zPrinter 450

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zPrinter 450 in the Maker Space

About zPrinter 450

The zPrinter 450 developed by Z Corporation (acquired in 2012 by 3D Systems) is a fused deposition modeling (FDM) machine also known as a 3D Printer. The zPrinter 450 uses inkjet heads from HP to extrude a water based binder solution onto thin layers of a plaster based substrate. Each layer of plaster is 0.0035 inches which is thinner than a standard sheet of 20 pound printer paper. The addition of a tri-color HP cartridge allows for full range color printing rather than the standard white of the zPrint powder. Post processing for final parts printed from z-printer includes cleaning process to get rid of excess powder and infiltration process that includes pouring a hardening agent onto the part to increase its strength.

General Stats:
Material : Plaster (CaSO4)
Maximum Part Size : 203mm x 254mm x 203mm (8in x 10in x 8in)
X/Y Resolution : 300 x 450 dpi
Layer Thickness : 0.089mm (.0035in)
Strengths
  • High Resolution
  • Full Range of Color
  • Fastest Printer
Weaknesses
  • Parts are Initially Weak
  • Higher Chance of Failure if walls are not at least 2mm



Processing

Main Article : Processing 3D Files
Good STL in Netfabb

This printer is best for non-structural parts that either have complicated geometries or more than one color.

We will only process STLs which have:
1 shell per continuous part
0 border edges
0 invalid orientations
0 holes.
Geometry should have a minimum wall thickness of 2mm for “best chances” to survive post processing. Hollow parts are possible but you must include a hole of at least 5mm diameter in order to drain the excess powder from the part.

Even if Netfabb reports no invalid orientations, if we see red triangles in repair mode there is a problem with your model. Print at your own risk. If you are unsure of a model in NetFabb and want to see how it is perceived by the zPrinter we can process it in zPrint.


Fixing a File

Main Article : Fixing STLs

Students are welcome to use any of our computers for fixing their files in Netfabb or Rhino.

Here are some tips to get you started at home:
Ideally in Rhino you want one closed polysurface before meshing.
NetFabb is better at meshing than Rhino. Consider opening the 3dm file in NetFabb to generate the STL instead.
Default repair is decent at fixing holes, border edges, and invalid orientations. Then try using boolean join to reduce shells down to 1.
If boolean join results in multiple shells then most likely the shells are not contiguous. Consider deleting extra shells in model.
Extended repair wraps an existing STL in a new mesh. This can severely alter geometry and result in thin walled sections.

Printing Color

You can color your model in the zEditPro Software or export a VRML file from your favorite CAD software. VRML files must be saved as Version 2 with texture coordinates exported. Since there is no black color cartridge, any black on your model will be a high density mix of CMY and may appear as thin stripes of those colors. We cannot guarantee color accuracy.

3D Model textured in zEdit Pro with a color gradient

Coloring in zEditPro

From Paint and Texture Model mode, you may either apply colors or a texture (image) to your model:;
For coloring: you may color triangles, surfaces, shells, or the entire part. Right click to apply your changes.
For texturing you can apply it to visible surfaces or your whole model. You may also apply the texture as a straight projection or wrapped around the model.
Right click to preview changes and right click to apply.

Printing a Part

Main Article : Printing a Part

Once a file has been processed and is ready to be printed, find a staff member to help add it to the queue. The staff member will then process the part in the zPrint software where they will estimate the total volume of the part. You will be asked to pay based on that estimate using your credit card. The length of the queue is highly variable, and the time it takes to print a model may range from a few days to being ready by the end of the day it is submitted. Keep in mind that the zPrint queue is very full during finals, midterms, and the time surrounding IPRO Day. An estimate of queue length and a time to come pick up the part will be communicated to you once your part is added to the queue.


Cleaning Parts

Main Article : Removing and Cleaning a Part

After the part has been successfully printed, it is ready to be removed and cleaned. You will be provided a time window in which to come clean and post-process your part. You must remove your part from the printer bed during this time or a staff member will remove it for you and claims no responsibility for any damage. To remove the part, the bed is raised and the powder surrounding the part is removed using the built in vacuum. Once the part is mostly free of powder and can be picked up, it is placed into the chamber to the right of the printing bed, and compressed air is used to remove the remaining dust. If the creator of the part does not wish to infiltrate the part, this is the end of the process and the creator is free to take the part.


Infiltration

The hardening agent emits toxic fumes. Proper PPE must be worn during the infiltration process. This includes, but isn't limited to, a respirator, apron, safety glasses, and gloves.

The printed parts from the zPrinter are very fragile, In order to make the part more durable it is either submerged in a infiltrate fluid or it is poured over the part. The infiltrate fluid is essentially a kind of super glue which is designed to rapidly strengthen parts. It is a non-blooming resin that can be easily sanded and painted. Not only do you get strong parts, but Z-Bond enhances the vibrancy of models printed with color.

Machine Proficiency


In order for an individual to advance in machine proficiency they must demonstrate ability to perform certain actions or tasks. All levels include abilities and concepts from lower levels.

This section is primarily for student workers.

Level 0

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Taking the printer “online” to start a print job
  • Being able to instruct students on the cleaning process with printed parts

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Vacuuming process to retrieve a part from the print bed
  • Cleaning process to remove excess powder from the retrieved part
  • Infiltration process to harden parts.
  • Wall thickness and size limitations
  • Layers of the printer and how parts should be orientated for desired look


Level 1

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Able to vacuum excess from the printing area
  • Able to remove parts from the print bed
  • Able to clean excess powder off in the cleaning area
  • Able to harden printed parts and retrieve excess hardening agent
  • Be able to clean excess powder
  • Netfabb level 1

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Identifying fragile parts.
  • Stacked parts and how to retrieve them.
  • Hollow parts with plugs
  • Parts with internal geometries
  • Gantry and printheads of the printer
  • Selective adhesion technology and its limitations
  • When the vacuum system is not functioning properly


Level 2

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Netfabb level 2
  • Be able to clean hollow parts, fragile parts and parts with internal geometries.
  • Hardening process for parts with internal geometries and hollow parts
  • Clean off jammed printer heads using a mirror and distilled water
  • Empty rear & front overflow
  • Re-zero air valves based on vacuum system assessment

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Identify internal powder jams
  • Be able to analyze the alignment print


Level 3

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Netfabb level 3
  • Clean internal powder jams
  • Troubleshooting alignment failure