How to Turn Your 2D Logo Into a 3D Print Using Rhino

Everyday we see logos wherever we go. Whether it’s a billboard, flyer, or even a blimp, there’s a good chance it has a logo. One place logos are appearing even more is on 3D prints. 3D printing makes it possible to design and print a variety of objects with a logo stamped right on it. Although it sounds complicated to turn a logo into a 3D print, the process is easy!

You may have seen our previous tutorial on turning a logo into a 3D print, but over the years we’ve come up with even more tips to help your logo shine. In this updated tutorial, you’ll learn how to take a logo from an image to a 3D print.  In this demonstration we’re going to use Rhinoceros 3D, but there many tools including SolidWorksTinkercadFusion 360, or Onshape that could achieve a similar result.

Before you begin, you will need a vector file of your logo (usually in .ai, .dxf, .svg, or .eps format). If you don’t have a vector file, you can convert your raster file (.jpg, .png, .bmp) using an editor like Adobe Illustrator or Super Vectorizer. Online converters exist as well that automatically take your raster image and turn it into a vector image. In the tips and tricks section later, we will show you a third way to convert a raster file directly in Rhinoceros 3D!

How to Make a 3D Logo

Once you have your vector file, start Rhino 3D (or your CAD software of choice) and import your vector file. If your logo is flipped or upside down, you can use a simple mirror command to reorient the logo. Sometimes a vector file will leave a border when imported. Be sure to delete these border lines too! What you should be left with is the logo design you want to use.

Next, choose a shape you want your logo to live in. This can be whatever you want, so don’t be afraid to get creative! In our example, we are housing our re:3D logo inside a circle. Once you have your shape finalized, extrude it outward. The extrusion length should be around half to two-thirds the height of your logo. We will use this shape later to make a platform for our logo.

With your shape extruded, you now want to make your logo pop! You have a choice here, you can either extrude your logo outward or cut your logo inward. In our example, we extruded the re:3D logo out of the cylinder’s face. Be sure you don’t cut or extrude too far, or your logo will be hard to see on the final model. The example we have is a good distance for most logos if you’re unsure.

You now need to make your model solid. Although your logo may appear solid on screen, 3D slicing software will get confused if we don’t join together and solidify all the parts of our model. To join everything together, we perform either a boolean union or boolean difference to remove all the overlapping borders and make our model solid. This is important: if you extruded your logo from your shape, perform a boolean union. If you cut your logo into your shape, perform a boolean difference. Mixing these up could ruin the work you’ve put in so far!

Next, you need to rotate our shape how you want it to sit on a table. Rotate the model so the logo is facing slightly upward. Not only does this make it easier to see your logo, it also helps eliminate overhangs once you print it. Once you’ve positioned your logo how you would like it, look at your logo from the side and draw a horizontal line. Use Rhino’s trim command to cut through your shape and the cap command to seal the hole. For some CAD software, this step may look different.

You now have the basic shape of your tabletop logo! From this point, you can get creative and slice more off your model using the same trim and cap method. Depending on the design of your logo, you can use design features to support your model. For example, we use the shape of the re:3D hexagon to support our final model. Once you’re satisfied with your logo design, export it as a .stl file, slice it in your slicing software, and print it!

Here are a few tips and tricks we found when designing a logo print:

  • If you don’t have a vector file, you can use your CAD software to fix this! In Rhinoceros, import your logo by going to View → Background Bitmap → Place. This inserts your image on the plane and lets you trace out your logo using a sketch!
  • If you want your logo to sit up straight like a sign, extrude or cut your logo at an angle to eliminate any overhang issues.

A video of the process is also available below:

Still unsure about making your own 3D printed logo or looking for a more complicated design? Don’t worry, we can design and print your logo for you!

Happy Printing!

~Brian and Mike 🙂

Zero to Factory: Why We’re Sharing our Experiences Being Scrappy

Week 1

As an optimistic group of underdogs we firmly believe that anyone, anywhere, anytime, should have access to their own personal factory while controlling their supply chain. With this vision we launched re:3D Inc– a social enterprise committed to making human-scale 3D printing available to emerging markets.

Our flagship technology is the Gigabot, an open-source 3D printer, which cost per scale remains one of the most affordable industrial solutions on the market. We launched Gigabot on Kickstarter during participation in Start-Up Chile, which catalyzed our sales and gave us a small nest egg to get started. However, producing & shipping a toilet-sized 3D printer required many considerations not originally scoped in the budget that drove our initial price-point. Rather, we found ourselves investing as much energy into standing up a garage-based factory that is now scaling into a proper warehouse in Houston as well as a satellite office in Austin. Wanting to save money on your business utilities? Have a look at sites that offer business electricity comparison deals and see if you can start saving money on your bills.

With an ultimate goal to enable Gigabot to 3D print from plastic trash, we’ve had to work hard to preserve our social genesis despite being lean. One reflection of our passion for impact is though the Gigaprize, whereby we donate one Gigabot for every 100 sales to an organization working to make-a-difference through 3D printing.

Why we are starting a blog on Medium:

While re:3D keeps a blog that highlights our activities in the affordable, large-scale 3D printing domain, we recognize that the our experience is part of a larger narrative. Our story has admittedly been both physically & emotionally taxing as we continue to invest our savings, blood, tears, sleep, ruined clothes & a lot of giggles into building our future. By leveraging the reach of Medium we humbly submit our successes & failures for consideration to others pursuing bootstrapping a hardware company.

Beginning today, and subsequently for the next 52 weeks, we intend to share our open-source, socially-focused, boot-strapped experiences in hardware. Although initially we’ll be offering ourselves as a case study in crowdsourcing, inventory management, quality controls, export compliance, contracting, new tech sales, pitching, and customer support, we’re hoping to feature guests posts from other hardware veterans as well. Other businesses looking to improve the management of their facilities and make other aspects of their operations more efficient may want to consider implementing Axxerion’s computerized maintenance management system to do this.

We welcome requests on future topics, offers to guest blog, and feedback on whether we should continue documenting our lessons learned once the series concludes!

The GSA Advantage: Part 1

As a self-identified “knower of totally random facts” I pride myself on the amount of odd pieces of information that happens to be floating around in my brain.  And while I did have some idea about what GSA was; going through the process of getting awarded a GSA Contract for re:3D was one heck of a learning experience.

So lets start simple, what is the GSA?

The General Services Administration (GSA) is an agency within the federal government that helps the government to function.  That is their job in the most basic and simple terms I could come up with.  Government real estate (leasing and management), government acquisition services (procurement and contracting), plus best practices and policy guidance, all of these things fall under the GSA, and I am sure there are loads of other functions that I don’t even know about.

I was most familiar with the GSA through their GSA Auction website.  Do you ever wonder where you can buy an airplane, old refrigerators, and 5 barrels of spent brass shell casings? 

gsaauctions

Why the answer is simple – bid on it, the GSA is selling!!  GSAAuction.gov sells anything and everything that the federal government and it’s agencies no longer want.  I personally enjoy the listings for old lighthouses, I mean – who doesn’t want to own a lighthouse? My favorite listing by far was the lighthouse for sale (which had multiple bidders!) that had a Coast Guard maintained fog horn which operated a decibels “higher then recommended for the human body” – It would be like music to my ears as I sipped margaritas in my lighthouse cupola.

Why was it important for re:3D to get onto a GSA Contract?

Selling to the federal government is difficult.  We recognized that we had more and more interest from different federal agencies who wanted to purchase Gigabot.  These purchases took a long time, because the government buyer would have to get through a lot of red tape and a lot of different hoops in order to purchase our products.  So in the interest of saving our buyers time, we took on the task of becoming a government contractor and getting on a Multiple Award Schedule.

What is a Multiple Award Schedule?

A Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) is basically a category that government contractors apply to sell in.  For instance, re:3D is in Schedule 36. Schedule 36 is The Office, Imaging, and Document Solutions category, and within each schedule are sub-categories or Special Item Numbers (SIN), in our case SIN: 51.400 – 3D Printing Solutions. So to put it all together, and really test our acronyms – re:3D is a MAS 36 SIN 51.400 GSA Contract Holder – hooray!

What does that mean for me?

The answer to that, as always, is: it depends.

Are you just a person, with no government connections? Then this post is really just informative, and won’t have any real bearing in your day-to-day life, but stay tuned because I will follow-up with an even more in-depth meat and potatoes post about getting a government contract -real edge of your seat reading.

Are you part of a government agency or subcontractor who is allowed to purchase products through GSA? Do you need a Gigabot 3D Printer? Then you’re in luck!

The reason companies are required to go through the GSA contract procedures are numerous, but the most important one for the government is the guarantee that the government buyers are getting the best price possible.  Which means that all pricing of all products is pre-negotiated with your assigned GSA Contracting Officer (Hi, John!).

Contract awardees (that’s us!) are then able to upload their products onto the GSA Advantage website (gsaadvantage.gov), think of it as Amazon for the federal government.  Government buyers can then search for products to purchase, everything from pens, to desks, to 3D Printers can be purchased through the GSA Advantage website.

Through the GSA Advantage we have created Federal Packages, available only through GSA.  These packages include Gigabot (Standard, XL, XLT), the wheeled cart, PrintinZ, Simplify3D, 3 Year Warranty, and CONUS shipping.  Printing HUGE has never been easier to attain for government buyers!

Over the next year we are going to be putting a lot of effort to marketing our products to government buyers.  It isn’t enough just to get onto a Schedule Contract, you actually have to sell if you want to keep your contract.  Our goal is to look for opportunities to speak and exhibit at government-centric events this year, with the hopes of talking to the right people to make some sales!

Look out for part two of my blog about GSA, where we will go a little bit more in depth about the process of getting onto a contract, everything from eOffer, to SIP, to SAM.gov.

Happy Printing!

~Mike

michael.straong@re3d.org

Show Us Your Print!

Customer Badge Campaign

Receive cool swag & recognition for your print milestones!

We’re awarding digital & physical patches to commemorate your 3D printing milestones on Gigabot in 2017! Simply email info@re3d.org with a link to your YouTube and/or Vimeo timelapse or a picture of your Viki & final print!

Winners will be announced on our forum (including the current record holder:)

Happy Printing!

~Samantha

Improving Your Manufacturing Equipment with Gigabot

Below is Gigamachinist Steve Johnson’s second blog on 3D printing for re:3D’s Gigabot fabrication shop.

Improving Your Manufacturing Equipment with Gigabot

by Steve Johnson

Sometimes, you have a product that works, but there is a way to improve it to make it work better.

A few months back, we added a 4th axis rotary table to our mill at re:3D. It has allowed us to begin to capitalize on the full milling envelope of our machine, allowing us to mill as much as 8 times more parts per program cycle, and reduced the need for multiple operations on some parts.

We quickly found a weak spot in our rotary table though. The table was designed without any seals to prevent shavings from entering the gearbox. As a result, we have had to disassemble the rotary table twice now in order to clean out aluminum shavings that had bound up in the worm gear. We decided this time, that we needed to find a solution for this issue, to keep our mill up and running longer between needed maintenance.

Once we had the rotary table apart, we found the area where the shaving were getting into the gearbox. There is a groove in the back of the table section, and a boss on the rotary body that rides inside the groove. But the fit between the two, once assembled, is very loose, and will allow anything smaller than .1 of an inch to pass through. Obviously we needed some type of o-ring, or gasket in order to seal this gap, without creating unwanted friction.

A few quick measurements, and Matthew headed to the computer to create a short profile on Solidworks, that would fill the gap. Using Ninja semi-flex filament from www.ninjatech.com, we made a first print of that profile on Gigabot, and took it to the shop to test fit. It was a little tight, so back to the computer to adjust a couple dimensions, and another short profile print. Once we had the right fit, we revolved the profile into a full circle on Solidworks, and 15 minutes later, we had a custom made flexible gasket that seals the rotary table from chips without creating drag on the axis motor.

gasket4

We found a problem. We imagined a solution. And with Gigabot, we made it a reality today.

gasket5

Now we are back up and running so that we can manufacture the parts for YOUR new Gigabot.

Happy Printing!

  • steve@re3d.org

The Pros & Cons(iderations) of Toilet-sized 3D Printing

3D printing large objects is a very rewarding experience; it is also an introduction to a magnified set of challenges that a user will face when designing and realizing his or her prints. To keep things simple, we’ll review some of the pros and cons of large-scale printing in a list format.

Pros:

Human Scale

The driving force behind Gigabot being so large was printing objects at a Human Scale. But what exactly does that mean? In our view, Human Scale means items that are sized to be useful and helpful in everyday life. An example of this is a compostable toilet, which has been one of the prints that we’ve always considered to be of utmost importance. At this scale, furniture, as seen below, can be printed. Tables, lamps, and even low cost-prosthetics all fit into the idea of Human Scale Prints.

Practical Functionality

In addition to the Human Scale benefit of large format 3D printing, Practical Functionality is also a key aspect. For example, to scale models of engine parts, hand-held devices, toys, newly designed mechanical components, and so many more items are useful for sales and visualization purposes. When the model is smaller than the real-world equivalent however, it is difficult to fully appreciate tolerances, and nuances in design. With a large volume for printing, items that are full sized can be fabricated and used for fit-checks, actual function, and testing purposes.

Strength

With larger prints that are a single object, greater strength can be achieved. This is due to the perimeters encapsulating the entire object and passing loads throughout without disruptions in the path. The Infill that is inside also assists in taking the load and spreading it through the entire print and thus reducing stress concentrations. This allows prints to be very strong in compression, and to a lesser extent, tension. Depending on the infill percentages used on a print, the forces necessary to cause damage may be well in excess of what an average adult could exert.

No Assembly Required

There are many instances where 3D printed objects are glued, melted, or mechanically held together to form larger pieces. One of the wonderful characteristics of having the ability to print in large format is that pre- and post-processes such as those can be eliminated. When printing smaller pieces for an item that will be assembled, there may need to be design work to add pegs and keys assist pieces in locking together. On the backend, using adhesives and other methods are time consuming and not always simple. The ability to fabricate a large object in one go helps to simplify the manufacturing process and save time.

Expanded Creativity and Capability

Art is on area where 3D printing shines when scale in involved. So many more beautiful details can be expressed or replicated in a piece that is large. For example, there have been several artists who have made pieces over 20 feet long by incorporating 3D printing into their skillset. Sculptures of dinosaurs with incredible skin detail have been cast by a lost wax process after using 3D printed pieces as the base of the work. (A process, I like to call Lost Plastic instead!) Full size busts of persons have been printed as well as spaceship simulators and functional robots. The possibilities for creating new items is endless!

Cons(iderations)

Importance of Bed Leveling

Keeping the bed of a 3D printer level is one of the most important aspects of getting a piece to be made well. Without proper leveling, corners may warp, objects may not stick to bed, and objects may have poor surface quality. This is true for any size printer, but it becomes more important when a larger surface is used. Imagine a 5 degree angle from one point of a bed plate to the other. If the bed plate was 15 inches long, the difference in height on the other side of the bed plate would be 1.31 inches. If the bed plate was 30 inches long, that vertical differential is now double at 2.62 inches which is much more dramatic. It demonstrates the importance of minimizing any angles and ensuring that the bed plate is as flat as possible

Learning New Slicing Profiles

One of the most complicated parts of 3D printing is learning about all the settings that are involved with making an object. I’ve listed several here, although there are many more that can be adjusted for any print. Learning how to adjust these setting for new sizes takes a little bit of practice and can make all the difference between a nice print and a great print.

Number of Solid Bottom and Top Layers

With smaller prints the number of Solid Bottom and Top Layers is typically two or three, depending on the infill percentage. Usually a decent number is about 15% which gives a nice structure inside the print and means that the solid layers will not sag very much when being printed on the infill. With larger prints, however, infills can at times be down to 1-2% leaving up to an inch between supporting infill. The first solid layer will usually droop between these sections and the next layers may not have good finishes. Increasing the number of solid layers will allow the print to have a much nicer finish as the bottom layers support the ones after them.

Number of Perimeters

The number of perimeters typically also increase with an increase in print size. Having this number go up allows a print to be stronger and more rigid. It also allows for more surface area for the higher layers to print on. Where there are steep angles, this helps to provide a betters surface finish.

Infill Density

As mentioned before, infill density typically decreases when print size increases. This help in several ways: it reduces the final weight of the print, reduces the amount of material used, and reduces the print time. It is also not necessary to have such a high infill when the number of perimeters and solid layers has gone up, as much those characteristics help to strengthen the piece.

Layer Height

Layer height is one of the settings that is changed when trying to affect the surface finish. However, it can also be used to decrease print times. Doing so will lower the print quality, but not by a noticeable amount. Typically most printing is set at a default layer height of 300 microns which produces smooth surface finishes, but the layers can be seen. Most folks don’t mind this finish as it is a nice compromise between time and quality. However, for rough prototyping, or surface finishes that will be post-process, the layer height can be increased to save time.

Support Criteria

Since overhangs may be much more pronounced in larger models, there will be new instances where support may be needed where it was not needed in a smaller model. Luckily, most slicing software is smart enough to calculate where support is necessary, so this does not impact the user much, but it is an aspect to take into consideration when looking at material usage and print times.

Much more Support

As mentioned previously, there may be instances may be necessary on larger models where it may not have been necessary on the same smaller model. For this reason, much more support is typically seen on larger models. Not only for features, but also due to the size of the print itself. A very tall print with many overhangs would require significant support structure to make sure it prints well. This will also impact the post-processing time as there will be more material to clean off.

Longer Print Times

Imagine a 1 inch cube took about 10 minutes to print. Using the same settings, if that cube was made to be 2 inches, it would take (at a minimum) 8 times longer to print! The time that the nozzle would have to travel each side would double and the number of layers needed would double which would can be expressed mathematically as 2 x 2 x 2 = 8. Of course, settings can be changed to decrease infill, change layer heights, change the number of perimeters and solid, layers to help make these difference smaller, but the curve would follow the trend that as a print gets bigger, the longer it will take to complete. User are typically exposed to prints that are a few hours long on smaller printers, but on lager ones, print times can span days! That’s a major difference!

Potential of Running out of Filament

A lot of spools come in 1 lb or 1 kg quantities. This is sufficient for small prints, but can be consumed on the first few layers of a larger print! The largest spools we stock at re:3D are 15 lbs. These massive amounts of filament allow us to print very large items without much thought with regards to running out of filament. It still does happen however, and it is one of the things that must be considered when starting a multi-day print. Since our software does allow for filament change-out, it is not a big ordeal to swap filament mid-print, but it does slow down the production process, and it needs to be planned for. As prints go into ever-longer territory, the potential for running out of filament is one of the manufacturing spaces that must be considered.

Ernie travels w/Gigabot to share his insights at SXSW, the Austin Mini Makerfaire and UBM Minnesota

We’ve explored some of the benefits and considerations of 3D printing large objects. While the list is by no means exhaustive, it does provide an insight into some the areas where new learning is required and it definitely showcases the great possibilities that are unlocked by an expanded creative volume. Hopefully this provides some insight on what is involved with large prints and we’d be happy to hear your feedback and answer any questions.

Catch you on the next layer!

~Type 1 Ernie: re:3D Ops Man

ernie@re3d.org

Material Testing & Heat Treating Natureworks PLA 3D850

The notes below reflect our new open-source filament testing protocol. After evaluating the printability of Coex PLA Prime/PLA 3D850 on Gigabot, I decided to experiment with a heat treatment process.  

Manufacturer:  Coex    

Filament Name:  PLA Prime

Color Tested:  Natural

Date Received: 6/10/2016

Date Tested: 6/16/2016

Ease of use:   Excellent

Appearance:  Clearer than regular PLA

Size consistency: Great

Color consistency: Great

Odor: None

Manufacturer’s recommendations

  • Speed: none given mm/s
  • Temperature: has a higher MFI so should be able to print slightly cooler than regular PLA C
  • Infill %: any
  • Layer Height: tested at 0.3175mm
  • Printer Used: GB # 004
  • Print temperature used: 200 C (nozzle) /55C (bed)
  • Speed used: 60 mm/s
  • Layer Height:0.3175 mm
  • Infill: 15%
  • Odor: none
  • Type(s) of print surface used: Print n Z

FINDINGS

Bed adhesion (1: terrible-5: fabulous!)

   5

Stringing (1: lots -5: none!)

   4

Shrinkage (1: lots-5: none!)

   4: None!

Interlayer adhesion (1: terrible-5: fabulous!)

   4: Perfect!

The technical datasheet for the pellets that the filament is derived from can be found here: http://www.natureworksllc.com/~/media/Technical_Resources/Technical_Data_Sheets/TechnicalDataSheet_3D850_Monofilament_pdf.pdf?la=en 

I suspect that most, if not all the temperature resistant PLA uses the 3D850 as its base. There is very little information out there for recommended heat treat methods.

Here are a couple pictures from a recent experiment I did with Natureworks PLA 3D850 that claims increased crystallization with heat treat. I used a wall oven to heat treat the parts at 200F but please note that I did not verify with a second thermometer.

The three parts on the top row are not heat treated and the three on the bottom row are heat treated at 200F for 15 minutes. I placed the parts into a cold oven and let the oven heat to temp and maintained temp for 15 minutes then removed the parts to air cool. The color change and warping happened while the parts were in the oven not after they were removed.The top two parts were made with one perimeter (0.48mm width). The center two are two perimeters and the bottom two have three perimeters. Interestingly enough the part with two perimeters warped the least. I also heat treated a couple objects with more structural integrity and found little to no warping (small 5″ Moai statue and the re3D logo placard).

I think the next steps are to control the rate of heating to see if the amount of warping can be reduced. Would love to hear other’s experience with heat treating the PLA 3D850.

Further information about annealing PLA is here: http://www.4spepro.org/view.php?article=005392-2014-03-28
 
Quesions or Comments?
  • Share your thoughts on the materials section of our forum:
    • https://re3d.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/206087383-Natureworks-3D850
 
Happy Printing!
~Matthew

Designing a Transformer Toy

The great thing about designing a huge 3D printer is being able to support your friends & family bringing their ideas to life. Below, Nathan, the nephew of Chief Hacker describes how he designed this awesome transformer toy that was printed on Gigabot in one print job.

This transforming robot was based on transformers kids toys. I had played a lot with Transformers toys in the past and desired to make my own design. The concept of pieces held together by elastic was inspired by some transforming wood toys that I had seen on the internet. Before making this design I had experimented with making robots figures similar in concept out of cardboard and rubber bands.

~Happy Printing!

Nathan aka Na Gr

  • Reach me at on G+: https://plus.google.com/118159598743335846845/posts or email my uncle at matthew@re3d.org:)

How My Gigabot Fixed the Power Wagon

One of the realities of owning an old car is that they tend to wear out with time. In my case I am the fortunate owner of a 1949 Dodge Power Wagon that was originally purchased new by my grandfather Leo.

It happened last week when I first started the engine that I smelled the unmistakable odor of leaking fuel. Upon a little investigation I found the fuel bowl gasket had given up it’s ghost and was no longer providing an effective seal between the fuel pump and the sediment bowl. After calling a few automotive parts stores it quickly became evident that parts for a 1949 Dodge were not kept in stock.
 
Lucky for me and my normally trusty Power Wagon I have a Gigabot 3D printer and a stock of TPU filament from Fenner drives (https://ninjatek.com/products/filaments/semiflex/) that I hoped to use for manufacturing a suitable replacement fuel gasket. A quick investigation of the chemical resistance for the TPU filament showed an “A” resistance to gasoline and I quickly set off to create the CAD model for the simple gasket. A few minutes later I had the Model processed for 3D printing using Simplify3D and was pressing the Print button on Gigabot.

The gasket was printed in under five minutes and I felt a great sense of accomplishment as I installed the gasket and started the old truck. No more leaking fuel and just for safe measure in another five minutes I had made myself a spare!

~Happy Printing
Matthew: @chief_hacker

Making a 3D Printed Bicycle Prototype

Last summer, Patrick Fiedler developed a 3D printed bicycle prototype for his summer internship.  In his own words, he describes his design process:

Have you ever wondered how 3D printing, renewable resources, and transportation all fit together? Although there many possible combinations, one instance is the 3D printed bicycle project that I worked on last summer. I had the wonderful opportunity to intern at re:3D in Houston, Texas and got the chance to work on this awesome project with the intention of answering this question: Is it possible to 3D print a working bicycle? I set out to do just that. With the large format possibilities of the Gigabot and wide range of filaments compatible with the Gigabot’s re3D hot end, I had the means to get started answering this question. The following is a brief review of my project that I wanted to share with the 3D printing community.

First, I deconstructed a MGX bicycle I found laying around. I analyzed its components and assembly mechanics thoroughly. I had to decide what could possibly be replaced with customized 3D printed components. The most likely option was the frame. With the customizability that comes with any 3D printed piece, I could easily use the modular nature of bicycle parts to attach them to my frame and roll from there (hopefully literally).

I set out to choose a good filament for frame construction. Thankfully, I had already been making ASTM tensile test samples for research re:3D was doing with Dr. Scott Fish at the University of Texas at Austin. Some of the most common filaments: ABS and PET tend to be brittle so it would not be ideal for a bicycle that experiences many dynamic forces and needs the ductility to flex as well as strength. I settled on Taulman 910 filament which combined the durability/elongation of nylon and the strength of co-polymers.

I printed a couple tubes with Taulman’s 645 Nylon filament which seemed pretty strong and had the ability to bend by hand without cracking. However, I realized that a 3D printed tube is much more expensive than metal, and there might be a better material to do the job. I need look no further than outside my bedroom window where a grove of bamboo plants grew flourishing in the humid hot Houston summer. Bamboo grows so fast and is so strong that it would make a perfect renewable tube for the bicycle. I set to work chopping down some plants and then trying various forms of heat treatment from a blow torch, to the oven. A few burnt ends and one smoky kitchen later, I had (somewhat) dry tubes to work with. For those intending to work with bamboo, I suggest either letting them air dry in a dry place out of the sun or at very low temps in an oven with no part of the bamboo touching the oven sides.

To connect these tubes, I used the Taulman 910 to create modular connector pieces. The pieces were custom printed with receiving holes for the diameter of the bamboo pieces I had cut earlier. The nice thing about 3D printing these parts is that you can conform to the exact geometry of your bicycle dimensions and the tubes you decide on using. Using the Simplify 3D program, I was able to examine my layers to make sure the path of my support structure would work out alright. The connector piece shown here is the bottom bracket where the pedal cranks, down tube, seat tube, and chainstays connect.

Interfacing with the rest of the components was the next challenge. The bicycle wheels clamped onto fork shaped dropouts which were easy enough to print. The real fun was going to be putting the crank arm bearings and the headset on. I decided to try a press fit approach for the crank bearings. The 910 was ductile enough to press those bearing right in there. Nothing to block rotation. In addition, I found out that you can machine 910 prints. The headset nuts have threads on the internal diameter that needed to thread onto the frame. I threw some of my 3D printed tubes on the lathe, turned them down, and added some threads. It worked much better than expected. Just remember to make your wall thickness large enough so that you don’t machine into the infill.

The bamboo tubes, the 3D printed tubes and connector pieces all slid together nicely with only a minor fit problem. I forgot support structure on one of my rear dropouts, thus I heated it in some hot water to make it malleable enough to bend back into the proper shape. Everything was adhered together with a two part epoxy and held in place by my bungee cord fixture.

The end product looks much like a real bicycle and may have had the chance to ride like one. A few technical problems kept this prototype from being fully functional. There was some interference along the chain path to prevent usage of some of the gears. Also, the 3D printed tube that runs through the headset above the front fork failed under the large moment that is created by the front fork acting as a lever arm. The rest of the frame, however, was very strong and was able to support weight.

At the end of my time in Houston, I was very surprised at how far the bicycle was able to come along thanks to the structural properties of the Taulman 910 as well as the large format printing capabilities of the Gigabot. If I were to do it again, I would use as much bamboo as possible so it could be renewable. I would also focus on how little plastic material would be needed to make strong connectors, possibly experimenting with more renewable filaments such as PET despite its limitations. Although it wasn’t completely functional, I am confident that yes, it is possible to create a working 3D printed bicycle. One aspect I did like about the modular design was its ability to conform to the exact dimensions needed. All that would be needed would be to change a couple of angles and bamboo tubes lengths, and you would have the geometry for any human rider. You could have a bicycle custom fit to you without needing to settle on a typical configuration. In addition, I liked how easy it was to put together. Anyone with a 3D printer, a bamboo conducive climate, and a nearby bicycle parts repository (like the Austin Yellow Bike Project) Keep your eyes open as I have seen others who are working on their own 3D printed bicycles as well.

All in all, this project was a large amount of fun and made for an amazing summer with the Gigabot 3D printer!

Happy Printing!

~Patrick Fiedler: Mechanical Engineering Intern

Want to continue the research? Apply for an internship at re3d.org/careers!