3D Printing

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3d metal printing

3d metal printing is set to hit 2.2 billion dollars by 2020 according to the Global Metal 3D Printers Market: Analysis and Forecast 2015-2020) report put out by Research and Markets recently. The technology out there combined with the need for more complicated metal structures in cellphones, tablets, cars, airplanes.

There has been a growing advancement in the industry when it comes to 3d printing in general, and this has spilled over to 3d printing metal.

We’ll start to see large changes in massive industries, such as automotive, healthcare, defense and aerospace. As the tech in these industries evolve, the cost of 3d printers and software will come down due to cheaper computing power.

Challenges ahead

There are still challenges though however. Aurora launched a kickstarter campaign to bring in a sub $4000 3d metal printer, however once the kickstarter finished, the official final pricing went from $4000 to $24,000. Unfortunately Moore’s law just won’t work here to bring down pricing, as electrons beam technology has been in use for a long time (tech used in 3d metal printers at the moment).

Lasers may be the way forward. With advancements in laser tech. Using laser is going to be a lot better as laser stays collimated. This is likely to bring down cost.


Traditional 3d printers using .stl files and printing in plastic (ABS or SLA) have fairly small bed sizes if we are talking about home use. By this we mean that most printing sizes are around the 100 x 100 x 100mm mark, which isn’t too much of a problem as you can glue plastic together.

With metal printing, you’re going to be stuck with smaller parts, unless you can somehow put them together – welding isn’t really a welcome option if you want the ease of a home-use desktop printer – so you will be limited to your print size a lot more with metal. Also we don’t really know for sure how high the resolution can go. 3D printers can already hit 25 microns, whereas most desktop options just aren’t there quite yet.


The use of 3d printers for violent weapons such as guns involve heavy regulation/ legal conequences. Most gun designs require the use of metal parts.

However one metal 3d printers hit mainstream – its going to be difficult to regulate/ control the printing of illegal items. Only time will tell as to how this may be handled.

metal 3d printed object

Outsourcing your 3d metal prints

A cool way to get your 3d printing done without forking over thousands for a machine is to go through a company like Shapeways. There are limitations for how big a steel product can be, ut it is possible to send your file away and get a 3d printed object back – pretty neat stop-gap solution until home printing machines become more affordable.

AS it stands, it seems metal 3d printing will really only be for commercial use as pricing in the thousands and in the hundreds for a releatively small amount of metal powder is expensive. We can’t wait to see the day – just like 3d plastic printing – where metal 3d printing will come down in cost enough to be able to buy one for use at home on your desk.

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So we have talked about 3d CAD development software in the past, with the recent rise of 3d printers, we though we’d dig into what the options are for your new 3d printer.

A lot of 3d printers even come with their own software as a stand-alone unit, to save you on cost. However here are all of the different 3d printing software options to look into:



1 year premium license for $149. This is slightly different where 3DPrinterOS is actually a cloud print management software. This is kind of like the Google Docs for 3d printing, where everyone can collaborate online, fix the design and then print to anywhere worldwide.

This is a great option for building/ reviewing files in a team setting, as it includes ways to fix your designs e.g. Autodesk Mesh Repair, NetFabb, and Magic Fix.


CraftWare g code generator

Free, you can get this along with their CraftBot custom 3d printer, but you can use this as it supports printers using the gcode command set. The tooling path/ slicing algorithm is really great here especially for a free program. Available for both Windows and Mac OSX

KISSlicer (Keep It Simple Slicer)

Kisslicer 3d printer g code program

Free program that is great for converting your stl file into g-code (path info). The free version supports anyone with a single-head machine. However you can upgrade to a pro version (paid) if you love the program or if you need the additional multi-model printing and if you have a multi-head cnc machine/ 3d printer.

KISSlicer offers adjustable printer speed, fast slicing and the ability to be efficient with material usage, with features such as adaptive support and adaptive sparse infill.


Simple, free, open source 3d program. Hasn’t been updated in a while, but still does the job nicely for creating g-code. Supports s3g, x3g, stl, GCode files.

Repetier Host

Repetier Host

Repetier Host is free and supports Windows, Mac, and Linux. The interface includes a nice preview feature before you print with printing stats. Uses either Skeinforge or Slic3r as the slicing engine.




Coming in at $149 USD, Simplify3D has a lot of features, and can actually be used as an all-in-one with its 3d modelling capabilities. This allows you to make changes to your file after exporting it, potentially making the print process more efficient (e.g. splitting up parts). The benefit here is that you get full support as this is paid software. There’s support for Windows, MacOS X, and Linux.


Slic3r g-code generator

Supports Windows, MacOS X, and Linux. Slic3r is a free G-code generator for 3d printers. The program is developed by Alessandro Ranellucci alongside other conributors to the community. With claims of Slic3r being 100x faster than Skeinforge. The software remains up-to-date with a good community behind it if you do get stuck.


Skeinforge gcode program

Skeinforge is a free program written in the python language, its a pretty basic bare bones program that gets the job done converting .stl files to GCode. You can download direct from the author’s page here.

Ultimaker Cura

Ultimaker Cura

Marketed as the world’s most advanced 3d printer software. This would be one of our top picks as the software is completely free and open source. Ultimaker has a great community behind it. The software supports Linux, Windows, and MacOS X, and is  kept up to date across all platforms.

Other software to look into that offer a variety of different options for your gcode conversion when custom 3d printing, such as networking, automation and peer based software options: OctoPrint, AstroPrint, PrintToPeer.

Well thats a round-up of the different options for 3d printing. For a free version, we recommend Ultimaker Cura, but for paid we think the Simplify3D software is worth the cost if you need the support and the extra features of an all in one.

Which 3d printing software are you using and why?

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As a follow up to our guide on 3d printing, we thought we’d dig through all the different 3d printers out there and lay out the pricing as well as specs. There’s been an explosion in 3d printing (cooler name than what it used to be referred to which was rapid prototyping). Here we go!

First up: what we looked for in terms of criteria


We’ll be focusing on finding the best home 3d printer in terms of price. From what we’ve seen you can get a 3d printer for as low as $300 all the way up to $3500 for your home. There are a few picks we really like in the sub $500 range, but there are some good picks if you’re willing to splash out.

We’ll also take a look at costs of materials. Some resins that come with these machines are upwards of $150-$200 a bottle. This may quickly negate the savings you may get froma cheap 3d printer to start.

Printable area/ size

This is important. The printable area. Of course you could always split up your 3d file and print in multiple parts then glue together later on. However having a good working area is going to make things a lot easier. Typically looking for anything over 100 mm x 100 mm x 100 mm would be a good start, and a good size for home use.


We will need to take a look at the tolerances for each machine. Some go as fine as 50 microns (0.05mm) or 25 microns (0.025mm), which is a very fine resolution and sufficient for home use without having to refinish too much by hand. e.g. getting something that is too rough and having to sand it back.

On the opposite side to this you want  a printer that has a good upper range in terms of tolerance so the printer can build faster. We’ll look into that soon.

Ease of use

Does the machine have to be assembled? Does the machine have to be calibrated? Lots of 3d printing machines take a bit of set-up time, this can take days to get built and calibrated right. There are some 3d printers like the Form 1+, Buccaneer and the M3D that all have enclosed working areas, so assembly and calibration is almost non-existent.

Warranty/ support

Often cheap 3d printers come with crappy support and warranty. With a lot of the made in China stuff, trying to get warranty support is difficult, and new parts cost a fortune (It would be bad-ass if you can print common parts that break).

Because we’re going to be looking into home-use 3d printers, the cost of a 3d printer will also have to balance out on service. Personally, I like to deal with more reputable companies that give a  good warranty, especially in the cnc/ 3d printing space.

Dremel Idea Builder 3D Printer

Dremel Idea Builder 3d printer

Price: sub $1000, approx. $900

Build area: 9″ x 5.9″ x 5.5″

The Dremel Idea builder is a solid choice at just under $1000. Aside from great customer service, the filament is only $30 for different colors for 0.5kg spool weight which means your printing in terms of material is going to be very cost effective.

Full color touch screen with on-board software so you can use this standalone if need be. Seems a bit gimmicky as everyone has a computer/ tablet these days to plug in.


m3d micro 3d printer

Price: Sub $500, 450 for the retail version (has 1 year warranty, and 1 filament bottle) pretty damn good!

Print resolution: 50 to 350 microns

Build area: 109mm x 113mm at the base, but reduced to 91mm x 84mm above a height of 74mm, for a total height of 116mm

The M3D is a huge new up and comer. The M3D is now available to the masses direct from their website. While the overall size is somewhat small, for the price of under $500. In order to get this at such a low price at a good quality the printer’s footprint is much smaller than some of the other models mentioned here. If you’re okay with the size, then the fact that this is a fully enclosed unit that requires almost no set-up, then this may just be your top pick!

Form 1+

Form 1+ 3d printer

Price: Between $2000 to $3000, now at $2799

Print resolution: 25 to 200 microns

Build area: 125×125×165 mm

The Form 1+ is a slick looking 3d printer, is not on the large size, so slightly larger than the Micro, but not as big as the Dremel or MakerBot. What makes the Form1+ really stand out is its ease of use. You can easily plug in a usb and just go ahead and print – no computer necessary!

However due to the price, we can’t help but wonder that maybe if this feature wasn’t present, the unit would be cheaper buy a good amount. Everyone has as tablet, smartphone or computer – so for the machine to not require one is kind of obsolete – but we do get the idea of giving people options for easy printing.

The Buccaneer 

The Buccaneer 3d printer

Price: Under $1000, now at $799

Print resolution: goes down to 50 microns

Build area: 130 x 96 x 139mm

The Buccaneer probably competes with the M3D (Micro 3D) the most at the sub $1000 price-point. It is more expensive however, but this is because one of thee cool features is the UI. The user interface can be done all through a phone app. Now that’s pretty cool – being able to sit back on your couch and create objects that can be sent to print on your networked 3d printer is now a reality.

The Buccaneer just looks bad-ass. With super sleek lines and a stamped stainless  steel frame, the build quality is just amazing and will look really good on top of your desk/ table.


What we don’t recommend:

MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer

MakerBot Replicator desktop 3d printer

Price: Between $2000 and $2000, approx $2600

Build Area: 25.2 L x 19.9 W x 15.0 H cm

Filament: MakerBot PLA Filament

Other features: Wi-fi, lcd interface, camera

The Makerbot is a solid machine in the $2-$3000 range, but we can’t recommend this due to the tidal wave of bad reviews out there. There are reports of really poor customer service and the extruder having issues. The extruder nozzle seems to clog often if you are refilling the filament often – which is unavoidable for different colors and textures.


As you can see there is no one best 3d printer out there. It all depends on your budget and what you plan on 3d printing. For sub $500 the Micro 3D is the way to go. Beyond that the Dremel Idea Builder and Buccaneer offer compelling options.

Which 3d printer do you think is the best?

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M3D 3d printer

3d printing and rapid prototyping has exploded recently. An industry that used to be super expensive now has some compelling choices under the $2000 and even under the $1000 mark. Today we at CNC Estab will be digging into all the machines that have come out recently to see just what you can get for your hard earned dollar.

The rise of cheap rapid prototyping / 3d printing machines

With the rise of Kickstarter, we’ve seen a ton of new exciting 3d printing machines available for home use. One thing to keep in mind is that there are a few different methods for 3d printing. Lets dig into this first before we get into the different kinds of models you can buy.

Different ways to 3d print – What’s the deal?

Essentially there are 7 – yeaht thats right – 7 ways that you can 3d print as classed by the American Society for Testing and Materials under the Addictive Manufacturing ASTM F42 group.

Here are the 7 different ways you can 3d print:

1. Binder Jetting

binder jetting 3d printing

With binder jetting for 3d printing there are two materials being used. The liquid binder and the powder base. The binder is spread out and then the glue is spread using jet nozzles to set the powder base where needed. This is done over different layers, and then the powder is cleaned off to leave the bonded powder behind which will be the final object.

2. Directed Energy Deposition

directed energy deposition cnc

Not found in home use machines. Essentially metal powder is used and it comes out of a nozzle combined with n energy source like a plasma arc or laser.

It looks like metal is getting squirted out, but the heat source bonds the metal powder together super quick. This is typically used with a 5 axis machine and an object is built up in layers. This process is used to create parts with tougher metal such as titanium.

3. Material Extrusion

3d printing material extrusion

Building a part up layer by layer, the extrusion nozzle shoots out material, but the nozzle is heated which will melt the material so it an be moved and added from different angles to produce a shape. Typically ABS and PLA plastic is used in this process. This process is probably the most common in household 3d printers.

4. Material Jetting

material jetting 3d printing

This process uses a nozzle that jets out little droplets and then is hardened by UV light layer by layer. The nozzle puts out actual build material and supporting material that you can remove later.

5. Powder Bed Fusion

powder bed fusion

As the name suggests you have a powder bed of your material (can be parts of metal, ceramic, plastic or glass). A high powered laser is then used to fue the powder into the desired shape. Then the powdered bed is lowered one layer at a time to produce different layers that will turn into a final object.

No support material is needed as the unused powder remains and becomes the support structure during the 3d printing process.

6. Sheet Lamination

sheet lamination 3d print machine

This process builds up different sheets using an external fore. Essentially you take paper and glue or metal and ultrasonic welding in layers then layer up your object. This isn’t very common with home use.

7. Vat Photopolymerisation

VAT Photopolymerisation cnc

As the name suggests you have a vat of photopolymer resin (clear very sticky bond glue type stuff for those who haven’t seen it. A UV light source then shoots into this vat and hardens parts of the resin (common process used is called SLA – Stereolithography). The light hardens the material in layers with the vat filling and unfilling as the light hardens every layer.

Top 3d printing/ rapid prototyping machines for your home or apartment

Now that we got the process out of the way, its time to look at what kind of machine might fit your needs.

Best sub $1000 machine: Flashforge 3d printer creator pro

flashforge 3d printer recommendation

Made by FlashForge, the FlashForge 3d printer creator pro is a highly regarded home printer made by FlashForge. At just under the $1000 mark, you’re getting tremendous bang for your buck. We love the build quality on this with the metal frame and the 6.3mm aluminum build platform.

With this sub $1000 machine you are getting an easy to maintain, durable 3d rapid prototyping machine. Using a dual extruder you will be making a lot of parts here out of plastic ABS.

The advantage to this printing machine vs some others is that there is an enclosed chamber. This is great for safety and protects your ABS prints during the layering process of the ABS plastic. You are going to have to tinker a little with this machine to get the best results (like every home 3d printing machine – but no more so though)

Best sub $500 3d printer

HICTOP 3d printing machine

For those of you on more of a tighter budget, there are a few other options available out there. The HICTOP Prusa I3 3d desktop printer is the perfect fit here as one of the cheapest rapid prototyping machines for sale. At under $500 you can get this machine close to the $3-$400 mark. This is made in China and is cheaper because it is not fully enclosed.

The cheapness also reflects in the work to get this printer up and running. You`re going to have to assemble it yourself and calibrate it yourself. It took us a few days to get this machine assembled and calibrated correctly.

The unit does not come with an instructional cd, just an sd card with instructions and some sample .stl files. Like we mentioned earlier, it takes time to get this machine calibrated. The Cura software is okay to use, but you`re going to have to experiment a little with the printing speed, fill densities and the extrusion speed to get your print jobs cleaner, so you don`t have to finish the job by hand much. Overall if you have some time to assemble and tinker, the price point here can`t be beat.

Keep an eye out for the M3D though – more on this machine below.

Other 3d printers

Form 1+

form 1+ 3d printer

Coming in between $2000 to $3000 this printer is a great professional 3d printer, its not the cheapest 3d printer, but allows this workhorse can create parts to sell over Etsy or for other commercial purposes.

Using resin to make your parts, you can have different types of resin formations and colors depending on the object being made. This unit has a fully sealed chamber but has a removable build platform for you to remove your part easily for the next print.

Great thing abut the Form 1+ compared to the HICTOP is that there is no calibration needed, you can get set up and printing almost as soon as you get the machine. The Form 1+ gets down to 25 microns (0.025 mm) so extremely detailed, and comes with a build volume of 125 mm x 125 mm x 165mm.

Peachy Printer – only $100

This is probably the cheapest 3d printer around, at only $100 its worth dipping your toes into the world of 3d printing. This printer uses resin as well which can be purchased through their website. With this machine you`ll be able to create some smaller objects. We`d recommend going with a higher end machine, but this is a great start, and can be a fantastic gift option.

The Buccaneer

buccaneer 3d printer

This one started on Kickstarter and took a while to get out, but this promises to be the easiest to use 3d printer in the world. This 3d printer comes with some really cool features. The app allows you to wireless 3d print through your network and allows you to create 3d models on your actual phone to be printed. This eliminates the need for expensive software on your PC or Mac to get started.

With a highest layer resolution of 50 Microns (0.05 mm), and a max print size of 130mm x 96mm x 139mm, you can create some fairly sizable objects. Remember you can glue together parts to form a larger item.

The M3D (Micro 3D)

M3D 3d printer

The micro 3d printer allows you to print either PLA or ABS. This is a great printer for $350 or $450 with one PLA filament. Available in a range of colors including clear, this 3d printing machine comes in pretty cheap. But cheap here does not mean bad. This printer has the looks and layer resolution to go toe to toe with some of the higher cost printers out there.

Able to get down to 50 microns (0.05 mm) in resolution with a print area split into two, the base at 113 mm x 109 mm x 74 mm with and additional 91 mm x 84 mm x 42 mm on top. So an overall height of 116 mm. The Micro only really just hit the market, but we are confident this model has a great future ahead of it.

So which 3d printer are you interested in? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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3d printing

3d printing has really taken off these days. I remember outsourcing 3d prototyping work almost ten years ago. Now 3d prototyping and 3d printing has exploded, with the 3d printer now fairly accessible for at-home users. Recently there has been huge debate with 3d printed guns (note a full gun can not be printed and used over and over again yet). For those of you that don’t know much about 3d printing, I’ve done a bit of research and have put together the need-to-know guide for you right here.