The 3D Printing Adventure

Our Novel Micro 3D Printer just arrived, the expirementing has begun!

The Micro 3D Printer by M3D is a cute, tiny and extremely quiet entry-level 3D printer that I found available for a modest price. The Micro is surprisingly compact and very light weight. Its simple, yet attractive Apple-like design makes it a good conversation piece and a proper piece of hardware for some initial expirements.

3D Printing – The Next Generation

When I noted the M3D Micro 3D printer back in April, my attention was initially drawn to the tagline: “Micro 3D printer is the Next Generation 3D Printer”. Well, that’s exactly the truth: our next generation likely grows up in a world different from today: 3D printers, 3D Print Communities, 3D Print Hubs, Fablabs, etc. all will be common stuff. And, very likely, they are not or unsufficiently educated for the jobs they will be hired for by tomorrow.

So why not start with teaching them the basics of 3D printing today?
So I did, and my two young boys join me on this journey…

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Design and Features

The M3D Micro 3D printer I finally decided to buy comes in two versions: the ‘Retail’ (the one we purchased) and the ‘Standard’. The Retail version includes a filament spool and written instructions, and it has a one-year warranty. The Standard model has a 3-month warranty, and it doesn’t come with filament or written instructions, as far as I discovered. Our unit is white, but different color options are available for the frame.

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Setting up the Printer

Thanks to the enclosed instructions, the initial set up of the Micro was a fairly simple process. When you take the printer out of the nicely designed box, you have to unpack it by removing all the bubble foam and tape. The instructions emphasize taking off the clips that hold the extruder carriage in place during the shipping. One thing I overlooked: two pieces of black foam beneath the extruder.

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Downloading the Software

After unpacking it, I have downloaded the software from M3D’s website and installed it on my laptop. Then I plugged the printer in, and the M3D logo starts to light up (there’s no power switch on the printer, but the M3D logo nicely lights up when the printer is connected to the mains) and connected it to my laptop via the included USB-cable.

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Loading the Filament

The next step was to load the filament (1.75mm), which can be done either internally – a small filament spool fits exactly in the compartment at the base of the printer under the print bed – I discovered it accidentaly, or externally: the spool of filament can be placed in an optional spool holder outside of the printer. To start loading my files, I clicked on the ‘3D Ink’ tab in the software. Then, you have to enter a code (describing the filament type) and feed the filament from the spool to the extruder.

M3D sells spools of filaments along with the printer, which they call ‘3D Ink’. For this initial trial, we used a spool of M3D’s clear PLA filament (WOW) and Light Carribean blue (SKY). I loaded the filament externally, what is way easier than the internal loading.

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M3D Software & Library

The Micro’s 3D printing software is by far the simplest I’ve ever used. At the top (left hand side) of the main screen are two icons: a filament spool labeled ‘3D Ink’ and another folder called ‘Open Model’. At the right, there’s a gear icon, from which you can calibrate the print bed.

If you have previously uploaded any 3D models, you can click on a thumbnail to load the model, or choose ‘Open Model’ and navigate through your file directories to select a 3D file to load. Once loaded, the 3D-object will appear on the screen framed within a visual image of the printer. You can rescale, rotate, center or reposition the object with the help of several buttons at the left edge of the screen, or center the object with a button at the bottom of the screen.

Marvin – Symbol of the 3D Printing Movement

We finally chose to start with printing ‘Marvin’ – the symbol of the 3D printing movement, as found on 3D Hubs. Marvin’s core ethos is about community, creativity, social change, and problem solving. He’s determined to revolutionize the way we make things through 3D printing, so that seems to be a good start!

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When we had ‘Marvin’ scaled and positioned to our satisfaction, we started the process by simply hitting the ‘Print’ button. A dialog box that identifies the printer and the filament pops up. There was a possibility to choose one of five print-quality settings from a pull-down menu.

“3D Printing is determined to Revolutionize the Way we make almost Everything”

In a second dropdown menu, I was able to choose from six additional settings by which the fill density could be defined: two hollow settings, with the walls of different thicknesses, and four settings with increasing percentages of infill. The higher the resolution and the thicker the infill, the longer it takes to print an object.

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The Printing Process

I printed two Marvins, one for each of the boys. The first one in medium and the other in low resolution. Honestly, I didn’t see too much difference in quality among the chosen resolutions. Both test prints tended to look slightly rough-hewn, and some fine detail was lost. Some post processing (polishing) will be needed anyway, but the first results are promising. Here are the puppets:

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Finally, the Micro might not be exactly the ‘breakout’ prosumer model I’ve been expecting when I ordered it online, but I might be spoiled in my actual job position at Luxexcel where we use to work with world class hardware (Printoptical Technology, for the printing of optics and optical components). However, it’s certainly worth taking a look at if you’re looking for a solid starter 3D printer for educational or hobby purposes.

What’s next?

The boys and I will continue the trial & error in the upcoming weeks, there’s many more to come this summer period, so watch out for the progress! Let’s see what happens if we bring some (back)light in as well…

Thanks for reading this post, stay tuned!

Discover the Miracle of Light: Flying through an Aurora

This beautiful timelapse from space was created from photographs taken from on board the International Space Station (ISS) by the Expedition 40 crew, end of August, 2014. They ISS crew flew right through a massive aurora after a solar mass ejection took place.

Natural Light Display

An aurora is a natural light display in the sky. It originally comes from the Latin word aurora, “sunrise” or the Roman goddess of dawn. The Aurora is especially visible in the high latitude, the Arctic and Antarctic regions. It is caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric charged particles with the high altitude atmosphere: the thermosphere.

Auroral Zone
Most auroras occur in a band known as the ‘auroral zone’, which is typically 3° to 6° wide in latitude. Most often, it is vividly around the spring and autumn equinoxes. The charged particles and solar wind are directed into the atmosphere by the Earth’s magnetosphere. A geomagnetic storm expands the auroral zone to lower latitudes.

Another Time Lapse Sequence
Here’s another great time lapse sequence of photographs taken by another crew of expeditions 28 & 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October, 2011, who – as far as I know – shot these pictures at an altitude of around 350 km.

An earlier edit from 2011 by Michael König

Just another great glimpse of Lighting-Inspiration and to celebrate the International Year of Light (IYL2015). Thanks for noticing this unusual but impressive blogpost. Hope you like it as much as I do!

How LED lighting optics and graphics seamlessly combine

Last time I wrote you, I promised to come up with some attractive results of both functional- and decorative optical designs, as well as some first design impressions of the new 3D printed optics website. Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with any decorative design patterns or applications yet. Nevertheless, I expect that the displayed, functional LED lighting optics below will impress you that much, that you will forgive me for now…

Printed LED optics: Fresnel lenses – micro optics – combined grapics

Right, they’re printed! All of them. LUXeXceL’s revolutionary 3D printing process will offer great value to the global LED lighting market. From now on, OEM lighting manufacturers and designers of LED lighting optics will generate significant cost reductions and time savings on the additive manufacturing of their LED lighting optics!

We’ll catch this and more of these revolutionary LED lighting optics in the next upcoming website. I am happy to share you the first design results of the homepage. It needs to be improved slightly, but I guess we’re almost there.

EXXELENS - functional lighting home

Printed LED Optics – Functional Lighting_Homepage

We allow users to switch easily from a ‘functional lighting’ (blue, technical) onto a ‘decorative lighting’ (orange, design full) environment on the right hand top. This is where technical and architectural lighting meets each other. Designs now can go ‘hand-in-hand’ with lens functionality, since it’s possible to foresee a functional LED lighting optic with any graphic elements, structure, typography, etc. The opposite is also true: decorative design lighting can now contain also functional optical structures and elements, e.g. integrated magnifiers.

Decorative, right. That’s exactly what you missed out in this post. But I promise you to come up with that information in one of my next posts.

Good design is obvious, great design is translucent

It’s less than a month ago since I wrote about the upcoming launch of the Luximpress website. Cool stuff to work with for graphimedia and digital artists, working with SFX and light, or different. Here’s another innovation coming up, based on the same “Printoptical Technology” of LUXeXceL: 3d printed optics for the lighting industry.

The future outlook for this application is great, since it offers great flexibility in terms of design and supply chain simplification. Moreover, it is possible to combine both functional structures and elements with any graphic textures, typograhy, etc. to be printed in one single 3D printing process, the so called “Optographics”. As a result of this, the company will not only provide functional LED lighting optics, but also decorative, high-impact lamp shades & shields.

A comprehensive website will be launched on short term, to foresee in the international market demand for LED lighting optics and provide LUXeXceL’s users a central platform to work from and foresee in their information demand.

Next time I write you, I will show some expressive results of both functional optics and decorative optical design patterns. That time, maybe some first design impressions of the website will be available.

Some ‘high lights’ to impress

Last time I wrote I promised to come back to you with further Printoptical Technology examples for the Graphic Industry. Here are some.

Luximpress - impressions of Printoptical Technology for graphimedia

Transparent 3D relief print – Integrated Optical Magnifier – 3D stained glass replica

Printoptical Technology adds value to graphic products and provide designers with new graphic design opportunities. Personally, I am convinced that it will be one of the crucial ‘tools’ that will help the industry to mutate from a commodity industry into an added value industry in the near future. This is a real “must-have” for trendsetting interior designers, 3D printing enthusiasts, lighting designers, digital 3D artists.

Bringing those innovative printing solutions to market, Luximpress will contribute significantly to the future of the printing industry and service to facilitate customer differentiation and development. The shift to a new technology is not anymore determined by volumes and capacity expansion, but more and more by flexibility and differentiation. This is where it shines out! Moreover, the coming of this brand new technology will enforce the printing industry position in an evolving value chain, which includes this kind of ‘new media’ in particular.

The possibilities are various, the designers’ creativity is the only limitation…!