Some significant failures recently in the 3D printing department. Inspired by Steve Holzberg’s (Biology) cancer prints, Linda Abraham (Biology) found a model of a rhinovirus for printing. Given the complexity of the model, and the intricately folded surface detail, we decided the Form 2 was the printer to use. Loaded up the clear resin and let it print.  The result:

Rhinovirus in Clear Resin

Mostly it worked fine, but the top of the model had problems. A strange rupture appeared in the sphere:

Failed Print

The anomaly coincided with, was caused by – or maybe left? – this cloudy residue in the tray:

Form 2 Fail

The tray was fresh out of the wrapper, and it was the very first run of clear, so I’m not sure exactly what caused the failure. In any case, the model is still perfectly usable, after a little filing to smooth out the jagged edges of the rip.

Meanwhile Max Mahoney (Chemistry) and Alex Hartigan (Student) continue to work on their 3D printed free energy surfaces project.  After something like 84 hours, the intricate nested conical structure, our largest print to date, began failing, and we pulled the plug on it to regroup (with 105 hours left on the print).

Ultimaker Fail

The center part of the model printed beautifully, and after some careful calculations to determine where things went wrong, Max set out to print the remainder of the model – in pink, since we ran out of white filament – with the idea of gluing them together somehow.


This one too is failing out on the margins. Support material configured as a tower seems to be the common failure point. Stay tuned…

Below is Alex Hartigan, a Folsom Lake College Engineering student preparing some Calculus III models he’s been developing in collaboration with Kevin Pipkin (Math) and that he printed on the new Form 2, which has gotten a lot of use lately, most recently with the Enabling the Future project.


Alex and I connected last semester, and finally got the chance to work together on this Math project. Alex has a lot of skills in 3D design and printing, as well as experience on the Form 1, and through the process of preparing the Calc models, he taught me a whole lot about the finer points of printing on the Form 2, including various layout tips, and the manual editing of supports.

The Form 2 models came out great:


The Ultimaker 2 ones, not so much, though the failure at least resulted in some interesting artifacts:


Best of all, Max Mahoney (Chemistry) dropped by, and we recruited Alex to work on the chemistry project we prototyped the other day. One of my favorite parts of working with students is learning from them, and I hope to learn a lot from Alex before he heads off to Sac State next fall.


The recent EpiPen controversy led to lots of good conversations this week with various faculty about “medical making,” either as a new class in our upcoming MAKR certificate, a semester-long sort of focus, similar to things like One Book, or as some focus within the larger construct of Making + Doing, which is an idea we’ve been kicking around as a way to intertwine making and service learning.  One of the projects that emerged from those conversation is Enabling the Future, an “amazing group of individuals from all over the world who are using their 3D printers to create free 3D printed hands and arms for those in need of an upper limb assistive device.”

Jennifer Kraemer (ECE) is interested in working such a project into the Making in ECE course she’s developing, so we decided to print up one of the hand systems, specifically the Raptor Reloaded. We set up a job on both the Ultimaker 2 Extended+ and the Form 2, so as to compare time and print quality.

A Tale of Two Printers

11ish hours later for the Ultimaker…

Raptor Reloaded on the Ultimaker

8ish hours later for the Form 2…

Raptor Reloaded on the Form 2

Here’s the initial build of the Form 2 version. The Form 2 resin creates a really nice finished product that takes well to fine tuning with a file.

Initial Assembly

Here’s the initial build of the Ultimaker version.

Initial Assembly - Ultimaker

I still need to get the screws and wire for the “tendons” to finish them up, but the initial results are promising.

Finally had the chance to set up the new Form 2 and give it a go.  Met Max Mahoney (Chemistry) in the Innovation Center and we walked through the quick start guide.


Once we got our head around the setup and leveling, we set up a print job. Originally, we planned to print Max’s molecule, but decided instead to try a set of some small parts from the OpenBCI headset.  The software complained about some problems with the STL files, and then offered to automatically fix them, so we allowed it to.


The Form 2 has an interesting way of laying out objects, placing them all at a jaunty angle and adding a bunch of lattice-like scaffolding for support.  There was a slight hiccup with the firmware update, but that was solved after a message to the Form 2 support folks.  The solution was to download the new firmware and then select it, rather than letting the software automatically do that.  Suggestion to FormLabs: Put a link to download the latest firmware on your support site, which would save calls/emails to support personnel.

Anyhow, the printer has a nice touchscreen interface, and navigating various functions is generally intuitive, though the network information – the printer can connect via Wi-Fi (admittedly in Beta) and Ethernet – is spotty and could use some work.  Specifically, there don’t seem to be any diagnostics or deeper information about network connectivity, or a way really to know that the machine is able to get out to the Internet.  In our college network environment, those kinds of diagnostic tools are crucial, as it is essentially a nightmare to get any device connected to the network.  After connecting an Ethernet cable, the only information available was that the Form 2 received an IP lease.  On the Wi-Fi side, I was not able to manually enter the name of the one hidden network available at the college that uses authentication simple enough to allow connection of strange devices.  Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a way to trigger the leveling process except to wait for the machine to squawk about being out of level.  It would be nice to be able to just trigger that process from the menu system.  I hope those issues can be addressed at some point, but we were able to work around them and get the first print job uploaded.


The printer ran the job, taking about 2.5 hours, and I streamed it live via the OpenBroadcaster setup.  Post processing takes some getting used to, and involves nitrile gloves and bathing the parts in isopropyl alcohol at the finishing station.  The print was a mixed success – some parts printed fine, and others were less than complete.  My suspicion as that the “automatically fix the files?” part of the process didn’t actually work properly.


I do quite like that the printer sent me an email when the job was completed.  My plan is to fix the files prior to importing them into PreForm, and then run the job again to try and get a better result. All in all, not bad for a first go, and we learned a lot about the process. Always be prototyping!