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3D Printing Stuff

Recent printed items.

I started doing 3D printing because it was something creative I could do in my air-conditioned home office. The price of the equipment and materials had become affordable. I had no idea I people would want to purchase the stuff I could make.

I became aware of the process many years ago, probably in a “new technology” report I read somewhere. The facts are sketchy as I did not assign a high priority to being able to do it myself someday. I remember being fascinated by the slicing / layering process and thinking, “Of course!”

The cost was far too prohibitive, but I remember thinking I will file this away as something that may someday filter down to a consumer affordable process.

People have become accustom to business and home computer printing. So, the concept of printing objects has been easily grasped by anyone familiar with ordinary 2D printing. They kind-of, sort-of, know the process and are very eager to see, hold and then own objects that have been created through 3D printing. It like something magical that exists in a tangible form.

The low entry cost for Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printing has created tens of thousands of people doing 3D printing in ordinary office spaces and at home. A large 3D printing industry exists to print in quality and volume as a print only service.

The printer hardware is no longer the fascination. It has become a machine tool. Anyone can now buy the printing machine. They do not have to create one. Much like the growth of personal computing but at a much faster rate. 3D printing is past the “early adopter” and experimenter phase and fully in the user phase. Grade schools are teaching using the machines and making them available to young students.

Every and any one, when looking at what I have made, immediately knows it is 3D printed. I don’t have to explain much at all. Objects with moveable joints, created in the printing process are particularly fascinating.

Immediately the response is, “I want one (or a dozen), and how much will you charge me?” They want one for themselves but also what to be the one to pass them on (usually as gifts) to their friends. 3D items are VERY trendy.

I print anything I find interesting. I particularly like to make things I have designed myself as an original. My buyers usually don’t care. They just love knowing it was 3D printed and it seems. they like to know the person who printed it. A kind of special connection, like knowing the artist.

3D printing is not a “fine art” process. Items fresh of the printer will have small flaws and imperfections. 100% useable but not a perfect surface. The layers in the process are always visible to a variable but certain extent. Many finish improvement process (suitable for a plastic item) can be employed to create a fine finish if desired.

That extra labor is seldom required for the functional things I lake to make. People who like what I have made are not looking for a perfect finish. They are fascinated by being able to view the results of the process.

The 3D process is popular with model makers. They print with high resolution (very thin layers) then finish with surface preparation such as fine sanding, primer, then a painting material. The finished item shows no sign of the layering of 3D printing. Some plastic (ABS) can be surfaced smooth by fuming in acetone.

All such finish work is added cost of course in a commercial product, but I find no objection to my fresh off the printer items. People want to know and brag that it is a 3D printed item.

3D printing is established and accepted at the personal user/owner/product. The hardware and users will become more ubiquitous. Developing original and printable designs will become the challenge as the hardware becomes just a machine tool.

There is a huge library of free and for purchase designs growing rapidly. I don’t see any problems with using the library, but I get the most fun from seeing my own designs created. Not just from the 3D printing but from everything I make.

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