Last year I got hold of a Dremel Idea Builder 3D printer. It’s been great, and I’ve been able to print a range of animal bones for use in practicals – students can all get exact copies of the same bone and it doesn’t matter if they break them. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the prints so far, but one area that the machine does disappoint is in the software.
The Dremel Idea Builder itself is a re-branded Flashforge Dreamer. However, annoyingly the dremel does not accept standard gcode files, instead it only reads it’s own proprietary *.3gdrem files.
This wouldn’t be too much of a problem, except that the software the printer ships with, Dremel 3D, is incapable of adding supports and rafts, features which are pretty much essential for most prints. Dremel support suggest using Autodesk MeshMixer, or PrintStudio to create supports, but these pieces of software create branching, tree-like supports:
Now I’m told that these supports use considerably less plastic that the traditional scaffold. Unfortunately, I’ve generally had terrible results using them, and the result is usually a model that fails, particularly for complex, organic objects like bones that have no good flat end for attaching to the build plate. For a while I got around this by slicing the model in half, creating a flat surface, and then printing both halves separately before gluing them together. This is less than ideal – firstly, it’s an extra step that needn’t be there. Secondly, I found that trying to print both halves at the same time resulted in significant curling at the build front on one while the print head was working on the other, with the curling usually ending up catching on the print head and the model being knocked over. It’s worth noting that aside from forcing this style of support, MeshMixer is a pretty decent piece of software.
I searched for some time to find a piece of software that could create scaffold support and output a *.3gdrem file, but it was not to be. Actually 3D Builder, which comes with Windows 10, is great, and can produce excellent supports and rafts, but for some unknown, infuriating reason, it sends the files to the Dremel and sets the print temperature to 215, which is too cold and the builds generally fail (The Dremel normally prints at 220).
So, after much tinkering (a favourite pastime of mine), I came up with the following solution.
!!!WARNING – ITS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE YOU CAN EXPLODE YOUR DREMEL IDEA BUILDER – DO THE FOLLOWING AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!
- Download Craftware
Here’s the link: https://www.craftunique.com/craftware
This is a pretty comprehensive free slicer for 3D printing.
- Import your model (drag and drop works for me)
Not a lot else to say here….
Make sure your options (1) are set as below (this makes sure the build platform is the same dimensions as the Dremel Idea Builder) – make sure 0,0 position is set to centre, not front left, and then head to supports (2).
- Create supports
By hitting ‘’Auto-Generate Support”. You can tweak this to enable the raft, or change the angle that requires supports, but I think to start with the defaults were fine (maybe I tweaked angle to 45 degrees). This is what that looks like:
- Slice it!
Hit the slice button and slice that model. You’ll now see a lovely model with scaffold-style supports. You can view each layer with the slider at the bottom of the screen, and follow the path of the print. Take note of the top right, where you can get info on length of filament and estimated time – it’s important to note this as you won’t see it again (as we’ll see below).
- Get the G-code
Hit the save button and save the Gcode somewhere.
- Now mangle that Gcode into 3gDrem.
In my simple little world, I tried just opening the g3drem file in a text editor, hoping to see what was different from standard g-code. Unfortunately, the first part of the file is in binary, and you can’t just copy and paste it into the G-code file we just produced.
What you can do is copy and paste the other way. But to do this you need two things:
- A text editor that will let you open a file with Binary in – Notepad++
- A previousle made dremel 3D *.g3drem file. I think any will do.
Then you open the g3drem file in notepad++, and you open the *.gcode file in another pane:
Delete everything below the blue line in the *.3gDrem file, and copy everything below the red line from the *.gcode file into the *.3gdrem file.
- Check it looks reasonable and send over to your dremel.
Open the file in Dremel 3D and check it exists in the correct world space, on the build platform. The plastic length and time to print will be calculated based on whatever model you used to make the dummy 3gdrem file, so just ignore them. You can now send it over to your Dremel Idea Builder.
Congratulations, you’re now able to build complex objects with scaffold-like supports:
In retrospect, this will probably work for Gcode files produced by 3D builder… I’ll have to try that soon, as 3D Builder is a really easy to use piece of software.