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Aalto.png This page was part of an Aalto University course 3D Printing of Open Source Hardware for Science

Please leave comments using the discussion tab. The course runs in the Fall semester 2017. It is not open edit.

ELEC-L3999: 3D Printing of Open Source Hardware for Science

  • Period 1 Meetings: 2 times per week W/F 10-12 Sept. 11 to Oct. 27 Micronova Lecture Hall (Seminaaritila 2190)
  • Staff: Dr. Joshua M. Pearce, visiting professor from Michigan Tech in the U.S. and Fulbright Aalto Distinguished Chair 2017-2018.
  • Registration. Course registration is via Oodi as usual.
  • Category:L3999 Fall2017

These two coupled courses on will run over Period 1 and Period 2.

Period 1: Introduction to 3-D printing of open source hardware for science.

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to the use of distributed digital manufacturing of open source hardware for scientific and engineering applications. Recent progress in this area has radically reduced the costs of scientific equipment, while enabling high-quality state-of-the-art customized experiments.

First this course will provide an overview of open-source hardware and technological development in theory and practice. Licensing issues will be explained. Both the use of free and open source design and manufacturing software and their user communities will be highlighted and demonstrated. Next, the course will detail the design, use and maintenance of the tools themselves and open-source electronics. In particular, the self-replicating rapid prototypers (RepRap) will be discussed in detail including: hardware, firmware, slicing and printer controller software for operating and maintaining the device. Finally the material properties, applications and ramifications of RepRap technology will be discussed along with the development of and other open hardware fabrication tools. Then, the technological evolution of the open-source digital manufacturing technology will be covered with a focus on developing innovation for improved performance and customization.

This will be a project-based course where students learn how to develop open hardware for their own experiments and assignments will develop students' skills through progressively more sophisticated design challenges. The final and most complicated challenge will be student-selected to assist their own research group and will make use of the Aalto FabLab to fabricate the device.

Credits: 5.0

Prerequisites. The course is meant for graduate students in science or engineering. While students in other areas with a strong interest in this topic are also welcomed they are expected to have a fundamental scientific understanding and be technically proficient.

Why Take This Course?

Why 3-D Printing? A recent report from data company Wanted Analytics found that in one month 35 percent of engineering job listings from a variety of fields, including biomedical, software, and transportation industries, required applicants familiar with 3-D printing.[1] Forbes explains why 3D printing is such a big deal. “50% of manufactured goods will be printed in 2060” according to ING

Why open source? You will make more money, because OS is more valuable. Recent analysis shows that jobs with the keywords "Microsoft Windows" have an average salary of $64,000, while jobs with the keyword "Linux" have an average salary of $99,000. [2]

Why open source hardware in science? Numerous studies have now shown that custom scientific hardware creates enormous value, enables more rapid development of science, better equipment and provides jaw-dropping ROIs for science funders.[3]

Required Course Material


Textbook: J.M. Pearce, The Open-Source Lab (Elsevier,2014). Direct link to Aalto reserve,[ indirect] Other reading will be handouts in class, on-line reading, and emailed pdfs. See hyperlinks below.

Free and open source software needed: OpenSCAD, FreeCAD, Blender, Lulzbot Edition Cura.

Laptop computer to be brought to class.

Other Useful Books

Course Organization

This course will be run as an intense seminar meeting as a group. Students will be expected to read the course material before class and actively participate in discussions. The majority of class time will be spent on projects in a flipped class format. Each student will be responsible for designing and in the final project building open source scientific hardware. Students will be responsible for giving short presentations on their projects on each sub-topic in front of the class.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn the fundamentals of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3-D printing with polymers, along with those for emerging materials (e.g., metals, ceramics, flexible materials, nanocomposites, biomaterials) and complex architectures.
  • Learn the fundamentals of free and open source hardware (FOSH) design, licensing, and culture.
  • Understand the maintenance, trouble shooting and operation of self-replicating rapid prototype (RepRap) 3-D printers.
  • Understand operating principles, capabilities, and limitations of fused filament fabrication (FFF)-based 3-D printing.
  • Understand the principles of "Design for 3-D printing" and compare and contrast additive processes with conventional manufacturing in terms of rate, quality, cost, environmental impact, social control and flexibility.
  • Gain hands-on experience with RepRap 3-D printers; use these machines to fabricate example parts of increasing complexity, post-process the parts, and study the results.
  • Become familiar with the complete workflow of open source AM, including computational design tools, firmware, software, file formats, toolpath generation, and characterization.
  • Understand how to make a new part and alter an existing part for RepRap 3-D printing for custom applications.
  • Study applications of distributed manufacturing using 3-D printing specifically scientific equipment
  • Understand the requirements to design open source scientific hardware
  • Understand documentation necessary to publish in the field of open source scientific hardware
  • Place open source 3-D printing in the context of the evolving distributed manufacturing infrastructure.


Grading: Grades will be based on 5 projects of increasing complexity.

  1. OpenSCAD Crystal Structure Project 15%
  2. Tool Customization 15%
  3. L3999 Final project
    1. Novel Design: CAD 20%
    2. Novel Design: Presentation 10%
    3. Novel Design: Documentation 40%

Late Assignments

Deduct 10% per day, up to 5 working days, then 0 grade. Only exception is for documented illness. Missed projects are penalized by the negative square of the percent total.

Course Policies

Appropriate behavior, attendance, participation and collaboration with your peers on group assignments is expected. Collaboration/Plagiarism Rules Collaboration is encouraged on the group project but the individual projects must be completed alone. Follow all Aalto University rules.

Course Schedule

'*********10-6 No class - watch video tutorials on FreeCAD and Blender to learn**************

OSL= Open-Source Lab textbook

Class Date Topic To Do
1 9-20 Introduction to course, course organization, Open licensing - Advanced Sharing OSL Chap 1,2, final project assigned
2 9-22 OS Legal questions, Wiki tutorial Bring Laptop, OSL Chap 3
3 9-27 OpenSCAD tutorial:File:3 Intro to OpenSCAD 2017 science.pdf OpenSCAD project assigned
4 9-29 RepRap for Science: How to Use, Design, and Troubleshoot the Self-Replicating 3-D Printer:File:4 intro to reprap.pdf OSL Chap 5,
5 10-4 OS Microcontrollers for Science: How to Use, Design, and Troubleshoot the Self-Replicating 3-D Printer OSL Chap 4, OpenSCAD project due, Customization project assigned. stl to scad
6 10-6 Online class only: Videos for FreeCAD and Blender Tutorials Bram de Vries FreeCAD video tutorials (starting with 1 of 8), Using OpenSCAD tricks in FreeCAD, Using Blender to Model for 3-D printing, 2D to 3D in Blender, Creating 3D models for printing with Blender: Advanced tips
7 10-11 Digital Designs and Scientific Hardware I OSL 6, L3999 Final project assigned
8 10-13 Digital Designs and Scientific Hardware II work on identifying final project, examples
9 10-18 Quantifying the Value of Open Source Hardware OSL 7, Customization due
10 10-20 Presentations Presentations due
10-27 Novel Design files due posted and Appropedia page edited Final project due

Core Making Resources at Aalto U

  • Aalto FabLab - core course partner 7 Lulzbots for class use - plus many other 3DPs and resources
  • Aalto Design Factory - many resources, custom 3DP specialty in ABS, machining, pcb, and silicone, etc.
  • A Space - Primarily design, textiles, but some 3DPs, training and cost of consumables to use
  • ADD Lab - Advanced AM

Additional Readings and Media

Module 1: Introduction to OSH

  1. OSL Chap. 2 OSH Introduction, Cathedral and Bazaar, Microsoft OSH, OSH intro video, TEDxBoulder - Nathan Seidle (Sparfun)- How Open Hardware will Take Over the World, Lulzbot factory tour and discussion of OSH business by Jeff Moe, The Law of Accelerating Returns by Ray Kurzweil, Do Makers Propose a More Open Source Future? - Idea Channel, PBS Digital Studios, 2015 the Year OSS went nuclear, Can Open-Sourcing Transform Electronics Hardware?
  2. OSL Chap. 3 OS License OS License, Creative Commons copyright licenses, OS software for GNU-Linux, The Future of 3D Printing: Smarter IP Strategies, Less Lawsuits

Module 2: Open source CAD

  1. OpenSCAD, OpenSCAD manual, OpenSCAD for 3D Printing Kindle Edition, MOST SCAD Libraries on Github, Object oriented OpenSCAD, RapCAD, Aaltoblock
  2. FreeCAD, Bram de Vries FreeCAD video tutorials (starting with 1 of 8)Using OpenSCAD tricks in FreeCAD
  3. Blender, Using Blender to Model for 3-D printing, 2D to 3D in Blender, Creating 3D models for printing with Blender: Advanced tips

  1. Tricks - Multicolor, A few ways to strengthen 3D printed parts, 3D print from McMaster-Carr, 3DHubs - how to optimize design for FFF
  2. Converting 2D images to 3D for printing using open source software, Images to OpenSCAD Via Inkscape, Celtic Knot SCAD, Bezier curves and knots script for Blender
  3. Open Source Photogrammetry, Open source 3D scanners

Module 3: RepRap


  1. OSL Chap. 5
  2. Watch RepRap video, The RepRap project- Ranellucci
  3. RepRap build OSL Chap. 5, Delta Build Overview:MOST, Athena_Build_Overview, Need help go here!forum/most-delta-users-l then use email:
  4. MOST Delta mods - see also: Github MTU-MOST repositories, Open-source syringe pump, Open-source metal 3-D printer, MOST mods (incomplete but getting there), another approach to PCB design
  5. Mech strength: Mechanical Properties of Components Fabricated with Open-Source 3-D Printers Under Realistic Environmental Conditions, The Effects of PLA Color on Material Properties of 3-D Printed Components, preprint for all materials


  1. TAZ 6
  2. Lulzbot Mini
  3. TAZ 6 Guide
  4. Taz Mini Guide
  5. Lulzbot Cura Quick Print profiles
  6. Octoprint

Software toolchain

  1. Software - Slicers RepRap Magazine 1, Slic3r, Cura,RepRapPro Slicer, tweak AtoZ Cura plugin, Matter Control
  2. Printer controllers - Printrun, Franklin -- How to Install Franklin on your 777 printer, Franklin use video, Using Franklin (long), Hacking Franklin

  1. OSL Chap. 4 OS microcontrollers Arduino Tutorials , Makershed comparison, Jeremy Blum TED talk, Nathan Seidle- SparkFun

Module 2: OS Community

  1. RepRap IRC, RepRap Forums, RepRap Groups
  2. Arduino Forum, Arduino google group
  3. Free and open repositories of designs,
  4. Tricks: support, raft, parts, orientation, fill, slicer choice, pictorial guide to problems,pictorial guide to reprap print trouble shooting, calibration photos, RichRap Slic3r is Nicer, living hinges, post processing
  5. Appropedia, 777 demo page

Module 5: OS Science

  1. OSL Chap. 1 examples 3D printable science equipment
  2. OSL Chap. 6
  3. OSL Chap. 7


  1. Post processing
  2. Recyclebot, Open Source Ecology TED talk
  3. The Economist-- A third industrial revolution, Where we go from here - types of OS3DP Open-source metal 3-D printer
  4. First International Workshop on "Low-cost 3D Printing for Science, Education and Sustainable Development, 25. Hopes and Fears, 27. Open Hardware and Arduino, 31. Prehistoric Collections: Digitizing the Leaky collection and interesting perspectives on digital rights and proprietary museum collections, 33. Bringing a CAD model into a physical object: Ranelucci video, 54. The future of 3D printing: Another Ranelucci video.

Period 2

Period 2: Advanced 3-D printing of open source hardware for science (By Invitation Only)

The best student projects from period 1 will be selected to be further refined in period 2 of the course. This will focus on documentation, design optimization, validation, technical specification evaluation, economic analysis and writing for the peer-reviewed literature. The course outcome will be a peer-reviewed publication submitted to a journal such as HardwareX, a new journal from Elsevier, to encourage open design of scientific hardware.

Prerequisites: ELEC-L3999 Period 1 and invitation from instructor.

Credits: 5.0

Period 2 Meetings: 1 time per week: W 10-12, Oct. 30- Dec. 15.

Staff: Dr. Joshua M. Pearce, visiting professor from Michigan Tech in the U.S. and Fulbright Aalto Distinguished Chair 2017-2018.

Registration. Course registration is via Oodi as usual.

Grading: Grades will be based on preparation of an open source hardware article for peer review.

Potential Target Journals

Core open hardware for science journals


Pure OA journals

3D printing specific journals