Solidoodling

I ordered a Solidoodle 3D printer this summer, and received it in November.  I managed to acquire another one along the way (long story: see my blog posting about how UPS handles packages).  The last few months have been exciting, challenging, and often frustrating.

3D printing has been an up and coming technology for over 20 years (see this for example). The news about the Solidoodle was that you could actually get a working printer for around $500. That was the key issue that had me jumping in to test the waters.

Current low-end technology suffers from inconsistencies in materials (plastic filament) and in construction.  Printers need to be set up, calibrated, and babied with some regularity.  Switch from white plastic to black, and you will spend 15 minutes fiddling in order to get good prints.  This is exciting at first, but gets old after a while. Few printers are available off the shelf, promised delivery times are often imaginary, and the learning curve for the hardware and software is tolerable but significant

Online  repositories of 3D objects are proliferating (Google Thingiverse or GrabCad).  You can find an amazing variety of free models that you can print with ease, from caps for your cat food cans to a 6-speed automatic transmission (with reverse!).  Forget about printing these things: just wander around and be amazed.

If you want to create your own 3D objects, you will need to learn how to create 3D models.  I use Sketchup, because it is free, has a huge and helpful online community, and it is more than adequate for my needs.

3D printing shops have existed for years, but rumor has it that Staples will start offering this service at their stores in the next year.  So, you can join the 3D printing revolution without buying a printer if you wish.

I’ve started a Meetup about 3D printing which will start meeting regularly soon.  And I will be giving a talk about 3D printing on Monday, March 25th at Champlain College.  Also teaching a course on 3D design at a local company in April.

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