Monday, January 14, 2013

Type A Machines Series 1

The original reason I started a blog was to share my art and crafts.  To date, I can't say I've done that. At all.

My quest for good health sort of high jacked my blogging intentions, but the difference dietary changes have made were too great NOT to share.

So here I am now, getting down to the business I came here for.


I've always been a maker.  I like to make things.  It doesn't really matter the medium.  I like to make jewelry, I like to crochet, I like to draw (though I can say I DO NOT LIKE to paint), I like to build things.

It's part of how I ended up at The Academy of Art University.  I realized making things is a viable career path.  You can have an appreciation of beautiful things and technical things at the same time.

I remember 5 or 6 years ago how impressed I was at the idea of rapid prototyping.  I was working at an eyewear company and had my first exposure to 3D printing.  A factory had sent us a few prototypes they had printed.  You read that right, PRINTED.  It's expensive to have a mold milled to test a prototype.  The ability to print the original idea and any revisions is a cost saver and really flipping cool.

3D printing was glossed over in my Materials and Processes class.  In all of the Industrial Design classes I've taken, 3D printing is barely even mentioned.

Well, here it is 2013 and we have a 3D printer in the Gnomery (Justin, Piper and I are The Lasergnomes).

Gnome Piper "helping"

Just a few years ago, I could not have imagined having access to a 3D printer, let alone having one at home.

After much research and debate, we decided to purchase a Type A Machines (TAM) Series 1 Dual Head printer.

Dual extruder heads was a major selling point for us.  Another selling point was that TAM is a local company, located just blocks away from our San Francisco Gnomery.  Justin was able to meet with them prior to our purchase and due to the fact that we were purchasing through Maker Shed (which is located in Sebastapol, CA), Justin was even able to go pick it up in person.

Another great thing about the TAM is the large build area.  TAM has a build area of 9"x9"x9", where as many of the other machines were considerably smaller.

Though we got the machine in December, we are just now getting down to the nitty gritty of printing.  Unfortunately, we purchased our TAM right at finals and just before the holidays.  With final projects due and holiday obligations, we weren't really able to test our machine much until now.

I've been asked why we decided to buy a printer instead of build a printer.  Well, I have to say that while there are a lot of resources out there for the DIY 3D printer, I didn't really want to learn Arduino programming, etc., and have a large project looming over my head while I have school and work to deal with.

After the fits and starts we've had with our printer so far, I have to say I probably would have been frustrated to no end and given up before getting through the print troubleshooting process.  After my experiences at TechShop, I knew there would be some testing needed to find the proper settings for proper materials.

Enter the graveyard of crappy prints:

Thank Jebus we're using compostable PLA at this point.  All of these prints have been less than stellar for some reason or another.  

One reason turned out to be a faulty wire crimp.  One of the AWESOME aspects of purchasing from a local company is support.  Justin was able to take our printer to TAM (walk it over even!) and have them take a look.  The wire crimp was fixed and we are up and running.  

Now we are dealing with trying to find the right software to fit our needs and the right settings for our machine.  

Stay tuned! 


  1. That graveyard is of "recognizably failed prints" don't discount the trash cans full of "WTF IS THAT" print failures.

  2. Are you familiar with the Makergear M2 which is also made in San Francisco? If so, can you talk about the pros, cons of the Type A Machines vs. the Makergear M2?

    Right now, I'm trying to decide between those 2. My main criteria is ease of use and reliability in printing for a non-tech type of person.

  3. Sorry for the delay in response, I'm in the throes of finals and wedding planning.

    I can't say I'm familiar with the M2 at all.

    I can say from experience that there seems to be a learning curve with all of the machines (they all seem to be a bit on the grumpy side) and there are a lot of variables that go into using them.

    I was joking with Justin that you really have to be OCD to be involved in the 3d printing process, as there are a number of variables that can cause issues at any given time. Things to consider include not only the machine, but the material, the supplier of the material, the particular lot of material, the ambient temperature of your work space, the relative humidity of the work space, the draftiness of the work space.

    The list goes on and on. Even using the same spool of filament, you can get different results with each print (the filament can sometimes be varying diameter throughout the spool, the humidity of the room can change the output, etc.).

    Other considerations include model quality, model slicing and the like. Are you looking to use your own models? Are you looking to make things out of other people's models?

    Some people had been looking at MakeXYZ to have a test file printed by a variety of printers to compare outcome.

    I really had planned to update the blog more than I had with our trials and travails, but working, taking a full class load at AAU and trying to plan a wedding got a little hectic.

    I'm not sure any of this helps, but be prepared for a learning curve, no matter which machine you get.

  4. Oh, and if you are in the Bay Area Maker Faire is next weekend (17-19) in San Mateo. Type A will be running demonstrations as will others. You can't beat this event as a way to check out the processes in person.