Hardware primer hosted by Armanicreations and Vescarobotics was a great success

HARDWARE primter

On Feb 3, we helped the DC robotics group host its first ever robotics hardware workshop.  Thanks to PUNCHROCK in Adam’s Morgan for hosting us as their first technology outreach event.  PunchRock is a social entrepeneurship space.

The session consisted of 5 learning areas.  These included 3d printing, motor control, tapping, joining parts, and total hardware assembly.  For the next 1.5 hours, over 30 guests switched between the stations taught by Michael Armani and David Jones. At the end, a summary was given to the group explaining how to make a robotic prototype that matches the scale and stage of the endeaver.  As a result of these learnings, people got the best of our many years of experience and 10′s of thousands of dollars spent on trying different hardware strategies in our own product development.

The presentation is included here Punchrock presentation 2003 format.

Thanks to all that came!  Everyone was very smart, asked questions that were spot on, and learned some quick methods for robotic creations.  We are honored to share our knowledge with this group.

Evolution of Industries3D

Industries3D will sell a “set it forget it” 3D production system aimed at anyone looking for a practical, fast, low-cost, and reproducible product to be made from a wide variety of materials.  These can include rubber, wax, and many new plastics.

It evolved from a simple idea – that if you could print multiple materials (like metal and plastic) together, you can create an incredible array of new products.  This will bring 3D printing closer to typical everyday use.  For example, printing plastic can make the frame of a machine, but not a useful machine itself.  When you add metal or conductive polymer, you can suddenly make a microphone, a coffee machine, or even a motor.  By adding rubber, you can make padding for things like headphones, or tires.

To start we looked at printing with traditional filament 3D printers.  We contacted half a dozen manufacturers and explained that we would like to extrude new materials like nylon, thermoplastic rubber, or metal particle filled ABS.  Universally they were uninterested or did not get back to us, probably out of fear of breaking their processing machines, or the cost to switch to a new material.  Additionally, we realized that with filaments, you can’t push soft, putty, brittle materials like sugar (brittle), wax (brittle), ceramic(putty), or rubber(soft).  As a result, we began developing an granule or pellet fed dual-extruder system called the “Augr.”  Shortly after, we realized all the amazing benefits of such a system aimed at building production-ready parts, and the system evolved into an Industries3D concept:  The first 3D production system that uses 3D printing at a speed, scale, accuracy, and cost reduction never seen before.  You can use it to make a final product for low to medium volume manufacturing.

The stages of Industries3D’s evolution:

  • We start by realizing that we want to print at production scales.
  • If you can print using raw pellet stock, you can print many new useful materials.
  • Printing in raw materials lowers the cost of prints about 5-10 fold.
  • Printing in raw materials allows larger parts to be printed, but also requires faster speed.
  • To print at faster speeds we increased the power output of 3D printers 10X and redesigned the firmware, acceleration, and slicing software.  We also went to a 24V system.
  • We hired a team of 3 additional engineers to help the two founders.
  • We really had to redesign slicing software (patents pending).
  • To print in a larger production system, or to print many small parts, we needed a larger print bed.  So we eliminated the heated bed concept with several innovations (patents pending).
  • A larger printed needed more desk space, so adding a laptop would make it too cumbersome.  We sought help from an excellent android developer who has made an integrated touchscreen android controller for the system (open source).
  • Because printing larger parts means much larger gcode files, we modified the system to include line by line processing instead of loading the whole file in ram like Pronterface does (open source).
  • To eliminate the “babysitting / TLC” aspect of 3D printers, we are developing an all-support material mode so you don’t have to wonder if a part can be printed.
  • There are several more surprising, shocking improvements that we didn’t even think we would be able to achieve so quickly, and we can’t advertise just yet.  Thankfully the team is working hard to realize a product in the next month.

Eventually, we see Industries3D as the leader in inexpensive (<$5000) 3D production system.  Everyone from shoe companies, machinists, jewelers  and even prop and set designers will be using them.  In future generations, we expect extremely cool new 3D production systems to follow, possibly including metal, ceramic, and industry-specific features.

SolidDoodle2 Breakdown

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I have received and examined a solid doodle 2 (that took 5 months + to receive).  The build style is very impressive, being almost entirely multiple pieces made from folded steel, lasercut acrylic, and FDM printed ABS plastic. I’m very impressed with the shortcuts they took to use commercially available parts and expect their total cost without labor around $150 for the base model.

I also can see where they went wrong in needing 50 people to produce 5-10 products per DAY – the need for making printers to print ABS parts – calibration woes with the stamped metal alignment of rods, the tightness of MXL pulleys on sub-sized nema 17 motors, and the failure of lasercut acrylic as a support material (the polycarbonate will crack on the nozzle area of overtightened, and the support base appears to be oven-cooked together). Also there doesnt appear to be an obvious Z-base alignment. I haven’t done prints yet, but it seems very impressive and promising for this price point.


Based on the above inspection and knowledge about product part sourcing scaleup dynamics, one can predict a company makes SD2 for $150-$200.  This also easily fits the industry standard 2.8-4.0 price markup needed for basic survival of a company (sales price is $550).  Here is my breakdown.

[*] $60 for electronic. Sanguinolu is $99 shipped with 4 motor controllers. [www.ebay.com]. Any savy seller would have sold 200 or more units at about $60 each.
[*] $6 for the power supply, because I found it for $10 online for a single one. (AC laptop replacement adapter 10A)
[*] $30-40 The metal frame was bent as a box in a CNC brake machine. based on estimate with Emachineshop + use of software
[*] $25 Sub-normal sized nema 17 motors (4) in bulk estimate based on conversations with kysan
[*] $2 3D printed frame holders, and more (estimate)
[*] $14.2 Laser cut acrylic pieces for drive motor and laser cut pieces for main bed estimated pieces with 4×5 + 6×8 + 2×6 + 2×8 sqin pieces = 96 sq inches, cost 15 cent/sqin bulk estimate from [www.customlasercutting.com]
[*] $12.374 6 steel rod shafting based on [www.onlinemetals.com] Stainless Round 440C $4.125/ft retail, less 40% bulk purchase = $2.475/ft 10″ per axis *6 = 12.375
[*] $2 – 6 bushings
[*] $1 6 small hose clamp keep steel in place
[*] $16 nozzle cost, based on personal experience estimate
I left out the timing belts and pulleys, but those may have added another $10 or so.  I’m not sure yet.

Subtotal so far $168.6+. One can imagine screws and cables and springs and kapton tape and such hardly adding more than a few bucks. So in reality, this may be horribly wrong, I suspect it is well under or near $200. The labor factor still blows me away.

Also, assuming they use some of their in house labor to do the metal braking in house, the frame could cost $10 or less. Also, building the electronic with eagle files in house might have made those costs far less too. So I think for a company $150 makes sense. Any individual trying to duplicate it might as well pay $400 with quantity = 1 and shipping costs, not factor labor and screw ups, always best to buy from them for the low markup they have.

Review of 3DEA Pop up store in Manhattan, New York



I took a trip to Manhattan to visit this first ever 3D printing store.  It is called a “pop-up” because it is only here for the christmas season, and serves as a trial.  Given the reception, there were many interested people not in the know, who were mainly curious.  However, based on sales (or lack of clearcut sales) I’m not sure a 3D printing store is quite ready for primetime, but it seems close.  Nevertheless, jewelery workshops sold out and training seems to be ready for primetime.

The store had a few sections.

  • One area was dedicated to showing off examples, which were identical to the shapeways displays at maker faires around the world – the point was to sell shapeways services, and the 3DEA store employees were trained by them, even though they don’t service them exclusively.
  • Another section of the store had exotic printouts, almost all done with objet and other high-end printers.  In particular, one printout of a chair was designed artistically to look like it was made with a 10 mm printer nozzle, even thought it was printed painstakingly with an inkjet printer.
  • Another section of the store had a zoo of ultimakers for demo purposes, including a very large printer.
  • Yet another section demo’d many UP! mini (personal portable) printer, which I found had better quality than all other printers by far.  This seems to be due to rigid design, small nozzle, and software optimizations.  There was also a “black box” system that looked like a mini stratasys.
  • In another section, there was an adult only booth.  Here there were 3D printable sex toys.  I have to say, they did not look ready for primetime because the majority were not food safe plastic, but one was made of a fairly flimsy silicone mold.
  • In yet another section, you could scan objects for 3d printing.
  • Overall there wasn’t much emphasis on sales, few price signs, but some toys were being sold to kids that didn’t seem worth a penny.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed my trip to 3DEA and glad this kind of store exists.  I think some day it may fit in all the malls in the U.S. as a kind of build-a-bear take-a-photo type store that will grow and cater to more niches over time, and quickly.



Paid Internship for makers and engineers at Armanicreations (Bethesda, MD)


We are looking for a Maker or hobbyist that would be interested in working with a start-up on the next generation of 3D printers.  This is a money maker, a resume builder, and eye opening internship/mentorship experience.  There is also opportunity for full time employment if the product launch is as successful as we expect it to be.

There is also the opportunity to earn a 3D printer for free (super state of the art, pellet dispensing, worth ~ $4000), depending on the amount of work done and the person’s qualifications.  Please have them email info AT armanicreations.com with a resume & short statement of interest or hobby background and innovative side-projects.  Please also include pictures of real-world prototypes you have worked on, or a link to your portfolio.

Dr. Michael Armani, Founder

Printing with a 1 mm diameter nozzle.

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FYI – The above picture is a 1mm printout.  It weighs 35 ounces (a measure of it being quite solid) and took only 20 minutes to print!!  It is very hardy, and this is because the infill is more sturdy.

The idea of reprap is that you can print excellent resolution by relying on highly accurate steppers to form a perfect outline, and filling in the center.  This makes it possible to use a 0.5mm nozzle to create and object that is say, 2.3 mm wide, and to fill it perfectly, because the steppers have 10 micron resolution (assume no backlash).

So…why not 1mm?  Or more?  Why is the push towards ever smaller 0.25mm nozzles smaller nozzle sizes (see link to makergear site with nozzles)?  Well, 1 mm is a great solution that makes stronger, faster parts, with virtually no disadvantage!  And 3D printing is SLOW, but within the realm of being really useful.  So any speed improvements here are a big deal.



I succeeded at this mod – by drilling out the prusa makergearv2 nozzle (plastistruder) to be 1mm diameter (order exact drill bits online). Then smooth the nozzle by brushing it against a flat brass surface (acts as superfine sandpaper).  There is nothing shockingly new here, but the take-home-message is that it was totally unintuitive before doing the mod how much easier plastic would flow, and how much stronger and faster the parts print.  Always challenge the status quo, it doesn’t know why it exists.

Some assumptions/requirements

  • You will need to have optimized the pololu RAMP output for the plastistruder to maximum amperage for maximum force
  • You need to balance the force on the filament – too much and the bearing roller won’t turn. Too little, and the filament won’t move.
  • In my case, I drilled and tapped the plastistruder so that i could use screws with stronger springs and to be able to remove them more conveniently.
  • You need to understand that for PLA, the filament does not behave normally when it has been sitting hot in the hot end for more than 5 minutes. Even if it doesn’t flow out, it will get “sticky”. Once you push it through (about 50mm filament) you will not believe how effortlessless filament flows through.
  • You should know that for 1mm, even though 4 times the material can go through, there is exponentially less resistance to flow through the nozzle, so the plastistruder can keep up. Also, technically, the layers only print twice as fast because slicer prints based on diameter, not diameter^2. I’m not quite sure why that is.
  • You will print about 1.15 mm in reality.
  • For a strong part, you have to let slicer overlap
  • I’m also assuming you optimized firmware for max acceleration and 350mm/s between print moves (prevents ooze)
  • There are some obvious modifications for slic3r. I am printing around 55mm/s for the part linked here. I also print onto cardstock paper to help set the first layer.

Advantages of 1mm as compared to a 0.5 mm nozzle

  1. Because more comes out of the nozzle per second, your prints will be more consistent on the first layer, and stick well.
  2. Less nozzle ooze (wow!)
  3. Infill
  4. Stronger parts
  5. Much (MUCH) faster prints. I am printing 3 ounces of plastic per hour right now…way faster.
  6. Ability to do 0.5-.75 mm layers with success
  7. Fewer “stringy polymer hairs” loose between distant prints
  8. Much cleaner top surfaces (overlaps between lines look better)
  9. Bridging seems slightly more reliable.



  1. You will loose sharp edges (slightly). This is noticeable (and may be an advantage)
  2. Minimum resolution is 1.15 mm (instead of 0.55 before) is somewhat noticeable, especially if you manage to print 0.5mm layer thickness. However, resolution is not really lost much. The reason is you can still print 0.1 mm layers. Your steppers also have 10-20 microns of accuracy, so the ability to print lines instead of individual points (like an inkjet) really allows you to potentially do 2, 3, even 5 mm diameter if you wanted, you just need thicker objects to print a small hole. Also, if really needed desperately small feature sizes, you can rely on your Z-axis for accuracy (like you do now).
  3. When you get “stringy hairs” coming off the nozzle, they will be thicker and harder to remove
  4. Anything else obvious I’m missing?


Export STL files from Sketchup 8 and import STL files to Sketchup 8

STL files

Sometimes you get a new computer, reformat, etc., and its hard to remember how you modified your Sketchup.  Sometimes the old plugins are even taken down or the links get broken.  There are very few good Sketchup plugins for .STL to .SKP or .SKP  to .STL conversion, and recently the author of what seems to be the only import plugin has removed his version from his blog.

  1. Import plugin
  2. Export plugin 

As a backup, I’m providing these plugins, verified to work on Sketchup 7 and Sketchup 8.  Using them is very simple.

  • All you have to do is download these two files to “C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google SketchUp 8\Plugins” or your installation equivalent.
  • Close Sketchup and reload it.
  • Look for the import option under file > import > stereolithography file importer.
  • Look for the export option under tools > export to STL or DXF.  Two screens will come up.  For “select units” we use mm, and for “export to DXF option” we use “STL.”


Maker Faire NYC 2012!

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Dave and Mike attended the Maker Faire this year in NYC, Sept 29-30.  We got to meet some of the locally famous makers, such as the founders of MakerBot and Ultimachine, B9Creator’s, and the Useless Machine.  The turnout was outstanding, and there were many memorable people and technologies.  Just a small fraction of those are highlighted here, since obviously we can’t begin to cover the amount of stuff perhaps 50,000 people saw in two days:

A virtual reality screen (640×480 run on a Raspberry Pi belt-clipped processor) and a “glove” keyboard!  It took me about 60 seconds to start to get the hang of it; the glove was intuitive, and perhaps some day will be competitive with regular keyboards; look for future version that might blow out other proposed technologies (such and projector keyboards) in terms of ease, consistency, and costs.

I tried the keyboard part myself:

Also checkout related blog post: Keyboard Pants!

Shapeways 3D printed food-safe glazed ceramic custom cups were another neat feature.  The cups run around $50.  They were fairly fragile, I was holding an already broken handle and it crumbled in my hand, but they weren’t fragile enough that you would break it for home use (if you were very careful).  The material felt lighter than ceramic should feel, so I think it was too porous.

Although there was only this one display outside the arts area, we think 3D printed jewelry is big up and coming thing.  That’s why we are working on a personal affordable 3D wax printer here at ArmaniCreations for lost-wax casting methods at home.  The pictures about show mostly stainless steel, and they are presented as printed.  The quality and feel of the stainless steel is incredible, and the weight and texture felt great. The gold was also great.  The silver looked like old aluminum.

A very popular feature of many maker projects was 2D laser-cut acrylic.  Here, there was a specialized acrylic manufacturer that makes very, very cool prismatic multi-colored decorative acrylics.

This is a Delta-Robot inspired 3D printer.  It was surprisingly simple because each of 3 motors is individually a Z stepper configuration, but combined with the 3-arms together, they each provide XYZ through some complex trig.  The maker said there is software that handles it automatically.  The coolest aspect of this machine was that the arms were 3D printed themselves, and that the design has a lot of tolerance for error.

Surprisingly, there were very very few people printing anything besides PLA; in fact, the shift is towards PLA exclusively as lead by the latest Makerbot, which only uses PLA.  The reason is ABS is slightly toxic when heated and makers because sensitive to volatiles from ABS after long use (many personal accounts).  Only this one stand had the alternative materials, dissolvable PLA, and polycarbonate.  They showed a polycarbonate printout, which has some promise as a material.  However, polycarbonate usually has a heavy dose of bisphenol-A plasticizer, and the maker couldn’t tell us if this product was clean of it or not.  Armanicreations is very interested in and currently making new filament materials for 3D printers, which includes Rubber, metal-weighted PLA, and Delrin.

Also there was this very impressive, relatively simple, and mildly creepy (but still cool!) talking expressive robot.

This shapeways light-polymer cured plastic phone case was pretty cool!  Its quite the niche market.

Also, checkout the new $26.95 Digilent Chipkit Uno32, an arudino copy with a 80Mhz processor!

Last but not least, let us not forget our cherished sponsors at Eatly (a food emporium with a few stores in Italy, and New York), who we paid dearly for food, but it was worth every penny.  Its Italy’s Whole Food’s, and somehow they really imported the flavors of Italy.  Having had my best pizza ever in Venice, Italy, this pizza really could compete, and maybe even out-compete the average pizza I had there.  Ciao!

To read more or post comments, please see the reprap post here.

Ideas for new filament printing materials


Ideas for new filaments have been brewing at ArmaniCreations for almost a month, since the realization that 3D printers could make fully functional, commercially competitive products in the future, but that it would require a bundle of new materials.  To date, the majority of sellers only carry ABS and PLA plastics.  A few resellers carry PVA (a dissolvable support material) and even fewer carry polycarbonate (PC) or polyethylene (HDPE) because of printing challenges.

So, Michael posted on the reprap forums to see what the reception would be like for some new materials, what other materials are desired, etc.  Surprisingly, conductive filament and magnetic filament, which could be used to print objects like functional motors or speakers were not even mentioned after the initial post.  Reprappers were mainly interested in printing rubbery materials, heavy-weighted polymers, and alternative materials like Delrin.

For each of these materials, there are obvious technical constraints, and safety considerations.  All of the filaments proposed by ArmaniCreations assume a 1.75 mm filament and melting temperature typically between 180 C and 250 C.  This is specifically aimed at the filament deposition modeling printers, where it is possible to simply exchange one polymer for another by changing filaments or using a multi-extruder head.  The development of new materials has extremely exciting prospects for RepRap.

By contrast, printers like the B9Creator can only print one or more light-cured polymers.  While it is possible to light cure rubber, generally these materials are brittle, have little resistance to the elements, and can not be used as functional parts in a final product.  More generally, they are best suited to 3D printed models.  On the other hand, their resolution is state of the art, and you can not easily see layering lines with their prints.

The Future is even cooler than you imagined! The 6 “Holy” Pillars of 3D Printing!


The origins of RepRap, as suggested by the wikipedia article, are to make a machine that can mostly print itself.

Mostly print itself?

So why stop there?  Well, three of us got to thinking and quickly realized that, while it is far fetched, there is no reason why a printer couldn’t fully reproduce itself.  However, the requirements are fairly staggering.  Today, only structural plastic is printed, and that is good for some prototypes and functional parts; however, products like cars, houses, bikes, and toys, need more function elements like non-porous metals, conductive wiring, printed electronics, magnets for motors, rubber for tires, and more.  In addition, today’s printer resolution would need to be improved to allow for the re-invention of micro-circuits to be printed in an additive process from raw parts.  Also in addition, full color printing would be desired.

The 6 Pillars of a full 3D printer include:

  • Structural Plastic
  • Stuctural Metal
  • Structural Magnets
  • A Soft, Rubbery Material
  • A Conductive Printable Material
  • Full Color Coatings (possibly including ‘clear’ to simulate glass)

From this list, one could see that it is possible for printer technology to grow, organically, into something that can print VERY rudimentary but fully functional parts.  Take a stepper motor for example; it requires a heat-dissipating shell, a strong structural core and shaft, conductive low-resistivity wiring for electromagnetic forces, insulation for the conductive wiring, and solid magnets to interact with the electromagnets.  However, surprisingly, only two materials are needed to print this: structural plastic, which also acts as insulation, and conductive polymer, which can be printed with ease within the part.

A 3D printed stepper motor would be weak; because of the high resistance of the wires, large cross-sectional areas would be needed and maximum hold strength would be weak.  However, even early models might boast extremely low cost and high power-to-weight ratios that may be desirable.  It is then possible to see that with moore’s law type scaling in the industry, improvements in materials, speed, and costs could make this “all inclusive” 3D printer extremely competitive with existing manufacturing practices.

In fact, if you could print a car for example, you would be able to have a better product, not an inferior one; for example, you can create dimpling in the side panels of the cars tht only special racing cars use to reduce drag today.  In this way, in the future, many consumer products, such as houses, cars, and toys will become 3D printed, once the speed is fast and costs are low.  This would be a revolution bigger that the internet and computer itself.

If that scares you, never fear – an idea is emergent, and its going to happen whether you want it to or not!  While this technology creates many concerns, such as protecting jobs, patents, and dangerous weapons from being made, it is also extremely liberating, allowing people to do more with less.  In fact, in the future of full 3D printing, the dominant highly-paid trade might become artistic engineering, because the only distinguishing factor between manufacturers is the design of a product, and not so much its cost or functionally.

Also rest assured, we are talking decades.  However, we feel that this technology applied as manufacturing for the masses, a “replicator” in effect, is inevitable.  Oh, and its already happening:

A (mostly) 3D printed car
A 3D printed house and prototype
A nearly fully 3D printed bicycle! -see video at the end.

For additional discussion, please post to the related reprap post.