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Thousands of Tiny Robots

The Modular Robotics Blog

Objet: Our New Favorite 3D Printer

3D printers are amazing tools: design an object on your computer, hit control-P, and when you come back from lunch, a nice warm plastic part is waiting for you. For a few years now, I’ve been making prototype plastic parts on a trusty Stratasys Dimension. It’s quick and makes robust ABS parts at the touch of a button: I just draw in Solidworks and usually have a finished part the next day. But at the scale of parts for the robotic construction kit that we’re working on, we’ve run up against a resolution wall. The Dimension, with a resolution of about 178 microns, just can’t print print the fine details I need at this stage of design.

Object roBlock print

Enter the Objet Eden. It’s different technology; the material is deposited by a bunch of print heads in parallel, much more like an inkjet printer than the “hot glue gun on a robot” style of FDM. And the parts are beautiful. Layers are only 16 microns (16 microns!) thick, so parts are smooth to the touch, even shiny, when they come out. The picture above is a test print of a 40mm cube, and it’s perfectly smooth; no ridges or bumps. It’s fast, too — these parts printed in 80 minutes. The material seems strong and durable, and the support material washes off with water. The only catch is that the machine costs about $115,000.

Join the Conversation  9 Comments
  • Bernardo

    Hello there.

    I saw roBlocks at TEI09 and I am mentioning it in my master thesis on “Tangible Interactions for Playing” but unfortunately I can’t find a picture of blocks working together in a printable resolution. Could you please send me one? A not-cut version of the image you use on the top of this blog would be perfect.

    Thank you in advance.


  • “The only catch is that the machine costs about $115,000.”
    Hum, yes, a big catch. 🙂

    Do you recommend any other for low-budget educational institutions? I was planning to purchase one from Desktop Factory but it seems the company will close cause of economic crisis….

    Bests regards,


  • @Bernardo: I sent you one via email…

  • @Nilton — Have you looked at the build-it-yourself 3D printers? Fab@Home prints out of a variety of materials and you assemble it out of US$2000 in materials. It’s from the Cornell Computational Synthesis Lab (where I used to work) and is a great platform especially if you’re interested in hacking with it, experimenting with new materials, etc. MAKE magazine has another homemade 3D printer called MakerBot and there is also the RepRap project from the UK.

    If you want a fully packaged, commercial 3D printer, I love the Stratasys Dimension FDM and used it heavily when designing roBlocks. I’ve used an SST, but it looks like they have a new, smaller printer (the uPrint) out for US$14,900. The Dimension printers are great for prototyping, but they don’t have a high enough resolution to test tolerances and snap fits for production. Seems like that might be acceptable for education.

    Stratasys Dimension:

  • If you’re interested in following the news on 3D Printing and digital fabrication, you might consider reading our blog at Fabbaloo or

  • Jay

    How much did it cost you to have the part(s) made in the picture?

  • Jay

    @General Fabb: Thanks for the link to your blog! Very cool things are happening in the 3D printing world indeed.

  • Eric

    @Jay: Only about $5 to $10 in material costs. The polyjet materials seem to be less expensive than the proprietary cartridges used in most FDM machines.

  • Ben

    How much value do you place on the clear material? As a ZCorp reseller we are often asked about the possibility of transparent parts.