So I saw this little guy at Staples this morning and I just had to have it. It’s actually an 8 Gig Flash Drive but it looks like the Dinky Toys of my youth and it really rolls and has an all metal body, why wouldn’t you buy it. It also goes with the full sized 1:1 scale version sitting in my garage (minus the paint scheme).
When you plug it in to the USB port, the headlights come on. A small thrill perhaps but a thrill none the less.
For the last few years I’ve been working on and off in 3D CAD. I initially got into my current program because I wanted to build Panniers for my bike and Geomagic (then Alibre) had a sheet metal component that would allow me to bend metal accurately and even more important, create flat pattern drawings to give to a fabricator to make the parts (sidenote: The CAD program revealed that building one set of panniers for my bike was more expensive than buying a set).
When I first started using Autocad in 2D it made me realize that CAD could be a big help in building almost anything, well everything really. My mind was expanded and excited at the possibilities but when I started to figure out my new 3D CAD program, my mind was blown. Here was a system that not only could I build and draw parts in but I could then place those parts within assemblies and when the full machine or object was done, I could create an entire bill of materials and drawings for each and every part.
I really fired up my childhood model maker, except I was building what I drew in 1:1 scale.
Still any builder of things wants to sometimes experiment with the form and that’s not easy or cheap. At the time I was using 2D CAD the very first 3D printers were coming on the market. Most of them were base and binder types that used a spray adhesive to bind each layer to the next one. They were slow, expensive and the parts were brittle. The best they were good for was checking for fit prior to going to the CNC or molding phase of the design cycle.
Fast forward a few years and extrusion types of printers started to show up. The print quality was a bit rough but like everything it would get better with time. The cost was still a bit high for the home consumer but coming down.
Then I saw this on Indegogo.
And I checked the price and it was in the, “Right,” box in my head. Also it’s not just a printer, it’s also a milling machine and a laser scanner and it’s all open source, so it’s hackable. Unlike a lot of crowd funding objects, these guys have a working (and award winning) prototype. As the funding campaign continues, they keep adding functionality to the original. So the unit I initially ordered now will also be supplied with a heated print bed. This will minimize warping during the printing process. If the next funding goal is reached, they’ll add a stand alone computing component. And all for an initial investment of $1100. Considering the current cost of the Makerbot 2 that’s a substantial amount of return on the initial investment.
You can read more about them and their printer here.
Is this sort of thing for everybody? I don’t think so. I really do think you need to have a brain and the life experience to be able to put things together in a logical way otherwise you’ll just get frustrated and give up. Even in my day job, there are people who hate to draw anything before going for the material, preferring to work it out as they go along. If you’ got the skill set, this isn’t a bad thing but it’s a lot easier to fail in the computer than with a twelve foot sheet of sixteen gauge metal.
There is also a bit of a learning curve. If I want to learn to use the mill, I’m going to need to learn G Code or at the very least upgrade my 3D CAD program to the next level which supports G Code within the design space.
I don’t mind. that sort of thing keeps my mind going.