All posts by Aleks Jones

3D Print Accurate Terrain Models Using Space Shuttle-Collected Elevation Data

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You can now generate STL files from actual topographic map data using this nicely-constructed online tool http://jthatch.com/Terrain2STL/. Navigate to any location on the planet earth, select the target area, and you can immediately download ready-to-slice STL’s.

The underlying data is the result of an 11-day Space Shuttle mission in early 2000 to collect elevation data for over 80% of the earth. Additional post-processing of the data was performed by the Consortium for Spatial Information. The dataset has an X/Y resolution of 90 meters at the equator, with a maximum vertical error of 16 meters. You can learn more about the data at http://www.cgiar-csi.org/data/srtm-90m-digital-elevation-database-v4-1.

To demonstrate this unique web tool, we chose to generate an STL of Mount Ranier and its surrounding area. From this screenshot, you can see that the map is centered on Mount Ranier itself, to locate the main peak in the center of the geometry:

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Finding the target location was simply a matter of dragging and zooming, then hitting the “Center to View” button, then downloading the model. Exact latitude and longitude coordinates can be entered manually into the tool, as well.

Important note: any time you maneuver the map by dragging, you must always hit the “Center to View” button to update the lat-long coordinates.

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We then loaded the STL into Cura, configured my 3D printing settings and was ready to print. It really is this easy. Here’s the finished 3D print job:

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To download your own topographical data STL files, please visit: http://jthatch.com/Terrain2STL/

Testing Polycarbonate 3D Printing Filament

This last month we experimented with Polycarbonate filament, a member of Ultimaker’s recently released batch of engineering materials. In addition to being able to produce some really nice looking prints, Polycarbonate also possesses some favorable properties. We tested the material on an Ultimaker 2+. While Ultimaker’s Cura slicing software is optimized for usage of Polycarbonate on an Ultimaker 3D printer, any other 3D printer that accepts 2.85 mm filament should be able to print fine with it.

The recommended applications for Polycarbonate are: “molds, tools, functional prototypes and parts for short-run manufacturing”. It’s also been said that Polycarbonate is suitable for making lamp shades, due to its flame retardant characteristics. But, until we have a chance to verify the safety of this use case, we recommend not doing so.

Using Cura’s built-in material profiles, Polycarbonate proved to be a relatively easy material to work with. It was simply a matter of dragging the STL files into Cura, selecting the material (PC), and saving the sliced piece. We opted to enable the “Spiralize Outer Contour” feature in Cura for our “Twisted Gear” vase print, which greatly enhanced the appearance of the finished print. For first layer adhesion, we used a glue stick. Additionally, while it’s recommended to print Polycarbonate with an enclosure (not unlike ABS), we managed to produce some high-quality prints without actually doing so:

img_0087   img_0088   Polycarbonate 2.85 mm

In the following video, we demonstrate one of the key differences between Polycarbonate and PLA (Polylactic Acid) 3D printing filaments. Polycarbonate maintains dimensional stability up to 110° Celsius. In plain English, Polycarbonate pieces can withstand higher temperatures than other filaments without melting or falling apart. To illustrate, we submerged one of our Polycarbonate prints in 96° Celsius water and it emerged unaffected. A PLA piece of the exact same geometry immediately wilted under the exact same heat stress.

Thus, to summarize: Polycarbonate is nice material for producing high-quality prints, and along with it being able to withstand more heat stress than the average spool of PLA, Polycarbonate can be useful for a broader range of applications.

To purchase Ultimaker Polycarbonate filament, please visit the 3D Universe online store.

Object model credits:

Star Wars Fans Create BB8 Models Using 3D Printers

This article is shared from 3Ders.org. You can read the full article here.

BB8 Builder’s Club, is growing organization of 1800+ that is focused on building home-brewed BB8’s. As of “October the BB-8th”, they are now officially recognized by LucasFilm Ltd. Moreover, they have publicly released the STL files for 3D printing the parts. You can learn more, and even join, the BB8 Builder’s Club here.

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Also, completely independent of the BB8 Builder’s Club, “part-time makergeek” Jean-René Bédard has developed his own BB8, as well. His droid is 3D-printed, remote-controlled,  managed by Arduino circuits and stands on its own two wheels. You can read the full story here, at 3ders.org.

This article features Ultimaker 3D printers, which are available for purchase from Shop3DUniverse.com.

3D Universe Team Builds a Pair of Ultimakers

NOTE: this post was written by Aleks, co-founder of 3D Universe. Until now, he’s been working behind-the-scenes doing all the programming and design work for the online store.

Last week, we went on another 3D Universe field trip, this time to Memphis, Tennessee. Jeremy and I took a 550-mile journey to visit Ultimaker’s United States-based partner, Fbrc8. They are the folks responsible for the assembly and distribution of Ultimaker 2’s in the United States.

At 3D Universe, our whole philosophy is that we use the actual products we sell. It’s an easy value proposition to own up to: we get to tinker and play with 3D printing technology for a living. What’s not to like about that? 🙂

One of our favorite 3D printers to play with is the Ultimaker 2. It’s an easy product to like. We knew that if we were going to sell them, we wanted to be able to provide the best support possible. With Ultimaker committed to growing into the United States market, we needed to go no further than Memphis, Tennessee to get the training needed.

We were already excited about getting to spend an entire day with Simon Oliver, owner of Fbrc8. What we didn’t know is that we were each going to get to build a brand new Ultimaker 2 from the ground up. Talk about getting some serious hands-on training!

Simon is a highly respected moderator known as “Illuminarti” on the Ultimaker forums. There are few people who have spent more time than Simon working with Ultimaker printers. We couldn’t have asked for a better instructor!

We spent the morning going through some basic support issues and getting oriented. After lunch we plunged head-first into building our two Ultimakers.

Here’s what we started with, two empty cases. I said we started from the ground-up, but we actually had a tiny head-start:

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Here’s a shot of our venerable (and patient) instructor, Simon Oliver:

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Here I am assembling the hot end:

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And the fully assembled hot ends, prior to installation:

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Here, Jeremy is connecting the Bowden tube:

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Here’s a shot my first test print fresh from the Ultimaker I finished building only a half-hour earlier – a pretty surreal experience!

The master and his newly initiated apprentices near the end of the day. In right side of the photo on, you can see our two completely assembled Ultimakers sitting on the table:

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We started with two empty cases, installed all the major and minor components, including the main circuit board, the hot end assembly and the backbone wiring. The result was two fully assembled Ultimaker 2’s. And a pretty proud pair of tech geeks!

After lubricating the appropriate moving parts, we ran our first test prints. I watched as the nozzle emitted the first layer of plain-white PLA, then the next, and so on… until the entire 1 mm-tall test square completed.

Eventually, I was holding the 3D print from a machine which I had built with my own hands, in no small way with the benefit of Simon’s expert instruction! In the long course of my career, this stands as one of those subtly defining moments that I’m sure I’ll fondly remember, decades from now.

We gave a profuse thanks to Simon for taking time out of his very busy schedule to accommodate us and give us this one-of-a-kind training.  We soon got on the road and headed back to Chicago….