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3D Printer Build Week: Days Three and Four (photos)

With our printer assembled, we're ready to get started with software, calibration, and, hopefully, printing something cool.

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Rich Brown
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1 of 10 Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

3D printing workstation

Here's our setup. The Mosaic 3D printer requires two power supplies, which are the two small boxes to the immediate left of the printer. We rigged up the spool for the plastic filament from some old laptop battery life testing hardware.
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2 of 10 Screenshot by Rich Brown/CNET

Mosaic source files

Here are the main downloads we needed to track down to line up the software side of our printer. MakerGear's getting started guide does a reasonably good job of walking you through, but you will also need to do some Googling to rectify MakerGear's download list with different versions of the above programs that you will run into.
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3 of 10 Screenshot by Rich Brown/CNET

Pronterface

MakerGear recommends using a program called Pronterface, part of a larger software package called Printrun, to operate the Mosaic printer from your Windows desktop. I wouldn't say Pronterface is idiot-proof, but it's more or less intuitive enough that an experienced computer user shouldn't have too much trouble.
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4 of 10 Screenshot by Rich Brown/CNET

Skeinforge

Skeinforge works in conjunction with Pronterface, and it's in this program where you can fine tune your printer settings. We didn't explore these settings in depth for the sake of time, but the variables you can change in terms of print speed, extruder temperature, and other settings give you a powerful, and daunting, degree of tweakability.
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5 of 10 Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

The Knife Assistant

We used Michael "ThePlanetMike" Bowers' Knife Assistant design as a test print.
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6 of 10 Thingiverse

Brian Emerson's Bucket O' Octopi

We tracked down Brian's design for our final test print.
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7 of 10 Rich Brown/CNET

ReplicatorG

ReplicatorG is another 3D-printing front-end application, similar to Pronterface, but it seems to be more powerful. We used it to scale the octopus model to fit our Mosaic printer's build area.
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8 of 10 Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

Octopus in progress

It took some trial and error, but eventually we got a clean build of Brian Emerson's Bucket O' Octopi design.
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9 of 10 Thingiverse

Gabe Weintraub's Printable Pig

Gabe kindly submitted his design as a possible test print. He warned me that it required a lot of support material, an element of 3D printing we didn't really explore. Designs with big overhanging elements, like the pig's wings, won't print correctly without some kind of support structure because of the molten plastic. For the sake of time we opted for Brian's octopus design, but Gabe's design helps us illustrate how support could be important.
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10 of 10 Matthew Fitzgerald

Bucket O' Octopi

Our final print was almost perfect.

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