24 July 2014

Richard Salinas - 3D Printing With RepRap Cookbook

It has been reasonably busy here lately trying to keep up with book reviewing.  To that end the people at Packt Publishing contacted me and asked if I would review one of their latest books "3D Printing With RepRap Cookbook" by Richard Salinas.

Since a lot of Blender users are also 3D printer owners I thought it maybe useful to review this book, even if you are not owners of this specific brand of 3D printer a lot of the information contained within this book should still be useful.

Product Specifications:

        Before the book review I feel it is useful at this point to have a look at the author of this book Richard Salinas, here's his background information from the book:

        "Richard Salinas is a scenic artist in the film industry, where he has worked for over 20 years on numerous television and motion picture productions.
            He was educated at the University of Missouri where he studied sculpture and three-dimensional design.
            He also has a formal education in the field of electronics. He developed an interest in computers in 1981 when he began programming on his university's mainframe and one of the first affordable personal computers: the Commodore VIC-20.
            Since 2012, he's constructed five 3D printers of various designs and hacks. His aim is to explore the possibilities of creating fine art sculpture with DIY technology. You can follow his progress at www.3dprintedsculpture.com"

        Scanning the information in the bio above it should become clear of the type of mind Mr Salinas has, very clever, technical and very geeky.  It doesn't mention it in the bio but I bet he has memorized printer codes, knows machine code, etc. I mention this to put you in the right mindset.

        The RepRap series of printers are for the truly experimental types, the ones who like to control every setting and know what every single belt, pulley and firmware setting does.

        For those that don't know the RepRap is an Open Source  3D printer that can come in kit form and you can if you want build it yourself.  In fact a lot of the parts that go into the construction of the RepRap can be printed with a RepRap.

        So knowing all the above it should be easier to understand the target audience this book is aimed at;  I would suggest an Intermediate level 3D printer user who has some experience with using a 3D printer.  You won't need to be a guru, but if you are completely new to 3D printing and your first experience of it is with a RepRap printer and this book, then you may have to run fast to keep up.

        Like all of Packt's other Cookbook series of books its take the approach of breaking up a complex series of tasks into a series of bite sized "recipes".  Each recipe goes over a specific topic or task to help the reader more fully understand information presented.  After each recipe is completed the book give a full explanation as to why each recipe was done the way it was and often gives extra information for those interested. 

        The are plenty of full of color pictures throughout explaining and demonstrating almost all of the topics and features of the RepRap printer and the software that you can use to improve the quality of it's output.

        The beginning chapters of the book unsurprisingly cover the basics of 3D printing, going over what 3D printer are, the various terminology, what slicers are and how 3D models are used inside of a computer to be 3D printed.

        The beginning chapters had some very useful descriptions of the software and hardware you can use to acquire models for 3D printing. Specifically you are shown how to scan 3D models using various different techniques, from using a digital camera, using a laser scanner and manually creating the models inside of a 3D modeling application.  Once the models are obtained you are then shown how to do a basic 3D printing of the models.

        Initially the first results may not look very impressive but as the chapters progress the range of techniques you can use are expanded slowly but surely improving the 3D printing results that you achieve.  A common collection of models is used in all the recipes allowing you to see the difference in printing results as you try the different settings and tweaks the book describes.

        In later chapters you are exposed to printing more complex and detailed models which require you to use more and more features of the 3D printing software to achieve acceptable results, topics such as support structures, slicer setting and non-manifold topology are covered extensively.  Surprisingly one of the simplest methods of getting complex shapes to more easily 3D print wasn't covered, that being breaking model into sections that can be connected back together;  I am not sure why this is the case maybe the author assumed that people with RepRap printers didn't need to be shown such obvious methods.  Other than that one oversight as far as I can tell all the useful topics were covered.

        There is quite a large collection of software involved in getting good results from a RepRap printer, in fact that are many different pieces of software that can achieve the same tasks but do it in slightly different/better ways from one another.  Helpfully the book demonstrates how to use multiple different pieces of software to achieve to the same task.  As a result you are able to compare and contrast end results.

        Another interesting parts of the book for me was the section on troubleshooting the 3D models to make them more likely to successfully 3D print.  There was extensive use of software to make the models jump through all the hoops required to get it in a form that makes a 3D printer such as the RepRap happy.

        Finally the appendices of the book are worthy of note;  The first two are very technical and only the most hardcore RepRap fanatic (or hardcore geek) is likely to find them useful.  The third appendices though I found very useful as it covers all the different types of material filaments the RepRap supports and their operating values, as well as safety precautions that should be taken when using those materials.

        At times the amount of new information presented in this book can become a little intense but if you go back and reread parts over again they should become clearer.

        Good book, but you better have that RepRap experiment and tinker spirit to get the most from it.

        Review Score 80%