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First 3D Printing project!

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  • First 3D Printing project!

    As you may already know, 3D Printing is taking the physical design of an object as created in computer software (CAD) and then "printing" the design on a machine that manufactures the item in physical form. The materials used can range from flexible plastic to strong titanium. Previously, these 3D Printers and software were expensive and only available to businesses that could afford them to produce single-lot custom items and prototypes. But recent advances in technology have made this affordable to small businesses and consumers (like me).

    I was working on a small DIY project around the house where I needed a special part. I won't get into the details of my project because it really doesn't matter ... it could be ANY project where you need something that isn't readily available off the shelf at your local hardware supply store. I needed a small plastic wedge, just a few inches long, with specific measurements to fit my need. This little project would be my excuse for trying 3D Printing, something I've only read about and seen on TV.

    There are 3D Print services springing up all over the country that will prepare the design for you (based on photos, a sketch, or a library of existing designs) and print it. I would have contacted one of these business services if I had a need for a critical part in a hurry. But since this was a low-risk personal project I was trying to do on the cheap, I just found a couple online freelancers to help me. These are often college students or recent engineering graduates who are glad to earn a few bucks for small projects.

    I sent a handwritten sketch of the wedge I wanted (see attached). The first freelancer was a CAD designer who turned my sketch into a proper design using CAD software. He provided me with the file I needed for the 3D printer, called an STL file. When I received the STL file, I was able to view it on some free software I downloaded called 3D-Tool CAD-Viewer (see attached screenShot). The second freelancer has a small 3D printer and he accepted the STL file and "printed" the item for me, which I just received in USPS mail (see attached photo of item in my hand). All-in, this cost me $15 including shipping. The item turned out great and was a good learning experience.

    If you want to learn more about this process, just use your favorite search engine to read some of the numerous articles online. YouTube also has a lot of videos on this topic. Due to length of post, I won't go into the details of everything I learned. But one of my biggest learnings is to communicate to the designer in metric units (mm) and not inches.

    This 3D Printing may seem gimmicky now but after this experience I believe affordable 3D Printing will be the next big thing. Five years from now I expect to see this service offered in many hardware and supply stores. There will probably be a growing business service offered to take the concept/sketch from a customer and transform it into an engineering design in the CAD software. After the design work is completed, the printing is simple.

    If you want to try this, start with something inexpensive and low-risk to allow for mistakes and learning. One day in the future you might need an important part in a hurry and you'll be familiar with all the steps to make it happen.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Re: First 3D Printing project!

    ive received 1 of kind 3d parts and mine looked a lot less grainy. of course the company that made them probably has the high end printers for their line of work.

    yours is not anything sophisticated like the parts I received. couldn't you have just cut those on a saw out of some form of plastic?

    phoebe it is


    • #3
      Re: First 3D Printing project!

      The surface texture depends on the material used. This item was made from PLA plastic. Other forms of plastic used in 3D printing are ABS and resin. 3D Printers for resin are higher end and the resin material is more expensive, but you get finer resolution and a smoother finish. Your item might have been printed in resin? Some 3D printing services also offer a post-print finishing service (extra cost) to get the desired surface effect.

      As you know, your choice of material depends on your requirements for strength, resolution of detail, surface appearance, and potentially other factors like thermal integrity. The tradeoff is cost which is based on the material used and time required to print (my little wedge took 45 minutes to print).

      Another printing decision, which is not apparent from the photo, is to specify the infill density. The printer makes a honeycomb pattern inside the object corresponding to this parameter, which is zero for a hollow object and 100% for a solid one. In my case, I wanted something with moderate strength but also very light since I'm going to attach it with double-sided tape. So I specified a 25% infill percentage. If I cut the plastic myself from a block, it probably would have been solid and heavier than I wanted. See attached photo for examples of the infill percentage.

      Indeed, my item was a very simple wedge. And I probably could have cobbled some other solution together with gorilla tape and stuff from my junk box that would have worked OK but looked like a total hack job. Besides, I wanted to try 3D printing to learn the process so this project was as good as any. Going from my simple sketch to holding the item in my hand was very satisfying.
      Attached Files
      Last edited by AverageHomeowner; 04-01-2014, 11:00 PM.


      • #4
        Re: First 3D Printing project!

        Cool & interesting technology! Thanks for sharing!


        • #5
          Re: First 3D Printing project!

          I would have had to still use old tect and saw it out of a piece of wood, or chunk of plastic,

          but the star treck replicator is not far away,

          when I was kid in grade school they had a (guessing GE) film of what they predicted the future would be like, and they show the first video phone that had been made, it took 7 phone lines to operate it, and they talked about the "DIck Tracy" wrist radio, (about the only thing they did not get right on it they thought it would be via satellite, not groud tower,

          but how much the technology has currently surpassed the dream on the phone ideas,

          and the three D printing has nearly exploded in recent years,

          Jay Leno's Garage - Jay Leno’s 3D Printer Replaces Rusty Old Parts | Articles

          the video below is a few years old now,

          Last edited by BHD; 04-02-2014, 09:38 AM.
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