I just experienced one of the nerdiest weeks of my career. Our Bits From Bytes 3DTouch (@BitsFromBytes) wasn’t working well. It’s more gratifying to work with teachers and students on a design project when they know that the 3D structures and prototypes they create in Sketchup and Tinkercad will be printed in plastic. (Last year, Cristina Martinez and I supported a pretty awesome Greek Temple project that culminated in 5th graders literally outsourcing their designs to the East – in our case across the park to Jaymes Dec‘s 5th graders at the Marymount School on the Upper East Side!)
Since then, I tried to support some 3D printing projects, yet the 3D Touch was often frustratingly unable to print my designs fully. Right before we departed for winter break in December 2012, Don Buckley told me to learn out how to maintain the printer. While I consider myself handy, I would never fool myself into describing myself as an engineer, and I really didn’t need to be weighed down with the possibility of breaking a $4000 machine. However, I do what Don tells me, so I went forth unafraid. It took many hours over many days, but I think I know what I’m doing now.
I looked at pages and pages of information and FAQ from the BitsFromBytes resources link. First I learned how replace a delivery tube and load new filament. Then I experimented with raising/lowering the extruder nozzles and level the printer tray in order to print a successful raft. Once I had items printing regularly, I saw that we were running out of ABS filament and only had PLA left in our stash of replacement spools. So, I learned about the difference between ABS and PLA (ABS is more robust, PLA is cheaper), and learned how to change the target print temperature and RPM for each nozzle.
As it turned out, sometime in the 6th hour on the first day of my ministrations, Akio Iida and Harry Banks noticed my omnipresence at the printer. They told me they had just finished a design project with their 3rd graders where students were tasked with redesigning a commonly used product (tissue box, pencil cup, x-box console, etc.) Watching me at the 3DTouch prompted Akio and Harry to come over and learn what I learned so that we could successfully start printing the children’s designs. The three of us spent much time together last week tweaking the machine, watching it work, and breathing in pastic-y fumes. The cow0rkers that breathe possibly cancerous toxins together, stay together. (Actually, the PLA material is plant-based and environmentally-friendly.)
Don Buckley has already placed the order for a Replicator 2X. Guess I better start reading the manual…
the tail end of our red ABS