zondag 8 maart 2015

Polymax Filament Review

It took me a quite some effort to be able to print more or less reliably with ABS on my previous printer. When faced with another such exercise for my new Kossel Mini build, I quickly decided to investigate the current state of PLA filament again (not being very impressed before).

I quickly came across Polymax, a type of PLA which in fact behaves very much like ABS. But being PLA, it doesn't have any of the warping problems or toxic fumes (think of the children!), and it's even biodegradable. After having used about a spool, I'm sure I will never move back to ABS.

In retrospect, ABS just has too many drawbacks to be the 3d printing filament of the future. PLA stands a much better chance, and indeed a lot more research seems to be going on for PLA than for ABS. I'm hoping to try out some filaments from ColorFabb next, but for now here are some observations about Polymax.

Btw, I have to say I also switched from Slic3r to KISSslicer at the same time, which also helped a lot. I'm the biggest fan of open source software, but in the end Slic3r just gave me too many problems, and after all this time it still doesn't have basic support structures which actually work for me. KISSslicer almost never does anything stupid, and just works, also for support.

On the positive side:

-It really is tough, and I believe it's true that it's stronger in some ways than ABS. I don't think the blockbot or ozo bear would still be with us today if they were printed in regular ABS, given that my kids have played with them (note that the internal pins for there have also been printed!).

-It has pretty good flexibility before deforming gracefully.

-Bed adhesion is insane. At 70 degrees celsius, and 3dlac hairspray, I need to soak the glass bed in water before being able to separate anything. After a good soak parts usually come off by hand.

-The finish is great, and post-processing is really easy, because of a certain softness which makes it feel the material could be sculpted in fact.

-The white color is really, really white, and the filament diameter seems very consistent as well. Packaging is great.

-No issues occurred while printing the shown objects.

On the down side:

-It seems a bit soft, which I'm not sure will work very well for parts like gears, where there is possible wear involved. The blockbot went from hard-to-move to pretty loose quickly, for example.

-There are only two colors available at the moment, which quickly gets boring.

-It's still PLA, so it probably gets soft at temperatures above 70 degrees or so (haven't tried).

To summarize, this is one hell of a filament, and a very promising alternative to ABS in many cases. Unless some kind of miracle occurs, I won't be using ABS again. We need more colors though.

Next up, I'm probably going to try some other "enhanced" PLA filaments, probably starting with those provided by ColorFabb.

zondag 8 februari 2015

Adafruit Gameboy Review

After messing with ABS for a long time, I finally decided to switch back to using PLA. But more about this in an upcoming blog post. My first project using PLA again was to print the outside of a gameboy, to go with a wonderful gameboy kit from Adafruit.

I bought this kit on an impulse, and while building it was a nice experience and I still like it a lot, I thought I would write down some minor issues that I've had with it, and that I would have liked to know about in advance.

- it doesn't come with a built-in speaker, or with basic instructions how to add one. they do sell components for this at adafruit, but I would have liked some hand holding.
- it doesn't come with a suitable SD card, which would have been nice, as a normal SD sticks out almost 2 centimeters. adafruit actually sells "half-size" SD cards.
- the tutorial describes the needed screws using non-metric standards, and it would have been nice if these could also be easily ordered.
- two pins on the LCD screen connector were sloppily soldered and actually making contact with each other.
- finally, the software (taken from their "cupcade" project) does not include a gameboy emulator by default! I really would have liked to play the original tetris on this thing (and with a speaker)

While I could have used my SNES controller model on thingiverse to print the buttons, and possibly even the elastomers using flexible filament, I really was in a bit of a hurry (possibly also explaining some of my complaints above), so I just used the fake SNES controller from adafruit.

In all, a very nice building project, but in the end it took me a bit more time than would have been possible (see above complaints), and I'm not sure yet if I will go the extra mile of adding a speaker or figuring out how to get the original tetris to work.