I love my 3D printer! To be honest I wasn’t sure exactly what I would do with it until after it was all put together, but now that it’s done I can’t stop printing stuff. In three months I’ve released 20 original designs on Thingiverse.

For less than $500 I built the RepRap version of the Printrbot, and it was surprisingly easy to do. Since the project is open source all the designs were free and the really hard software work was already done. All I had to do was bumble though bolting a few things together and install some magic on my computer.

The only thing I don’t like are the little bits of plastic all over my house.

Rather than making artwork or scale models, most of the things I build are intended to function directly for end use. I print in ABS plastic (the same material as Lego’s) which is strong enough to make light duty tools. I was able to make an entire set of machine shop tooling to enhance my milling capabilities.

All the grey stuff is plastic.

This focus on building functional items led me to wonder how to optimize my designs for creating parts that are as strong as possible while also consuming as little raw material as possible. Keeping the material consumption low reduces cost and the time to build things. For example that vice took nearly 40 hours of printing and around $10 of plastic.

After a bit of research I’ve concluded that while there is a ton of advice out there for optimizing your print designs, a lot of it is crap. The only way to definitively determine the material properties of printed objects under various conditions is to run actual tests.

What follows is a series about designing a low cost yet very capable homemade testing machine and using it to analyze the mechanical properties of 3D printed materials.  

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As far as I am aware I may be one of the first people to actually run some of these tests*, how neat! Of course science is about repeatedly testing hypotheses until your fingers bleed and you’re sick as hell of what you’re doing and you eventually prove a small nugget of truth. In that spirit, and in thanks to the ype of folks who made it possible for me to build a Printrbot without paying for the design, I’m going to release all of the work related to this project as open source! Hooray for free stuff!

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*Was that not the most hedged statement you’ve ever read?  Ha!


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