Tuesday, August 18, 2015

3D Printing

I recently read a blog post by Shaun Hurley titled "3D Printing is Not a Fad". This post came at a perfect time because I had just attended a 3D Printing Road Show in Wichita, KS hosted by Stratasys and Depco. While I have always known several of the ways 3D printed parts were being used, I had no idea the scope. From prototype parts, to castings, to actual production parts it is amazing the way this technology is being adapted and utilized.

Here at Hutchinson Community College we were fortunate to be early adopters of 3D printing, specifically the Stratasys Dimension SST 768. We have had this printer for approximately ten years. While it is still a great printer, I decided it was time to upgrade to newer technology. Fortunately, we were able to secure a grant to purchase an Objet30 Prime printer. We will be making the purchase some time this fall. I am very excited for this new technology for a few reasons:

  • Rubbery material. Printing in ABS plastic is great, but I can't wait to create more flexible models (literally!)
How cool is this rubber tire?!
  • Clear material. The SST 768 was somewhat limited on material choices. I cannot wait to print some working assemblies with a clear outside so that students can see the inner workings!
  • Resolution. The SST 768 had a minimum layer thickness of .013 in.; the Objet30 Prime has a minimum layer thickness of .0006 in. (!) 
    • Take a look at the difference in these two parts:

Yep, that's why I am excited.

Incidentally, the part on the left was my first attempt to "glue" two parts together. I used acetone to essentially melt the parts into one. It worked like a charm, that thing is solid! Next I applied some body filler (Bondo) and sanded. Since this was a test part I didn't spend a lot of time to get it perfectly smooth, but it was a good indicator on how finishing a part would turn out. Here is the result:

Here is what I ultimately printed and finished. A Sabine helmet from Star Wars Rebels:

Yeah, I am a Star Wars geek.

Perhaps someday I will post the pictures of the process from beginning to end.

May the Force be with you in all your 3D printing endeavors!

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