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My wife is leaning hard towards getting us one family gift for the X-mas season. Both of us had encyclopedias and computers as family X-mas presents meant to teach and inspire us (they worked).

We were thinking about going one up and getting a 3D printer for the kids this season. The one we were thinking is the Cupcake CNC which is a small desktop sized rapid prototyping printer that prints using ABS plastic. Our hope is that the kids and (the big kids + friends) can use it to imagine the new, novel and non-obvious and get instant gratification printing it out.

Anybody on here with one of these or with soldworks/autocad, etc experience who wants to share advice on this?
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No direct experience, but I definitely like the idea, and the Cupcake is the darling of the Maker movement. (Well, for good reason -- Makerbot sells it).
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Hi SlowMike
I was kind of stunned to read your post as i have never heard of anyone buying a 3D printer/rapid prototyper other than for commercial design/tooling prototyping or for teaching design in an academic institution.
At the design school I work at we have a Roland 4 axis milling machine and a laser cutter but no 3D printer. There is a good reason for this. While there are a number of new 'low cost' desktop products in the RP market the hidden cost is always in the consumables. Many academic instituions cannot sustain the cost of the consumables without offering their machines out for commercial work. At that point they are not well set up for such an enterprise (location/business model) and often cannot compete with local RP companies so the students go elsewhere at a lower cost. Look into this carefully. It has become similar to the situation with simple ink jet printers; now sold for half the price of your first set if ink cartridges
SolidWorks (and AutoCad Inventor) are great platforms for parametric solid modeling but are not the best option for more 'creative' outputs such as anthropomorphic figurines or characters. Not sure what to recommend here, maybe Rhino?
The thought of having an RP machine at home is certainly exciting and I am sure that many MVers would love one to design and make their own 'nik-naks' for their scoots (GPS/Coffee cup/camera mounts). I do however imagine that without a commercial driver/rationale, this expensive investment may soon disappoint and fall into the 'well it was a great idea at the time' category.
Also the actual outputs from many/most low cost RP machines are fragile, need some form of finishing such as UV curing, finishing, painting, spraying with cyanoacrylate (superglue). Once finished the artefact does not have a great longevity as they are susceptible to moisture and UV degradation.
Only the really top-end machines use consumables that closely mimic modern polymers and are capable of true batch production.
There are plenty of good websites to read up on this whole field and I am sure a small desktop machine would deliver hours of fun but IMHO you could be in for on going $$$ and a level of disappointment.
Hope this didn't pour too much cold water on your Crimbo.
Best

Boulty
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Damn.
Of course I should have mentioned the real fun end of the market where you build your own RP machine.
http://reprap.org/wiki/Main_Page
RepRaps are becoming a bit of a cult.
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This is my first post on Modern Vespa. Hello all. I am an architect and Vespa enthusiast. I also run the digital fabrication lab at a Los Angeles University. I( have 2 3D Printers. One is a Zcorp plastic composite and the other prints ABSPlus. Direct material costs are between $2.50 (ZCorp) and $8.00 (ABS).

The Zcorp is fine for making conceptual prototypes, but are not strong enough to be put to use. ABSPlus is suitably strong, depending on the intended use of the object. The ABSPlus can also be chromed for additional strength.

I use AutoCAD for 2D drawings. If you want to do 3D objects, it's Rhino all the way. It is also easy to prep the model for printing in Rhino, however there are additional programs that can assist in unifying surface normals, closing open meshes, etc. I would be happy to help further if you need it. Again, the things I love are scooters and design.

Cheers.
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Marty - We're talking a sub-$1000 machine here. It isn't quite as good as the big commercial products, but it's damn close. As an educational toy, it would be pretty damn awesome.
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jess wrote:
Marty - We're talking a sub-$1000 machine here. It isn't quite as good as the big commercial products, but it's damn close. As an educational toy, it would be pretty damn awesome.
Yeah, I know and it was a bit of a rant but the points I was trying to make are still valid IMO.
Low quality, unstable outputs...good for what? Decorative fridge magnets
Plus, and I am sure the OP is aware of this...they will sell you the machine in an instant but the real cost of consumables is often hidden or rarely discussed.

The RepRap is Open Source and self replicating BTW. Some good YouTube vids available.

JFK, thanks for your first post and welcome to MV
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JFK...

Another architect here...but I still built my models out of cardboard

Not to hijack this thread but if any of you guys with 3d printer access can help I'd really appreciate it: do you think it is possible to replicate a horn button in ABS? Aprilia only sells it as part of the entire handlebar assembly The button is a mirror image of the start button on the right grip. I think I can get it scanned or i can re-create it in acad, sketchup, bentley, etc.

Back on topic, the cupcake looks really cool - my son would love it.
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Cue Patrick to tell us all about Shapeways...
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Did a bit more CupCake browsing. It sure is a sweet little unit and less 'geeky' than the RepRap.

Quite impressed with output size capability.

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jess wrote:
Cue Patrick to tell us all about Shapeways...
Wow, that is pretty cool stuff. I'm going to draw what I need in 3d cad and give it a try.
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So i want to know who makes up the names for these things CupCake i mean really Crying or Very sad emoticon
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I just want a 3D scanner... sniff sniff.....

R

8)
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I've been using shapeways for the past year and a half to prototype items. The costs are very reasonable and the quality is stunning.

For the Dogleg levers we made two versions in nylon, installed them on the bike to verify fit and then moved forward with the tooling to make them in aluminum. For the LX levers we made 4 different shapes to find the one that "felt right" given the different pivot points of the front and rear brakes.

In a day or two I'm expecting the top half of the case for my rally clock. I'll use that as printed not just as a prototype.

The cupcake is very loud from what I hear but that may make it better as an educational tool. I also think that it demystifies the process and provides many examples of how a task is done on a machine. My only concern would be about the CAD learning curve and the interest of the kids.

If it was me, I'd start them off with the CAD steps and send them to shape ways for printing. They turn an order around in 10 days so while it's not instant it's still a lot faster than drafting it up, taking it to a machinist...
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In my last job (I just retired, sort of), we used 3D printing to do a number of mechnical fit projects and also used it as a marketing toolbuilding models we'd take to trade shows. Cost us about 42K a few years ago to make a 1/2 scale of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle that was about 8"(d) x 6'(L) in three colors. Took about 1 day. An amazing tool.
Best
Miguel
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What an amazing tool, CupCake hey?
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Boultry: Our due diligence found the material costs to about $13/lb, assuming that each model takes about a half pound of plastic, the cost of the model is $6.50/widget. As a learning tool I'm ok with the kids printing some weird bit that costs us about $6 a couple times a week. While the goal is maximum return on investment, the widget at the core of this purchase is an educated kiddo who has the tools to go out and be more successful than their dorky parents.

JFK: I'll definitely get in contact with you and look into Rhino. We have Solidworks 2010 and it confuses me! If the kids are going to use it, I need to find a way for them to be involved in the design process, which means a simpler user interface.

Update: I'll be dropping by their offices in Brooklyn to play with the printer. I've also been reading through their wiki, their google groups and their forum. I think the costs should be low. I'm planning on getting the Mk V extruder head, using locktite on the bolts, I've already checked out the long term costs on materials, I'll be using my infared thermocouple (cooking toy) to doublecheck the plastic temperature, power requirements aren't more than a standard PC, planning on purchasing and building the kit on a November weekend with friends who are all interested in printing stuff. Also, I have noticed that they also sell an open source 3d scanner, maybe next year.....

Once finished, we will walk the kids through how to use the software, give them a budget on how much material a week they can use and see what cool things they can dream up.
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Another thing to consider is to let the kids do the work in sketchup and then import that into rhino, inventor, or solidworks. The learning curve for sketchup is not that bad and you can do a lot with it ( I draw pretty complex stuff with it at work all of the time). It is limited in it's ability to do compex surfaces - but you could let the kids "invent" the stuff in sketchup and then do the refining in rhino, etc

Ok, quick edit: there is a 3d printing plug-in for sketchup called CADspan

http://sketchupdate.blogspot.com/2008/10/file-3d-print.html
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