Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shapeways 3D Printing

There's something that's just totally awesome about printing in 3D. It gets even MORE awesome when you can print moving parts. Yes, I said moving parts. It opens a whole new world of possibilities. Theres a few companies online that will do it for you if you happen to have a model you need printed, and some money to put down for it.

I first saw 3D printing about 5 years ago and it was impressive then. But it still had a ways to go before it was a viable medium. At the time, it was basically an inkjet printer that sprayed water onto a bed of plaster of Paris. After each pass the bed would move down and more powder would be added. On goes the water again, repeat, repeat. The end product though was still brittle and easily damaged. While in many cases the process hasn't changed much, the materials have.

Shapeways and ponoko both offer similar materials such as glazed ceramic, stainless steel, silver, sandstone and a variety of plastics. Here's a link to the Shapeways materials page if you want to check them all out.

One product in particular really takes the cake though. On Shapeways it is called "white strong and flexible" this is the one where you can print moving parts and living hinges. On ponoko it goes by the name "durable plastic". It's actually nylon, so it's slippery by nature. Great for moving parts. If you do decide to design anything be sure to follow their design guidelines and check out the forums regarding moving parts. Lots of tips and tricks there.
Theo Jansen Strandbeest on Shapeways

The creatures created by Theo Jansen which I mentioned a few days ago have also found a home on Shapeways. Tiny versions of the massive beasts can now be printed and brought home. If you're not interested in making one out of junk in your garage.

I actually made one of my own in Autodesk Inventor.
I was hoping Mr. Jansen would let me share it on Shapeways as well. However I haven't received a response from my inquiry just yet. If I don't hear anything soon, i may try another method of contacting him. I put a small screen shot of my "beest" below. It's still a work in progress. i have the main chasis complete, but the engine has not been modeled and attached yet.

rith's beest chassis in progress  - - -  rith;s beest leg design.

Each product has a different cost basis and setup fee. Next time, I'll show you how to set up a template in autodesk inventor to give you a live estimate as you model.

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