How to build a prototype? And what 3D printer to use for an entry level designer?

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Building a prototype is one of the activities that being practiced by physical form designers. The process of building a prototype involve serious commitment of time, whether it is a simple product (phone casing) or a full-fledge quadcopter.

Depending on the purpose of the prototype, a designer can choose from several methods available. There exists some prototype such as ‘visual prototype’, ‘form study prototype’ or ‘proof of concept prototype’.

When focusing on designing physical objects, the most versatile method to come to the realization of the prototypes above is the 3D printing technology. One might argue that for visual and form study prototype, a low cost clay can be used. However since the visual and form study prototype are mostly can be done via computer-aided-design software. Through the use of 3D printing technology, one can instantly proof the concept of a new design could work via its physical movements and validating its use instantly.

Recommended 3D Printers.

I’d say from my experience, I would recommend Flashforge line of products. The one that I’m currently using is the FlashForge Creator. It’s inexpensive, sturdy and for this one and a half year I have been using them everyday to build my working quadrotor/tricopter vehicle without fail.


3D printing stuff: I built a working drone in 24 hours

Last week I manage to get some time off from markings, teaching classes and meetings. As a designer, I found that the more stressed I am, the more drive I got to build things.

So armed with a caliper and an old ProEngineer CAD software, I manage to design from scratch a simple quadcopter frame. It is basically consist of a centerbase (I printed it twice), and an arm (I printed it 4 times).

You can download the the STL files here:

Scidrones 3D Printed Quad

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Pic above: the built drone, fresh from the 3D printer

The motivation comes from my DJI F330 frame that broke due to a crash last few months ago as shown below. So I was thinking, well this is a good reason to custom-design my own simple frame. If it crash and broken, I’ll just print it again. So it makes the downtime shorter.

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Pic above: My broken quad

So once my frame were printed, which took about 6 hours to complete (ABS material, 50% infill, on a FlashForge Replicator printer), I installed the control board (APM 2.5), the 20 amp electronic speed control (ESC), a 2200mah battery, four Gemfan 8×4.5 SF prop and four brushlesh motor (Prodrive 1200kV) on the frame.

It took me another half an hour to upload the PIDs, checking the balance, trimming the cable-ties and whatnot before I test-fly it in my office.

And it fly great! No wobblings, very light and fairly strong!

Some flyers concern about the motors being hot due to enclosure, but this is a tough decision that I have to make. In my defense,
1. I’ve tested the hover to the maximum battery-time capacity of 7 minutes and the motors only heated up to 63 celcius and the 7-minute ride is more than enough to cover UMT’s shoreline at the altitude of 600 metres.
2. The battery and esc’s are cool and happy!

Now the to-do’s!
1. Design and build a simple camera-gimbal to stabilize my GoPro camera.
2. Design and build a water- and sand-resistant enclosure for the motor and electronics.

Next up, if I’m not in the office, I’m probably at the UMT coastal line to run aerial coastal monitoring. See you there!

I’ve printed a toothpaste tube roller!

It’s been a while since I’ve made an update in this blog. However there are lot’s of teaching, reading and discussions that need to be attended lately in my faculty, since we are moving forward to the school system. Later, my department shall be absorbed to the new structure which is named School of Ocean Engineering. So my research team here are aligning our strategy to fit in so we can contribute to the new system.

Nevertheless, no worries. Yesterday I manage to get a free time off from the subjects and whatnot, to print a toothpaste tube roller!

The .stl files can be found here:

Thank you Thingiverse user: Jazman for providing us the file.

So here comes nothing 🙂

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I bought a Flashforge Creator 3D Printer

I ordered a Flashforge Creator 3D printer on 30th Jun 2013 from AliExpress. The item was safely arrived from mainland China by FedEX on the 4th July. Pretty quick, and I’m very happy to report that the machine is doing very well!


As usual, I started off by calibrating the build platform. The Creator model was derived from Makerbot Replicator, therefore the LCD interface shows the similar guide on leveling the platform step by step.

Once done, I printed the calibration box that came together inside of the SD Card. The current model has a heated bed platform, therefore it is a good idea to print the model with raft support to ensure that the printed item stick on the platform well.


Flashforge Creator is much better than the Mbot3D printer. Creator operates much quiter, the filament guide is more well thought for and it comes with heated bed platform. The price is much cheaper than the Mbot3D as well, that might be depending on which model that you are getting. My Mbot3D is a dual extruder model (which I got wrong on more extruder is better, you’ll be happy with one, trust me) that cost me $1k++ with shipping, and the Creator is a single extruder with heated bed platform that cost me $800++ with shipping.

As for me, I think that I’m going to stick with Flashforge Creator 3D printer for a while. However I’m still having fun with the no-heat bed platform on my Mbot3D. So the journey continues…