Ever since I’ve heard about 3D printing I’ve been curious about how it actually works. I imagined 3D printers looked like a larger version of my home laser printer, and that they just magically popped out fully formed objects like a woman giving birth.
To get a better sense of what 3D printing is about I attended an open hack day over my Thanksgiving break at the Tucson hacker space, Xerocraft.
You can check out Xerocraft at http://www.xerocraft.org/
I arrived at Xerocraft with a few friends in tow, and we got a tour of the space. They have all kinds of amazing stuff. The most exciting for the purpose of this trip were the several 3D printers that they’ve built themselves using their own laser cut wood and 3D printed parts.
After the tour, I mentioned that I was really interested in 3D printing, and one of the volunteers gave me a live tutorial on how to do it, and let me keep my 3D print after
It turns out that 3D printing starts out in a simple 3D design program. In this case we used a program called Solidworks.
I wanted to create something simple, so I decided on a 3D cube with the letters “BDW” and “C6” extruded on opposite sides of the cube.
To keep the cube light, and to save on the 3D printing material, we only filled the center 40%. Then we exported the file in an STL format and sent it to print.
It took about a half an hour for the printer to finish. The 3D printer heats up a coil of material and squirts it out with a metal tip one layer at a time. In the end, I had a physical cube just like the virtual one we had designed in the software program.
The whole process was a lot messier than what I had envisioned, but the end result was mind-blowing! There is so much that can be done with this technology, I can't wait to see how it evolves.
Since becoming a mom to a little boy with Trisomy 21 I have written a lot about Down syndrome and disabilities. I am a storyteller, wife and mom to a teen and a toddler. Life is busy!