Monday, December 30, 2013

Building 3D Printers

Building 3D printers is hard. No joke. Anyone who tells you otherwise has either never built, or is trying to sell you something.

My Clonedel took me about a summer to put together. That's about 3 months to put together something that someone else already knew worked. And that's just mechanical; calibrating your printer just right is an endless process.

WOOF, the 3D Printing Club at UW also released another set of kits called the Grawmet. I scooped up two kits about a year ago. One kit is mechanically complete (But not tested), and the other isn't even started. A large part of this is motivation -- I definitely don't work on it all the time. But a large factor was that it was an alpha design: Totally untested. This made it a bit disheartening to work on, since a large amount of time was spent figuring out how to make the damn thing work, rather than just putting together pieces!

So what did I learn? That building a 3D printer is harder to do if you're the first one to do it. You have to figure out all the bugs, and the decisions you make will affect everyone who builds it.

I've never felt that the printer kits I have built were designed to be built. They used inefficient methods (Just look at the number of bolts required for a Mendel!), or weren't well thought out, or just weren't nice.

So, being motivated by being asked to build a printer for the MSE department I made the decision (mistake?) to design my own.

I, of course, failed miserably. To quote a great doctor: "Dammit , Jim, I'm an MSE student, not a mechanical designer!"... or something like that.

I like reminding myself of my failures, so the next few posts will be chronicling this ongoing journey.