3D Printer: Stratasys Dimension Elite

Our Fab Lab has a Stratasys Dimension Elite FDM 3D printer that can print 3D prototypes. It joined our Fab Lab in 2009. It prints 3D models in the STL file format.

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How does the printer work? It prints digital 3D models layer by layer by extruding plastic as a filament. This is the most common technique in today's 3D printers. It is called Fused Deposition Modeling, or FDM. The printer has two print heads. The second head prints a separate support material to support overhanging plastic parts of the model. The support material is dissolved after printing in a special container with a soapy solution.
How big an object can be printed? The limit is 203 x 203 x 305 mm. Bigger objects can be printed in separate parts and then assembled.
What is the resolution of the printer? The layer thickness can be chosen between 0.178 mm for more detail, and 0.254 mm for faster prints. There is also a higher resolution with 0,1778mm layer thickness available. It takes longer to print an object if the higher resolution is selected.
Which materials does the printer use? Only ABS+ plastic.
Is the material stable? The material is pretty strong. Most models survive being dropped on the floor (but not stamped on). The strength of the model is highly dependent on its geometry.
Can objects be printed in color? Yes. One can change colors from layer to layer, but not within a layer.
How much does it cost? Each model requires support material in addition to model material. Both materials cost 30 cents per cubic centimeter. There is also a fixed cost of 10 euro for the platform on which the 3D model is printed. How much material is needed depends on the construction of the model. The prices mentioned above are exclusively valid for non-commercial projects that are published under free licenses.
How long does a 3D print take? At least one hour. Depending on the model 10, 20, 30 hours or even more is possible. A printing process can't be interrupted for a long time. Therefore, the printer is occupied as soon as a complex printing task is started and smaller tasks can't be carried out in between.
What do I have to provide? The printer uses only STL files which must be created in advance.
Is there any free software available to create STL files? We recommend the following software:

  • FreeCAD - consider using the daily build as releases are rare.
  • Blender - offers a good tutorial: http://rab3d.com/tutorial.html
  • Google Sketchup - to create STL files you need this plug in: http://www.guitar-list.com/files/skp_to_dxf.rb


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