The world in 3D

#Tech #3dPrinting

With the prospect of being stuck at home during the Winter, and probably longer if the Covid-19 pandemic keeps progressing the way it does, this may be the opportunity to become more than just a button pusher, and maybe learn to make new things. Actual things.

I am envious of Mrs. Kicou who can operate a metal lathe or mill, and is transforming the garage into her woodworking shop, but I only use power tools when doing work around the house: I can build a kitchen, lay ceramic tile, create an opening in a wall, install hardwood floor, build a deck, a garden shed, and more. I learned it all out of necessity, because this is what home ownership does to you. But I have no particular interest in the construction trades (next year our house projects include building a thermosyphon heating system for the garage, a pergola for the deck, and a greenhouse — not sure how much of it will become reality but they are all very doable).

But if I make something I'd rather enjoy it, so I'm looking for something that would be more fun.

3D printing sounds fun. It sounds expensive too. The last time I checked, you needed to spend thousands of dollars to have access to quality gear that would print objects larger than a Rubik's cube.

That was until I decided to take a second look about a week ago. And I found that as long as you were ready to tinker, you could buy decent hardware for around $300 CAD; and that allows you to build pieces that are over 20 x 20 x 20 cm, which is a pretty decent size already (and a lot of material).

So I read more about the topic, compared models and specs, and researched what would be the best bang for the bucks taking into account my willingness to learn (and fail) but also the ability to grow if this hobby ended up being serious. I would hate to spend a few hundred dollars to find out six months later that my gear is too limited.

First off, I ruled out SLA printing (stereo-lithography) because it involves a lot of chemicals and needs a very controlled environment (toxic fumes mitigation, temperature control) and the process can be messy (spillage) and is at least a two-step process (printing, then UV curing).

So I turned to FMD (Fused Deposition Modelling), that uses filaments that for the most part are not toxic unless you want to print ABS. I plan on doing mostly PLA for general purpose printing, with maybe PETG and TPU for very specific use cases.

Ugh. I haven't completely delved into it and I am already using jargon :/

But the actual news here is that I got myself a Creality Ender 3 V2 printer. It is open-source friendly, can be customised and enhanced, and has a very active community.

It took me a good hour to put it together. Despite being very careful to assemble everything square and level, it turns out I overtightened my Z-axis (of course I pronounce it “zed” axis) driver screw and it was slightly crooked, causing my two first prints to fail miserably.

My third print attempt, the famous 3D-Benchy boat, is a glowing success, though. And I will cherish it for the rest of my life as my first ever successful 3D print :)

I went on to print a privacy cover for my Logitech C910 webcam, and V-slot covers for the railings of the 3D printer itself. Because this is part of the fun: you can improve your 3D printer by printing parts with your 3D printer!

How cool is that?

So here I am: learning to level the bed of my 3D printer, trying to find the perfect temperature for my particular filament (I print everything in bright orange because this is the only spool I have), playing with the settings and the slicer software, scouring the web for print files and project ideas.

I have learned a lot already in less than two days, but I feel like I am not even touching the surface of it.

There will be joy and disappointment, successes and failures, and a lot of time consumed.

I am now a proud 3D printer user.