BCM: The 3D Experiment: Week 2 ‘Ascending a very steep learning curve’

BCM: The 3D Experiment: Week 2 ‘Ascending a very steep learning curve’

After our underwhelming initiation into 3D printing (or Fused Filament Fabrication as we in the know call it), we were perhaps just a little circumspect in our approach to the next foray — the second week.

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But lo and behold! Our very first print of the week was a great success. Not a particularly impressive piece, I’ll grant, but technically superior to our first efforts. This form was chosen because it has a combination of curved faces, flat faces and a sharp ridge — a great way to test the capabilities of the Leapfrog Creatr (and also because it’s an easy model for a beginner like me to build in the 3D modelling software).

The model on the left is a rough print job from last week with a poorly formed base due to the calibration issues we were experiencing. The ones on the right are the same model printed with finer settings after calibration.

Emboldened by this and a few other small test pieces we decided to jump right in and experiment with the dual extruder capabilities. Most FFF printers are single extruder, allowing the laying down of only one plastic per model. Having the second extruder offers two key advantages: the creation of two-colour models; and the creation of more complex models using a second, different plastic as a soluble support for the piece being printed.

These were both pretty successful and taught us an immense amount about layer heights, infills, perimeters, oozing, stringing, retraction, adhesion, bed temperatures, extrusion multipliers, and the utter uselessness of sodium hydroxide as a PLA solvent without the use of a heated ultrasonic tank.

Confused yet?

The learning curve is so steep as to be almost not a curve at all, but a straight, vertical cliff face of monumental proportions. Fortunately, this week we were able to find just enough nooks and crannies to assist in the beginning of our ascent from the abyss into the light.

A great comfort to us during the week were occasional visits to websites specifically dedicated to 3D printing failures. Knowing that you’re not alone in your battles with recalcitrant robotics has an uplifting effect.

Images via Fred Kahl (http://www.flickr.com/photos/fredini/).

Mastering 3D printing can be quite frustrating at times. 

The sheer number of variables to tinker with can be overwhelming. But with each new print, be it successful or not, comes new insight and a growing enthusiasm for the possibilities opened up by this exciting new emerging technology.

BCM’s Dwayne Smith, a Finished Artist