Tag Archives: Prusa Research

3D Printer History (1980-2020)

Back in 1980’s the concepts of 3D printing were invented and implemented with

  • Stereolithography (SLA) by Hideo Kodama (1980),
  • Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) by Scott Crump (1988), who later founded Stratasys, and
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) by Carl Deckard (1988).

Most approaches secured with patents by companies like Stratasys, like the famous US #5,121,329: Apparatus and Method for Creating Three-Dimensional Objects (applied 1989, granted 1992) and others were thereby inaccessible for innovation outside of the patent holders and due the high pricing also inaccessible for users – a period of stagnation happened.

Once the patents expired (~2009), and that’s truly a lesson against patents, a surge of innovation occured and the prices for 3D printers fell from 100K+ USD range below 3K USD for the same functionality and print quality.

Adrian Bowyer, a british academic, coined the term of RepRap (2005), the replicating rapid prototyping and designing 3D printers which can print parts for itself: self-replication. Hobbyists started to adapt the design and push it further, since all plans were Open Source aka Open Source Hardware, it was easy to improve and iterate the designs. Eventually the Prusa Mendel as developed by Josef Prusa and reduced overall complexity and his next iteration was most significant: Prusa i3 (2012). This third iteration became quasi standard for low cost 3D printers for the next years and his Prusa Research company surged. See also RepRap Principle and RepRap.org Blog Archive.

  • RepRap Darwin: XY head and Z bed, threaded rods based
  • RepRap Mendel & Huxley: XZ head and Y bed, threaded rods based
  • Prusa Mendel: XZ head and Y bed, threaded rods based
  • Prusa i3: XZ head and Y bed, laser cut XZ frame

Josef Prusa summarizing his history 2010-2019, representing part of the spirit of the RepRap movement:

2009-2013: MakerBot & Thingiverse

US-based MakerBot was at the beginning (2009) a major driving force to the Open Source 3D printing community as partially funded also by Adrian Bowyer and his wife. MakerBot also runs Thingiverse, the major repository of free 3D models and designs for 3D printing. As MakerBot struggled with sales, after receiving Venture Capital and later bought by Stratasys (2013) it left the Open Source principle at the same time Thingiverse struggled since to stay functional (2019). In 2020 Thingiverse was given some attention, it seems now taken care of better.

  • CupCake CNC: Z head, XY bed, laser cut wood frame
  • Thing-o-Matic: Z head, XY bed, laser cut wood frame
  • Replicator 2: XY head, Z bed, metal frame

2011-2016: Kickstarter Hype

With the expiration of patents held by Stratasys and other companies (2009-), the surge for Kickstarter-based 3D printers began, sub 1000 USD printers became widely available, but also many failures and plain scams happened. Printrbot started as Kickstarter and thrived for a few years as US-based 3D printer company, also Snapmaker and FORM 1 by Formlabs made a successful debut, while sub 100 USD 3D printer like MakiBox, metal Eventorbot or slick Buccaneer failed at different stages.

2018: Year of Chinese 3D Printers

In 2016-2018 chinese manufacturers (Geeetech, Creality, Anycubic, FLSUN, TEVO, CTC etc.) started to develop Prusa i3-like machines and the companies started to copy each others parts and improvements at a rapid pace. As a result, many small US companies, like Printrbot, which contributed significantly to the Open Source movement, closed doors for good (2018).

A big game changer was Ender 3 as manufactured by Creality, priced at USD 150-200 incl. shipment, providing excellent printing quality, at a price which was hard to compete by anyone else. Notable was, Creality open sourced Ender 3 entirely, as the Open Source community built up pressure to chinese manufacturers which spit out each month a new Prusa i3 derivative (e.g. different build volumes, slight improvements of extruders etc) back in 2018/2019.

As a side note, the chinese manufactured 3D printer broke the RepRap principle and used other means to produce their parts, while Prusa Research has a 3D printer farm to manufacture their parts.

Prusa Research 3D printer farm (2018)

Western Innovation & Chinese Manufacturing

Mosquito hotend by Slice Engineering (2018) Closed Source, Patent Pending

It became obvious the past years (2010-2019), that true innovation still remained in the west, Czech-based Prusa Research, Denmark-based RepRap.me with Diamond Hotend (3-in-1 and 5-in-1), or UK-based E3D or US-based Slice Engineering with their hotends and extruder technology, and the chinese manufacturer which cloned or copied the Closed- and Open-Source designs within weeks and sold at fraction of the price as by the original inventors. Often chinese manufactures tried to simplify hotend designs and compromised significant features – to copy a design didn’t mean the design was understood.

E3D Hotend Timeline: E3D V4, V5, Kraken, Chimera, Cyclops, V6, Lite6, Titan Aero, Titan Aqua, Hemera (2013-2020)

As pointed out, Creality, one of the big chinese 3D printer manufacturer, started to adapt and join the Open Source Hardware movement, with the release of the Ender 3 source files and get properly certified – time will tell – as of end of 2019 – if they stay true to their commitment, and whether other chinese 3D printer manufacturer follow and become also actual innovators.

In late 2020 Creality announced a belt-based printer named CR-30 aka 3DPrintMill as a result of collaboration with Naomi Wu and acknowledging all the previous research of developers like Bill Steele and Karl Brown (White Knight Belt) the printer is based on – and renewed their commitment to Open Source the CR-30 – a nice development.

See also at RepRap Principle, RepRap.org Blog Archive and RepRap Magazine Archive to read about early RepRap movement (2000-2010).


That’s it.

Misc: Formnext 2019 Videos

A few worthwhile videos done by 3DMN (3D Maker Noob), Vector 3D (Adam) and others at Formnext 2019. I will update this post as more interesting videos become available.

  • 2019/12/11: added 3DMN Trilab DeltiQ 2 video
  • 2019/12/02: added Joel’s (3D Printing Nerd) Formnext 2019 video

3DMN: BCN3D Epsilon

BCN3D Epsilon by BCN3D:

  • build volume: 420 x 300 x 400mm
  • dual independent extruders / printheads (IDEX)
  • price: 7000 EUR

3DMN: Craftbot’s Flow Generation

Craftbot Flow Generation:

  • dual independent extruders / printheads (IDEX)
  • build volume: 425 x 250 x 250-400mm
  • price: 3200-4000 EUR (plus VAT)

3DMN: Trilab DeltiQ 2 (Delta)

Trilab DeltiQ 2 (Delta) specifications:

  • build volume: 250mm diameter with 300m height
  • bowden style, optionally direct drive style setup (Trilab FlexPrint)
  • price: 2600 EUR (minimal configuration)

Vector 3D: Continuous Carbon Fibre by Anisoprint

Anisoprint mixes Nylon, PC, PLA, TPU and PETG with carbon fibres (CCF) in their continueous 3D printing procedure.

Vector 3D: Dyze Design & Craftbot

Dyze Design: High volume printing from pellets with 1-5mm large nozzles.
Craftbot: Briefly discusses “Craftbot Flow Generation” 3D printer series, not very informative (sales talk).

Vector 3D: More of Formnext 2019

  • Tiertime X5 by Tiertime: automatic bed switching
  • Prusa Mini by Prusa Research: low cost Prusa printer at 380 EUR
  • Phrozen by Phrozen3D: DLP printer
  • Raise E2 by Raise3D: dual independent printheads (IDEX)
  • BuildTak: build sheets / platforms
  • The Box by BLB Industries : really printing big > 1000mm with 1-14mm nozzles with pellets

Vector 3D: Best of Formnext 2019: FL 300 by FuseLAB

FL 300 Revolving Extruder

Adam from Vector 3D select the FL 300 by FuseLAB as “best of”:

  • revolving filament extruder (proprietary, patent pending)
  • dual printheads
  • price ~7000 EUR

It surely is an interesting design, but I wonder what this additional complexity adds in actual print quality.

3DNatives: Top 5 (Industrial) 3D Printers

  1. AM Polar i2 by DP Polar: rotating platform
  2. C3600 Ultimate by 3DCeram: ceramic printing
  3. Meltio M450 by Meltio: metal powder & wire printing
  4. T3500 by Tractus3D: huge delta, FDM
  5. LASERTEC 125 BY DMG Mori: 5 axis milling combined with direct energy deposition

3DNatives: Top 5 3D Printing Applications

  1. 3D printed boat by Autodesk, endless fiber & resin
  2. 3D printed car by BAC & DSM, carbon fiber & graphine
  3. 3D printed robot by 3DGence: PEEK, Nylon and PLA
  4. 3D printed bike by VMR: SLM metal printing
  5. 3D printed dinosaur by Lincsolution: SLA printed

igus: 3D Printed Wear Parts

igus: more infomercial, yet informative: wear resistant filament / prints (e.g. gears) with their own polymer mixture called “iglidur”, optionally also food save.

3D Alliances: Xact Metal

XM200C by Xact Metal:

  • SLM (Selective Laser Melting), metal powder based
  • build volume: 127 x 127 x 127mm
  • price 90K EUR (considered low-cost 2019/12)

3D Printing Nerd: Formnext 2019

  • Craftbot Glow Generation: closer look at dual independent extruders (IDEX)
  • DyeMension: eye wear with powder bed printing (SLS) and other applications
  • Raise3D: Raise3D E2 also IDEX
  • Desktop Metal: Desktop Metal Fiber contineous carbon fiber mixed with polymer, priced at 35K USD / year; Desktop Metal Shop System, binder jetting at 1600dpi (SLS)
  • BCN3D: closer look to Epsilon (IDEX) also presenting their BCN3D Cura with cloud printing
  • Loctite: resins and bonding polymers

That’s it.

Misc: Formnext 2019 aka “just too much for one day”

I decided to visit Formnext 2019 in Frankfurt (Germany) November 20, 2019. And to give you the essence first, it was too much – 800 exhibitors in two larges halls each with 2 floors – one day is not enough, and others told me, not even two days is enough to have time to absorb what has been shown at this exhibition.

Metal Printing: one of the huge topics of Formnext 2019 was . . . metal printing aka “no more plastic”, it seemed like the motto for 2019, in the corporate sense of it.

The printers were huge, car or even tractor sized 3D printers.

The kind of faceless corporate world:

Ultimaker booth

Ultimaker: So I spotted Ultimaker booth, and asked for “Daid”, nobody seemed to know, but “David” was known (as author and driving force of Cura) but not there, as he left the company 2 months ago I was told – either way, I spoke with Roger Bergs and expressed my gratitude for Cura being Open Source and he replied: “you know, we come from there, it’s part of our company culture” . . . nice to see such a commitment to the Open Source, especially compared to the next:

MakerBot: . . . and to my surprise, there was a mid-sized booth of MakerBot, the owner of the struggling Thingiverse, on the brink of collapse. After some brief delay, I was able to talk to Jason Chan, responsible for Thingiverse who was on site, and we had a brief talk:

MakerBot booth
  • I acknowledged the role MakerBot played in early days of 3D printer development in contrast to the later abandonment of the Open Source principle with the acquisation by Stratasys . . .
  • I pointed out how important Thingiverse was and still is for existing projects, which still reference the STL files on Thingiverse and if it were to disappear it would be devastating and break many projects out there (not all migrated to github or other 3D model repos)
  • further I expressed my experience about other the 3D model repositories being functionally inferior compared to Thingiverse
  • Thingiverse was unbearable slow and unreliable – Jason acknowledged and confirmed my concerns of the current functionality of the site
  • Jason responded as following:
    • only 2 web developers are assigned to Thingiverse maintenance as of 2019/11
    • there is a backlog or debt of problems unaddressed for the years and MakerBot is aware of it (to the public it seemed nobody cares at MakerBot)
    • Thingiverse is costly running it, and provides no (significant) income
    • there are commitments within MakerBot to reboot Thingiverse and fix all the backend issues and resolve the “slowness” of the site (that has been said before, nothing happened – just check @makerbot Twitter account)
    • development of a financially sustainable foundation for Thingiverse, means, to create income – how this is planned he didn’t wanted to reveal in more details
    • MakerBot kind of was surprised of the immense success of Thingiverse of the past years

Josef Prusa: While visiting Hall 11, I came across Josef Prusa walking alone, and I just briefly shared my admiration for his success by combining Open Source and business to a self-sustaining model. I later visited the Prusa Research booth, and it was packed with visitors and and catched this short video showing Prusa Mini in action:

BuildTak: Just a brief talk with Igor Gomes, about their new products and shared a bit of my stuff as laid out on this web-site.

Creality booth

Creality: . . . and there it was, a tiny small booth of Creality – 4 or 5 shy representatives sitting there, and I walked toward them and greeted them in english, and a smile rushed unto their faces (to my surprise), and I expressed my thankfulness of their move to Open Source the Ender 3 entirely, that this move or gesture really was acknowledged in the Open Hardware and 3D printing community in the “West”. In a way it was bizarre, there was this small booth, while in reality, this company had more impact than perhaps the rest of the exhibitors of the entire hall – nobody else ships as many 3D printers as this company as of 2019.

Misc Small Chinese Exhibitors:

Too little time to explore their products in more depth.

E3D Online: Just briefly glanced at their booth, as I watched already videos online of their tool changer, and I was already significantly exhausted.

E3D Online: Tool changing with metalbrush to clean the changing toolhead

NinjaTek: just passing by . . .

FelixPrinters: . . . also too little time and openness left from my side cut this visit short, but their printers looked very well thought out.

Belts

Printing Big

Misc Perls

Anyway, after 7 hours I was exhausted from all the impressions – it was too much of visual stimulis and constant noise – and I left the exhibition and headed back to Switzerland by train again, and arrive at midnight finally – it was worth my time.

That’s it.