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Printrbot Simple Build Workshop, London – Saturday, Feb 15

RoboSavvyEver wondered what 3D printing was? Want to find out for yourself? Come join us in a day of building your own 3D printer.

RoboSavvy is collaborating with Printrbot Approved Technician, Ian Lewis from Replicat3D, to bring you the Printrbot Simple Build Workshop. Working together we will build the Printrbot Simple 3D printer, winner of the Make Magazine Best Value 3D printer award. We will install the software required to operate your printer (just bring your laptop) and start printing! We’ll talk about how to get the most accurate prints and have a look about the various places you can download files to print until you design your own objects. And, at the end of the day, you will walk away with your printer and a load of ideas of what to do with it!

When: Saturday, Feb 15 (9:30am – 5:30pm)
Where: Centre for Creative Collaboration, London

View Complete Event Details

Printrbot welcomes six new countries to the 3D printing community!

Faroe Islands

Printrbot in Runavik, Faroe Islands

Over the past five months, we have shipped Printrbots to six new countries and 960 new cities.  To date, we have now officially shipped bots to 74 countries and 3,444 cities across the globe!  One of the new locations to join the 3D printing community is the city of Runavik in the Faroe Islands.  The Faroe Islands are an island group consisting of eighteen islands off the coast of Northern Europe, about half-way between Iceland and Norway.

As 3D printing continues to expand its reach, it really is exciting to see what new area of the world a bot will land in next!  Currently the farthest location north we have shipped a Printrbot is Stokmarknes, Norway and the farthest location south has been Gore, New Zealand.  As for the most remote location, Papeete in French Polynesia is certainly a leading candidate.

Thank you all for your continued support and we look forward to what 2014 will bring.  So continue to spread the word about 3D printing, get others involved, and most importantly… have fun printing!

View the Map


Countries with Printrbots

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria (new)
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Faroe Islands (new)
  • Finland
  • France
  • French Polynesia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Korea
  • Kosovo (new)
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania (new)
  • Luxembourg
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Qatar
  • Reunion
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia (new)
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turkey
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Venezuela (new)

Aluminum Extruder Documentation Fun

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 7.29.04 PM

The Aluminum Extruder, or Alu Extruder, is a hit!  There has been a few little changes — as is my MO, if I can Simplify it, I will.  This of course creates some confusion and underscores the need for good documentation.  I spent a few hours today trying some new experiments in showing exploded views and assemblies. Documentation is not always fun, but  I really enjoyed the process and wanted to document the documentation a bit. Meta, I know.  To some, this will bore you to tears, but others may get a kick.  I am not reinventing any wheels, just explaining some of the thoughts that went into the process.

The Alu extruder started as a big debate between Brian Roe and I about how we could make an extruder out of metal and improve upon the past designs and the stuff available on the web already.  As most designers, we hate to just use something someone has done – we have to improve it and change it to our liking.  There is no shortage of opinions between Brian and I, and we get impassioned from time to time but respect each other enough to give and take.

After settling on a set of requirements and hashing it out, Brian came back with a 3d model done in Inventor.  He’s a whiz at that stuff, and I am the newbie with a drop of Solidworks training and thousands of hours on Sketchup – but I wouldn’t call myself a pro at any of it.  Anyway, that is to say that I can’t open Inventor files since I don’t have the program and from the start we start doing the frustrating file dance.  I pretty much have to call him in, have him show me on his computer or we do a web conference and he walks me through a screencast.  In this case, he sent me an STL file to print, which is nice, but I still didn’t have anything I could use for documentation until the part was built.  Yes, Brian could have done the documentation, but I keep him on the major design stuff for now.

I insist on using free tools when at all possible.  Open source is my preference, since my desire is to enable young people and old to jump in. learn and create.  I absolutely despise money being a barrier to entry.  So I wanted to use sketchup to do some exploded views.  Importing an STL file into Sketchup eluded me for a while until it dawned on me to import it into Meshlab (open source) and then export the mesh as a .dae – a Collada file.  Collada is what Google Earth uses.  Is is a cool format that does beautiful renderings on a mac and is used in iBooks to great success.  I would love to know if it can be viewed on windows or the various flavors of phones and tablets out there.

I then took the .dae files and imported them into Sketchup.  Now I was at home and could do my exploded views for free.  I make every piece a “component” in Sketchup so I can collide them, spin them, and move them without fear of messing up the walls of the object.  I also utilize the 3D Warehouse to get search for hardware, motors, etc and save design time. (File > 3D Warehouse > Get Models… then import them right into your drawing with one click.  Often I cannot find everything I need so I copy screws, stretch them, modify them to fit my needs.  Its only for illustration, so I don’t mind that it is not perfect.  The desired outcome is to help people see how it fits together. I think the lines showing how it fits together is helpful, so I add those.  I did an exploded view and an assembled view for contrast.

At first, I was doing screenshots, which may look ok in this small size, but it looks terrible at full size.

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 7.49.31 PM

Then I was trying a 2d export, which looked a little better to me. See full size.

Alu Expolded-assembled2


Then I remembered I could view an exported .dae natively on my mac.  I was not only thrilled with how it looked, but as you scale it up and zoom in, it is pristine!  I tried exporting from Preview (the native image viewer for Mac) but it was really ugly, so I just took a screenshot.  I use the “Shift-Command-4″ one that lets you draw a box. The texture and shading was way better than I expected.

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 8.28.07 PM

To add to the appeal even more, you can spin the whole thing around to see any view right in Preview.  Brilliant!

Exploded and Assembled Aluminum Extruder Collada Files you can view or import into Sketchup (Zip file)

As a side note, you can do some cool animations with Sketchup, too.  I find it a bit hard, but there are some plugins that give you a bit more control and you can even do an Exploded view that assembles itself step by step.  I did that for the first time with the Printrbot Wooden Extruder.  It was fun but time consuming.

As documentation gets more and more important, I am warming up to these exploded views.  I debate whether images with clear plain text is better than build videos — which should I do?!  Answer: all of them, I think.  Some wish for videos, some like pictures, and I personally really like these live 3D models that you can view from any angle.

So there it is – I think the next step is to get some help converting the DXF files I use for the various retro-mounts onto all of our past and present Printrbots.  They need converted to stls and imported into Sketchup to be able to show how all the various flavors of mounts go together.  If anyone wants to play, or just print their own mount parts – See the file linked below.  Beware that the dxf file will have lines not joined and all sorts of other idiosyncrasies… our workflow does not require them, so we get lazy.  If anyone is interested in making these printable YMMV!

All files listed here and created by me, Brook Drumm, and Printrbot staff are Creative License Share and Share Alike Attribution Non-Commercial.  So use them and share them but don’t sell them.

Alu Upgrade Plates.dxf

Creative Commons License
Printrbot Aluminum Extruder Upgrade Plates by Brook Drumm is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

A review of the Printrbot 3D printer

A new dawnBy Luis Ibanez from

If you’re looking around for 3D printers that are both inexpensive and open source friendly, the Printrbot Simple Kit will probably catch your attention.

This Kit sells for close to $300, and for our team required a full-day of DIY assembly, though skilled makers might be able to put it together in four hours or so. Our team was made up of three PhDs and two R&D engineers, and it took us close to eight hours to complete the assembly, which of course included some philosophical and licensing discussions and a couple of trips to the hardware store. It was indeed a lot of fun!

This printer is a great device for taking your first steps into the world of 3D printing. As we assembled it, it became very clear how the printer works and that knowledge became quite valuable down the road when we were fine-tuning the printer to adjust it to specific objects.

Read the full article on


Printrbot Demonstrates Auto Bed Leveling

Today, I live in the future. For the first time, an in-house Printrbot Simple has used Marlin’s official code (plus some voodoo from Laine – more on that in a minute) to auto level the bed and print a cube on a severely slanted print bed.

It Doesn’t Look Level?

Auto leveling isn’t exactly what it sounds like. Instead of using motors to actually make the bed perfectly level,  it uses software and the Z endstop (microswitch) to probe the bed, map the incline and print perfectly perpendicular to the surface even on a bed that ISN’T level.  We decided to try a dramatic incline to illustrate the power of this feature.

Work To Be Done

The bottom line is that Laine got the code enabled and it does work.  It is not without challenges, though.  The first wall we faced was that the chip we use in the Printrboard (Laine’s design) does not have enough free memory in it’s current form to add the code it needs.  We ended up stripping out Ultipanel to make room.  We think trimming less often used features from Ultipanel may allow enough room. We will be posting the source in case anyone wants to help tackle this problem.

This may be an opportunity to diverge from ultipanel a bit and go through the menus to trim out the confusing stuff.  I have marveled at all the options, but in the end, it needs an ease of use facelift, in my opinion.  I will go through the menus and propose the bear minimum.  With firmware and software, it is common to rush in and start hacking, patching and commenting out unneeded parts to get to the goal in the fastest possible way.  I would really like to take great care to do a good job and not leave any mess.  Adding clear comments, removing all unneeded mess is best practice.  Laine mentioned that his run and gun to get bed leveling to work was a bit messy and he wanted to clean it up before posting.

Another obstacle we faced with the Printrboard was the fact that we have the LCD panel taking up pins, and we have the Extrudrboard taking up pins… there are literally no more pins available for a servo.  I actually never wanted to use a servo because I think a clip-on option will receive wider adoption.  I welcome anyone to comb through our code and figure out a way to add servo support.  The code already there in the Marlin branch has it, but we need to figure out how to enable a pin and use it.  I figure if people don’t have either the Extrudrboard or the LCD, people could grab pins there.. but it could be confusing.

The manual clip-on mount for the Z endstop allows anyone with a printrbot to play along.  Eventually, I recommend two Z endstops in series.  The microswitches are normally closed, so when wired in series, either switch opening will trigger a stop.  The idea with two is that if the probe switch fails or you forgot to clip it on, the normal Z endstop switch will at least save the hotend from crashing into the bed.  So now, the challenge remains to design a clip-on mount for the Z probe that allows clipping on and off with perfectly consistent height.  You want to be able to use it whenever you want without any fuss, or what’s the point, really?

New Features

Since we ended up going for a clip on approach, AND we wanted our solution to be friendly to all the hackers out there, Laine added a new Mcode feature… a programmable XYZ probe position relative to the hotend tip.  This will allow you to set up whatever probe mount you want in whatever position you want.  Initially, we had a stick zip-tied to the hotend, but realized it was off to the side and may not be as accurate so we moved it to a clip-on that reached directly under the hotend.  Our offset was X2 Y-7 Z-22. A positive or negative coordinate is used depending on position, of course.

The new feature worked great and makes it easy to try a variety of approaches without too much trouble.  The people wanting to try the servo approach should be able to take advantage as well.

Printing on an Incline

Our example was ridiculous, but illustrated the feature. Up until now, the Z axis stood still until it was time to move up a bit and print the next layer.  With this feature implemented, the Z moves up and down in parallel to the print bed surface. This is actually hard to see happening when the bed is only of a fraction of a degree, but was pretty obvious when the bed was at a severe angle – nice for the video.

This brings up an important point: what about backlash in the Z axis? Well, the Simple has a plastic nut that we make ourselves and there is no perceivable backlash.  If you have a Simple, or any other Printrbot, with a metal nut – I would expect some backlash.  The Printrbot Original, Plus and LC have notches to add a second nut and a spring that act as a do-it-yourself anti-backlash nut. Your experience may vary, so be ready to deal with this issue.

You can see me in the video try to adjust the Z height for the first layer with some difficulty. I was used to being able to turn the Z Acme rod to make fine adjustments, but the Z motor held to tight once it started printing that I couldn’t easily adjust.  I had to wait until it headed uphill and just hold it and keep it from turning.  It was strange, but gave me confidence that the motor and the Z axis was up to the job!

In Summary

My thanks to Laine for the hard work. I consider Printrbot very lucky to have such a  talented guy on the team.  To add to the excitement, while we were working on it, he fired up his Tesla coil and entertained us with midi music and lightning.  Nice touch.

Anyway, auto leveling is out of the gate, but not ready for prime time yet.  We will design a solid solution to sort the probe out and release the files – hopefully an STL that works with a variety of Printrbots. We will post everything to Github so everyone can play and see the documentation on the new features.  As soon as we shoe-horn the code into our firmware without giving up the LCD, Extrudroard, or any important features, we will roll auto bed leveling into production with all our bots.  Hopefully, we will get it all working in time for the 3D Printshow in NYC and the unveiling of our new (all-metal) Simple.

Happy Printing (and auto-leveling!)


Vote for your favorite print in the 2013 3D Print Competition

Our friends at sponsored a 3D print competition in Decemeber which produced some awesome prints!  The event ended back on January 7, but voting remains open until the 15th.  So head on over to their site to check out these great prints and vote for your favorite!

Review and Vote for your favorite here

This Year’s Entries

lucassiglo21 : Koch snowflake structure

lucassiglo21 : Koch snowflake structure


Mochaboy : Quappacino quadcopter

Mochaboy : Quappacino quadcopter


trsills : Battlebot articulating figure

trsills : Battlebot articulating figure


thawkins : Printed low-cost Simple

thawkins : Printed low-cost Simple


Juanjosegriego : Lucite acrylic Simple self-portrait print

Juanjosegriego : Lucite acrylic Simple self-portrait print


rick : Guitar hanger

rick : Guitar hanger

PCWorld names Printrbot Simple as one of 10 incredibly useful tools for the high tech tinkerer

pcworldBy Albert Filice @monstasaurous, Nick Mediati @dtnick from

DIYers are a different set. They may not get excited over a new watch or an expensive sweater, but buy them a circuit board and watch their eyes light up over the possibilities. We have a few people like that around the Macworld/PCWorld lab, so we teamed up to compile the 10 best gifts for the tinkerers, makers, and do-it-yourselfers in your life.

3D printing is good for more than just making silly little trinkets, and it’s becoming more affordable. The Printrbot Simple kit is only $300—inexpensive by 3D printing standards. It can be a boon to any budding DIY enthusiast as well as a seasoned veteran.

Read the full article on

Why Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center Loves 3D Printing

By Shawn Grimes –  @shawng on Twitter

3D Printing is one of the most impactful tools we have at the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center (@DHFBaltimore). It is easily one of the most popular technologies that our youth like to work with but it’s usefulness expands beyond just 3D design. Our tech center has been open for just under a year and the amount of youth I have seen transformed by the opportunities provided by affordable 3D printing technologies is amazing.

(Check out this pic of the mayor of Baltimore, MD checking out a Printrbot with Shawn Grimes)

The Youth

I have seen youth who were quiet and unremarkable become some of the most popular and influential students in our space. In a world where consumerism has become so easy, it is rare to have a full understanding of how a tool works or to even try and fix one. That is where I see the strongest benefit of going with a Printrbot kit. When I see youth build one of these kits, the look in their eyes when they complete it and it prints for the first time is nothing but pure confidence. Even if the first “blob” doesn’t turn out the way they expected, they know they can tweak and fix it. They know how the tool works and how they can fix it or even make it better. The youth feels accomplished and special because there are very few people in everyday life who can say they built a 3D printer.

The Hardware

We have one Makerbot Replicator 2 in our tech center as well. This was the first 3D printer we purchased. It was expensive ($2,000+), limited (it will only print PLA filament) and while it works for the most part, when it breaks (about once every two weeks), it’s a nightmare to figure out how to repair it. We now have 3 Printrbot models in our space (not including the one that I have personally bought and bring to the space at times) and these are by far my favorite machines. They malfunction about as often as the much more expensive Makerbot but for the price of one Makerbot, I can have 6 Printrbot Simples and rotate them around as I need to tend to them. Not to mention, my youth and I both know how to troubleshoot them and the wealth of community support through forums like, means I can usually find the answer in minutes rather than waiting for a support ticket to be responded to.

Another benefit to Printrbot kits specifically, is the “upgradeability” factor. The controller board and motors are the same parts used on their larger Printrbot Plus kits, so you can start with a Printrbot Simple kit and upgrade your way to a Printrbot Plus by building a new frame and buying common items from a hardware store. There are also a ton of upgrades that you can 3D print from sites like so the possibilities are near endless.

The Products

The benefits of 3D printing reach far beyond 3d printing itself. We have printed replacement parts and upgrades for CNC machines, custom tools, closet organizers, door stops, keychains, gifts, holiday ornaments, decorations, cookie cutters, business card holders, and so much more. We have integrated 3D printing into our everyday life and projects. Need a humane mouse trap, let’s print one! Want a cookie cutter that spells out your name, print one! Want to make a business card holder for that generous donor, print one! Broke a pair of scissors, print a new handle!

Final Thoughts

Make no mistake, 3D printing in 2013 is not “plug and play”. But if you want to develop grit, determination, creativity, problem solving, and confidence in youth, I can think of no better piece of technology right now than a 3D printer built from a kit. This is not easy, if it was, everyone would be doing it and it wouldn’t be worth doing anymore. The secret though, is it is also not that hard anymore and with kits like the Printrbot you can do it for a low investment with a very high return!

Printrbot Shipping Information

ups_logoFor most shipments, UPS is Printrbot’s preferred carrier and we suggest that you use them for your order.  While at times UPS can cost more than USPS, the service and excellent tracking UPS offers is well worth the cost.  Please read the following list to determine which shipment method is best for you:

Within the U.S.A.

USPS First Class: For packages weighing less than 13 oz, 1-3 business days (same as Priority Mail, just for light packages).  Good for small orders.

USPS Priority Mail:  Usually 1-3 business days.  Good tracking overall, but significant delays occur in the event of a problem (lost or mis-placed package, for example).  Delivery speed not guaranteed.

UPS Ground:  1-5 business days in most cases, depending on how far you are from Northern California.  Excellent tracking, quick recovery if issues arise, and address changes are possible mid-route.

UPS 3-Day, 2-Day, Next Day:  Guaranteed delivery with these options on the time period you choose.

International Orders

UPS Expedited:  5-7 business days, excellent tracking, and Printrbot will be notified if there is a reason for the package being delayed.  Also, UPS has “power of attorney” around the world on Printrbot’s behalf to speak for us and sign for us when necessary to keep packages moving through customs quickly.

UPS Saver:  3-4 business days in most cases, and everything said above.

UPS Express:  1-3 business days, and everything else said above.

USPS First Class International:  Limited to packages weighing 4lb or less.  2-4 weeks in most cases (maybe 1 week to Canada or Mexico), spotty tracking and no notifications if there are issues.  Almost every package does arrive to its destination, but it can be frustrating.  It is common for customers to write us having waited 2+ weeks, but we can literally do nothing but wait at least another few weeks because often packages arrive over a month later.

USPS Priority Mail Express:  5-7 business days in most cases, though significant issues can occur often with custom’s offices causing it to be much longer.  Tracking is usually good but not always consistent.  If a package has an issue in customs, or is ever lost in transit, Printrbot is not notified and neither will you be.  You will need to realize there’s a delay and hope you can chase someone down.  When lost item cases are opened, it literally takes 25 days to have it resolved.

Please note that all shipping speeds given are approximate and relate to how long the package takes once it has been shipped, not how fast the package will be shipped when you make an order.

3D Printing Makes an Impact in the 2013 French Robotics Cup

By Romain ChaumierŠikula Robotics

This year’s French Robotics Cup took place on May 8-12, 2013. It’s a fun, scientific and technical challenge for robotics’ amateurs. The cup is organized each year by the city of La Ferté-Bernard and the Planète-Sciences association during the ARTEC (Arts and Technologies) festival. Each year, the cup has gathered more than 170 teams and 80 000 visitors during the event.

French Robotics Final

French Robotics Final


The challengers have to design and realize an autonomous robot, which have to follow the cup’s rules and be able to play matches. The robots face each other in a game in which they have to choose their actions by themselves (no pilot). The contest is suited for robotics passionate young teams or teams with an educative project. Matches confront two teams on a gaming table. The meeting is a good occasion for sharing knowledge.

This year, the theme was Happy Birthday to celebrate the 20th edition of the French robotics cup. The robots had to blow out the candles on the cake by pressing tennis balls in tubes, put cherry on the cake by sending ping pong ball in a small pan on the cake, open presents by tilting, make pyramids of cocktail glasses and the funny action : inflate a balloon.

Read More…