Mike Parks

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Howdy. Damn you software, damn you!


OS X Workflow for Printing 3D Objects with PrintrBot Simple

I bought into the Apple ecosystem (somewhat begrudgingly) to get into IOS development. Needless to say that dream is still on hold, trumped by new fascinations such as 3D printing. With lots of maker applications requiring WIndows or Linux, you might feel the need for a second mortgage in order to have tools to do anything other than iOS dev. Short of running a Virtual Machine on the old MacBook, here is an OSX-based, 3D printing workflow that my daughter and I use to print out objects at PaxSpace:

  1. iDraw: Both an OS X and iPad version exist. We use this sketch out the design first. We set the canvas size to 100mm to 100mm so we don't forget and have to worry about scaling later. Unfortunately iDraw is not free at $25 for OS X and $9 for iOS. The goal here is to export an SVG file that we can use in step #2.
    1. SketchUp If building something that needs a little more exacting tolerance we are using Sketchup with an add-on extension to allow us to export to STL files directly.
  2. 123D Design: Next we need to import our SVG into 123D Design as a solid. Then we extrude to the desired Z-dimension. It is somewhat easy if the thing you are printing is going to be the same height. Though it is possible to extrude different heights depending how you initially drew your object in iDraw. Then we export the STL file once done.
  3. Drag the STL file onto a thumb drive.
  4. Startup the PaxSpace computer that is connected to the PrintrBot Simple. Ensure to plug in the power cord and micro-USB into the PrintrBot control board. Also turn on the power supply driving the fan on the heat sink.
  5. Once the Linux box is booted, open a terminal and type "repetierHost"
  6. Hit the "Connect" button in Repetier Host.
  7. Plug in the USB thumb drive, and click and drag your STL file from your thumb drive into the 3D workspace in Repetier Host.
  8. Under "Object Placement" ensure the file was centered, if not, click on the "Center Object" button.
  9. Click on the "Slicer" tab and click on the "Slice with Slic3r" button. This will generate the beautiful gcode needed to drive the printer.
  10. In Repetier Host, head over to "Manual Control" and turn on the Heat On for the Extruder. Once it hits 200C then move on to the next step.
  11. Feed in some PLA print material and gently sit it on the gear teeth of the feed mechanism. In Repetier Host ciick the "Extrude" arrow until material begins to come through the hot end. You may need to hit the Extrude button a few times.
  12. Now we're ready to print. Click on "Run Job" button and let the magic happen.
  13. You can watch the print time ETA so you know how long you have to wait. Be sure not to stray too far from printer so as to ensure the spool of print material doesn't get jammed, needs to unspool smoothly.
  14. Once done you can using something with a straight edge such as pocket knife to pry the object off the printer bed.
  15. Go back into Repetier host and turn the "Heat On" for the extruder again. Once it hits 200C then click the "Retract" button until the print material is clear. You may need to hit the Retract button a few times.
  16. Clear your STL file.
  17. Click "Disconnect" in Repetier Host.
  18. Disconnect the DC power cable and micro-USB cable from the PrintrBot Simple. Turn off the external DC power supply driving the heat sink fan. Shutdown the computer.
  19. If necessary clean up the print bed, remove the skirting for example. Tape may need to be replaced as well.
  20. Enjoy your doohickey!

Thanks to the gents at PaxSpace for setting up and tweaking the settings in Repetier Host so that is as simple as possible. If I missed a critical step, let me know!