Fall is an awesome time for 3D Printing.  There are many great events.  One of the biggest for makers and 3D Printing is the World Maker Faire in NYC.  

The 2015 event will be held at the New York Hall of Science on September 26th and 27th.  There will be a ton of amazing Makers showing off their work and lots of hands on activities.  More info about the Faire can be found here.  

Printed Solid will be there in the 3D Printing Village with some cool things to show off and some cool things to buy.  

Last year, we introduced our gumball machine filled with a bunch of random 3D Printed things.  The idea for this came out of necessity.   At a previous event, we printed 100s of little giveaway prints figuring that they would last easily through the whole event, but they were all gone within the first hour!  So, we ordered a gumball machine to slow the rate that the sample go out.  It was a big hit.  Kids loved it.  But we noticed that everyone who didn't get a robot was a little bit disappointed.  So, this year, we will have the machine loaded up completely with robots in a plethora of cool colors.  The robot of choice this year is a remix of Cerberus 333's 2013 Big Red design.  We call him Little Red.  If you follow us on twitter, then you'll know we've been running the heck out of this stl for the last few weeks.

The gumball machine will be stuffed with mixed color bots as well as a few special bots printed in bronzeFill, copperFill, brassFill, Stainless Steel PLA, and rusted magnetic Iron PLA.  We will also have some of the metal filled as well as solid cast metal bots available for purchase.  

Robots in assorted colors.  The guy in the center was made in bronzeFill, tumbled, and clear coated.

Robots in ProtoPasta Magnetic Iron that have been rusted overnight in salt water.

We will have 3 shelving units fully loaded with all types of filament and supplies from our shop available at discounted prices.  Last year, we had people asking for bags.  Seems like kind of an obvious thing for a retailer, but we didn't think to bring any.  So, this year, we had the foresight to order up some cool bags.  We'll be giving out these drawstring bags with purchases.  Or, if you're a reader of the blog, just ask and we'll give you one for free :)

 We will have some of our coolest prints featuring different materials that we sell.  Stained and sealed WoodFill Groot and Stainless Steel / BambooFill Thor's Hammer are two of my personal favorite's


In addition to showcasing prints in all of our favorite materials, we'll have a streaming presentation going through the whole show with some information on basic filament properties.  This should be very informative for those attending without engineering or materials degrees.  It will list out some basic properties of materials such as strength, flexibility, and electrical conductivity.  Each property will be given a brief explanation, some filaments that are good for that property will be listed, and a visual example of the property will be shown.  There will also be a handful of objects printed to show differences in properties for the different materials.  When I am back settled in from the show, I will be sharing this information on the blog as well.

Of course, what will a Maker Faire be if we're not actually making during the event!  This year, the Printrbot Metal Simple will be our working machine.  This printer has a super small foot print and is very reliable, so it makes a perfect printer for shows.  We'll have a few for sale at a discounted price if you want to take one home with you from the show.  

What will we be printing?  Well, we will definitely be printing with the new Proto-Pasta Coffee Filament for some of the time.  This is not yet available in our shop, but will be soon.  It gives off a slightly burnt coffee smell while printing (perfect if you like dark roast brews like Starbucks) and has a nice brown color.  It also offers a unique functional aspect.  The material can be post treated to create a higher temperature tolerance.  So, you get a filament that smells like coffee AND can be used in your hot car.  Sure beats having to smell nasty ABS!  Alex from Proto-Pasta will be stopping by at some point to present information on their materials and to give out samples.  

 Then we'll also be spending some time printing with Algae Filament.  

Product image and print by Walter Hsaio 
Bucky Ball (Fredbartels) / CC BY-SA 3.0


We'll also bring back the Garage Sale filament that we had at Midwest Reprap Fest 2015.  As a filament reseller, we order a lot of different things just to try.  Some make the cut.  Many don't.  Sometimes they don't make the cut because they are just terrible materials.  Those go in the trash.  However, a great many are OK enough, but just not quite up to our standards.  These are our garage sale filaments.  We'll have about 30-40 spools ranging from unopened 250g spools to opened with only a bit used 1kg spools.  We'll have these available for $5 each or 5 for $20.  If you're looking for a great deal, hit us up early.  These will not last long.  

Also...  Just in! 

We'll have some special guests.

Gordon LaPlante and Anna Lee, cofounders of Gcreate who make the awesome Gmax series of printers will be stopping by.  You might have also seen some of Gordon's awesome designs featured on thingiverse and 3dfilemarket.  They will bring some of these enormous prints with them to show off at our table!  All are printed in fabulous colorFabb PLA/PHA.







As you've seen in some of my previous posts, I've spent a fair amount of time experimenting with using an acetone vapor bath to smooth 3D Printed parts. Recently, I saw this cool make of a Moai head posted by thingiverse member Shapespeare.  He used acrylic cement to manually smooth the PLA printed part with a really great result.  This looks awesome, but I don't want to deal with a bunch of little jars of acrylic cement and I'm not sure about the full list of chemicals contained. That got me thinking back to vapor polishing PLA and other materials.  I've read about using THF as a vapor to smooth parts, but have also read concerns about storage of the chemical.  It's also quite expensive.   I've also read about people using DMC.  This is a standard industrial vapor polishing solvent, but is hard to come by and really should only be used with a vapor recovery system for safety. So, on a whim, I tried out some 'MEK Substitute'.  According to a closer read of the label, it is Ethyl Acetate, which is used in some acetone free nail polish removers, processing of some food products, and is generated in the wine fermentation process according to the always accurate wikipedia.  It's sold in the paint aisle of hardware stores as a replacement for MEK, which is harder to come by and more potentially harmful to your health.

I decided to use the Cute Octo model for this experiment.  My daughters really like carrying these around so I figured it wouldn't hurt to have a few more laying around.  It also has enough minimal detail to judge effectiveness of the polishing, but not so much that the detail is ruined. I printed up 5 Cute Octos in the following materials. 

Here is a picture of the 'as-printed' octos.  These were printed on an Ultimaker with a modified 0.8mm nozzle (future post coming about why I love my 0.8mm nozzle) using a printing profile that was primarily optimized for woodfill with adjustments made only to temperature and cooling for the different materials.  Layer height was a fairly beefy 200 um to make the smoothing more obvious.

2014-03-20 18.38.04

I then poured a little of the Ethyl Acetate into the bottom of the trusty vapor polishing machine (a deep fryer), set the octos in the basket, and turned up the heat.  As soon as I saw vapor condensed on the tops of the parts I turned off the heat and removed the basket. **Note:  If you are performing this process, use appropriate safety precautions.  Breathing mask, safety glasses / goggles, solvent gloves, and a well ventilated area are all a good idea.** Here are the results.  As you can see, most of the parts smoothed very well.  There are still visible printing lines, but just barely.  The parts do feel quite smooth when you run your fingernail across them.  I'd conclude that this process works, but more is needed to really nail down time and temperature process settings.   The XT definitely did NOT clarify like I have seen with my past acetone experiments, but it smoothed extremely well.   The woodfill seemed to just bleach out.  I wouldn't recommend doing this with woodfill.  

2014-03-21 18.16.28

2016 update:  Since writing this blog post, I've found the MEK substitute I purchased is no longer available.  I've heard from other users that they've tried different brands of MEK substitute as well as just straight Ethyl Acetate with varying levels of success.  This tells me that there was probably something else in that MEK substitute that helped with the smoothing.  If I learn more, I'll share.


A few nights ago, I printed a thin walled part with colorFabb _XT.  It was very tall and unstable.  Essentially a 4 inch disk standing on end.  I used a brim, but that wasn't really enough.  As the part built up higher and higher, it became less and less stable.  As such, I ended up with a pretty low quality print and had a few layer delaminations. I tried brushing on a little MEK based plastic solvent weld (Plastruct Plastic Weld).  To my surprise, it worked quite well and the material clarified nicely where it was brushed. colorFabb XT disk with a clarification from a brushed line of MEK solvent. colorFabb XT disk with a clarification from a brushed line of MEK solvent.

That got me thinking.  If the MEK solvent works, then can I vapor polish it in acetone?

Turns out the answer is YES Before going further, I should mention that vapor polishing can be dangerous.  It is highly flammable and there are both acute and long term exposure risks.  Make sure you understand these risks and use appropriate safety equipment and ventilation if you vapor polish. I took a Stretchy Bracelet (emmett) / CC BY-SA 3.0 that I had made and tossed it into an acetone vapor bath for a very brief exposure.  The material clarified nicely.  It also became noticeably more flexible.  Here is an overall picture of the bracelet and a closeup of it pressed to my finger.  Notice that you can clearly see my finger print pattern through the bracelet without distortion.

Emmett Stretchy bracelet printed in colorFabb XT on an Ultimaker at 100micron step height.  Polished briefly in acetone vapor.  Emmett Stretchy bracelet printed in colorFabb XT on an Ultimaker at 100micron step height. Polished briefly in acetone vapor.

Closeup of Emmett Stretchy Bracelet link.  Notice that finger print lines are clearly visible through the link.  Closeup of Emmett Stretchy Bracelet link. Notice that finger print lines are clearly visible through the link.

WOW! So, acetone vapor polishing in a very brief exposure clarifies single shell wide colorFabb XT material.  What happens to thicker parts with longer exposures?

I chose the model Crystal Do Dad (cerberus333) / CC BY 3.0 to try it out.  I scaled it down to 80% to ensure that it easily fit into the vapor bath.
I printed up a model with 3 shells and with 1 shell then polished.  My objective here was to evaluate how well the surface actually smooths, but I also learned some other things.
First, here is a pic of the 3 shell model printed with XT on an Ultimaker at 200 micron layers.  As-printed, no vapor polishing.
Crystal Do Dad.  3 Shells.  200 micron.  As-printed. Crystal Do Dad. 3 Shells. 200 micron. As-printed.
The clarity of the material makes it somewhat difficult to see the surface well.  So, I made an impression with some play-doh.  You can see the layers fairly clearly.Impression of 200 micron printed part in play-doh. Impression of 200 micron printed part in play-doh.

Then I took a previous attempt at this print, same settings, and put it in the vapor polish for about a minute.  {As an aside, this print failed due to a break at the bottom of the model just near the brim.  With XT, I've found that if you don't get the nozzle fully purged of PLA prior to starting the print, you get really weak brittle material until the nozzle is purged.}

Vapor Polished failed print Vapor Polished failed print

You're probably thinking, that looks LESS clear than the original.  You're right.  At longer exposure to vapor, the part becomes cloudy and internal layering lines become more exaggerated. However, look what happens to the impression!

Impression of 200 micron vapor polished part in play-doh.  Look ma, no lines! Impression of 200 micron vapor polished part in play-doh. Look ma, no lines!

The lines are GONE.  GONE GONE GONE! This gets me really excited about using this material to print positives for investment casting and mold making! Of course, you can do this same thing with ABS, but the XT has the benefit of being tougher and printing with no warpage. Before I end this, I just wanted to highlight one additional effect.  After vapor polishing, the material becomes extremely flexible and durable.  I took a single layer XT printed part, vapor polished it for about a minute, and then shot the following video the next morning.


9/9/13 Update. Turns out you lose some of that flexibility after the part has had some time to sit. Five days after polishing, the bracelet is still extremely flexible, but there is no way that crystal do dad is going to be crunched into a ball again without breaking. Still, a pretty impressive trick to show off, no? 

2014 and beyond update:  Since this blog post was originally written, colorFabb has reformulated XT.  Sadly, the newer version doesn't polish quite as cleanly with acetone, but we've had some success with MEK Substitute.