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3D Printing and Me.

Last post (over 4 months ago now…), I alluded to the fact that I was getting to do a lot with 3D printers at my day job, so let me fill you in, dear reader!

Over the last 5 or so years, the library I work at has undergone a $25 million dollar renovation and expansion. It’s been fantastic. I’ll spare you all the details but as part of that renovation, we built a makerspace. In anticipation of said makerspace, we purchased a small “One-Up” 3D printer kit (way back in 2015) to learn about 3D printers and how they work. I like to joke that the kit cost $200 and took 200 man-hours to get to working. However, it totally accomplished its goal of teaching us (and by us I mean the IT department I work in) the basics of 3D printing.
Fast forward to April of 2016 and it was time to start purchasing some printers. After hours and hours of research we settled on two Ultimaker 2+ FDM printers and a Formlabs Form 2 SLA printer.

For those that don’t know much about 3D printers, an FDM (‘Fused Deposited Material’, or as it’s sometimes referred to, an FFF or ‘Fused Filament Fabrication’) printer uses a plastic filament (like weed-whacker line) to build objects up in layers. An SLA (or ‘Stereolithography’) printer uses a photosensitive resin and a laser to build objects up in layers. I promise I’ll do a ‘Primer on 3D Printers” post here in a couple of days.

Anyways, back to the printers. The Ultimakers have a great reputation for reliability and consistency of prints—two things we definitely need here at the library. They were a bit pricey compared to the competition, but their reputation has held true and we’ve been very happy with them.

Our other printer, the Form 2,  is my baby. With resolution settings of .001 mm, prints are almost perfect. It’s even more pricey, but not compared to other SLA printers on the market. Where they get you, however, is the consumables. Where a spool of filament for the Ultimakers (3.00 diameter) is around $50 for 1000 grams, the resin for the Form (from Form) is around $150 per liter (or to make it easier to conceptualize: about 1000 grams)—or three times the cost.

Furthermore, as part of the mandate for the makerspace, we needed to teach people about this technology and how to use it. In that vein, I started looking at programs that would be easy to use but still be useful for designing things for 3D printing. That’s where TinkerCad comes in. TinkerCAD is a great 3D modeling program that is easy to use. It has some limitations, but for what it does, it does well. So I taught myself the program and in November I started teaching a “3D Design with TinkerCAD” class. I cribbed a fair amount from Chicago Public Library’s Maker Lab Ring Design Class, but did adjust some content to both reflect our printer and my teaching style; as can be seen here. I’ve since added a more advanced class, and am looking forward to doing even more as time allows.

Here’s a nice article the local newspaper did about our makerspace and a horrid picture of yours truly.

So besides a future primer post on what 3D printing is, I’m also planning on doing a couple more posts on TinkerCAD and a website called Thingiverse.

In the meantime, look at some of the cool stuff we’ve printed!

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On the right is a Vulture III miniature as it would come out of the Form 2, and the left is a print that has been cleaned up, painted and based. Model courtesy of Matthew Cross.

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A tiny AT-ST printed on the Form 2 that is supposedly in-scale with Fantasy Flight’s ‘X-Wing’ game. Model from Thingiverse.

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A 1/100 scale M4A3E8 hull printed on the Ultimaker. Model from Thingiverse.

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A ‘not-30K Rhino’ from Thingiverse, printed on our Form 2. I modified the file and cut out the as-designed hatches and designed one new one, and used a stock plastic one for the other.