Print your 3D CAD models on a $750 3D printer

June 30, 2009

Maybe you thought – like me – that a 3D printer which could produce 3D models by printing layers of plastics cost ten thousands of dollars. Well, not neccessarily.

A group of enthusiasts invented an “open source” 3D printer which you can build yourself. And it will cost you a mere 750 USD in parts (or 2.500 USD as a complete assembled version if you are lazy enough to not do it yourself). They call it “MakerBot“. This miracle uses the same technology – layered drops of melted plastic – as the commercial 3D printers. MakerBot can use the plastic materials ABS, HDPE or PLA. The maximum size of a 3D object it can print is 10 × 10 × 12 cm with the resolution of 0.085 mm.

From the software side, it understands the STL file format so you can directly use 3D parts from Inventor or AutoCAD.

And now an obvious question – if MakerBot can produce (“print”) really any 3D model, with its internal structures, can it also produce a … MakerBot?

See the MakerBot video:

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Inventor Fusion – free download

June 26, 2009

The long awaited moment has arrived – Autodesk Inventor Fusion – is now available for download on the Autodesk Labs web (the original http://www.inventorfusion.com address is now redirected).

This technology preview version of Inventor Fusion is free and it is time-bombed to January 2010. It seems that it is not available for everyone – the download is limited to the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States (yes, Italy is there this time).

I am delighted that my blog posting Inventor Fusion – almost nuclear is listed as press coverage on the Fusion homepage. But back to the software.

The download is surprisingly small (178MB!, compare it to the 7GB of Inventor setup) and the installer runs smoothly. I have installed it on my Inventor machine but I think that Fusion does not require Inventor to be installed. In any case, Fusion is not an addon for Inventor, it is a separate piece of software which does not alter your existing Inventor installation (if any). I have tried the direct manipulation tools on some models and it seems to work right. The application interface is quite different, a little bit cryptic at the first glance, and you must change some of your habits to use it properly (e.g. mouse right press instead of click) but I agree that it allows to move forward very quickly. The transparent browser tree makes more space for your design on screen.

Full integration (“fusion”) of the parametric and direct modeling is still not there in this first version but the development is clearly going this way. A truly bi-directional fusion of these two methods will help a lot. I will be curious to test the combination of these methods on some larger and more complicated models. With the feature-free (history-free) editing methods working on any dumb solid, it also makes more sense now why Autodesk added all the import file formats to Inventor.

Inventor Fusion (developed for two years under the codename Freeway) is a very promising 3D CAD software which has good chances to change the way we use Inventor today. And I really hope Inventor Fusion functionality will eventually fuse into standard Inventor.