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Mad props to NPR’s All Tech Considered blog for namechecking MAKE (and yours truly) yesterday in this n00b-friendly piece about the prospect of building one’s own 3D printer. MC Rae Bichell quotes me on my favorite four-word description of fused-filament printers as “robot hot glue guns,” and drops a link to our new Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing. Respect, Rae!

Keeping it real for a minute, now: Ms. Bichell does a good job of distilling the complicated subject of DIY printer hardware down to its bare-bones basics, but slips up on a couple fine points. Of the three “layers” of 3D printer software, for instance, she writes:

It does three things: allows you to view and alter 3-D images, converts the image into instructions for the printer, and “slices” the file into horizontal pieces that the printer will understand…

Which is really only two-thirds of the picture, as I see it. Though for end users the practical distinction between these functions is rapidly disappearing behind the UI curtain, traditionally people talk about the “CAD,” “CAM,” and “client” software layers. In Ms. Bichell’s terminology, “converting the image into instructions” and “slicing the file” are really the same thing: she’s talking about CAM in each case. She’s left out the “client” layer, which provides real time control of the hardware and actually sends the printing instructions when you click the “go” button.

Likewise, she describes RAMPS (the RepRap Arduino Mega Pololu Shield) as “a commonly used stack of circuit boards,” which is a bit off, IMHO, because the shield itself is just one circuit board, and it’s only when you fit it to an Arduino that it could rightly be called a “stack.”

Still, these are really pretty finicky details. I’m honor-bound as a technical editor to call them out, but in the big picture they probably don’t make much difference. I couldn’t be much more tickled about seeing MAKE’s name (and, OK, mine too) on NPR’s blog. Thanks again, Rae!

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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