Entries in learning (6)
by General Fabb
If you're like us, you've often fielded many questions about 3D printing technology. And they're the same questions almost every time. It would certainly be nice to simplify the questioning - and that's exactly what Thingiverse user Shawn Grover of Calgary, Canada did. He produced a pre-made "brochure" that answers the most commonly observed 3D printing questions.
The brochure is available for download at no charge from Thingiverse in multiple common formats so that you can change anything you like.
One question we'd add, however, is the inevitable "How BIG can you print something?", usually asked by someone staring at the build chamber of a 3D printer. The answer, of course, is: "You don't. Printing big things takes forever!"
With the explosive growth in affordable, office-oriented 3D printers, there is a flood of new users and a huge pool of prospective users. Being new to the technology, or perhaps distanced from it through service bureaus or centralized machines, the freshman class may not be tuned into all that 3D printers can do for them.
Read More at Engineering.com
Actually we're not interviewing the DreamVendor itself; instead we're interviewing Dr. Chris Williams, the Director of the DREAMS Lab at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, the organization that produced the DreamVendor. (Wait, what's a "DreamVendor"??? Read on and you'll find out.)
Fabbaloo: We're wondering what the DREAMS lab is all about? Can you enlighten our readers?
Dr. Williams: The DREAMS Lab is a research lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech. Our research goal is to help transition today's "rapid prototyping" technologies towards true "additive manufacturing" technologies where they are of a maturity to be considered as viable platforms for manufacturing usable products. We conduct research in three key areas: product design (i.e., designing new (and redesigning current) products specifically for fabrication via AM), process and materials research (i.e., developing new AM processes and materials), and education (i.e., educating future engineers about the potential (and technical challenges) in AM).
Fabbaloo: Has the lab been experimenting with new 3D printable materials? What materials have been investigated, and what has been found?
Dr. Williams: As Mechanical Engineers, we tend to collaborate with our friends in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering to investigate new material systems. We have researched several new printable material systems ranging from metals, ceramics, biopolymers, and nanocomposites. Given the material limitations of most AM systems, we often look to combining AM with other processes to create unique material systems. For example, we have developed a process where we 3D Print a polymer pattern that is then coated with a bio-compatible ceramic material via a process called biomimetic mineralization. In this process, the part is placed in a solution that mimics a human's blood plasma, and small bone-like ceramic crystals deposit automatically onto the part. The resultant part could serve as a tissue scaffold to aid in healing wounds and fractures in bone.
Dr. Williams: The DreamVendor is a "vending machine" powered by four MakerBot Thing-O-Matics. A student begins by loading his/her design (in the form of the MakerBot .s3g toolpath file) onto a SD card. The student loads the SD card into the machine's control panel, and selects the file to print. Once the print is complete, the part is ejected into a bin to be retrieved. Thanks to funding provided by the Student Engineers' Council, it's completely free to use - the only cost is learning how to use it.We didn't change much about the printers themselves for this project, aside from a few tweaks to the toolpath generation code. The real work went into creating a user-interface and experience that makes 3D Printing more accessible. There's something comfortable and familiar about using a vending machine interface; but in this situation the inventory of the machine isn't limited by what's in the case - the item you want is never out of stock since it's of your own creation and is made on-demand.Our team built the DreamVendor a few different reasons. The primary reason was to provide students open-access to 3D printing to enable them to turn their ideas into physical products. The VT Department of Mechanical Engineering graduates 300 students a year, and it has always been challenging to provide them with sufficient resources to make products that they have designed for either their class or personal projects. The idea for the DreamVendor came mainly to solve this problem; open-access 3D Printing provides an easy way for our students to make things. The secondary reason was to provide an interactive way to educate students about 3D Printing. In effect, it is part machine shop and part educational display. We have samples of parts created on our other machines on display that truly show the power of 3D printing. The best part, and the biggest surprise, is hearing conversations in the hallway of students using the machine - they might not be aware, but they are actively teaching each other about CAD, 3D Printing, design, and manufacturing.
Fabbaloo: While the DreamVendor is quite an accomplishment, we suspect you're working on new projects. Can you describe your next 3D printing projects?
Dr. Williams: As always, we're working on quite a few projects that span several disciplinary boundaries. We've been working a lot recently with our Objet Connex machine. The multi-material capabilities of that machine are very interesting; it provides a designer full control over where material is located and the properties of that material. I can make structures that are stiff in some areas, flexible in other areas, and yet, are very lightweight. One of my PhD students, Nick Meisel, is currently looking at ways to make unique compliant mechanisms with this technology - he has even found a way to actuate these structures with shape memory alloys. I have another student, Amy Elliott (featured in the DreamVendor video), who is looking at jetting Objet photopolymers with embedded nanoparticles to enhance a part's material properties. One of my MS students, David McCarthy, has developed a process to create strong, lightweight structures by combining 3D Printing and metal plating.
The lab has produced two very informative videos that show the DreamVendor in action:
And here's the second:
For more information you'd best hit the link below. Be sure to check out their rather amazing list of 3D printing equipment, which we believe must be one of the most comprehensive anywhere.
Via DREAMS Lab
With the recent surge of popularity of 3D printing, there has come a deep need for information. Many require an introduction to the technology, while others wonder where it's all headed.
When we were requested by Auckland, New Zealand's Media Design School to put together some thoughts on the future of 3D printing, we jumped at the chance. Our General Fabb wrote a piece you might like to read.
This idea is hot - literally. Instructables member UglyBuddha created and posted a design for a Heated Build Chamber for his RapMan personal 3D printer. No, he doesn't install a heated chamber into his RapMan. Instead he builds a heated chamber around the 3D printer!
Wait a moment. Why would one require a heated build chamber for their 3D printer? It's because one of the commonly used print materials, ABS plastic, has a very nasty habit. It expands when heated and shrinks when cooled. This means that ABS 3D prints, which are hot when initially extruded and cool shortly thereafter, are subject to warping. Sometimes the warping is quite dramatic and can doom your print attempt. The warping effect is much more pronounced on large objects, leading some manufacturers (such as Bits From Bytes) to advise 3D printer operators not to print any ABS objects larger than 100mm x 100mm.
By heating the print the warping could be reduced or even eliminated. That's UglyBuddha's goal.
This brilliant idea should be adaptable to most other personal 3D printers: if they fit inside, it will work. If it doesn't, just make a bigger chamber.
The design is straightforward: plastic sheets providing the outer shell, with insulation keeping the heat inside. How hot should the chamber be kept? UglyBuddha suggests +95F (+35C) to avoid the dreaded ABS warping phenomenon.
Would you happen to be in the beautiful city of Adelaide, Australia on February 20th? You may be able to attend the "3D Printing Forum: The Next Industrial Revolution?", which promises to be an interesting introduction to various 3D printing topics. According to the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT), the event includes:
Speakers from industry, education, research and the creative communities will present on a broad range of topics, from how they are using 3D printers in their work, through to the impact that these technologies are beginning to have on diverse fields including clothes and footwear design, architecture, engineering and construction, automotive, aerospace, and the medical industries.
The event also includes live demonstrations of 3D printing as well as an opportunity to ask questions of the experts.
The event takes place on February 20th and admission is free. But there's one catch: the event is completely sold out! However, you might try adding yourself to the wait list.
Image Credit: Wikipedia