While racing to complete a print for this weekend on his massive Gigabot 3D printer, Micah Ganske reached out to me to share about his experiences, to date, printing on one of the largest affordable “desktop” 3D printers in existence. Here is a little teaser along with some photos of his latest printing project:
In March of last year, I saw that a new company out of Austin, Texas had just launched a new large-format printer at SXSW and were seeking funding on Kickstarter. It was a gamble, but the team at Re:3D, makers of the Gigabot, were NASA employees so I pulled the trigger. With a build area of 24”x24”x24”, the Gigabot can print things that most machines could only dream of. Also, since it was a standard FFD it meant material would be cheap, and since I was one of the first backers I was able to get it for an incredibly good price. As one of the first backers, Re:3D was even nice enough to let me take the machine home a little early from their booth at the NYC Makerfaire this past fall. This meant they didn’t have to pay the return shipping, and I got a fully tested and assembled machine when I only paid for the kit. NICE! What you don’t realize until you stand in front of one is just how enormous the machine really is. It barely fit in the livery SUV we called and while it’s designed to fit through standard door frames, the door needs to be taken off the hinges. With my new Gigabot safely delivered to my art studio, I was very excited and quickly set out to get some prints going.
I destroyed it immediately.
Okay, okay, specifically I destroyed the print head. I got cocky from my thousands of hours logged with my Replicators and thought I’d try to just take a model designed to be printed at 9×5.5 inches and scale it up. This was a terrible idea! When you’re printing on a smaller machine in ABS, there is plenty of wiggle room when it comes to your gcode and the actual hardware. I’ve smooshed first layers on my Replicators, shrugged away warping areas that push up into the nozzle as the print progresses, and it’s always fine. However, when you’re printing at Giga-scale in PLA, your design-craft, and hardware calibration standards have to be as close to perfect as they can get….
The Gigabot is purpose built and that purpose is a good quality print at an enormous scale. I’ll be honest—other printers have nicer print quality. Slic3r does a decent job but it’s not going to be as good as slicing software written specifically for individual printers. You’d get tighter corners with a smaller nozzle size, but you’d need more perimeters which would increase print time. Other machines do really well with .1mm layers but I’d never go below .2mm layer height on a Giga-print anyways because at .2mm, print times are already over a week for a complex shelled out part. The point is that for this scale, the quality is good enough. There is no other printer in this class that comes close to printing at this scale.
The individual parts I can print now would have taken dozens of separate, glued together and sanded prints if I’d tried to make them on my Replicators at this scale. I’ll save huge amounts of time on assembly. Compared to the Replicator (first gen), the Gigabot has close to 40 times the build area. Even compared to the new Z18 (which I totally want because it looks amazing), the Gigabot has 5 times the build area. It’s hard to appreciate how big 2 feet is until you think about printing a life-sized standing human figure in 3 pieces. 3 pieces! Or you could print your own chair in a couple pieces. My first long-term project with my Gigabot is a series of spacecraft modeled after different parts of the body. These “Anatomycraft” will be about 40-50” each. The one I’m working on now is a warship in the shape of a skull/head. You could say it’s a “warhead” (puns are great, I regret nothing). Actually it’s real designation is as a “Yorick-Class” starship because when I was prototyping it, I sat around holding up like a skull and talking to it. I’ve already finished prototype which will be in a group show at Cindy Rucker gallery this weekend. The full-sized piece, along with the rest of the “fleet” will be in my first solo show in LA next January at 101/Exhibit gallery in Hollywood.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!