Last week, Made + Remade bloggers took a field trip to the University of Tennessee’s Pendergrass Library to see a 3D printer in action. While 3D printing has been around since the 80’s, many people (including most of us) are still in the dark about how 3D printing works. We wanted to see for ourselves, and more importantly, we wanted to figure out if this technology is, or will be, really useful for the everyday DIYer. Thanks to UT IT Technologist Richard Sexton, we are now informed on 3D printing and its future. We also had some fun witnessing our Made + Remade logo being printed!
“Crafters are the ones who could lead the way in personal ownership and home manufacturing,” says Richard Sexton.
Here’s what we learned:
• 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is the process of making three-dimensional objects from a digital file. Whatever objects you imagine and design will become reality in a matter of minutes, or hours, depending on the size. For our logo, it took roughly 2 hours.
• The printer processes the three-dimensional file format STL. You can make this type of file using websites such as Autodesk 123D, AutoCad software and Shapeways. There are also countless product designs that you can download (already in the STL format) to send straight to the printer.
• Once the design is sent to the printer, the material is fed to a nozzle that heats the plastic into liquid form. It then pumps out the material in layers, and the plastic hardens immediately. Each layer builds upon one another to create the object.
• There are plenty of materials you can use from ceramics to gold, but we witnessed two types of plastic — PLA and ABS. We learned that PLA is a dissolvable material typically used for support structures. ABS is the same material as a Lego and is used as a primary model material.
• The cost of 3D printing varies depending on the material used as well. The Made + Remade logo was printed from PLA, and the material cost was about 15 cents per gram. In total, it costs $1.50 to print the logo.
Here’s where this technology meets DIYers:
• While ease of use, better access to design files and reduced price will help make the technology available for every household, DIYers can use 3D printing to make tools, unique home décor, gifts, replacement parts, new products and more.
• There are sources for recycled plastic used in 3D printing. The Filabot Systems Filabot Reclaimer allows you to recycle bad or no longer needed 3D printed objects, while there’s also a personal extruder to make your own filament from pellets of ABS, PLA, or HIPS.
• The biggest takeaway for the Made + Remade bloggers was realizing the vast amount of products that can be printed. Impressively enough, body parts, houses and chocolate goodies have been 3D printed, but the good news for you is that there are many practical ways that DIYers can use this technology. From children’s toys, game pieces and key chains to jewelry, cell phone cases and kitchen tools, you can create (almost) anything your creative DIY heart can imagine! You can even DIY your own 3D printer.
• If you aren’t up for buying or DIYing a 3D printer, search for local Maker Faires or university libraries that offer this technology. How would you, as a DIYer, use this technology? What would you like to 3D print?
Our own blogger Carley Knobloch researched this topic as well. See the video below!
Written by DIY Network Intern Hannah Mills, who says: “I am lucky to work with creative and brilliant people as I learn about upcycling, projects and design as a summer intern. On my off time, I love to explore this new area I’m calling home in search of great food and cool swimming holes.”