weapon.

      For the AR-15 lowers mentioned in the article, they are more of a concern, but not by much. They too were made as a thought experiment and legal / engineering challenge. They do circumvent the laws of the US, because they do not have or require a serial number. 3D printed lowers have made progress in their ability to fire hundreds of rounds. Online groups like FOSSCAD have produced improved versions of this lower that fire higher calibers.

3D print a gun – realitys

The strength and performance of these plastic lowers is dodgy at best. They require extensive tinkering to fit the trigger group inside of them, which takes a lot of time for uncertain performance. The 3D printed lowers take hours to print and even more time to assemble into a firing gun.

       There is no proof that terrorist are actively seeking 3D printers for nefarious purposes. When you look at the time, risk, equipment, and skill involved in 3D printing a gun, it just does not make sense for a terrorist to use one. Any terrorist wanting to cause harm will want a stable, predictable working gun. 3D printed AR-15 lowers simply cannot deliver on that requirement. Any terrorist will find a legal or illegal way to get a working gun that is ready to fire. Terrorist networks also have connections to arms dealers that can easily smuggle weapons into any country.

Fear Itself

With current 3D printing technology and materials, the public does not have a lot to fear from 3D printed guns. What DM is afraid of is the idea of 3d print a gun. DM is afraid that anyone who does not want to deal with the legal restrictions of making and owning a gun can circumvent the draconian measures in place in the UK. DM is afraid that everyone can easily find these 3D printable guns.

Ultimately DM is not afraid of a 3d print a gun used by ISIS, it’s afraid of the idea of a 3D printed gun in general.

The original article can be found here:

Defense Distributed can be found here:

FOSSCAD can be found here:

Hypersonic Aircraft: it’s closer than we expected

The 3D printing technology is changing the world in a very radical way, manufacturing any kind of fully customized and tailored objects according to our needs; creating new and better products is just fantastic. But personally I think there is still much ground to cover with 3D printing.

From the begining of time man has felt the need of flying, let’s face it: we all want to fly and sail the world, but we don’t have wings. So, we decided to build our own and that’s what NASA is doing.

skydiving - nasa hypersonic aircraft
people practice skydiving

Hypersonic aircraft is closer thanks to the mankind and their fervent desire of riding the sky and 3D printing gave us the tools to make this dream come true.

Orbital American aerospace Company ATK announced: 3D printing has been proved be very successful in their latest project. They are using this technology to manufacture a combustion chamber for the engine of his futuristic hypersonic aircraft at the Research Center of NASA Langley in Virginia.

Hypersonic Aircraft - nasa hypersonic aircraft
NASA Hypersonic Aircraft

Just think about having the possibility of flying from New York to London in just an hour -or going to any destination you need in less time-. Well, this is getting closer to be real, thanks to a group of people who decided to use a 3D printer to make combustion chambers.

But, why is this piece so important and how it benefits the Hypersonic Aircraft?

Well, that’s because the combustion chamber is a cornerstone for the engine of this Hypersonic aircraft. Without it, the aircraft couldn´t reach the expected speed. After the manufacturing process it was underwent for a period of 20 days as a normal engine’s temperatures and conditions,  which reach speeds over 6125 km/h.

The combustion chamber was created through a fusion powder process called powder bed serves or PFB. This process is used primarily for adding raw materials based on metal alloy powders.

 Orbital ATK says that the manufacture of this chamber design is only possible with the help of 3D printing, because doing it by hand it would take multiple parts so it would increase production time and rises costs for sure.

When the entire printing process ends the piece is removed from its excessive dust, then, is moved through a smoothing process.

Hypersonic Aircraft Desing - nasa hypersonic aircraft
NAsa Hypersonic Aircraft Desing

Just the fact than in a future we would print our own transportations makes me feel excited.

 What kind of transport do you want to print?