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The Devil’s in them


Boy!  4 months pass by quickly when you have a new toy to play with.  We’ve hit the ground running with a number of exciting projects that I’ll post about in the upcoming few days, but I do need to focus for a moment (if for nothing than to get the idea out of my brain) about trouble shooting.

At its core the 3D printer is a fancy hot glue gun with a motor attached to it.  Think about that for a second; nice and simple right?  Draw a cross-section of something, let it cool, and then raise up and draw the next cross section on top of it, and repeat.  Done and done, time to go to bed.  Understanding a successfully printed thing is dependent upon the expectations of quality on behalf of the user.  Hand a print back to someone that asked for a model to be 3D printed, and you can almost read their face:

“Why does it look so stringy?”
“I though the roof would be smoother.”
“Wow that took a long time!
“Why did it loose so much detail?”

Trying to meet those expectations is when the fun new toy turns into a very tediously annoying tool.
Let’s go back to my hot glue gun analogy.  I encourage you to try this at home with a parent’s supervision kids.  Draw a circle on a piece of paper using a compass (or trace a plate if you have one handy)  now put an even bead of hot glue all the way around on that line…  It’s there, but it isn’t all that pretty.  Did you move too quickly?  Was the glue not hot enough? Was the nozzle too far away from the paper?  Did your hand wobble? Were you drawing too quickly? Etc, etc, etc…  you see where I’m headed, right?  A cube printed at one temperature is going to look different and take longer than the exact same cube at another temperature (just like temp on the glue gun).  Controlling all of these variables with the printer can become overwhelming, and impossible to tackle all at the same time.  If you’re printing for the first time, find where it is whithin your software that these variables are listed.  Take time to test all of these variables out, or align yourself with a community that already has.  You’ll be glad you did.

Aim[print] High!

Makerbot’s new Z18 provided an intoxicating capability of large scale prints (just look at that cool helmet on the website!), so that’s where our story begins.  Technically, our story begins on when we put in a pre-order for it and then waited with baited breath for what seemed like years.  Let me point out, that the point of this blog is not to condemn or endorse one printer brand over another, we just felt like going for height.  Two months later, we get the call to come and get our new toy from Central Receiving!  I have never been an exceptionally risky driver, but driving back to your office with a brand spanking new 3D printer in the back of your truck makes it VERY easy to take the turns and speed bumps nice and slow.  Time to plug it in and make some toys, right?

10574257_701833459882337_8833726717814835582_n…Of Course!

After printing the pre-loaded bracelet, tiny coffee table and nut/bolt, it was time throw up an actual architecture model and let ‘er rip.  Twenty minutes later, after tweaking a SketchUP warehouse model of the Arch of Titus we discovered to very important things:

1. Everybody turns into a 5-year old at Christmas time when they watch this thing run
2. …our prints were leaning off to the side…

And Away We Go!

There’s been a marvelous amount of excitement in the past few years regarding the possibilities 3D printing has for the manufacturing/tech industry.  What we have become most interested in exploring is, “How can 3D printing augment the academic environment?”  That’s not to say that gnomes and Tyrannosaurus Rex heads don’t have their place (we did spend a full day getting the T-rex head printed out by the way, feel free to stop by and see it), but how can we use this technology to help our students be more in tune with the history of Classical Architecture and the built environment?  As we continue to refine the way we incorporate the 3D printer into our students’ experience, we’ll be bragging about our successes and coming up with excuses for our failures.  Either way, at least we’ll be learning.