How 3D Print Projects are Born

Three dimensional printing is NOT just about the printing. The printing is a machine process. Machine set-up is a complex setting of variables that constantly change for an equally complex set of reasons. 

Not getting into machine settings here, as every process, print, and printer is different. Starting points are good but anyone who has a die-hard favorite setting that ALWAYS works Is probably just overwhelmed by the variables and perhaps fears experimenting. It's easy to "mess up" what seems to always work...  Ha!

So the printer is simply the tangible output tool. The creative enjoyment (for me) is the taking the idea, creating a design sketch, drawing in CAD, and making all the “what is possible” decisions that need to be made before producing the print.

All good product engineers know, it’s often possible to create designs that can not be made with the limitations of tools available. 

Creating from imagination moves three-dimensional printing from, just operating a complex machine, to a fully creative art. There is total ownership when one creates a new project generated from within ones own imagination.

The Project

Here is a project that started with a picture. Yes, it is someone else’s shape design. I liked how it looked and immediately envisioned how I could design and make a copy. It’s called an inspiration.

I feel it is no crime to like a design shape and take that vision into ones own creation. My version will certainly be “different” in many ways than the one in the picture. Same as one coffee cup shape looks exactly like a billion others, but there are differences. 

I skipped the basic sketch as I already had a visual of the design. I fired up my Fusion 360 CAD, and started the drawing. CAD by the way is another whole area of specialization. There is no one “right” CAD product. Every designer will find a CAD program they like, then need to fully understand (just like the printer hardware), and then master.

planterThe picture is a rendering of the output (.STL) file of my CAD work. It’s a fairly complex process and I spent at least four or five hours on the drawing. It’s a hobby. I don’t have to exactly account for all the time my creatives juices flow. Ha!

The CAD is really the “hands on” part of creating. Once the printer starts, It can “create” non-stop for dozens of hours with only an occasional glance from me to make sure it hasn’t started “doing strange things on its own.” Yeah, that does happen.

The final pictures show the results. Part of the design process is deciding how it will be placed on the build platform. Upside down here. Also deciding what kind and how much support will be needed.

This print is made with PLA filament. A biodegradable plastic. I plan to print another with ASA filament which is more weather and water resistant. But also a bit harder to print and requires much higher printing temperatures. 

IMG 1580IMG 1581I started three dimensional printing like everyone. Using the freely available design files available from internet sources. (Not all are free). But that eliminates most if not all the creative process. I became just a printer operator and printed Junque collector. Many folks enjoy painting and detailing “other people’s designs  they have printed. Nothing wrong with that!  It helps provide some of the manual creative personal enjoyment to what is otherwise simply (but complex set-up) machine operation.

Other areas of this blog one can see I also enjoy multi-color multi-filament printing. That is yet another level of creative freedom that can and is a part of three dimensional printing. There is special CAD steps when creating separate color areas. Colors can be (and are) separate files but they can be assembled within CAD to be one file when outputted as .STL for printing. 

3D printing. It’s a technology geek’s paradise. Ha!