26 January 2014

Matthew B Stokes - 3D Printing For Architects With MakerBot - EBook Review

It has been a busy time for me with EBook reviews as this is the second of two books I have been asked to review by Packt Publishing.

This this time it covers using the MakerBot 3D Printer Replicator series.

MakerBot are one of the most popular consumer level 3D printer makers out there, doing a number of different 3D printers.

Product Specifications:

        The first thing to note is that although the title of the book suggests that this book is for architects it's slightly misleading.  When demonstrating how to use the MakerBot series of 3D printers it does this by having the user build a series of architectural items, building items and floor plans for example.  Though it is safe to say that even if you are not an architect but have a 3D printer there is a lot of useful information you can take from this book.  Also it is likely that if you are an architect you already know more about 3D printing and have access to much more expensive 3D printers than are covered in this book.

        The book starts by introducing the reader to 3D printers in general, explaining what they are and how they are used.  It goes over the various different types of technology that 3D printers use to produce their models.

        I especially liked the history of 3D printers section and a description of all the different technologies;  This is not really essential information but it is good to know.

        Having gone over the history and technology of 3D printers in general the book moves onto the main focus of the book the MakerBot series of 3D printers.  It details the specifications of the various different MakerBot machines, going over their various differences and some important limitations of each printer.

        There were good explanations of the various difference pieces of software you can use to model your items that you are going to 3D print.  Usefully there was information on how to properly model your models such that they can be successfully 3D printed, with the best results.

        If you haven't had a lot of experience with 3D printers the modeling theory section of the book will be a life saver and will likely save you a lot of time and wasted plastic.

        Having gone over all the theory, the book then moves on to the more practical side of things, by showing you how to 3D print a roof truss as your first real use of your MakerBot.  With this quick practical demonstration out of the way the book goes into more detail on the various software that can be used to control the MakerBot and alter it's performance settings.  Specifically it covers the MakerWare software that is the official software for MakerBots.

        Topics such as how to import models and reposition them in ways that make printing more efficient and likely to produce correct results are explained.  How to minimize printing problems such as warping and the various advantages and disadvantage of different types of plastic materials are covered, in clear and easy to grasp ways.

        More advanced topics like making acetone and abs plastics anchoring substance called slurry is covered, how useful this is I am not sure but it is nice to know.

        Once the basics of settings, positioning, and materials properties are covered, the topic moves on to Multicolor printing for those that have printers with more than one print head, and also covers a technique for printing multicolor 3D parts for machines that only have on print head.  Though here the books seem a bit confused calling this feature either Z Print of Z Pause depending on where you are reading in the book.  Either way its a very handy bit of information to have if you want to print multicolor parts but don't have more than one print head.

        When you have to create or import the 3D model that you want to print the MakerBot has to slice that model into a series of layers, this is called 3D Slicing and the book has a good explanation of the steps involved and does a reasonably good job of explaining the various settings which determine how the 3D slicer works, and how this can alter the final results of your printed objects.

        When printing more complex parts it is often not possible to print them as one single object, the parts must be split into multiple bits and then reassembled.  There are some good examples described that show some of the basic ways of doing this and how it helps to achieve more complex models.

        As one of the later projects you build a store facade which is entirely made of interchangeable parts which can be attached together.  Topics such as tolerance fits and connection types are covered.

        Once you have a reasonable grasp of how to make things yourself the book then moves on to involving yourself with 3D printer model creator community showing how to use 3D printers model sharing sites Thingverse and GrabCAD.  It shows how to register and download models from each site.  So at least you wont short of things to print.

        The more legalistic side of things is covered very briefly with respect to licensing and how you have to ensure you're not breaking it.

        As a last final more involved project Iterative Design process techniques are covered and you are shown one way that you could design an architectural floor plan.

        The writing style is clear and informal.
        I would say that on the whole this book is aimed a 3D printer beginners, who are new to both 3D and 3D printing.  The price is good as well for what you get.

        Good book, a little unclear in places but if you are a 3D printer owner and especially if you own a MakerBot Replicator series printer this book could help you get better 3D printing results.

        Review Score 85%