3D Printing


Photocentric3D Clear Flex UV Resin


I had a recent project that I have been printing in Ninjaflex on my FDM printer and after testing the D7 printer I thought it would be nice to print some high quality flexible resin prints. The first flexible resin I tried did not do so well so after some more searching I came across the Photocentric3D DLP Resin page. I had looked at their Daylight printers before but did not realize they had started to make DLP (UV) resin. They happen to have Clear (comes in a variety of colors) Flex in the UV / DLP form which is exactly what I was looking for so I ordered a bottle to try. It arrived after a short delay (because it was still being beta tested) in good condition and packed well.

“Flexible UV polymers are ideal for making objects where you want flexibility, but still a hard object. Objects will compress and deflect enough to bend and return. They exhibit low tensile shear properties and some elongation. Objects can be bent and compressed with some force.”


The bottle was double bagged then wrapped in lots of nice bubblewrap in a large box. The first thing I noticed was the bottle. I like the 1 Liter size and the bottle has a nice no-drip style lid that is easy to pour.


The first thing I had to do was find good settings for the D7 printer I was testing on. Since the resin was clear I started with the settings I used for the FTD Clear IB resin. It didn’t cure all the way and separated from the build platform so I increased the cure time to 30 seconds (with a 90 second base cure). After that every part I printed cured and stuck to the plate. You need to carefully remove the parts from the plate using a sharp scraper without going to crazy to keep from damaging the delicate (in my case) print. I enabled the Dimming feature on NanoDLP at 35% with 10 Pixel outline for larger prints.

Post Processing

Note: Objects will have full strength only after full cure time. The directions I was given that worked out well are as follows: UV post curing in water for 5 minutes a side, wiping with IPA on a cloth and then curing dry under UV for 2 hours (minus amount of time spent in the water UV bath) gives the best end feel and properties. After I cured the parts for 2 hours they became more stable and flexible. I have a few parts I will be testing to see how it holds up in the near future.


I would give this resin a 5 out of 5 so far for printability and use.


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Melzie to Ramps Conversion

This is a copy of the instructions from http://beginner3dprinting.com which has been offline. There are no photos and I haven’t been in touch with the author yet since the website is offline but I have referenced it for reference.


General Info

This guide is intended for anyone who would like to convert their Duplicator i3 from Melzi to RAMPS. RAMPS is not the only board replacement available, but the only one that will be covered in this guide. The process is essentially the same for the other boards.

Parts Required

  • Wanhao Duplicator i3/Maker Select/Cocoon
  • Ramps 1.4 Board
  • Arduino Mega
  • 4 Stepper Drivers
  • 15 Jumpers (included with some ramps 1.4 boards)
  • 2 Pin Dupont Connectors
  • 2 4 Pin Dupont Connectors

Optional Parts

  • Raspberry PI
  • Ramps LCD/SD/Controller
  • Ramps Adapter plate for stock controller housing

Basic Concepts

This conversion is fairly straight forward project. Before you start I recommend familiarizing yourself with a few things:

Assemble Ramps 1.4

  1. Print or open the Ramps 1.4 PDF. This diagram will be very useful throughout the RAMPS conversion process.
  2. Inspect the Ramps 1.4 Board.
    The RAMPS 1.4 board I received had a few bent pins that required attention before mating it to the ARDUINO. Take a few moments and check both your RAMPS and Arduino Mega and make sure everything appears as it should.
  3. Follow steps 1-3 in the RAMPS pdf
    1. Install Jumpers for Stepper Drivers
      Install 3 Jumpers for each stepper driver to enable 1/16 micro stepping for each motor.Before:After:
    2. Connect the RAMPS board to the Arduino MEGA
      Place the Arduino MEGA onto a smooth clean work surface.
      Carefully align the two boards. The Ramps power connector should be centered over the arduino power connector.
      Slowly push the RAMPS 1.4 board down into the MEGA
    3. Install Stepper Drivers:
      • ATTENTION – It is very important to install your stepper drivers facing the correct direction. Failure to do so can and most likely will result in your drivers giving up the smoke.
      • Depending on the stepper drivers you purchased, you may be required to adhere the heatsinks to the boards.
        1 – Remove the adhesive backer and be careful not to contaminate the adhesive with finger oils.
        2- Place the heatsink over the chip and lightly press down. Making sure that the heatsink does not short out any of the exposed pins on the driver board.
    4. Each stepper driver has a small screw potentiometer. The stepper drivers should be installed into the RAMPS 1.4 board with the screws on the lcd controller side of the RAMPS 1.4 board.INCORRECT Stepper Driver OrientationCorrect Orientation
    5. Align the stepper driver with the terminals, facing the correct direction, and carefully push the driver down into place.
    6. Repeat these steps for each of the 4 Stepper drives. ( I recommend buying a few extra)

Disassemble Duplicator i3

  1. Disconnect the power cable from the back of your machine
  2. Remove the 12 screw securing the top of the controller enclosure. Do not lift the top yet.
    Remove the top three screws from the front cover.
    Remove the three screws from both sides of the cover.
    Remove the top three screws from the back cover.
  3. Slowly lift the front of the top enough to see the lcd cable.
  4. Disconnect the lcd cable from the lcd screen.
  5. Slowly remove the top of the enclosure
  6. Remove the four screw securing the MELZI board to the enclosure top.
  7. Carefully check that all of the wires are labelled and labelled correctly. Label any wires that are missing labels.
  8. Check and label all the wires coming from your power supply unit.
  9. I recommend taking some pictures of your MELZI Board, power supply and all of the wiring now just in case you have questions later on.
  10. Disconnect the wires from the power supply.
  11. Carefully remove the hot glue that is used to secure the connectors on the MELZI board.
  12. Disconnect all of the wires from the MELZI Board.
  13. Your Duplicator i3 is now ready to accept the new controller setup.

Connect Printer to RAMPS

  1. Connect the x y and z stepper motors to the RAMPS 1.4 setup
  2. Connect the Stepper motor into the E0 stepper connector
  3. Connect the Heated Bed to D8
  4. Connect the Hotend to D10
  5. Connect the Print Cooling fan into D9
  6. Connect the end-stops
    • X End Stop
    • Y End Stop
    • Z End Stop
  7. Connect the Hotend thermistor to T0
  8. Connect the Bed Thermistor to T1
  9. Connect the Power

Configure Firmware

  • Download Repetier Firmware Here
  • Download Arduino IDE
  • Configure and Flash Firmware
    • Open Repetier.ino using the Arduino IDE
    • Build the firmware
    • Flash the firmware onto the Arduino Mega using the IDE

Install/Configure Octoprint

Photo Gallery


Filament Friday: NinjaFlex Squishy Fun

So far in our Filament Fridays we’ve concentrated on rigid filaments that leave you with hard parts. This week, things are getting squishy with NinjaFlex – the most popular of the flexible filaments. NinjaFlex was originally created by Frenner Drives, a company that specializes in belt drive systems. The Frenner team discovered that one of the materials they used for making belts could be used for 3D printing also, and now we have NinjaFlex. The popularity of NinjaFlex helped Frenner split off the NinjaFlex brand into its own company: NinjaTek.

Flexible filaments fall into two classes of material: TPUs (Thermoplastic Polyurethanes) or TPEs (Thermoplastic Elastomers). These filaments need specific print requirements and more tuned-in settings to print correctly, as they will do everything they can to wiggle out of your extruder instead of printing.

While not giving a perfect surface quality, a tuned in machine can print NinjaFlex very well. Overhangs can be an issue along with stringing during jumps. Be careful printing flexibles on PEI build platforms, as you may end up with a hole in your coating. Using a little PVA based glue to coat your bed will provide a protective film. Bowden style extruders are also difficult to print flexibles with; if you are getting started, stick with direct drive.

Beyond just the fun of making rubbery models, NijaFlex can be thermally bonded to rigid materials like PLA or ABS. Dual extrusion prints can be made with both rigid and flexible elements. You can also create things like your own belt drives, tank treads, gaskets and more.

If there is one flexible filament to try, NinjaFlex is it.

Check back every Friday for weekly reviews on 3D printing filament.

If you have a filament you would like us to try out or are a producer of filament, email me at [email protected] and we will try to make it an upcoming installment of Filament Friday!


Filament Friday: Refil PET Helps Divert Plastic Bottles from Landfills

For our first Filament Friday, I brought you Refil’s Recycled ABS filament, an alternative to buying first-use plastics and creating more plastic waste with your 3D printing adventures. This week I’m back with another filament from Refil, their recycled PET. While not 100% recycled, this is a great use for some of the millions of plastic bottles we throw away every year.

Refil’s recycled PET is made of 90% recycled material from either blue or green bottles. PET is the material that most drinking bottles are made from. It’s food safe, easy for manufacturers to form, and is extremely durable. The problem is, its durability and popularity have left the world filled with plastic bottles. The PET Resin Association reports that 3.1 million tons of PET is produced yearly in the United States alone, with only about a 31% recycling rate. Turning some of that waste into your prints is a great way to remove it from the world’s landfills and oceans.

Bales of crushed PET Bottles from Matthewdikmans CC BY-SA 3.0

The sample spool of Refil PET that I received from their US reseller 3D Brooklyn is their green variant and the color is incredible. A translucent lime green, the color pops and made me smile as soon as I opened the box. The print quality just widened that smile. I was really impressed by how well the final print turned out. This time around, I used the Prusa I3 Mk2, which undoubtedly helped my results. The default PET profile provided with the I3 gave me a super clean print with no stringing, blobs, or other defects.

I’ve been incredibly pleased with the output quality of both of Refil’s filaments. While ABS and PET are easy to come by due to their popularity in the market, I hope Refil will have an easy time coming by other plastics they can recycle and bring to us in filament form.

Check back every Friday for weekly reviews on 3D printing filament.

If you have a filament you would like us to try out or are a producer of filament, email me at [email protected] and we will try to make it an upcoming installment of Filament Friday!


3 Crucial Steps Before You Manufacture Your Product

You are part of a new breed of entrepreneur: the startup generation who takes workhorse ideas and turns them into unicorns. Through your ideas, we are seeing manufactured products that are changing the world – from miniature drones to solar-powered water heaters to smart earplugs.

Now these products don’t just materialize. They take hard work, design expertise, multiple prototypes, and testing before you can even think about commercialization.

So how do the pros do it? Once your idea is complete on paper, what are the next steps for creating a functional prototype and commercial product without relying on “Shark Tank”-style funding? Here’s how:

Lock-in Your Prototype and Materials

Once you have an approved design file, you will want to create your first physical prototypes for testing. This helps minimize or potentially eliminate design flaws, quality issues, and other risks by optimizing your design prior to production.

Some entrepreneurs consider skipping the prototyping phase because of the upfront cost and time required, but this is a bad move. Without prototyping and testing prior to launch, promising products can fall victim to poor usability and design. Furthermore, prototyping is often crucial to lock in the design for manufacturability. Skipping this step could mean that undiscovered problems remain hidden until it is too late and addressing them would prove too expensive and delay the product’s launch.

A number of methods can be used to create prototype parts, including modeling, 3D printing, CNC machining, and rapid injection molding. Each method serves a distinct purpose. Some help make very early prototyping concept models to test form, fit and function, others can make short-run production that bridges the prototype-to-production gap easier, and some are best saved for manufacturing finished parts.

You may use multiple methods before you get to your end product. Understanding how and why you use each method will improve your design and save time in the process:


Depending on your product, you might create a physical working scale model, an appearance model, or a computer-based virtual model. This is most common for testing aspects of a product against user requirements or base functionality.

3D Printing

Additive manufacturing works well for intricate designs and multipart assemblies. Four primary methods include stereolithography (SL) for thermoplastic-like parts; selective laser sintering (SLS) for industrial-grade nylon components; fused deposition modeling (FDM) for extrusion-based thermoplastic parts; and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) for dense metal production. 3D printing is ideal for rapid prototyping and testing, and it accelerates development because it does not require the creation of molds. In some instances, 3D printing can also be used to build small quantities of functional, end-use parts.

CNC Machining

Milling and turning parts are subtractive manufacturing processes. It is ideal for form and fit testing, functional testing, and end-use parts. It is also a good approach for making jigs and fixtures when you are ready to tool up for production. CNC machines are compatible with many different plastic and metal materials so you can often create prototypes in the actual materials you would use for the end product.

Injection Molding

Molds, in addition to high-volume production, can be used for functional prototyping, bridge tooling, and low- and high-volume end-use parts. By using aluminum tooling, tens of thousands of parts can be made from hundreds of different materials, whether they are thermoplastic resins, liquid silicone rubber, or metal. This flexibility makes injection molding an ideal solution for low-volume production once a product has been tested and has a final design.

A good manufacturing partner will be able to look at your designs and offer advice on design modifications for better production efficiencies, as well as offer ideas on the best materials and methods.

Compare Costs and Keep Things Local

When looking for a manufacturing partner, most entrepreneurs assume that it is cheapest to look to China. And they would be right if volumes are very high and “per unit” costs are the most important aspect of your upfront costs. However, they are not and here’s why:

Be Realistic About Your Volumes

When starting out, entrepreneurs can lose sight of the market and potential sales in the excitement of the product launch. Before deciding on a first production run volume, take certain factors into consideration, like sales cycles, inventory costs, and production speed. Do not be pressured into ordering too much too soon because of volume pricing. Consider a prototyping partner or on-demand manufacturing that can do your first, short-run manufacturing to reduce upfront financial and design risks.

Know Your Total Costs

Most traditional manufacturers that use steel tooling have high minimum-order volumes – often many more than you will need for a first run, and probably even more that you will need in the first two years. To understand your true costs, you need to calculate total production costs (TPC) based on actual order volume. TPC takes into account the cost of tooling, physical units, shipping, inventory/storage, potential write-offs, etc. In many cases, a cheaper “per unit” cost that requires a high mold cost and high order volume can lead to a higher TPC, which is a poor financial move at the outset when demand is unpredictable.

Explore Crowdfunding or Apply for Grants

Many early-stage businesses have had success funding production manufacturing with a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, but it is also worth exploring grants and other partnerships with established manufacturers. At Proto Labs we offer a service grant called the Cool Idea! Award, which helps promising startups manufacture prototypes or even kick off production. These alternative funding methods can also spark product interest and help you analyze market demand.

Do Some Comparison Shopping

Take prototyping services and support into consideration, and look at material availability and overall costs along with the ability to do small runs at competitive pricing. Look for a true partner that can support you through each phase of your product life cycle, not just the one you hope to be with two years from now if everything goes gangbusters.

Get Early Design Feedback

The way to prototype efficiently and cost-effectively is to find a manufacturing partner that will provide you with manufacturability analysis and feedback early and often during the prototyping phase so the process is efficient and affordable.

Get Some Good Advice

When you have your first working prototypes in hand, you want solid, truthful advice on what will make it a best seller. Does it work as expected and have the price right? How do we create rapid demand on par with the latest Fitbit or hoverboard?

Do not be afraid to listen to others, whether it is your manufacturing partner, your investors, your marketing team, or your prospective customers. Chances are that many of these teams, and even some of your employees, have been through this before, and they have perspective on factors of the business that might be new to you.

Test with Actual Customers

It is easy to test products with friends and family members, but entrepreneurs often forget that this is a biased audience. No matter how they feel about a product, they are unlikely to give you a completely honest opinion. If you’ve seen the show “All-American Makers,” you know that they bring in unbiased potential buyers to test products and discuss price points. You should do the same.

Tap into Social Media

To get a lot of opinions in a short period of time, test the social media waters. Whether it is through a crowdfunding campaign or just asking your local neighborhood group to test your products out, you can get more data, more quickly by leveraging your social networks.

Move Forward

After you have found the right manufacturing partner, created cost-effective prototypes, and tested your approved design with stakeholders to refine your new product, you are finally ready to go to market. Congratulations – you made it through phase one of creating a new product!