This one’s going to be about 3D printing so if that’s not your bag or it really doesn’t interest you, I won’t be offended if you skip this post. For those of you who are into the world of making stuff out of nothing, cool. I hope this is worth reading.
First the particulars.
I have over twenty years experience as a process TIG welder and Millwright building and maintaining equipment for food, pharmaceutical and dairy plants. I’ve also done some electrical and mechanical design on the side, though I leave the big stuff to the Process and Mechanical Engineers.
About twelve years ago, I was introduced to 3D CAD, which at the time really blew my mind because it allowed you to build a model of the space you were going to install into and then design and build a machine or object to fit that space. As the years went by 3D CAD systems became more user friendly and more versatile but they were at a price point that was still prohibitive for most people. That is no longer the case, if you don’t mind dropping a few thousand dollars on a 3D CAD program now. Which sounds like a lot of money but if you know what you’re doing, the program can pay for itself pretty quickly.
The program I’m currently using is Geomagic Expert (formerly Alibre). It has a part component, a sheet metal component and of course an assembly component. It fits my design needs perfectly and other than having to find where they put the buttons after every new iteration, it’s fairly simple to use and very powerful.
My 3D Printer is a Fabtotum, which was purchased off of an Indegogo funding campaign. It not only prints but also has a milling capability in three and four axis. I’ve yet to test the milling capabilities as my experience with G-Code is still limited but I’m learning.
The real benefit of the Fabtotum is its large print bay and it’s relatively low cost for what you’re getting. Because the Fabtotum was from a funded campaign, it is not quite as user friendly as I’d have hoped and there have been a couple of setbacks due to my hamfistedness and the fact that Fabtotum itself is very much a startup company with all the problems inherent in that situation. They’re also in Italy so there’s a six hour time difference to deal with which can be a bit of a bear as far as support goes.
The units shown in the attached photo are experimental vortex eliminators for my motorcycle a 2004 DL-650 V-Strom. One of the riders I’d met a while back never liked the airflow down around his thighs and midsection and had created some fins to put the air in mor laminar flow off of his front cowling. I’ve decided to make proper VTEs based on stuff I’ve observed in tanks with liquid. Yes I know liquid and air have different properties but that a function of compressibility and this experiment really isn’t about enhancing laminar flow as much as it’s about confirming the repeatability of the printed parts. I need six of these suckers and they all need to be the same.
The good news is, that’s not been a problem. There have been some feed issues for the filament but that has more to do with inconsistencies in the PLA diameter as it feeds off of the roll. The printer itself has banged out part after part. Which brings us to the speed part of the post.
3D Printing isn’t fast. On average there parts which are just over 2 1/4″ tall by 1 5/8 wide and 2″ at their longest, take over eight hours to print. I’ve had more complex prints with a lot more material take almost thirty hours (something not recommended by Fabtotum’s manufacturers). I’m not complaining by the way. Fifteen hundred plus layers at a height of a human hair are going to take a while to put together.
But the key thing here is repeatability has been met.
The next stage is to print some simple assembly parts and see how they fit together and the step after that will be a more complex assembly, which will make things very interesting. After that the Fabtotum as a proof of concept may need to be replaced with a more expensive. larger and more versatile industrial model.
But that’s down the road, we’re still making slow baby steps here right now.