That being said, the latest entry into my collection of gadgets and gizmos is a 3D printer. A couple of weekends ago, I went to my second Maker Faire in San Mateo with Michael, and for a second year, I was enthralled with the vendors of 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser cutters. All of these tools present a great intersection of creativity and technology, and I've been thinking about them for a while and how they could fit into my life.
my new printer sitting in front of my PC
feeding the plastic filament into the extruder; this will draw it down to the heated nozzle for printing
an important part of printing is to level the bed, so that each layer is even;
some filament feeding through the heated extruder
All set up and ready for a test print
The great thing about this approach is that there are so many resources out there to get me started. This printer has quite a community of people who are working with it, so I can look up settings and tips to make my prints better. As for my first endeavor? I prepared the print bed with painter's tape, leveled the bed so everything would be even, and loaded up the test file included with the printer.
3D printing is done using a digital model that has been "sliced". This means that the model has been processed through software that tells the printer exactly what to do with each layer. The language that the printer speaks is called "G-code".
loading the sample "cat" G-code file that came with the printer
After loading the file and setting the temperatures, all that's left to do is wait.
and wait some more
All things considered, it took around 3 hours to finish the first print. But I was pretty happy with the results!
So what did I learn from this process so far? Preparation is key. I've seen other users' pictures of first prints that weren't nearly as sharp in their layers. Mine isn't perfect, there's definitely room for improvement, but I also wasn't dialing the settings for this specific print. My future prints are going to be with settings I can adjust, so there's more opportunity for trial-and-error. Second is that I need to get more filament. This print used basically all of the supplied sample, and now I need to get more before I can print out anything else. Finally, patience. These prints take a LONG time. My 3D printer can do layers a little smaller than 0.1mm, which means a lot of time is needed to build up things that are just a few inches tall. 1 inch of height requires over 250 layers of filament, and the printer can only go so fast maintaining both speed and temperature. I'll be doing a lot of waiting, and that further enforces the idea that preparation is important; I don't want to be 5 hours into a print before something goes wrong.
after removing the "raft" that helped keep the cat stable