What is it?

This is a CEL Robox. An entry level 3D printer costing around £1,000.

What can it do?

It uses technology very similar to inkjet printers to make 3-dimensional objects by squirting molten plastic from a very small nozzle. As the plastic emerges, it solidifies and is built up in layers. In this way a complex shape gradually appears.

How do you use it?

Simply load any compatible 3D model into the software controlling the machine. When you’re new to 3D printing, just click on ‘Make’ and the software and machine will do everything for you. As you get more experienced, you can make adjustments to basic settings to improve the quality and reliability of the print. There are a large number of finished 3D models available on the internet, or you can create your own using free 3D modelling software such as 123D(R) SketchUp or OpenSCAD. These programs require a little learning to get used to but, with a small amount of practice, most people who are familiar with computers can use them.

Why do we like it?

3D printing allows us to make an object of almost any shape we can imagine cheaply and easily. We can therefore create perfect looking parts for all the fantastic prototypes and models we like to make here at TechResort. We can print 3D name badges, parts for robots, our Minecraft designs and anything our imagination can come up with. Previously, we’d have had to make do with toilet rolls, sticky backed plastic and Will’s old pants (not that we don’t still use those too!)

Limitations?

Currently we can only print in plastic and one colour at a time (though more expensive models which can print in two or three colours are now available). Printing can also be very slow, sometimes taking several hours to make large and more complex shapes. It can be difficult to create precisely the right model for your 3D part so that the best printed result is obtained. Knowledge of how to do this can only be gained from experience.

Do I need any extra equipment to make it work?

A PC to control the printer. The plastic used is supplied in reels of filament consisting of just over 500g of material and costing about £40.

Do we run workshops with it?

We’re still learning how best to use our machine and hope to acquire a better one very soon. We expect to be running one off sessions in the New Year for older children and adults to see a 3D printer in action, try some of the tools we use, learn the tips and tricks we’ve learnt and maybe even 3D print their own design.