Friday, May 21, 2010

Bringing Art to Life!

This year our school was lucky enough to get a 3D printer.  I've never seen a 3D printer before so I wanted to share with you as much as I could!  I've been waiting to see a neat project to come out of it and today was the day!  It's graduation project time so we're seeing a lot of neat projects around the school, but this one happened to be pointed out to me today.  Our career development coordinator, with wide eyes grabbed me in the hall this morning and said "you have to see this!"  (I love when this happens!)  Anyway, he showed me this:

Ok, so, ummmm what is it?  :)  Turns out it is an engine block that a student drew in Inventor and then printed on the 3D printer. Here are a few more pictures to help you see exactly what it looked like:

I was pretty impressed by this.  It seems very detailed to me and I know it must have taken the student some time to get everything set up right.  The mini engine block is similar to very hard plastic.  
Next, he showed me the original (because I don't really have any idea what a real engine block looks like).   Here are the photos of the original:

Wow!  It's pretty exact! And now it was time to go to the printer.  Here's what it looks like:  

Note the regular printers to the left so you can get a feel for how large the 3d printer is.  We peeked inside the window on the left of the printer and saw this:

This is a second piece to this project that has been printed and is now waiting for final cleanup.  Notice that it looks like a big pile of dust.  This is the material (some sort of secret resin) that is used to make these pieces.  This printer builds them from the ground up so depending on how tall the piece is, print time will be longer.  When they're finished printing,  they're covered in this material.  The next step is to take them to the right side of the printer and blow all of the material off to clean it up.  That process is shown here:

There is a hose with a very small end that blows air out onto the piece.  The item has to be held very carefully as the pieces are not set yet. 

Once the dust is all blown off, its time to clean up!  All of the resin is sucked back into the resin holder and reused!  The teacher told me that up to 80% of the resin is reused--how efficient!  

Now we have a very fragile piece and it is time to cure it.  This involves using a super glue type of substance that creates a chemical reaction and sets the resin and makes it hard.  As the student was handling the piece in the liquid, he said it was really hot and it was even steaming.  

What a fantastic opportunity!  Drafting classes across the district can print to this printer and while i was in the classroom, I saw a few other student graduation projects that were being printed.  I think this is such a great way to display the works that students have created in a way that is more meaningful to that student as well as students or teachers (like me) that really don't understand the programs they're using in that class.  It was a lot of fun watching the process and learning a little more about this type of technology.  

1 comment:

  1. This was very interesting to read. Thanks for the post. This may be as close as I ever get to a 3-D printer!