Episode 290: The Black Friday 3D Printing Panel

We’ve wanted to an episode on 3D printers for a long time but every time we went to book one, one of our printers stopped working for some stupid reason, we got mad, and said nevermind. Yup, it’s still a little bit of a hobbyist market. It feels like the Apple I era in a way but it’s starting to feel more and more like the months leading up to the release of the 1977 Holy Trinity. And our listeners are hackers and we want to demystify this stuff a little for anyone maybe thinking of having Santa deliver one of these for the holidays.

Hosts:

  • Marcus Ransom, Senior Sales Engineer, Jamf – @marcusransom
  • Charles Edge, CTO, Bootstrappers.mn – @cedge318

Guests

  • Trevor Sysock, Director of MDM and Cloud Solutions, Second Son Consulting – @BigMacAdmin
  • James Smith, Staff Engineer, x15ventures – @smithjw

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Charles Edge:
Hello, and welcome to this episode of the Mac Admins podcast. Today, we’ve got something a little bit different. But first, how are you, Marcus?

Marcus Ransom:
I’m fantastic. It’s a lovely, bright, sunny day outside. The world is shining. I’m inside, so maybe that kind of defeats the purpose a little bit. But how are you, Charles?

Charles Edge:
I am fantastic. I haven’t felt better in seven and a half weeks, so.

Marcus Ransom:
It’s a very specific timeframe, Charles.

Charles Edge:
It is. I got a stent pulled out of my esophagus on, what? Wednesday. And I am just feeling great. So, for this episode, we’ve got something just a little bit different than we’ve done in the past. So, it’s coming up on Christmas buying season and given a few week delay to get episodes out, we wanted to do this a little bit early so that it came out right around Black Friday, which is when a lot of humans around the world go out and shop for Christmas presents, or holiday presents, I guess. And one of the things that we see out there is a growing number of Mac admins who kind of overlap with people who are into 3D printing and that kind of as a hobby. So, we reached out to a few and they graciously agreed to join us.
And I feel like we’ve wanted to do this episode on 3D printers for a long time, but every time we went to book one, one of our printers would stop working for some stupid reason. We’d get mad and we’d say, “Nevermind, we’re not going to do this episode yet. It’s not ready as an industry.” But it kind of is. So, it’s a little bit of a hobbyist market still, it feels kind of like the Apple One era in a way. But it’s starting to feel more and more like the months leading up to the release of the 1977 Holy Trinity, which was the three PCs that kind of ignited the PC revolution. And our listeners are hackers, and we want to demystify this stuff a little for anyone maybe thinking of having Santa deliver one of these for the holidays. So, welcome to the podcast to our awesome guests. James has been on before but Trevor hasn’t. So, when guests join us for the first time, we love to do a little origin story. You’re a Mac admin, but do you mind telling us about how you came in to do that?

Trevor Sysock:
Yeah, so my name’s Trevor. I live in Los Angeles area. My dad was a CIS admin early on in the late ’70s and ’80s. And so growing up in the ’80s, we had a computer in our home and that’s mostly how I learned the basics. It was always IBM compatible. He was actually an avid anti-Apple person at the time. And so being a Mac admin is a bit of my following in his footsteps while also being a rebel. I was lucky enough to grow up in a school district that had a decently funded computer lab, so my first IT job was a teacher’s aid in middle school, fixing the Mac system seven computers in the lab that were very easy to wipe. Kids would basically drag the hard drive to the trash can on their way out and wipe the computer and so I learned how to reinstall an operating system early on. That continued through high school, doing extra help after school in the computer labs and stuff like that.
When I was in my 20s, I was working at a coffee house and supplementing income by doing auntie grandma tech support around the neighborhood and got a reputation that turned into a job at the local school district. And so I spent a few years building computer labs and carts and helping teachers and kids and teaching after school classes and stuff like that. And at some point I realized I need to make an actual living and landed a job at Second Son Consulting in Los Angeles here, where I’ve been for the last-

Charles Edge:
Oh, with Rob Calvert.

Trevor Sysock:
… nine years. Yeah, I think you know Rob and I’ve been very blessed to-

Charles Edge:
Yeah. He’s great people.

Trevor Sysock:
Yes, and I’ve been blessed to… I came in there very green nine years ago, and I’ve learned a lot, worked with some very smart, open, giving people and come a long way. So, that’s where I’m at now.

Charles Edge:
Love that kind of career arch or arc. So, I guess, Marcus, you have a little bit of an origin story around this. So, before we get into what printers everybody has and some of the questions, why don’t you tell us a little about your experiences with printers since it goes way back further than mine?

Marcus Ransom:
Well, it’s sort of almost a reverse origin story in that, I don’t know if you’d call this a career arc, but a career plummet really. But I was an industrial designer before I was a Mac admin. And in the early days, the late ’90s when I started out, there really wasn’t 3D printing. There was a little bit of stereo lithography, rapid prototyping out there, but it was a real challenge for us where I would spend so many hours making wooden models of injection molded plastic components, and then vacuum forming [inaudible 00:06:16], spending hours and hours and hours with a Dremel. I remember an intercom designed making a perforated grill on it. So, you imagine having to try and make the front of the current Mac Pro by hand with a handheld Dremel. And that was the sort of stuff that we used to have to do.
But the real challenge was when you wanted to actually go into production for something like that, you would need a run of hundreds of thousands of components to make it financially viable. The tooling for injection molding was ridiculously expensive. And it was sort of one of the reasons why I got out of industrial design, was here in Australia there wasn’t really the manufacturing sort of volume to be able to really produce anything we wanted. And it was always compromising or finding really sort lackluster ways of doing things. But sort of towards the end, rather than additive process like 3D printing, a similar process but the opposite with removal. So, CNC routing. So, rather than having to hold the Dremel by hand for removing material, they sort of looked like flatbed plotters, but it was a spinning cutter instead of a pen. And so we could make these amazing components out of flat sheets of plywood or fiberboard or plastic or anything else we wanted to put on there.
And it got really exciting, where all of a sudden me, who really isn’t so great with tools, especially when I was working in joineries where there are amazing crafts people around me, so I’d feel very sort of reluctant to even pick up a hammer or a saw for fear of them rightly judging me, I could cut out these amazing plywood structures that would slot together, alignment grooves, holes, all sorts of things like that, and really cut down on the time that it would take to create things. But for me, I could see a real transformation where what would normally need to be in, say, the furniture industry, a huge joinery with loads of tradespeople and a huge sales team generating the volume of work to be able to justify something of that size, someone could get a relatively cheap computer-controlled machine and really just work out of a factory on their own and be able to produce things.
So, that was a real transformation in industrial design. And I see this with 3D printing, but also with Arduino’s and Raspberry Pi’s, the sort of computer controls and automation and manufacturing processes where you would normally need to justify runs of hundreds of thousands of things. You can produce a one off and it’s exactly the same as something that would come out of an injection molding plant with expensive tooling. So, you can either produce for markets that don’t require volume or you can allow for customization for every single unit that you’re producing, multiple versions. You sort of look at it as the way when we went from monolithic imaging to a more modular approach, to bring things right back again. It’s the same sort of idea where, all of a sudden, the ability to customize and provide a more bespoke service and not have to prepare an image months in advance to get put on the machines in the factory, blah, blah, blah, those sorts of things.
So, there’s part of me that feels like I maybe left the industry a little too early and it would be fascinating to see what’s possible now. There’s also a part of me that really loves what I do now and my body kind of rejects anything to do with industrial design these days if I go back there. But it’s really fascinating seeing the evolution of the 3D printers. So, my first real exposure to it was we were producing some aluminum components for a shop-fitting system I was working on. And being able to prototype that using stereo lithography was expensive. For a small foot long sample of this aluminum prototype was $1000 for one off, just to see if it worked. And that was considered cheap in those days. Whereas now, that’s something that any of you are able to whip up in your basement in a couple of hours for probably a couple of dollars worth of material.

Charles Edge:
If that. Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah. And a machine that doesn’t cost as much as a house.

Charles Edge:
Oh, no. Yeah, they are so cheap these days, and I think this is a good time to explain that there are two main types of printers out there. There’s FDM and resin. And FDM kind of shards out long strands of plastic through a 200 plus degree nozzle in layers to send a 3D image to a printer. So, it’s this nozzle that moves around and the listeners can’t see me gesticulating with my hands showing a nozzle moving around, but it’s happening.

Marcus Ransom:
Just imagine it.

Charles Edge:
But yeah, it moves around on an X and Y axis and then it does a layer and then according to the type of printer, it either moves up or it moves down on a Z axis. And you load a file, usually in the form of an STL file, into the printer and it converts it to a binary file, kind of like converting Word to PostScript so it can go to a laser printer. And the resin printers are like when you get a filling at the dentist, they drop a plate into a vat of liquid resin, cure in image on each layer with a UV light, raise the plate in layers and do so repeatedly until the image is complete and you’ve got this kind of wet, stinky mess that you then put in a UV light to dry it.
And the resin is stinkier, but makes far more detailed prints. And once it truly cures, I think it’s harder. So, when I drop a print, which I frequently will drop a print and something will go flying off, it’s not as likely to explode when that happens. But there are tens of thousands of these STL files that can be downloaded for free on sites like Thingiverse, and we’ll include those in the show notes so you don’t have to be writing it down as we go. But this is a good time to ask, so what kind of printers do the guests have? And we can start with Trevor, since you haven’t been on before.

Trevor Sysock:
Yeah, the primary printer I have right now is a Creality Ender-3 MAX. So, Ender-3 is a popular hobby model, this one is the MAX, which means it has the giant build volume. I also own a Monoprice Maker Select Plus, which was my first printer and I modified the hell out of it. I mean, I put a lot of time in, and that printer had a lot of popular modifications to make it better and-

Charles Edge:
As does the Ender-3.

Trevor Sysock:
As do the Ender-3 models, absolutely.

Marcus Ransom:
And to confirm, those ones are the FDM printers that you’ve got. The one that extrudes the resin?

Trevor Sysock:
Right, both of those are FDM printers.

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah.

Trevor Sysock:
Yeah, both of those are FDM. I don’t have a workshop… I don’t have a proper space for a resin printer is really the only reason I haven’t done that yet.

Marcus Ransom:
Because they’re stinky.

Trevor Sysock:
They’re stinky. The resin’s toxic. You need a place to wash the models and everything else. I mean, one day, absolutely. I’ve got little kids, so it’s like I don’t have the space for that stuff right now. As much as I wish I could.

Charles Edge:
How about you, James?

Marcus Ransom:
So, are they the first printers you got or were there sort of other ones that led up to it? So, what made you choose those printers over… Aside from the smell, what made you choose that model over the other ones that were out there? What sort of shopping process did you go through?

Trevor Sysock:
So, I got my first printer about four or five years ago. And at the time, I mean, it’s crazy. I say four or five years ago. In this area, it really feels like the innovation of 20 years or something. There’s been so much… The parts have gotten so much cheaper, there’s been so many new models now than there were when I bought my first printer, right? Both of these were budget choices. I’m not the kind of person that needs to spend thousands of dollars on a hobby starting out, right? I wanted to make sure it was something I would enjoy and everything else. These printers were both, I think, under $300 when I bought them, right? Put in another 150, 200 dollars in modifications, spend a couple hundred dollars on plastic over the years, it’s really not that expensive a hobby to get into.
So, budget was probably my driving factor. It’s funny because, about 10 years ago, my best friend and his son bought a printer and they spent over a thousand dollars on it. And I think the bed size was a hundred millimeters by a hundred millimeters, and it didn’t have a heated bed. It didn’t have 25% of the features that a $200 printer has now, right?

Charles Edge:
Oh, that’s too bad.

Trevor Sysock:
So, things have come quite a long way. But that was innovative at the time and that blew my mind watching that thing go, right? It was one of the very early hobby printers, so.

James Smith:
I find it really interesting that especially with the FDM printers, that there’s a large DIY aspect to those printers than there are to resin printers. You can completely go out and spend a 100, 200 dollars and get something that it is already assembled or I just put a couple of rods together and it’s assembled and then I’m good to go. But you can also go down this rabbit hole, which I think as Mac admins, we all like to go down rabbit holes, where you can buy a base, but then it’s like, well, it’s actually quite noisy, so I’m going to buy a new control chip. And oh, maybe I want to get a new power supply. And oh, I think I might try this new nozzle over here. And soon you’ve got this Frankenstein model of a printer that is not what it used to start out as. Whereas, for resin printers, you really can’t do that. You buy it and it’s almost like an appliance. And yes, there’s a lot of tuning that goes into it or that I’ve found goes into it, but it’s just plug it in and go.

Charles Edge:
Yeah. And what kind do you have, James?

James Smith:
So, I’ve got the Creality HALOT-ONE printer, which is a resin printer, as I said. So, it’s a lot smaller, the volume, but you can get so detailed on this thing. And I think I bought it just under a year ago. I haven’t actually used it in a couple of months, but as one of the things around it, like you’ve both called out, yes, the resin just smells so bad when it’s printing. So, I’ve got it stashed away in the garage, just set up. And then not only that, you also need to wash and cure the models when you take them out. So, that requires 99% isopropyl alcohol. So, after you take the printer out, wedge it off the bed, you wash it in alcohol just to get all the uncured resin off it. And then a lot of people will just stick it out in the sun. That is completely fine for curing a model. Or you buy kind of a combined wash and build station almost. It’s about the same size as a-

Charles Edge:
For like 150 bucks or something. Not that expensive. Yeah, I have one.

James Smith:
Yeah. Australian dollars, I spent 400 to get both the resin printer and the wash and cure station. It’s got a little magnet, spins around in a fan, so it circulates the alcohol in the bath and then you take that off, put a little plate on, and that spins around slowly while UV lights come and cure the models. But it’s just really cool to be able to… I’m just holding up some random models with a green transparent dragon. Yeah.

Trevor Sysock:
Dragon head? Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
So, what made you go with resin rather than FDM, James?

James Smith:
Honestly, I wanted to print D&D minis.

Charles Edge:
That’s why I have a resin printer as well. So, I have two Ender-3s, a Flashforge which is a lot more expensive, and also kind of a closed platform so there’s not a lot of hacking to do in it. Which is kind of cool because it’s the one that never breaks. So, which makes me second guess all of my hackerations with my other printers. But then I have a Photon 4K. And the one thing I would say about the resin printers is spend the extra hundred bucks and get a 4K, not a 2K or below. And then the other thing is, so we download these STL files from, let’s say, Thingiverse or Thangs or one of those websites, or we post them if we create them, and then we have to slice them, which creates that binary file that we load into the printer.

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Charles Edge:
So, what slicer do you guys use?

James Smith:
Do you want to go first, Trevor?

Trevor Sysock:
Sure. So, I used Cura when I had my first printer. And then when I got this Creality Ender-3, I decided to try another one, was PrusaSlicer. And I have profiles in both of those slicers for both of my printers. There’s not too much a difference between them. They cut a model into micro layers and the slicer is really where all the software finicking stuff goes, right? You can take her for hours with honing the different settings for not just layer height but how far certain walls are from each other and everything else. So, they have largely the same features but they implement them in different ways. But they’re both open source and they both-

Charles Edge:
Change the temperature.

Trevor Sysock:
Yeah, temperature. I mean, there’s about a million variables you can change with the 3D printer. Some of them are physical, some of them are logical, right? And so that’s really where the tangible and the kind of IT nerd hobby comes together, is finicking with those two things.

James Smith:
And it’s almost like you need to keep a spreadsheet together of all your different settings.

Charles Edge:
I do have one.

James Smith:
Of course you do.

Trevor Sysock:
Yes.

James Smith:
That’s one of the things that I’ve found with the slicer that I’m using. So, I use Lychee Slicer and-

Charles Edge:
That’s what I use with my resin printer.

James Smith:
Yeah. So, I really love that they’ve now got built into the app almost community submissions of the different resins from different manufacturers, not just the different resin types but also the colors. Because sometimes the colors have different properties and-

Charles Edge:
And fail rates.

James Smith:
Yeah, exactly. And it will have people will upload their specific settings for that specific resin on your printer and how well it works. And depending on how long do you expose the resin, how much do you lift off the bed, and all these other different properties to work out the best settings for this particular resin in your printer so that you can get the best outcome. I’ve had failed prints where… So, with the resin printer, you’ve got the screen and then you’ve got a little vat with a very clear film on it. And the way that it works is, when the UV light turns on, it’s curing just that tiny little sliver of resin between the build plate and that thin plastic film on the bottom of the vat.
And then what happens is the printer bed raises up slightly to kind of unstick. So, you want it to adhere to either the previous layers or to that particular bed, lift up enough so that there’s resin underneath, and then it drops back down to that height and does another layer. And I’ve had times where my cure times haven’t been long enough so it ends up that the resin cured to the plastic on the bottom of the vat and not the top. And then you just get this giant little, fat little blob of resin after eight hours, and you’re like, “Oh, no, I just wasted all this time.” So, it can be finicky. But then when you can print out things like this Jabba the Hutt with an articulating tail. And just for a bit of ASMR. That’s the sound of his tail just swiveling around. I’ll put a photo. But to print out cool little things like that. It’s fun.

Charles Edge:
And that one missing Lego piece. Not to trample on anyone’s intellectual property, Lego, sorry. But it’s happened.

Marcus Ransom:
So, do you find that the actual craft of the printing, the working out all of those parameters and testing and trying to get the most out of your machine and out of the particular material that you’re using, almost starts to become as much of what you are doing then the actual finished product that you’re making?

Trevor Sysock:
Yeah, that’s the meta game, right? Some people play D&D every week and they just show up for it and other people are crunching numbers behind the scenes and trying to min max and whatever else, right? But you can definitely get enjoyment out of this hobby without being as crunchy as we’re necessarily describing here. Right? There’s definitely levels to it, and it’s not that complex, especially with the FDM printers. A lot of times when something’s going wrong, you can physically see what’s going wrong, right? The nozzle’s too high or whatever else.

Marcus Ransom:
But also the idea that you could probably somewhere find that Jabba the Hutt articulated model on Alibaba or something like that for significantly less than the cost and probably shipped to you faster than it would take to manufacture as well.

Charles Edge:
Well, it’s interesting because… So, I printed a chess set for my dad for Father’s Day, and it cost me more to ship than a new chess set would’ve cost to buy. But it probably cost me a dollar to print. So, the financials aren’t… I mean, it’s definitely a labor of love. I do have to say, ever since I got the Flashforge, it’s changed a little bit because the Enders still require tweaking every time. And I even got little leveling guides or sensors that tell me if the Enders get out of level because that’s one of the main reasons that these print jobs tend to fail. And the Flashforge has leveling kind of built into it. But even with all the stuff you do, it’s just sometimes they fail and then you got to troubleshoot it. But the Flashforge just always prints.
It’s much more expensive. It costs six times what my Enders cost, but it just mostly works. And so that meta gaming kind of, it’s nice to do it still and to be like, oh, well it still feels hobbyist. But with some of the more expensive printers, it’s less of a hobby and more of just, oh, I had a piece that broke on my water hose and I want to print a replacement, and so I 3D scan it, go into Zbrush or something, and then get it just right, print it, print it again because the first one never seems to work out with anything useful, and then it’s done and I’m not tweaking the printer for three hours to do something that I could’ve just run out to Home Depot for 15 minutes and gotten a replacement.

Marcus Ransom:
Certainty and reliability in the commercial space as well. That’s the real jump from hobbyist to being a commercial viability. I know the CNC machines I was working on, they were running 24/7 a lot of the time. And so you’d have to book your jobs into the factory for a certain time and I remember some of the jobs I was doing would take 8 to 10 hours to cut. And if you didn’t program it properly and were trying to push the routing bits too fast and too deep on a material and you’d snap a bit or it would run off track or something like that, you had to start again. And if that job was supposed to go out the next day, you were kind of screwed. Or the person who’d booked in their job after you was screwed if you managed to give a slab of beer to the guys in the factory so your job got done again. But being able to know that you press the button and the part comes out the way you wanted it to is great, but there is a little bit of a charm and mystery and fun and soul-

Charles Edge:
Unless you need something like, oh, I need to water the grass. So, [inaudible 00:30:03] working again.

James Smith:
There almost is a lot of that mystery in the resin printing, especially when you start out, because the bed is embedded underneath all of the resin. For the first little while, you can’t actually see, is this actually working? Is it going to work out?

Charles Edge:
Oh, yeah. It takes about an hour or two.

James Smith:
Yeah. Although, that’s one thing that-

Marcus Ransom:
It’s like old film photography and developing.

James Smith:
And when I first got the HALOT-ONE, my printer, the software on it, a lot of resin printers have the ability where you can kind of pause and lift, where you pause the print, it actually lifts the bed out, and then you can see kind of halfway through, and hit play, it’ll drop back down again. My printer didn’t have that for the first couple of months that I owned it and so it was just this waiting game of did it adhere to the bed? Is it going to work? Is it failing?

Marcus Ransom:
Have I actually selected the correct file for what I was wanting to do?

James Smith:
Exactly. And now it’s got that function, so when I print, I can come back in 20 minutes, pause and lift, make sure that that first couple of… Those first couple of layers are really nice. And great, I know that most likely it’s going to succeed. But I think that next step for me is going to actually be taking some existing models and making some changes to them so that I can print actual things that have a bit of utility. So, it’s like, where do I go from here? What app do you use, Charles, for actually creating or modifying those STL files?

Charles Edge:
These days, I use Zbrush because it’s easier. There are different apps that I might use for different purposes. I use Blender a fair amount if, for example, I want the file to potentially be usable in video games or some other. Because Blender is a pretty universal, you can export as STL, but it’s not designed-

James Smith:
Oh, I didn’t realize.

Charles Edge:
… specifically for STL. Yeah, you have to make sure that all the holes are filled in. It’s really easy to leave just open spots. And so I have a 3D pen. It’s like a kid’s toy, they’re like $40 or something on Amazon. And I use the 3D pin when I screw up and leave holes.

Marcus Ransom:
Well, I found that-

James Smith:
[inaudible 00:32:31] Lychee Slicer will actually tell-

Charles Edge:
And I still use the Dremel. Marcus, you’ll be happy to know. Go ahead, James.

James Smith:
I found that sometimes Lychee Slicer will actually identify issues in the STL and prompt you to help fix them as well as things like adding in. Because what happens when you download these files? A lot of the time it’s just the model that you’re downloading and then it’s the responsibility of your slicer to add supports. And there are different kinds of supports. So, for example, you’ll often see for resin printers, it’s almost like a lattice and then you can adjust how tiny do you want the little connection point. Because obviously, if there are overhangs… And it’s really hard to describe this on an audio podcast, but if there are overhangs to your model, it essentially gets to a stage where it’s printing in thin air so there’s nothing to lift it off the bed. So, at the very start of the print, along with the base of your model, because you’re printing it upside down, there’ll be little lattices that kind of go up and then eventually connect. And then you have to-

Charles Edge:
And you have to cut them off in the end. [inaudible 00:33:39].

James Smith:
Yeah. Although, with resin, they just kind of rip them off. Sometimes with FDM-

Charles Edge:
Well, sometimes.

James Smith:
Yeah, sometimes you have to cut them. But with the FDM, I think you can have tree supports or I always hear the crunchy sounds on TikTok videos with people ripping off. It must be so satisfying to do that. Is that the best part, Trevor?

Charles Edge:
It is.

James Smith:
To rip off the supports?

Trevor Sysock:
When your printer is well tuned, yes. And when it’s not, if it’s not well tuned or you didn’t put the settings quite right, and I’ve cut myself once or twice trying to cut the supports off, so.

James Smith:
Yeah, I’ve ripped gloves when trying to take off the supports. So, because you’re handling a toxic substance for the resin.

Trevor Sysock:
With resin, yeah.

James Smith:
Yeah, not to dissuade the listeners from getting a resin printer just because they’re really nice models. But yeah, get yourself some nice… There’s a specific kind of gloves which work best with the resin, but they’re just like plastic nitrite gloves I think. But sometimes the little supports are so sharp that they’ll like nick your skin and rip the gloves if you get them incorrectly.

Trevor Sysock:
Well, and this is another part of the meta game, right? Especially if you’re designing your own models. Designing something that’s going to be CNC’d is a lot different than designing something that’s going to be additive manufacturing for 3D printing, right? If you’re trying to do a perfect circle, you might make it a little bit of a tear drop in a certain area, in the orientation of the vertical orientation. Because plastic melts, it droops as it goes, as you get to know how your printers actually makes things, you tweak how you design them.

Marcus Ransom:
It’s a liquid not a solid.

Trevor Sysock:
It is a liquid when it’s coming out of that nozzle and then it’s a solid immediately after, if it’s working right. Yeah.

Charles Edge:
And whenever I try to explain the supports, I always make sure to just remind everyone that gravity is a law. It’s not just for fun and so-

Marcus Ransom:
Physics always wins.

James Smith:
Although, have you seen the models where there’s a couple of test files that will let you do an FDM print completely horizontal, with no supports? And I’ve seen the videos ever getting printed and I have no idea how it actually works, but it comes out with no supports and it’s just a vertical line in thin air. It’s like, how does this work?

Charles Edge:
Yeah. According to the distance, there are, on Thingiverse, there are actually a couple things that are test things that you can see just how horizontal you can get. And if you drop the temperature down, then as the nozzle is moving, you can get a little further and a little further. But yeah, I’ve had so many things fail because… Especially things I design where I try really hard to make things where I have as few supports as possible because removing supports is my least favorite part of this whole process. I keep wire snips and X–Acto knives and all kinds of things to just try to get it so that I don’t have to go back and Dremel over, 3D pen, and then Dremel over. Because once you pierce the shell, it’s just a total nightmare.

James Smith:
And so do find that with the FDMs, that the model… Do the models come with a lattice inside the solids? Or is that your slicer adding in?

Charles Edge:
That’s the slicer. Yeah.

James Smith:
Okay, to kind of save on that space.

Charles Edge:
Yeah. And according, if you’re using Cura or Prusa, you might choose to use hacks or some grid. Or there’s, what? Half a dozen for [inaudible 00:37:24] settings for that?

James Smith:
Because I learned from my Jabba model, which is completely solid, to on this other model, to actually hollow it out and add in some drainage holes so that, at the end, I could just lift and just see all this. Because otherwise, you’re just wasting a whole bunch of material that you don’t need to-

Marcus Ransom:
Have any of you had beautiful failures where something’s gone catastrophically wrong during the printing process and then you’re standing there looking at the finished product and gone, “Either I’m going to keep that to remind me not to do that certain thing,” or that there’s something beautiful about the way that it failed that you just love?

Charles Edge:
Yeah. Especially if you paint your minis for the… It seems like we all three do D&D minis. So, if I paint them, like I printed a genie one time, and it just went completely haywire. I didn’t add supports but it just looked right because it was a genie and it was airy. Air elemental, I did something similar. But one time, the hose that connected the printer came out about probably 15 minutes into a print job and I was going away for a few days and I started a 72 hour print. And then I come home and the whole spool… And it’s all been extruded so it’s not usable again, right? And a spool of filament is, what? 20 bucks, 30 if you get good filament. It’s not that much. But this whole spool, it looked like a big plate of spaghetti.

Trevor Sysock:
So, Charles-

Charles Edge:
But it was in an enclosed space. Go ahead.

Trevor Sysock:
Have you heard of the Spaghetti Detective?

Charles Edge:
No.

Trevor Sysock:
Okay, so we’re all nerds here, right? So, there’s an open source project called Spaghetti Detective. It runs on a Raspberry Pi. It’s basically a webcam that watches your FDM printer and it does image recognition looking for that spaghetti mess. And when it does, it sends you a picture and it’s like, “Hey, do you want me to stop this print right now?” So, you could have, 20 hours into your trip, got an alert on your phone and said, “Yep, let’s stop that right now,” and prevented yourself a little bit of mess.

Marcus Ransom:
But then you wouldn’t have that plate of spaghettis. Those sorts of things also happen before automation, where it’s the human being. One of my design lecturers had this amazing, looked like this work of art, this metal object sitting in his office. And he explained that he was working, designing the coin public phones for British Telecom in the ’80s in the UK. And when you are doing manual drafting in the days before computers, the way that you laid out the top view, the side view, there was first angle projection and third angle projection. And there’s a little icon that you put on the bottom of the drawing that explains which particular projection you’re using. Now, most people use third angle projection, it’s sort of the industry standard. But like all industry standards, insert KCD comic here, somebody insists as a better way of doing it. So, he used the wrong icon and the pattern maker made this coin slot inside out, which was a feat to behold. And the resulting piece was so beautiful and a poignant reminder to actually put the correct icon in the title bar of what you’re producing, because someone somewhere will make it to rule even though it’s pretty bloody obvious that it’s wrong.

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Charles Edge:
So, this was not in the question list, but there’s a lot of features, like filament run out detection as an example. James, you wouldn’t care about this because you don’t have rolls of filament that happen to run out, but that’s a thing. And auto resume. You mentioned being able to pause and resume a job. That’s not a feature on every printer. And Trevor, you mentioned some machine learning that can detect the spaghetti mess, right? What are a couple of other features that you just think are musts? And Trevor, this probably has more for you specifically, because you’ve printed extras to give you those features.

Trevor Sysock:
So, honestly, I think the best addition I’ve made to my printer stuff is just the Raspberry Pi running OctoPrint, right? The Octo Pi. It lets you control your printer through a web interface and check your webcam and send jobs without having to deal with an SD card and stuff like that. I think most of those features you’re talking about are going to be present on almost all printers these days. The filament run out sensor is one that will save your butt and let you use those last strands on your spool so they’re not getting thrown away. But really, I have the budget printers, right? So, they have these bare bones kind of features, but maybe not the fancy stuff that-

James Smith:
And what about auto leveling on FDM printers? Because that’s also can tie into it as well, and making sure not only is you setting your bed, but your printer can actually tell you if it’s off as well?

Charles Edge:
Yeah, so I’ve actually done a fair amount of this. I bought two printers and actually returned them because they said they auto leveled but they didn’t. So, you’ve got those four points or nine, according to how nice the printer is, and you move the bed up and down a little bit to kind of get it leveling. So, the auto leveler for the Enders is an aftermarket add-on. I think it was 30 bucks on Amazon and it comes with little tabs to help you move the things but it just detects when it comes out of level. The one on the Flashforge, it’s a manual process that you have to run. It doesn’t actually know that it’s out of level. So, I would say with the auto leveling, just you might not get what you’re looking for sometimes. And the leveling, a lot of times you just put a piece of paper down, you move the nozzle down until it hits the paper, and then if you can kind of move the paper, it’s good. It can’t be too far down or it can’t extrude, and it can’t be too far up or it doesn’t stick to the bed.

Trevor Sysock:
The auto leveling feature is one that I looked into and everything else, and it could be really handy if you have… A lot of these printers are cheaply made, right? So, if you get one that has an aluminum bed that’s a little out of whack, it’s a little bent in one area, then getting an auto leveler can help you with that, because your machine will accommodate for that bend in your bed. But if you have a nice flat bed, that’s one of those features they like to put on the box that it’s probably not that useful in the end.

Charles Edge:
And they don’t all come with auto pause or auto resume. So, that’s a big one. Run out detection, we mentioned.

Trevor Sysock:
Thermal runaway. Thermal runaway detection is a big one. I think in the US now, they basically have to have that feature in order to be sold here. It’s a safety feature. It’s basically if your printer thinks it’s heating up but it can’t detect how hot it is, it’ll turn itself off and start beeping at you so that you don’t burn your house down. So, that’s one I would say you definitely should make sure your printer has.

James Smith:
And Trevor, do all of your FDM printers have magnetic beds where you can actually take the models off? Or are you having to chip it off the actual printer?

Trevor Sysock:
So, those are really cool. There’s a bunch of different textures that beds come on. I’ve bought aftermarket magnetic sheet for my last printer. This printer I have right now, it’s a glass bed with a textured top to it. You kind of feel it’s not smooth like a pane of glass, right? There’s some kind of texture to it. And it’s actually really good at gripping it while it’s hot. And then as the bed cools down… Because that’s the other part that’s hot on the printer, is the print bed, right? It stays about 60 degrees. As that cools down, it releases the plastic because it’s just moving a little bit. The heat leaving, it makes it move, and you can actually just hear the print start to kind of pop off the bed as it cools down. So, I haven’t needed it.

James Smith:
Have you added them to your resin printers, Charles? The magnetic beds?

Charles Edge:
No. No.

James Smith:
Because I’ve done that and I’m just about to start experimenting with that because that’s probably one of the most frustrating-

Charles Edge:
I didn’t even know that was an option.

James Smith:
Yeah, it is. It is. So, that’s one of the most frustrating things for my initial prints, was because the bed is kind of suspended upside down and it’s actually bolted to the arm. So, every time you want to try and chip your model off, you have to undo this giant screw, take off the whole bed and try and chip without damaging it too much. But now what you can do is you buy an aftermarket kit, specifically for that bed size because you want to make sure that the magnetic piece isn’t too big for your little vat container.

Charles Edge:
And then you just have to Z up a couple millimeters?

James Smith:
Yeah, well, you just re-level it at that particular height. So, you get a big adhesive magnet sheet that you stick onto your permanent bed, and then you’ve just got this piece of steel which then kind of goes onto that, and that becomes the new bed. So, it’s kind of the magnet is strong enough to keep that sheet on there while it’s kind of releasing the film, and for your print to stick to, but not so strong that you can then peel it off, and then essentially bend the bed to release your model rather than taking a spatula and try to pry it off if you’ve got a really good hold.

Charles Edge:
Yeah, I have to use the spatula a lot with the FDM printers. And Trevor, I got a glass bed and love it as well. I did have to raise my bed temp four or five degrees I think. I don’t know if that’s your mileage may vary or what. But I do sometimes still use the magnetic piece if I’m doing a large piece of… Since we’re talking about D&D minis, every now and then, if I’m doing a large terrain piece, I’ll use the magnetic because I can bend it and pull the terrain piece off pretty easily. But otherwise, I’ll try to use the glass, especially if I’m doing smaller, more useful things. Speaking of useful, what are some of the useful things around the house or whatever-

Marcus Ransom:
Charles, are you saying that D&D minis are not in fact useful?

Charles Edge:
Oh, I am. That’s the beauty of them. If they were useful, why would we print them?

Marcus Ransom:
Why would you want them?

Charles Edge:
We have tens of thousand… It’s gotten out of control where I am. But what about you guys? Useful stuff?

Trevor Sysock:
Yeah, I love boxes and I love containers and holders that fit perfectly into other things. The favorite thing I’ve printed I think is my youngest son wears hearing aids, right? And he’s three and a half, so they come with tools to open them and clean them and extra batteries. So, I designed a box with a little false bottom that could hold those and has his name on it and the colors he likes and stuff like that.

Charles Edge:
Cute.

Trevor Sysock:
I’m a new homeowner and I’ve been using my 3D printer to help undo some of the landlord special fixes around the house. My windows have these really weird mechanisms that keep them on the rails I’ve never seen before and could not find replacements for online. And finally, it literally took me under an hour to design and print the bracket I needed to fix those up. But looking around my desk, I’ve got a drawer that snaps onto my desk that I designed. I’ve got something to hold my headphones and my gaming controller, and I have an external hard drive that I-

Charles Edge:
I printed a headphone holder too.

Trevor Sysock:
Yeah, well, yeah. I’ve got an external hard drive that I didn’t want on my desk because if I spill or just taken up the space, whatever. So, I printed a little bracket and I just mounted it right to the wall behind my computer.

Charles Edge:
Nice.

Trevor Sysock:
So, it’s out of the way. I don’t even have to look at it. Yeah,

James Smith:
That’s going to be what I’m doing probably tonight. So, I’ve got an iPhone stand for my desk, but with the giant camera bump, the iPhone stand is a bit too high and so my phone doesn’t sit correctly. So, what I did was I went out and bought myself a new MagSafe connector and I’m going to basically design a stand and attach it to this raised bit of my desk and essentially have my phone floating there on the MagSafe. But I need something to mount it. So, I’m going to design my own stand to do that and just kind of get really functional. And you won’t ever see it because the phone will just kind of magnetically attach. But I’m looking forward to doing those sorts of things and not just silly little mini figures or I printed a few Among Us characters for my son Jacks, because he loves that. So, I’m like, “Cool, here you go. Here, have some little characters to play with.”

Charles Edge:
I love that.

Trevor Sysock:
If you have little kids, a 3D printer is something that… My son loves dinosaurs, he loves the color purple, I’m going to print him a purple dinosaur. He’s got friends at school that ask him for stuff and sometimes I’ll make stuff for him to give out and stuff like that.

James Smith:
My son’s quite interested in actually animation, so I actually downloaded Blender for him and we’re kind of occasionally going through some of those tutorials. So, I look forward to him actually continuing with that. And then if he actually designed something I say, “Well, do you want to print this now?” And give him a gateway into a whole lot of other hobbies as well.

Marcus Ransom:
So, then you can buy him 3D printers and 3D printing accessories for his birthday and Christmas.

James Smith:
I think the way that it would work is I would give him my printer and then I would get a new one. Because that’s how it works is…

Marcus Ransom:
So, what about you, Charles? What have you made that has made the world a better place?

Charles Edge:
Nothing. Nothing at all. Just D&D terrain. No, I don’t know. Anytime some little janky piece of plastic breaks, and some of the things like a light switch cover. Yeah, I could have run out to Home Depot, but I had 10 other things to do. So, let’s just hit print. And there’s designs for almost anything you can think of on Thingiverse.

Trevor Sysock:
Another fun thing is you’re looking at something to buy, whatever it is, and you go to Thingiverse or Thangs or whatever and you type in that device, the name of that device, and you’re going to see designs other people have made for that, right? Buying a new Logitech mouse, go put it in Thingiverse. Someone’s got a holding stand for the charger that looks cool, you can print it in the color you want and whatever. Stuff like that.

James Smith:
I’m fascinated by how creative people have managed to get with print in place, articulating models. So, the fact that you can print something on a bed and-

Charles Edge:
Like dragons.

James Smith:
Yeah. And then once you pry it off, the tail starts moving and all the connections are built there. I found a print model for one of those infinity cubes. So, I made one out of Lego. But you can also buy them and assemble them yourself or you can print in place one that kind of folds over. It’s like how did you manage to get this to work and to actually print without being connected together?

Trevor Sysock:
Wasting a lot of plastic on iterations.

James Smith:
Yeah. Probably.

Charles Edge:
I do have to say. So, most everything that I knew at first came from Andrew Sego. When I first started doing this, he sent me Google Doc that had everything I needed to know that I didn’t even know I needed to know yet in the doc. And then I feel like I should have had him on this panel too because he’s been doing this way longer than me. But he sent me some useful things, but they were mostly useful things for the printer. But I see him, he printed rods to build a chicken coop. He prints all kinds of crazy stuff where I’m like, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable doing that.” But one thing I haven’t printed is a printer, and we were supposed to have Nate Walk on this panel as well, but he couldn’t make it. But he’s printed printers, which I wanted to talk about that. But since he’s not feeling well, we’ll have him on maybe in a month or two and then he can tell us all about it. In the meantime, one question that comes up from time to time is how power intensive are these? So, have either of you noticed any change in your power bill when you’re doing this?

Trevor Sysock:
No. And I’ve looked up how much it costs to run my printer, and it was saying somewhere around 40 to 50 cents a day if you’re running it 24 hours, so.

Marcus Ransom:
Less than a Synology that’s on all the time probably.

James Smith:
Exactly.

Charles Edge:
Oh, everything takes less than a Synology.

James Smith:
Yeah. For example, for a resin print, I imagine it would be more for the FDM, because you are heating up the bed and you’re extruding and heating up the nozzle.

Charles Edge:
Instead of just infrared photos basically?

James Smith:
Yeah, well, at the end of the day it’s just you’ve got an LCD screen that does the blacking out to let the light through, and then it’s a UV light that’s going for the resin printer.

Trevor Sysock:
And some big fans too, right? The resin printers have big fans?

James Smith:
Yeah. Well, it has a couple of fans to circulate the fumes and the air. Well, they’re not big, they’re tiny. They’re tiny little fans in a resin printer anyway.

Trevor Sysock:
But the device itself doesn’t overheat with a resin printer. It doesn’t get hot from electronics?

James Smith:
No, I haven’t noticed any sort of… Just because it’s not actually using any heat. It doesn’t use heat as part of the process, it’s just the light to cure those specific layers. So, it’s negligible. It’s like having a laptop just always plugged in and turned on at the home.

Charles Edge:
Yeah.

James Smith:
Which is good.

Charles Edge:
Energy consumption is one thing, but sound is another. So, one of the printers I experimented with were these $100, I think they were from a company called WEEFUN. They were just these teeny, tiny things and they printed, I would say, the first 15 prints, even minis, they printed pretty good. But then after about 15 or 20 prints, they just wouldn’t print anymore. The nozzle just, I don’t think, was built properly. Just not quality parts in general. Hopefully, we don’t get sued by WEEFUN, but it was super loud. And the flash boards, you can barely hear, because it has a HEPA filter built into it and you can only hear the HEPA filter as it’s running. But how about sound? How have you guys been dealing with that? I guess, James, yours is in the garage, so you barely probably care.

James Smith:
No, I don’t care. It’s not loud at all.

Marcus Ransom:
Do the neighbors complain about it?

James Smith:
No, not in the garage. It’s fine. You shut the doors, you don’t hear it.

Charles Edge:
Right. How about you, Trevor?

Trevor Sysock:
I think this is probably one thing you’ll get better performance out of with a little bit more money. My Creality, I run it here in my office where I work. I typically don’t run it during the work day, but sometimes I do, and nobody hears it on my Zoom meetings, no one’s ever complained about it. But it is somewhat distracting, right? I put on some music, so I’m not necessarily listening to it. It’s kind of like having an old dot matrix printer way down the hall, like several rooms away, but with the doors open, you can hear. It’s like a sound. But it’s not terrible.

Marcus Ransom:
I lived in an apartment where the guys living upstairs had a dot matrix printer on a metal filing cabinet and they would print out stuff at 3:00 AM, so.

Trevor Sysock:
It’s a little bit easier than that. Yeah, definitely not that bad.

Charles Edge:
So I do think printers are kind of like bikes. You always seem to need N + 1, where N is the current number of printers you have. So, let’s say a listener is thinking, “Charles isn’t that bright. So, if he can do this, I can do this, and want to.” So, which printer would you buy if you were starting over today, and maybe why?

Trevor Sysock:
If I were going for a budget printer again, I would stay with the Creality line, just because there’s so much community support for it and stuff like that. If I wanted to spend 1,500, 2,000 dollars, on an FDM printer, I would definitely go for the Prusa. They’re the Porsche of… They’re just the best quality made printers on the market, I think, of FDM type. But honestly, I would love to get a resin printer one day too, so.

Charles Edge:
It was Josef Prusa who, I would say, kind of pushed the whole movement forward. So, Chuck Hull or Charles Hull invented FDM in 1983 when his patent expired, the RepRap standard was developed, probably six months before the patent expired, they started work on this. But it was Prusa who took that RepRap standard and said, “You know what? This is really hard and it doesn’t really work that great.” So, he started building some of his stuff. And a lot of the slicer software and stuff like that, it’s open source because it’s a hacker maker community, which is something else I’ve always liked about it. So, how about you, Mr. Smith?

James Smith:
I think I’d probably stick with the same, the Creality. The Creality HALOT-ONE that I’ve got is a great printer. I really like it. It’s got a nice big touch screen on the front, easy to use and I like Macs. We use Macs all the time. It’s a nice looking unit. So, I will just say it looks nice. I might go for their HALOT-LITE, which it’s got lite in the name, but it’s actually an upgrade in resolution. So, it goes from, I think mine currently is 2.5K. So, it’s like a 25, 60 by 1440 screen, but it would go up to a 4K screen, which means that you can get slightly more detail that you were saying at the start. But just something for me with that great support, and is supported by the community that other people have. So, it’s just easy.

Marcus Ransom:
What about you, Charles?

Charles Edge:
Oh, so we’ll include links in the show notes, but there’s a chocolate printer. And I think I’m not a communist, so I like chocolate. There’s also a coconut printer, and so I’m really interested in trying both and or either of those. And I don’t think they’re that expensive, but.

Trevor Sysock:
To be clear, you’re literally talking about food manufacturing, right? Things that print food for you.

Charles Edge:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Trevor Sysock:
Okay.

Charles Edge:
Exactly. It’s not pumping out plastic.

Marcus Ransom:
That’s a fascinating thing with additive printing, is there’s additive printers that will print cement or concrete, so you can actually print yourself a house.

James Smith:
Those ones are so cool.

Charles Edge:
Yeah, the cement printers got, I think, three or four different big VCs kind of went in and dumped in, for one company, half a billion. There are billions of dollars flowing into this because printing houses and printing whatever. Since you mentioned additive, one thing I try to stay away from, and I’m curious if Trevor has anything to say about this, wood filament, metal filament. It seems to always clog up the nozzle. And even if I increase the… Just for the listeners, every roll of filament comes with a guide for this is the temperature, this is the speed to extrude. But it seems like every time I do it, I end up having to bust out a wire brush and clean out my nozzle, or there’s metal flakes in the stepper motor. There’s just all kinds of problems. But I don’t know if you’ve had the same thing, Trevor,

Trevor Sysock:
I’ve shied away from doing the wood filament. Looks really cool and I’ll probably try it at some point. I’ve largely shied away from that. The most adventurous I’ve got is printing with the PETG instead of PLAPETG, which is still just a regular filament plastic, but it’s got a lot tougher qualities. It’s a lot better for mechanical moving parts or stuff you’re going to leave in your car because it has a higher melting temperature. So, I printed a phone holder for my car and stuff like that using that. But there are a lot of really cool kinds of filament you can get into. I’ve done some glow-in-the-dark filament, which also has little metal flakes in it that’ll chew up your nozzle. And it doesn’t glow that great, but the kids love the stuff I made for them out of it, so.

Marcus Ransom:
Also, once you get out of the hobbyist models as well. So, the university I worked at had this advanced manufacturing research center that had all of these unbelievable machines there that were 3D printing titanium, all sorts of ridiculous things like that there. And seeing what they could actually produce and the quality and the strength that they could produce, but also really understanding some pretty expensive machinery was required, and some very highly skilled technicians to run them.

Charles Edge:
Yeah, we’ve been talking about things that our families could buy us for the holidays or vice versa. You can spend hundreds of thousands of… Joel Renick likes to send me links every now and then of $100,000 plus printers that can print carbon filament, all kinds of crazy… And I’m like, “No, I’m not buying that.” Plus, I don’t have anywhere to put it. So, I do feel like-

James Smith:
But think of the D&D mini that you could… Well, you could make a D&D Maxi.

Charles Edge:
Life size goblin.

James Smith:
Oh, come on.

Charles Edge:
Or [inaudible 01:05:49].

James Smith:
You’d love that.

Charles Edge:
I would.

Marcus Ransom:
So, you mentioned the term maker a lot, and there really does seem to be an amazing community around printing things, trying to solve problems that exist in people’s lives, whether that problem is not having enough D&D minis. Rather than filling commercial gaps or trying to make money, is that something that attracted all of you to this, the open source approach to things?

James Smith:
Oh, 100%. It’s an extension on having that Mac Admins community. There is a giant community around 3D printing as well. And it’s a printer that I actually, unlike normal printers, which I loathe with a passion, so.

Marcus Ransom:
Different kind of fiery-

James Smith:
Don’t go there. But yeah, just having a giant community and having all of these models out there. So, there are a lot of people who will have Patreons and you subscribe to them and they’ll churn out models. But there’s also the other side where there’s just open source or just free models go out, remix it, upload your version of that, and go from there.

Trevor Sysock:
There’s definitely a GitHub vibe to the communities where people share models, right? You post your project, you can post the design files along with the finished files. People take them, they remix them, they upload them, they give credit, stuff like that. It’s also kind of a pain like GitHub, you make a product and that project and then you’re like, “Oh, but if I upload it, I have to write all the descriptions and post the pictures and deal with people asking questions and all that stuff,” right? But the openness of the community is definitely something that drew me to this as well.

Marcus Ransom:
Is there much commercial crossover? So, you mentioned before the idea of doing a search for a Logitech mouse, for example, and finding accessories for it. Are there companies who are saying, “Look, we could produce these accessories, but really it’s not worth our while manufacturing these and trying to ship them to you. But you know what, here we go. Here’s our specs. Make your own stuff and here’s something-“

Charles Edge:
Yeah. I would say a little bit. The 3D printer companies are probably the best about allowing their intellectual property to be used that way. But a lot of companies are really aggressive because there is a lot of like, “Oh, let me 3D scan this Warhammer figure, and Warhammer is one of those companies who makes all of their money off of the boxes of Warhammer models you buy, right? So, it’s understandable that they would be like, “Hey, here’s a cease and desist. This is another thing that’s trampling on our rights effectively.” So, I would say I’ve seen some, but Toyota, I think, this last summer had a big case where they went heavy after Thingiverse and anyone else who was helping print aftermarket Toyota stuff. And in their case, there’s a safety issue there. I wouldn’t trust printing something and throwing it in something that I’m going to drive 60, 80 miles an hour. So, some of it I understand. But I don’t find that there’s a lot of corporate involvement with the community. Every now and then, I’ll come across a brand, but not as much as I’d like. How about you guys? You’ve seen anything like that?

Trevor Sysock:
I saw just the other day, Ford Motor Company, you mentioned Honda went one way. Ford Motor Company with their… Let’s see, it’s their Maverick pickup they’ve released CAD files for. I think it’s largely the interior space so that you can print modifications and stuff like that that fit into the glove compartment and fit into the cup holders and whatever else. So, you know the physical dimensions of it, you have it in your digital design, and then you can design around it, so.

Marcus Ransom:
That’s pretty awesome.

Trevor Sysock:
That’s cool. It is pretty awesome. There’s not a lot of this that I’ve seen, and that’s why when you asked it, it reminded me and I looked it up. But I wish there were more.

Marcus Ransom:
It’s also in interesting to see. The sort of trajectory we’ve all been on with software and music, with the changes that have happened there and the publishing industry still sort of lagging behind and desperately clinging on to ultimately their ability to make money, which is required for an industry to survive. And seeing, from my point of view, the way manufacturing has changed, is that will the idea of the intellectual property be in the design. And discovering that by eliminating or decentralizing the manufacturing and eliminating shipping essentially, the way we have with software, where the idea of going and buying a CD of software is just pointless these days. It’s fascinating to see if 10, 20, 30 years people will have a 3D printer in there… Everyone will have one in their garage and they’ll just buy something online and print it.

Charles Edge:
I think that’s the future, whether it’s 10 years or 30 years. I mean, when the patent for FDM expired, you saw printers go from $10,000 to $1,000 almost overnight. And then now, when the holiday buying season comes, I’m going to guess that you can get an Ender-3 for probably 150 to 200 dollars. But those are hobbyist devices. So, my dad, no offense to my dad, he’s actually pretty technical, but he’s not going to be going out probably and buying an Ender-3 and hacking together stuff. So, when they become mass market, I think what’s hard is when you have software and hardware working together…
And we saw this with printers, mentioning dot matrix a long time ago, where the printers could break down, but you swap some stuff out and you’re back to printing. We haven’t, I don’t feel like, crossed that boundary where there’s a comprehensive solution that just works most of the time with 3D printers yet. I think that auto-leveling piece is kind of a biggie, and there’s a few others, but I think we’re getting there. And Creality seems to be one of the leaders in kind of pushing that boundary, even if… Anyways, so I do feel like we could do a whole year of episodes on making things to print. So, generating those STL files. And we talked about what I use, Blender, Zbrush, every now and then Tinkercad or something else. But Trevor, what do you use? And then once you’re done, James, have you done any?

Trevor Sysock:
Fusion 360 is what I use to design. It’s a program made by Autodesk. It’s professional grade software, but they have a hobbyist license. It’s the same software you’d use if you had a CNC machine, or a lot of other capabilities there. It’s free for hobbyist, it’s neutered a little bit, but for 3D printing wise, the limitations they put in are pretty minimal and very reasonable.

Charles Edge:
Yeah.

Trevor Sysock:
And sorry, and that’s very much for mechanical style designs, not organic D&D minis and stuff like that. Zbrush and Blender would be better for that.

Charles Edge:
Yeah, the shaders and all the filters and all that. Yeah, I do feel like I tried to use Autodesk and I just got blown away, so I didn’t even bother with Fusion. But I’ll have to give it a second shot. How about you, James? Do you use any… Oh, go ahead.

Trevor Sysock:
Oh, there are a lot of… There’s YouTube videos and stuff like that. I learned just by watching people’s YouTube tutorials. There’s some really good ones and I can give you links, if you’d like, for the show notes.

Charles Edge:
Sure, that’d be awesome. You can just paste them in there.

James Smith:
We give you the power to make my job easier with the show notes.

Charles Edge:
How about you, James?

James Smith:
Look, so I haven’t delved into the making side yet. But back in uni, I did a lot of work with Blender back in the day. Just some basic animation. So, I think just purely from the perspective of I have used this tool, albeit years ago, and I’m probably going to try and use Blender for some of these for the next models. Just so that I at least know a little bit about the software and how to use it already, and go from there.

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Charles Edge:
I guess Marcus, that takes us to bonus question time. You want to do it?

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah, so the bonus question this time is, so 3D printing really changes the idea of ownership in a way. So, someone comes over and likes something you’ve printed, they can just kind of have it because it’s probably going to cost you 50 cents to print another. So, what other areas of life has technology changed the way you think of something? So, Trevor, do you want to-

Charles Edge:
And we can start with James because you have to go.

Marcus Ransom:
Oh, actually yes, James. Sorry, James.

James Smith:
So, for me, what I’m really excited about with 3D printing, even though I’ve had a bit of a break, but when I dive back into it, just the ability to see something that normally I’d have to hack my way around trying to fix something or can’t just head down to the hardware store to pick up something to fix something’s broken. To be able to actually say, “Well, you know what? I can actually just design and print and do that,” and just have that extra little skill of tinkering, kind of like woodworking or anything like that. Just to be able to go, “Oh, maybe I can actually improve this small little thing.” I’m always putting just coffee utensils just shoved in a corner somewhere. Oh, I can make it a little stand for those things. To be able to just instantly go and… Well, not instantly, but to be able to go and make something to solve a need that is custom for me, for my specific need, and not have to hack something into what I want it to do. That’s probably the way that technology is changing how I’m thinking about things.

Charles Edge:
Interesting.

Marcus Ransom:
What about you, Trevor?

Trevor Sysock:
The thing that came to me when I read this question was, I mentioned earlier, my youngest son wears hearing aids and he’s only three and a half years old. And before you can leave the hospital with a newborn in California, they have to have certain medical screenings, and one of them is an auditory test. They look at the brain waves and how your brain’s processing the sound. And so we knew when he was three days old that he potentially had a hearing problem. And we’re lucky because it’s very mild, and the hearing aids have been great for him and his language development has come along right where we would want it and everything else. But it’s the kind of problem that, without that medical advancement, 10 years ago, if he had been born with this problem, we probably wouldn’t have known about it until he was three, four, five years old and started having speech impediments and learning disabilities and developmental delays, right? And so just those medical screenings that we can do now can just be completely life changing. Language development is such a fundamental building block of every other skill you learn as you’re growing up, and using language and everything else. And so being able to kind of sidestep that problem just because he had this screening and whatever else, it made a huge impact on my life, and the life of my son.

Marcus Ransom:
My children went to a primary school that had a hearing facility in it that had a large percentage of the school had cochlear implants. And seeing the difference that that technology could make to those kids was unbelievable. And seeing the advances in that technology over the time we were at the school as well. And add to that, we’re in first-world countries here, so we have the ability to fund research and fund manufacturing. And then you think about technology being able to democratize that so that somebody in a less than first-world country can theoretically patents and businesses aside have access to that same technology without needing to be near an expensive hospital or research facility. That something like a 3D printer can be taken anywhere where there’s a source of power, and be able to produce parts that otherwise wouldn’t be able to get there. It’s really quite humbling when you step back and think about that side of things and realize when this technology can be used to actually make the world a nicer place rather than just filling the pockets of somebody who maybe even didn’t create a patent but actually just acquired one somewhere along the lines. What about you, Charles?

Charles Edge:
Yeah, I don’t have anything even remotely close to how awesome those are. I do have to say I give away probably 95% of what I print, whether it’s Easter and you print some really cool… Because Thingiverse is littered with super cool Easter eggs that you can print things that wouldn’t be possible with injection molding just because gravity and the way injection works and stuff. But intellectual property, I think, when I was working on the history book, I looked for the owners of certain images because I wanted to get permission to use them, and a lot of times I couldn’t find the owner so I would just make an image or an STL and print something that was similar to what they had published in order to be able to kind of get around that. And I worked with lawyers to make sure it was okay.
But I do think mentioning patents and who owns them or who creates them, it’s up to each creator to decide how to monetize or not to monetize to open source or copy left a creation. But I do think that as those, especially patents, not as much copyrights because they’re so much longer, expire, the world is just becoming a much flatter potentially place. But to get a hold of, like Trevor mentioned, PETG, you know can make PETG filament out of recycled bottles, right? And the idea that that other societies could potentially be transformed based on that kind of use of technology. Although, you’d have to paint it because it’d be, in my case, bright green from Mountain Dew or whatever. But-

Marcus Ransom:
But also the idea of abandoned wear as well. So, I restore and collect old motor scooters and the companies that built them no longer exist. And so trying to find people to produce reproduction parts where things don’t exist anymore. So, the idea of the person who owns something, sort of similar to the images that you were talking about, where the legal entity that owns the patent and the copyright actually doesn’t exist anymore and isn’t able to produce-

Charles Edge:
Oh, but you can guarantee that that patent is owned by somebody.

Marcus Ransom:
Exactly.

Charles Edge:
When legal entities disappear, somebody else ends up buying that patent.

Marcus Ransom:
Scenarios. So, the idea of Apple has decided to mark particular machines as vintage and obsolete and they’re no longer going to produce parts. So, therefore, those machines that are still useful for somebody, except for a small plastic part that has broken, now you can produce a part that isn’t breaching patent or breaching copyright because you’re not trying to replace that part, and you may have modified it’s not as good quality, the color is different, however you’ve managed to get around it. But being able to breathe life back into things and allow things to continue to be used and continue to be enjoyed that otherwise weren’t able to, is fascinating.

Charles Edge:
Yeah, I think it’s the opposite of an NFT.

Marcus Ransom:
Exactly. Which makes it even better.

Charles Edge:
Right. Well, thank you both so much for joining us for this episode. So, we’d like to take just a quick second to thank our sponsors, Kandji, Black Glove, and Mosyle. You guys are awesome. Thank you so much for your continued support. And we’d also love to thank all of the Patreons sponsors. We don’t read them out anymore, but we wish we did because it’s fun. So, thank you and hope you have a wonderful week and we look forward to seeing you next time.

Marcus Ransom:
See you later.

Charles Edge:
Bye.

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