Saturday, 30 July 2016

My escapades into 3D printing and Laser Cutting!

With Digital Manufacturing becoming more and more popular in the prop making world (and many other disciplines) I feel that educating myself in the magical ways of this ever expanding field is essential (I would most certainly be doing myself a great disservice if I didn't). The maker movement is also growing exponentially and maker spaces are popping up all over the place. The MakLab in Glasgow is where my adventures began. The first class I took was in 3D printing, they have many different printers ranging from Ultimakers to a HP Designjet Color 3D Printer! I was struck by the simplicity of the process, of course you have to learn how to model in a certain way in order to produce a perfect print.  However the fact that something which only exited inside a computer can become an physical object you can touch and feel in a matter of hours is something I find truly incredible (and probably will do for a long time).  I already have some knowledge of 3Ds Max which made the modelling process easier for me. We used Fusion 360 in the class which I found to be incredibly user-friendly. I plan to start learning how to use this software as it has some incredible features including a large community of users, an active forum, huge Autodesk tutorial library, free-form modeling tools and it's also a cloud-based platform.

 I have a commission coming up shortly which will have some 3D printed elements. I decided I would practice modeling the item for the commission in the class. The item was going to be printed on an Ultimaker 2, once I'd finished modeling we took the file over to Cura (Software which prepares your 3D model for printing). After the model was deemed ready to print, the file was put on an SD card, inserted into the 3D printer and.... Off it went! Watching that thing go is completely entrancing (half attributed possibly to the lovely fumes of melting plastic).

Here is a video of the printer doing it's thang:

And here is the result: (Not the most splendid example of the capabilities that 3D printing has to offer, but I had fun and learnt a tonne, so that's all that matters ;)

The next class I took was an introduction into laser cutting. The task was to create a laser cut lamp shade from cardboard, this was a perfect project to start on, it was fairly simple, but armed me with the necessary knowledge to allow me to start on my own laser cutting projects. Again, I used fusion 360 to create the model, then transferred these designs to 123D Make which converts the 3D files into a sliced model ready for laser cutting. Again the simplicity of the process was completely incredible and the results are equally amazing- the laser cutter can cut with a precision and speed that I could never, ever achieve with mechanical/hand tools. Once all the pieces had been cut, it was just a matter of matching up all the numbers and gluing the pieces together.

Here is the laser cutting making some lovely smelling burnt cardboard fumes!

And some progress pics:

Here is the lampshade in action! (Sprayed with fire retardant of course ;))

If anyone is looking to get started in the world of digital manufacturing I would thoroughly recommend finding your nearest maker space and taking some classes! Getting started is always the hardest part, but it's worth it - trust me. I will certainly be taking the knowledge I've learnt further and expect to see many 3D printed and laser cut elements in my future projects!


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