Open Source

Published: Sunday, 14 September 2014 18:31
Written by Don Musilli

We purchased our third 3D Printer 8 weeks ago. The new Lulzbot, TAZ4 made by Aleph Objects of Ft. Collins, CO. is a unique machine in that many of tthe parts are actually printed. Also, this unit, which has a large build platform; 11"x11"x11", can currently print the following materials; ABS, PLA, HIPS, Nylon, Wood, Ceramic and soon Bronze.

The unit has a large power pack which allows for addition of a second print head if needed and the build platform can be expanded both up and out if you have the right materials and technical know-how. The software is Printrun or Pronterface and the slicing program is Slic3r, a very popular open source program that is updated often and usually to resolve issues suggested by the faithful following.

Open Source really means that you have access to the ideas, modifications, print materials and other aspects of 3D printing from individuals and companies around the world. If someone in Bulgaria comes up with a better method of printing a certain type of part, this is shared on the Open Source network and accessible by anyone who wants to use it.

Unlike our MakerBot printers which are locked into a preprietary software operating system, our TAZ4 unit can use any number of packages that can position, slice or provide high degree of modifications to the print program.

Slic3r offers a wide range of options for printing. Aside from the Configuration files that give you set temperatues and fan settings for different materials, you can change the infill, layer height, shells, diameter of filament, temperature ranges during printing, and specific instructions when printing with materials that require temperatures above 240 degreee C. 

Currently, if you need to change the horizontal rotation of an item you can use Cura, an Ultimaker software program that allows you to take the .stl file and change its position and scale prior to sending it to Slic3r. So in some cases you make use three software programs to print. Sounds complicated but it really is easy and offers a lot of options  especially when using files from other sources.

EIC can now offer a much better product print based upon the capibilities of the TAZ4 unit. We are already seeing an increase in the number of individuals who want us to make a replacement part for something they can no longer purchase or locate at a reasonable price. Open Source is one way that a small operation like EIC can compete globally from our small operations in Englewood, Florida.