Printing with wood…in 3D!

It is perhaps surprising that it is only recently that 3D printing has become a reality – after all, the technology that is used to create the printers has been around for a fair amount of time.  It is however, only recently that people have realised the advantages of being able to create 3 dimensional, functional objects at home.

For the workshop, being able to create functional prototypes, jigs, some tools etc is now very much a reality, and the cost of entry has been rocketing down.  Most printers on the market currently are in the $1000-$2000 bracket for a home-entry machine, and you could (if you have the where-for-all) build one from the basic parts for around $500.

But even that is changing.  On Kickstarter (a crowd-funding website, where you get to fund new projects that would otherwise be unlikely to make it to the mainstream), there is a 3D printer now available (flatpacked, ready for assembly) for $340.

Called the RigidBot, it is still available until about 8am tomorrow morning (11 May) AEST (so about 22 hours to go!).  The funding has gone so well, that their goal of $30000 or so to make it a reality is about to exceed $900000 – there has been a huge amount of excitement about such a cheap, functional machine.

While looking through the information and videos, I was surprised to come across the concept that there is now some sources of a wood filament (presumably something like MDF) so you can print in 3D.

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Of the three owls, the left one is wood, the middle is ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene.  Many common items are made from ABS, including golf club heads, car wheel covers, LEGO Blocks, bicycle & motorcycle helmets, water pipes, electrical conduit, bathroom shower doors, volleyballs, pool liners, toys, furniture, outdoor playground equipment, etc). The right hand one is PLA (Polylactide, or playactic acid.  It is a plant-based plastic, rather than an oil-based one, and is typically made from corn or sugarcane.)  In 3D printing, PLA is generally preferred as it doesn’t warp as much when in contact with a cold print bed (note the warp in the base of the white owl).  This can be alleviated to a significant degree by having a heated bed, discouraging differential cooling, and therefore warping.

It isn’t just a few decorative owls that you can use 3D printing for – it is one of those products where you are limited only by imagination (and failing that, there are 1000s of downloadable designs!) Check out Thiniverse for an amazing catalogue of items you can download and make.  So cool.

For example, you are in your workshop, wanting to use your Kreg jig and the vacuum hose doesn’t fit the collector properly.  Print another one, such as this one specifically for the Festool hose

Festol_Kreg_Dust_Shroud_preview_featured

Need a featherboard? Print one!

Featherboard_BRAVO_-_Complete_no_pads_preview_featuredIt just goes on and on.  And thinking of featherboards and MagSwitch – if you have a cool idea for a new accessory, you don’t have to try to fabricate it from scrap materials, you could design and print your own.  Forgot to by a present for someone – give them a funky table lamp

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Anyway, I could get carried away.

If you are interested, check out the RigidBot on Kickstarter – 20 hours left.

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RigidBot 3D Printer -- Kicktraq Mini

6 Responses

  1. Ooh, I’m so tempted. Damn you Stu!

    Looking at the @340 kit option. I need to add $90 to ship to South Africa and then I might as well add $100 for 5x1kg spools. Then there’s the $50 Z-Rod. No idea if this is important. I don’t think I will look at the LCD screen, seems a bit dear and I have bunch of computers at home so could dedicate one to the 3D printer.

    It’s either this or a Jet 1014 lathe that I was looking at.

    Any idea what the consumption rate is of the spools?

    • I went with exactly the same choices. Apparently one spool would do about 5 of those owls, if that helps! The owl isn’t hollow – it is a crosshatch of internal bracing which you can see in some of their other photos. Not sure if that helps, but it gives a bit more of an idea of consumption rates.

      There are other kickstarter projects that have taken any recycling plastic and turned them into filament, so that opens up an entire pandora’s box of fun!

    • So many cool projects on Thiniverse, and most for free. Have already downloaded a number, including a skull, a Terminator skull, an egyptian canopic jar set, a 60000 RPM dremel-like tool that uses a vacuum cleaner to power it to name a few.

      If nothing else, that site pushes you completely over the edge!

  2. Oh dear!

    I’m thinking of printing all sorts of jigs that I could even sell. Like corner radius template, hinge morticing template , router base plates etc. I wonder how they print with that transparent ‘colour’. Is it a special spool do you think? I’m also thinking of jig knobs, corner brackets for squaring picture frames, router bit holders, bandsaw inserts etc.

    • It’s a good point- wonder how fast you could recoup the investment in the printer? It is only around the cost of a reasonably priced inkjet!

  3. Stu…

    It’s not clear from the description, but was the wood owl on the left made using traditional methods or by 3D printing? I came across this interesting new product for 3D printing that uses bamboo and PLA for the filament. Once printed, the item can be sanded and stained just like real wood. Seems like it might be useful!

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