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Monthly Archives: January 2012


What is 3D printing about? …A primer on 3D printing.

Wondering what 3D printing is about?

“2012 may be the year of 3D printing, when this three-decade-old technology finally becomes accessible and even commonplace. Lisa Harouni gives a useful introduction to this fascinating way of making things — including intricate objects once impossible to create”.

Have a look at this TED talk….. it sums it all up very nicely.






Axon manual and video clips

When starting out with 3D printing there are often questions about generating the g-code that is used to drive the machines.  With BfB machines this is done with the Axon 2 program …. So it looks like the guys at BfB have created a very comprehensive manual for Axon and some supporting videos. Worth reading as many of the problems have simple solutions that have been fully documented already…. And there is some great advice about designing your objects, rafts, fills, layers, speeds, support material, wall thickness etc.

The video clips can be found here www.youtube.com/axon3dsoft

And the manual can be found by visiting the "Support>technical resources" section of the website (button on the blue bar at the top of the BfB website pages) then click on the "how to print" link alongside the pictures of the different printers, and finally click the Axon picture at the bottom of the page (sorry for the long description, I couldn’t post a link as you would need the login details and password for that section of the site)

Bespoke USB sticks

 The students in my year 9 CAD/CAM integrated project groups have all come together with different amounts of experience, some having done work with the 3D program Creo/elements pro and others having done none at all. And very few have experience of actually designing for 3D printing. So we did a fairly quick introductory project to help get everyone to the same skills level.

This introductory project was to design and 3D print a custom case for a USB stick. As you can see from the photos there are some very interesting designs. Hopefully some more photos will be posted when the students have printed their design…. And then on to the main project!

 I have posted some Free to download teaching and learning resources for this project on the Bits from Bytes wiki http://wiki.bitsfrombytes.com/index.php/Bespoke_USB_Stick

Iterative designing for 3D printing

 One of my GCSE students (15 years old) decided that for his final project he would design a fitting to hold an iPhone on his bike handlebars. I think he must have seen one produced by another student last year and featured in an earlier post on my blog!

So he went away and started to produce some ideas using Google Sketchup I would have much preferred him to have used a proper CAD program for the reasons you will probably see later. Anyway, he finished his design, exported it to .stl format, created the gcode with BfB Axon and printed the first parts. As you can see they were far too big and chunky… This was a real surprise to him as in Sketchup the design looked ok. So, back to the drawing board! … I wonder if he would have realised his mistakes if he had used Creo Elements/pro or Autodesk Inventor?

His next designs look far more promising, the size is better and somehow it all fits together… So what will the next version look like? … Well, this is where the power of 3D printing lies. The simplicity, cost effectiveness and relative speed allowed this student to start down the road of an iterative design process. For this him it would have been almost impossible for him to test and visualise what his product would turn out like without printing his first draft design. The jump he made in improving his design would probably not have been possible if he had to have invested heavily in skill acquisition, time and materials for CNC milling. 

Kideville. A 3D printing project in UK primary schools

Kideville is a fantastic 3D printing project for primary school children using 3D Systems Bits from Bytes printers.

This YouTube clip is an interview with Dejan Mitrovic talking at the Victoria and Albert museum in London, UK about his Kide project. Dejan talksabout using a 3D Systems, Bits From Bytes BFB3000 3D printer to build houses for his Kideville project. Each building is designed by a student in primary education before being draw in to a 3D CAD package and then 3D printed with the Bits From Bytes machine.


More details of the project can be found here http://www.kideville.com/


I lost it!

Ok, I’ve left myself open to comments like “what do you mean, you lost it ages ago” … Well what I really lost was a tiny bolt from my 3D Touch printer ( yes, that will teach me for messing around with it). Anyway, the bolt dropped down a gap between my desk and a filing cabinet that my printer stands on and I really didn’t want to start moving that lot around…. So…
All I needed was one of those clever “magnet on a stick” thingies, but I haven’t got one. But I do have an aerial (antenna) from an old FM radio and a 10mm rare earth magnet, only problem… How do I fix them together (blue tack only resulted in the magnet sticking to the metal filing cabinet).
So I printed a little adapter …. Result, one retrieved bolt and a new “magnet on a stick thingy” for my toolbox.
Attached are some shockingly poor photos of the thingy, a CAD render and the adapter in Axon

More 3D printing in colour

Now having easy access to a 3 head BfB 3D Touch printer I really couldn’t resist doing some colour printing for myself. But where to start? Well perhaps nowhere better than the lovely globe by “m6mafia” http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:11660 and previously printed by the guys at BfB. The only problem was that Axon requires 3 stl files – one for each colour and a combined file… But I only found the files for each colour! So after a bit of a tussle with Meshlab and Netfabb I was on the point of giving up when I remembered that I could import the 2 stl files into Creo Elements/Pro as an assembly and then export the combined file… Success!!! 
Unfortunately I don’t have any blue PLA, so green for the land and transparent for the water would have to do. I suppose the final result doesn’t look too bad.
I can’t wait to get back to school next week to show the Geography teachers… Hope they’re impressed!
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