Adding and Subtracting
I purchased a new 3D printer I have been using intensively for a few weeks. It is a low end hobbyist machine of what is called a RepRap design. You can read much more about it in Ramblin’ Dan’s Workshop. Here is a link to the section on 3D Printing.
What’s so cool is that now I am capable of both additive and subtractive creating. I have put the two together in an article, Taig Mill Swarf Blower, in the THMS main web site. The resulting combination is shown in the picture on the right.
I have a little struggle with where I should publish my efforts with the 3D printer. Does it really belong in with the regular “old school” machine shop? It’s certainly not old school but I think it would fit in well here. I have chosen to publish what I do with 3D printing over in Ramblin’ Dan’s Workshop as I include all my nonspecific to machining activities there.
The 3D printer I own and wish to afford cannot compete with the precision I can obtain with conventional machining. It’s the second reason I don’t publish it here. My output surface quality with the printer is a little bit in conflict with the “perfect” in my slogan, “One Perfect Part at a Time.” But that doesn’t make it a bad tool.
3D printing, as I can produce it with my machine, will have a lot of application in the machine shop. The first practical application I developed is linked in the second paragraph above. I can make plastic parts I would not try to do otherwise. The entire process is based on slicing a 3D object into 0.1 mm, 0.2 mm, or 0.3 mm layers. Then building the part one layer at a time. No special extra tooling required. Nothing to “cut away” except some support structure when it is used. The printer builds the support right along with building the part. One merely pushes the “start” button and the machine does the rest. Well, there is a whole lot that goes on before that, but no extra tooling.
The layers are what cause the less than perfect surface finish, but otherwise the output has proven to be accurate and very useable. It has created a whole new generation of enthusiastic “builders”. That is a new term that separates them from machinists. I can live with that. The world needs diversity. That’s the reason I have the Ramblin’ Dan’s Workshop web site.
3D printing is all about dimensional CAD/CAM for the real designers. The kids and casual hobbyist will just download free .stl files and happily print their toys (me too), but there is plenty of creative work that can be accomplished. 3D printing is here, it is popular and it will stay and improve.
There is a new commercial marked for additive manufacturing. The high end machines can qualify as “one perfect part” as close to perfect as anyone needs it to be. I got started because the time is right. The material that can now be printed is far more than plastic but plastic is a great place to start at home.