Friday, March 4, 2016

The Nascent World of 3D Printing

San Diego Central Library Maker Space
Over the past few months I have spent a fair amount of time prototyping with a 3D printers. At the consumer level, this is still an emerging technology. One maker I consulted with aptly described it as nascent.

One of my earliest maker memories is working with clay, in elementary school, to make an ashtray. No one in my house smoked, but it was a simple enough project with utility. Fittingly, my first 3D print was related to smoking in the 21st century: vaping (think: e-cigarette vaporizer pens). These pens hold a liquid or oil which works best when stored upright, otherwise the liquid moves away from wick at the bottom of the cartridge.

Using Tinkercad, I designed a simple stand to store a vaporizer pen upright. I brought my design to the newly expanded maker space at the San Diego Central Library for printing, for free. I had no idea how lucky I got when my project successfully printed on the second attempt. Since then, I've tried about ten times to reprint it, without any luck. I then tried Fablab who referred me 3D Hubs which allows makers to upload projects to be locally printed, for a fee. The maker who printed my project said it failed and told me that I'd need a more advanced printer, so he refunded my money. I then met a guy at a Kickstarter Meetup who owned several 3D printers who offered to print my projects. His attempt to print my project also failed.

So, what does it mean when one print works, out of more than a dozen attempts? Simply that this is new technology and we're pushing its limits.

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