Friday, 19 July 2013

#3DPM@MDDA 17th July 2013

After our first event at MDDA, a few things became obvious to the people that attended #3DPM. The first was that we really were passionate about 3D printing, and that despite the different backgrounds we'd got involved with a group of fellow 3D printing 'groupies'.  No matter which direction we'd come from career-wise, we could all see what 3D printing could do for us.  We'd also realised that even with a few people, it had become an intense learning session, whilst giving us the space to learn what we wanted in the time we wanted.  Given that the first week was so fruitful for all involved, what would our second event have in store?

Note the control panel - Panelolu 2
Keith's Modified Mendel 3D Printer - note the control panel - a Panelolu 2

Courtesy of Mark and Keith, we all had access to three Mendel derivative 3D printers.  Keith went further this week, describing how he'd managed to bring layer resolutions of his prints down to a minimum of 0.1 mm (100 micrometres). The modifications he'd made to his Mendel allowed for greater control He then set about showing us how he'd made some night-lights for his home. The 'corkscrew' prints were created such that you could fix LED lights within them, creating a safe soft glow.  Mark discussed how he'd made a part for a Yamaha motorcycle engine for his brother, which was still a work in progress. In the weeks to come we'll find out whether the part worked, and offered a decent replacement for OEM parts.

An example night-light being fabricated

I finally bit the bullet, and decided to build my own 3D printer. After having done some research I realised that Keith's Mendel derivative had some great modifications, which put it up there with some more expensive solutions offered by the better known manufacturers.  We'll detail more of these as time goes by, but I'm going to document on the blog my time building the Mendel so that everyone can see how we're getting on and what we're going to do.

John looking on bemused as Keith puts the sales pitch on me -
SOLD to the guy obsessed with objects in black PLA!
(Note Mark's 3D printing set-up in the foreground)

The event got more exciting as #3DPM spawned ideas for two start-up companies.  Keith decided to commercialise his modified version of his 3D printer, and we'll be talking about that soon.  Mark decided that given the Government's ideas about bringing 3D printing to schools, he was going to begin the creation of a training academy directed at the school curriculum through his company Mesalatina3D.  This was exciting for me, as the whole point of #3DPM was to build a club of hobbyist volunteers, who gave something of themselves, and then managed to build their ideas into real commercial entities.  Watch this space for more details as to how they go.

A close-up of Mark's Mendel set-up.
He has his laptop directly attached to the printer,
but in Keith's you can plug in an SD card with your .STL files.

In preparation for our move to MadLab, we're also starting to organise some courses for new attendees. John suggested that some people would be interested in design, some in the printer itself. So we're going to attend to both these.  From Monday's event at MadLab (22nd July) we're going to start off people designing on Google Sketchup for 'would be' designers, and have you all designing a key-fob with your name on it. Something for you all to take away with you.  We'll then go through the thought-processes, ordering of parts, and building over the new few weeks of my own printer. Those who attend and want help building their own are more than welcome to do so, and we'll all pitch in. The expertise within #3DPM and other groups at MadLab, means that larger more complicated projects for people to attempt are within the realm of possibility.  See you next Monday!

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