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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

3D Printers Are COOL! - Make Parts And Accessories For Your RV And More!

Cannot Wait Until Spring!
    I finally broke down and bought a 3D printer. They have come down in price so much over the last few years it was really hard to resist. For only a few hundred dollars I now have a device that can print in various materials (more on that later) in 3 Dimensions! Yes, it makes Stuff rather than text on a page. Truly amazing. There is a bit of a learning curve. Heck, figuring out which one to buy in the first place took over a month of research! Worth it! I have already printed new cabinet and drawer latches to replace broken ones. Some knobs for electronics, a keychain and a Phaser. Yes, the last one was just for me. Yes, they are a bit fiddly, but with a bit of trial and error (much less than usual for me) and a little bit of patience you can be printing whatever you like in short order.

Anycubic I3 Mega 3D Printer
I remember the Star Trek: The Next Generation "Replicator". You walk up to it, say something like, "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" and VOILA! You have a coaster and a mug filled with hot tea in a flash. Way cool! 3D printers are NOT like that, but it's a start. How do they work? Well most of them heat up filaments of plastic and squeeze them out through a nozzle. This nozzle is able to move and be controlled in three dimensions by a small computer running a few stepper motors. As the nozzle moves, more plastic is fed in to create an object layer by layer. These layers are THIN! -- 0.1 mm (give or take). The smaller the layer the more detailed the object. Each layer adheres to the one below and on and on until the object is finished. It takes a LONG time. My 4" long Phaser took about 5 HOURS to print. But it was amazing to come back and check on it once in a while to see the progress.

A Couple Of 1KG Spools Of Filament
The plastic itself comes in many colors (or just buy white and paint whatever color you like.) The standard is PLA (Polylactic Acid) which is mostly made from renewable materials like corn starch. It's the default material for most printers and does not require a heated bed -- that's the part material is deposited on. It's pretty strong and light and is fine for most projects.It does not like to be over stressed and will break. Especially if used on small parts.

Next up is ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). This is a VERY common plastic and has been in use for decades. It's strong, lightweight and can handle a decent amount of stress. My Attex 6 Wheeler's body is made from it. It is UV resistant and works well outside. You can make gears and machine parts from it. I've seen screws and nuts used in various applications. It is a bit harder to work with and your 3D printer settings are critical to get a good output.

Nylon is next up. Incredibly tough and resilient, it is difficult to get good results, but if you can get past the trial and error phase, the parts and/or objects are REALLY tough wearing.

The Star Trek Phaser One
There are MANY "exotic" materials as well. TPE is flexible like soft rubber. You can make lots of stuff with this. It's a bit hard to feed properly, but works OK in my printer. Add to that, Ceramic, Metal, Wood, Carbon Fiber, Magnetic, Glow in the Dark, and even Conductive! There are so many materials you can use, the limit to what you can make is up to your imagination. I started with replacement parts and "trinkets." I am graduating to full on design and prototyping of products!

So what's the process to make something? Well, you first install some free 3D design software on your computer (Mac or PC) and create an object file. If you do not or can not draw, there are quite a few places online that you can choose and download from THOUSANDS of free files to print. I was/am amazed at what is available. This file is opened in the free Slicer software. I know, weird name, but it's what it does. It takes the object and cuts it in very thin "slices" of data that are then fed to the printer. Either directly via USB or indirectly by saving it to an SD card that you then insert into the printer. Most of what I have printed was downloaded. The Slicer software allows you to rotate, scale and perform various tweaks to the printing parameters.

These 3D printers are not for impatient people. I am not the greatest at waiting, but it is so cool that I wait patiently while it prints out my next...thing! Who knows, I may figure out a way to bring it along (it's attached to my laptop) and print out stuff on the road as a new source of income...hmmm. Maybe!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

www.thewanderman.com

10 comments:

  1. Your words of encouragement are great. I have some CAD background and have wanted to play with a 3d printer. You may have started a new hobby for me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nelson,
      If it's broken and plastic...it's "make-able." I'm sold! And you are correct, it's fun!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  2. Ooo, eee, ahhh. Sounds like fun while actually being useful. Especially the replacing broken latches part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PZ,
      Yup...parts made from "unobtainium" become almost easy to replace. I've been making spares of all my brittle plastic parts. Just replaced a fantastic vent fan knob....more too come.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  3. If I have a broken part, a knob for example, how does the computer/printer obtain the pattern to replace it? Or is the knob online somewhere to copy?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dick_B,
      Typically, I look online on the MANY 3D printer file archives...search for the parts name (what model it came from, etc) and someone will have already made one for printing. If not, look for the size of the attachment for the knob (i.e. 8MM shaft, etc) and you'll usually find one. The other option is to measure the part and design one in a Free (or paid) piece of 3d Design software (Solidworks, Blender, EZcad, etc) and then use the slicer software to prepare that file for printing. There are 3D scanners that can scan the part and create the files (you fill in thebroken or missing pieces) but that's an article for later!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  4. Powered windshield shade endcaps. Carefree of Colorado won’t supply them. Make and sell those and you’ll cover your investment in no time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uknown,
      Hmmm... I am not sure I've ever seen one? But I do have end caps on my blinds that are missing and clips that hold them to the wall. Yes! That will be next!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  5. Curious as to the selection of the ANYCUBIC model? There are so many to choose from. So what made this one THE ONE?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David,
      The main reasons were, decent specs, active aftermarket forums/parts, extra included hotend, bits and a full metal frame for stability. There were really only positive reviews. Of course, at around 200.00 shipped, you can't go wrong!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete

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