Thursday, 6 December 2012

3D printing at home from work over ssh and vnc

I'm sure I'm not the only one with this dilema - 3D printers are awesome but they are also slow! Or I'm impatient! But either way I've been looking for a way to keep an eye on my printer while I'm at work so that I can print things during the day.

I see 2 issues that need to be overcome:

  • Controlling the printer
  • The fire hazard

Controlling the printer is pretty easy - I use pronsole over ssh and have in the past used pronterface over vnc. This is all very well but when I press print - what if the print fails and doesn't stick? I don't want to waste that much plastic, or break the printer for that matter! To fix this I've just ordered a webcam which I will point at the printer and broadcast online so that I can see the print fail and just cancel the print. I don't know how to automatically clear the bed after a failed print so this may be an issue, but most the time there shouldn't be a problem.

The fire hazard though - I don't want to set the house alight when the thing overheats! I've hear of a few replicators that caught fire, never a printrbot - but I don't want to risk it and I don't have a fire proof room. Because of this I'm only confortable printing when someone's in the house.

My girlfriend has very different working hours from me so quite often she's at home when I'm at work. Unless you're other half wants to learn to use the printer you'll still have to controll it through ssh/vnc but at least if you have a webcam you can ask them to clear the print bed so you can start the next one, and they'll be able to unplug it at least if it starts smoking!

Soon as I have the cam set up (I ordered it off ebay yesterday so still waiting) I'll try to put the stream on this blog so interested people can watch in amazement as things are printed infront of their eyes. I'll also work out how to use ffmpeg to make timelapses that I can put on my currently very small YouTube channel.

Any of you tried setting up remote printing? If so how did you get over the fire hazard issue?

I just started printing a rostock delta bot!

For those of you who don't know a rostock is a radically different design to any of the other printers out there so far. Below is a video by Johann Rocholl who designed this awesome printer:

I am currently printing the first few parts on my printrbot which I've had for a few months now. This design is supposed to be very simple to put together and provide much quicker printing as well as printing much rounder circles. This makes sense as a delta robot is not limited to steps in X and Y as much as our other designs like the printrbot or the prusa.

My printrbot has cost me about £500 after post from the US and import duty... Since then I've been selling printers on ebay and in the reprap forums:


Prusa Mendel i1 or i2 with Wades extruder - £55
Prusa Mendel i1 or i2 only - £50

Prusa Mendel i3 with Wades extruder - £35
Prusa Mendel i3 only - £28

Printrbot with Wades extruder - £35
Printrbot only - £25

Wades extruder only - £15

Anything else you want printed ask me for a quote!

I have a selection of colors at hand. If you have no preference I will use what I have in stock. If you are willing to wait an extra 2 days then I will order any color PLA you want from

Of course if you want anything printed email me here: but the point is that I am building the rostock with the money raised from printing parts for people on ebay. I've printed about 10 full printers for people all over Europe now, as well as a few odds and ends for people with incomplete kits or broken parts. What I love about this is that every printer I sell will bring the price down for the next sale as more people provide printing services. I wrote a post this morning about How to check quality when buying reprap prints from people because I'm worried that some people may get put off by initial bad experiences buying poor quality parts from people.

Although my printer now prints relatively high quality I hope that the rostock will be more accurate by design. That said I'm a bit worried about calibrating it!

If any of you have had experience building a rostock and especially calibrating it please share in the comments - and yes I have read '' but I haven't found many different points of view on the matter.

How to check quality when buying reprap prints from people?

This is a tough question for all of us. I have printed printers for a few people now but when I started I was very nervous that my quality might not be up to scratch. I kept tweaking the printer and printed parts for my own printer, then finally decided it was time to sell something.

I posted an ad on the reprap forums and got an order for parts for a printrbot without extruder from a guy in Portugal. When the parts arrived he sent me this message:


The parts arrived this morning, some could use a bit more infill and smaller layers to make them stronger. Some holes are small, others are too big, looks like you need to tweak your printrbot a little more. 

Besides that, they look good 

Best regards '
Ok - so he didn't ask for a refund, but I was certainly dissapointed - at the time his parts were some of the best that I'd printed and I only had online pics to compare my prints to. I thought they were great, but he was obviously not impressed. I had printed him structural parts for a printrbot with only 10% infill and .35 layer height. Since his message I have recalibrated with a proper set of calipers and I always print structural parts with 30% infill. I also reduced layer height to 0.2 apart from some models where the STL is optimised for 0.25 layer heights. Since then I have also never had a complaint, not only that - but I've had a lot of compliments from clients about the great quality of my prints.

Soon after this I broke a pulley and didn't have any spares. I asked a guy on ebay to print me 4 of them as I'd broken that particular pulley a few times and the quality of his prints was far superior to my earliest sales. After buying a glass plate and slowing down my prints I can now safely say that my prints are good enough that no one will complain again (I hope!).

Back to the point of this post - when you buy reprap printed parts from someone online you have to think beyond the normal set of scams where that happen all over the place. You can do basic check like asking for a photo of them next to their printer and making sure they didnt take it from google, but quality wise they might not know they have poor quality prints, or they might just be stingy and printing very hollow parts with low infill % to save on cost of plastics as well as thick layer heights that speed up prints but increase the chance of delamination.

I think it's best to ask for a set of photos showing their printer and some closeups on some printed parts as well as asking what layer height they print in and what infill they use. For printed toys you may get away with low infill but structural printer parts that a lot of stress and need a high infill %.

What's you're experience been the quality of the parts you buy?

New hope for full color reprap 3d printing

It's going to happen someday, the question is when? When will we have full color 3d printing at home at only a fraction of the cost of a professional 3D printer like the $34,000 one that staples are going to use?

Adrian Bowyer - the genious who started the reprap project seems to be hard at work making this a reality. Below is one of his first test prints will a mixer nozzle of his own design:

This is currently only black and white, but the system works by using 2 seperate motors to push different colored filament into an extruder nozzle. I do however foresee a problem which Brian Benchoff exlained nicely on his blog:

'While it may be only black and white now, it’ll be a very interesting development once five extruders are loaded up with cyan, magenta, yellow, black, and white filament. Yes, it is now theoretically possible to print full-color 3D objects on a RepRap. While we’re not looking forward towards having to upgrade our one-motor extruder to a four- or five-motor model, the possibilities for desktop fabrication are becoming amazing.'

In order to provide full color we're all going to have to buy a set of 5 motors each with its own extruder. This takes up space and makes the printer much more expensive due to the motors. I'm also unsure as to whether  the current generation of electronics are up to the job.

Personally I can't wait! I want to print full color high resolution objects like Staples will in their shops. Do you think we'll be able to beat them quality wise?