ATLAS 3D is a 3D printable laser scanner kit based on the Raspberry Pi platform that should come as an affordable good quality DIY solution that you can build yourself and get the ability to 3D scan yourself with good quality and at affordable price. The project was published on Kickstarter looking to make it from a prototype to a widely available product with the help of crowdfunding. The goal of the project was just $3000 USD and it has been passed in no time due to the big interests from users that apparently want to have the ability to get an affordable 3D scanner that is able to provide them with good vitality and speed – something that is apparently still lacking in the world of 3D scanners.

ATLAS 3D works by illuminating an object with laser light and then using 3D triangulation to generate a point cloud for each location where the laser hits the model. Neighboring points are then connected as triangles to form a 3D model. This model can be used as-is for many purposes or it can be processed in a software package such as Meshlab to make it water-tight and print ready. All of the software runs onboard the Raspberry Pi, so there are no required drivers or software packages to install. A web browser is used to communicate with the scanner on your home network. Once a scan is performed, the web browser is used to download the resulting models.

atlas-3d-scanner-comparison

The ATLAS 3D scanner should be able to provide better quality than a MakerBot Digitizer at the quarter of the price, though it may still be as good as more than 10 times expensive a NextEngine for example (at least in terms of resolution). This is at least based on the comparison that the author of the ALTAS 3D project has put up on the Kickstarter page. The ATLAS 3D scanner will be available for $209 USD with everything you need apart from the parts you will need to 3D print, so a 3D printer is required for you to get the full product and you will of course need to assemble everything yourself. You might be able to get the 3D scanner a bit earlier if you manage to get among for the early bird supporters on Kickstarter and get your kit as early as April. More units should be available in May and June. Furthermore since this is a free as in open source, open hardware, and open electronic design 3D printable turn table laser scanning platform you will be able to get everything you need from other sources as well and completely build the product yourself.

More details about the ATLAS 3D scanner that you print yourself on Kickstarter…

makerbot-composite-pla-filaments

MakerBot has announced that they are going to be releasing multiple new PLA-based composite filaments are made with composites of real Metal, Stone and Wood that should provide beautiful, realistic looking results from your 3D prints. Apparently MakerBot has designed these new materials for 3D printing on their fifth-generation MakerBot Replicator 3D printers that use the new easily swappable Smart Extruder. The company says that it is developing new smart extruders designed especially for the new composite PLA materials, though we expect that the new 3D printer filaments will be compatible with other 3D printers and standard extruders as well.

The new filaments are going to be grouped in the three main categories of Metal, Stone and Wood, but there are going to be multiple options for different materials in each of these categories apparently. The MakerBot PLA Composite Filaments that are being shown on CES 2015 include Bronze, Iron, Limestone and Maple. The new 3D printing materials are designed to provide the look and feel of metal, stone and wood materials while they should remain easy to be used as standard PLA filament is. The new MakerBot PLA Composite Filaments are supposed to be available in Late 2015 according to the company’s website and there is still no information about the expected prices.

Meanwhile there are already similar materials available from other companies that are designed to be compatible with various 3D printers, especially wood and stone-like with metal ones also soon to be available from various filament manufacturers. So if MakerBot ends up with Late 2015 availability, high prices and compatibility with only their Smart Extruder-based 3D printers things may not be that great for them. Especially if their composite PLA filaments are not significantly better that what is already available or is going to be available soon and if you have to buy a special version of the Smart Extruder for your MakerBot 3D printer to be able to use a specific filament.

smooth-on-xtc-3d-package-contents

We finally got our hands on a XTC-3D 3D print coating from Smooth-On, though it was not very easy to find it as most companies selling 3D printers and accessories for them still do not offer that product – we had to find Smooth-On partner in Europe and order it from them. We got the larger 24 oz (644 grams) package as the smaller one turned out to be cheaper than what we’ve had to pay for the shipment costs, and anyway if we liked the result after testing the coating we would want to have some more to play with. Once you get the package it is very wise to read the manual very carefully and do try the use the XTC-3D coating a few times on test prints, before actually trying to apply it to 3D printed parts that are more important. Also you would probably want to get some small size paint brushes for applying the coating to smaller 3D printed objects with more details, as using a large size brush on small 3D models is not a wise idea if you want to get good quality. Interestingly enough the XTC-3D 3D print coating can be used in multiple ways – to coat models providing a glossy and smooth surface effect, to coat them, then sand them and paint, or to apply color to the coating and coat the model with color. It all depends on what is the end result that you want to achieve in the end, what you need to be well aware of however is that properly using the XTC-3D coating does take some getting used to in order to achieve best results and it also takes some time for the coating to cure and additional time if you want to further process the 3D printed part.

yoda-pla-3d-print-xtc-3d

We have started our testing with a 3D printed Yoda bust using PLA filament with a 0.3mm layer resolution, so the resulting print was with very easily distinguishable layers and not very smooth. The initial coating of the 3Dpritned part with the XTC-3D did make the layers of the print less apparent and the Yoda bust having a more glossy finish than what the original print had. We needed a second layer of coating with XTC-3D however in order to make the surface of the Yoda bust seem really smooth to the touch, although if looking up close you could still distinguish the texture of the different layers. The reason that you might still get to see very faint lines from the different players with a lower printing quality is that the XTC-3D coating is transparent, so even if ti makes the surface really smooth and glossy you may still need to apply some paint for 3D printed parts that use lower quality for the printing. The end results with 2 layers of XTC-3D coating to our roughly printed Yoda bust was really nice, smooth and glossy surface, though a bit of sanding on the ears and applying green paint could produce even better results after that.

exotic-materials-xtc-3d-coating

Next up was trying out the Smooth-On XTC-3D coating on a few more exotic filament types – Carbon PLA from Proto-pasta, Laywoo-D3 and LayBrick from Orbi-Tech. using a 0.2mm resolution for the test prints we have applied 1 layer of XTC-3D coating to each of the objects – on the left is the normal print and on the right you can see the same 3D model with 1 layer of coating applied. The result with just a single layer was not that good, the coated 3D models got slightly more smoother, but with the layers still easily distinguishable and more noticeable was the fact that they became glossies as the normal results when printing with the filaments produce more matte look. Adding a second layer may improve things, but the highly glossy end result might not be to your liking that much and sanding and painting on top of 3D printed parts when using materials that produce carbon, wood or stone look is not the best idea as it will ruing the realistic look that they do provide.

ninjaflex-xtc-3d-coating

We have also tried applying XTC-3D coating on NinjaFlex 3D printed keychain with the Nvidia logo, even though that might not be a very wise idea as this is a flexible filament. When you apply XTC-3D coating it hardens a bit the 3D printed part and make it less flexible, so this makes it unsuitable for flexible filaments as it will reduce their flexibility. After applying a single layer of coating to the 3D printed part with NinjaFlex filament we have observed the expected slight improvement in the surface feel – smoother as well as the keychain becoming glossier. Although the surface felt smooth, the topmost layer having a large surface area did not not look much more smoother tan before coating it, so XTC-3D might not work that well on flexible filaments such as NinjaFlex. The more interesting thing that we have observed is that after applying the XTC-3D on the NinjaFlex 3D printed keychain it has remained quite flexible, but stiffer than it was before the coating. You should however avoid flexing too much NinjaFlex printed parts if you have coated them with XTC-3D and also that if you apply multiple layers of coating their flexibility will most likely be reduced significantly.

So what ware our first impressions from using the Smooth-On XTC-3D coating? We are pretty satisfied with the results we got, although our first tries were not perfect we quickly got the hand of using the coating and the results started improving. When you get used to take advantages that the XTC-3D coating provides and you properly use it on 3D printed parts you can achieve really nice results in terms of final quality of the things you 3D print. The coating however is not perfect and suitable in all cases and for all kinds of materials, so you should be careful how and when you use it. You should also be prepared to spend some time for the extra finishing if coating 3D prints with XTC-3D as it does take some time to do it and then a few hours for the coating to fully cure. If you then plan on sanding and painting the coated part it could easily take a whole day, but if properly done the end result might be something that you can hardly believe was something that was 3D printed. We are going to keep experimenting with the XTC-3D coating, so expect more of our feedback pretty soon – next up is to get more experience with sanding and painting some 3D prints after getting them coated with XTC 3D.

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