My little 3D project – a Hendrix College Technology Services Nick Nack (Hockey Puck, Coaster, Factory, Dreidel, Whatev) – is now done.
What did I learn?
That if you have a bad start, you will have a bad finish. On one of the runs for one of the longer parts of the build (4 hour build time!), the job was started with the build plate having a torn surface. This object has large, flat surface areas – therefore, an uneven surface means a defective finished surface in the object. If you’re going to spend hours building something, make sure you start with a clean, pristine build plate. In the photograph, on the lower middle left of the black outer ring, you can make out the surface imperfection where the build plate was damaged. Also, between the prongs of the plug (yes – this is supposed to represent our school shield as power plug – plugged in – get it?) you can also make out where the tape on the underlying build plate was ridged.
That infill matters. Infill is the plastic pattern that supports the outer shell of your 3D object. The lower the percentage of infill, the faster your object prints – but also, it is less structurally strong. And, with an object like the one I designed, it means that the material will sag if it has to stretch between too widely gapped sections of infill. Consequently, the large white piece had one face that was fairly pristine (on the bottom when being made on the printer), while one face (the top) was – not. This was because we used an infill value of 6%. On the black section of the piece, we used a 10% infill value. So, while the orange and white sections of the object printed faster, the black section with the higher infill had better (more even) surfaces on all sides.
That “consumerized” 3D printing (and scanning) is a great learning tool, but is not ready-for-prime-time for commercial applications. Printers of the class of our MakerBot Replicator 2 are excellent for learning the mechanics, the material science, and the design considerations needed for the making of things. But you’re not going to make photographic replicas of your favorite tschotskes, nor are you going to create glass-smooth Godzilla models. And that’s OK. Set your expectations accordingly, and go create cool stuff.
This exercise has been invaluable to me in understanding the current state of 3D printing technology, as well as how we can incorporate these lessons learned into the classroom, and into our professional development of our student workers.
My next 3D project? Designing a new Baggo trophy for our Campus-wide Baggo tournament in a few weeks.
I love my job.