3D Printer Arrives at Ard Digital

19/05/2014

After recent success with 3D printing using several external 3D printing companies, I decided to take the plunge and invest in a 3D printer, and here it is, a FlashForge Creator!

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Image: Printer hiding away.

One of the key reasons for purchasing a printer, rather that using external companies is speed. In previous posts I had mentioned that the turnaround from sending a 3D file, to the time it is delivered is from my experience around 2 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, 2 weeks is fast considering how long it would traditionally take to manufacture some of the items I created, however I felt that for 3D printing to be really useful, it needed to be even faster and easier.

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Image: Dual printer nozzles.

Another reason for purchasing the printer was cost. Just ordering a handful of items to be printed externally, most of which were novelty to be honest, cost quite a lot, so by printing items in-house, the long term costs is reduced, even if the initial investment is high. Owning a printer also means that designs can be pushed and tweaked, as the cost of a failure is minimal, with time perhaps the biggest loss.

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Image: Printing!

The printer works by layering very small layers of molten plastic on top of each other. Each layer is less than 1mm, it can be as low as 0.1mm, and as the print head moves forward, backwards, left and right, the yellow plate moves up and down to control the height.

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Image: Mini me?

The printer builds 3D prints from bottom to top, so when designing and printing items on this printer, real consideration has to be made as to how the printer can actually print it. For objects where there overhangs, the printer can build supports, which are easily snapped off the print, but do require some cleaning up afterwards.

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Image: Printed miniature.

Once objects are printed, the prints can be finished, or left as they are, depending on the purpose of the print. The finish of a print straight from the printer can be bumpy and rough to touch, but I see the prints in a similar way to a carpenter would see a piece of wood from a lathe, they still need refining, painting, sanding, or what ever finishing technique is required.

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Image: Miniature close up.

3D printing is truly fascinating! Anyone who comes into the office is transfixed by how it works, and the incredible things it can produce. Needless to say I am still getting to grips with the printer and the processes involved, but it’s certainly something I will continue to experiment with, and I guess only time will tell where this leads to!

If you would like to know more about 3D printing, rapid prototyping, modelling making, or anything else, please feel free to get in touch!

Dean