Student Post: Replicating Real Life

Another awesome thing about 3D printing is that you can replicate things that already exist without having to rebuild them from scratch. Using 3D scanning technology it is possible to digitize existing objects and then bring them back in to the physical world with a 3D printer. This is one of they things I am attempting to do this semester with a Duke Dog statuette. For the JMU Centennial 10 years ago, a number of statuettes were created (see here), one of which now goes out to various events throughout the year. This statuette is getting quite old and beat up, and would be very expensive to recreate with traditional means since the original molds are gone. So using 3D scanning and printing we are hoping to be able to create something that may be able to replace this Duke Dog.

At the beginning of the semester we did a few 3D scans with a Structure Sensor scanner on an iPad. These scans turned out surprisingly well and I have been slowly trying to clean them up and make the model look alright (but I’m not an artist so…). The original statuette is quite large and certainly too big to print in one piece on any printer we have, and even Shapeways cannot print it at full size. So the goal is to come up with a good way to cut the model into parts so that each part can be printed at larger scale and then assembled into a full-scale model that is larger than a single print volume.

My initial cut method did not use flat planes and the pieces did not join very good along the seams so there are quite large gaps. However, it did work for creating a model larger than a single print volume. It also allows for the parts to be printed in different orientations that do not need as much support material and don’t mar the surface of the model as much as a single piece print. The issue of supports and poor surface quality is not a big deal if we were using something like Shapeways, but for the purposes of prototypes it is more important to consider.

Here are pictures of the first pieced together print that I did from my initial cut method. I am working on finding a better method for cutting that will not create such bad seams and will allow the parts to fit together better. Having flat interface surfaces between parts will also allow me to hopefully create alignment pins so that orientation when assembling is not an issue. Being able to cleanly hollow the parts is also a goal so that we can reduce the cost of printing with a service like Shapeways.

Until next time… — Quincy Mast

Student Post: Printing Printers

One thing I love about 3D printing is the sheer endlessness of it. There is always something new to print, and if there isn’t then you aren’t trying hard enough. I think that one defining feature of this field is the ability of the tool to improve itself. A 3D printer is not limited by how the factory set it up, or how the manufacturer designed it. Considering that some of the largest 3D printing communities are built around open source kits, it is not a surprise that there numerous mods for practically every 3D printer on the market. In almost every community guide to a 3D printer there will be a section about mods that can improve basically every part of the experience and end product. The amazing thing about these mods is that they can be created using the 3D printer that they are designed to enhance.

We happen to have a Flash Forge Creator Pro 2016 edition (FFCP), and a quick search on thingiverse returns numerous models to get started improving it. At home I have a Monoprice Select Mini v2 (MPSM) and some of the first things I printed on it were parts to improve it. In this post I want to show you a few of the parts I have printed as direct enhancements to both of these printers.

First lets look at the FFCP. DrLex on thingiverse has several designs for additions to the FFCP that are really nice. I have printed two of them for our printer. Two major problems with this printer are: the way that the filament feeds off of the spools, and the spool holders themselves. The filament is forced flush with the back of the printer when going through the normal feeding tubes, and this causes it to be stretched across the whole spool. So the first part I printed is and extension that holds the feeding tubes out from the back of the printer so the filament can feed off the center of the spools. In this photo you can see the new extension near the top printed in red. The pink circle is highlighting the old point where the feeding tubes started, and as you can see it was not ideal.FFCP_filament_guide

The spool holders themselves are also problematic on the FFCP. They allow for quite wide spools and if a thinner spool is used havoc may ensue. The spools tend to shift away from the back of the printer and the filament can get tangled behind the spool and cause all sorts of issues. This may have partly been due to the pool feeding location, but it is not worth risking damage to the printer to find out. To solve this issue I printed adjustable spool holders. These can be tightened to fit different width spools.

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For my MPSM at home I have printed three different upgrades. This printer also does not feed filament in an optimal way, but a small guide helps to alleviate undue stress on the extruder. I also printed a new main control knob because the one that comes on the printer is lacking and a little bit ugly. Finally I printed a fan cover for the hot end cooling fan so that I don’t accidentally catch the fan blades when it is running.

In conclusion, 3D printers are awesome because you don’t have to buy extra parts to upgrade them, you can just print them. I think this is extremely cool.

Thanks for Reading. — Quincy

P.S. Here is a sneak peek at another project I am working on for the semester. Spoiler Alert: 3D scanning is really cool too.