Wednesday, May 4, 2016

3D Printing Fun

The semester, and grad school, is coming to a close for me. Included in this post are a few last projects related to 3D printing. The SILS Help Desk recently had an open house to try and introduce more people to 3D printing technology. To promote the event, I made a poster that emphasizes the creative aspect of having a makerspace. Anyone can make something with a 3D printer if given the opportunity. You don't have to be an artist to use the technology.

For the open house we had a print in process for people to see how our MakerGear M2 works. We also had Pronterface and Slic3r up on the Collaboratory computer to demonstrate how we process the STL files we receive and prepare them for printing. Both of these programs can be downloaded from the Web for free. In addition, we showed attendees example Gcode commands created from the STL file that provide the printer head with coordinates to direct its movement. Finally we had examples of unsuccessful prints and note cards explaining the problem we faced with each. Included below is an image with a few examples of problematic prints and their issues. I'm responsible for a few of these misfits, but I learned from them so I guess that's what matters. Here's also a good resource on troubleshooting some of the 3D printing problems many people come across. Attendance at our open house was good - it seemed like there was a lot of interest in learning more about 3D printing.

Beyond the open house, I also made a larger poster that will be hung in the SILS lab to help advertise our little makerspace. Even though the printer is entirely visible from the computer lab, very few people seem to know that we have one. Every time I made a print this semester and our MakerGear M2 started its musical electronic humming, people would always remark to me that they didn't realize that SILS had a printer. For the poster, I thought it would be fitting for the printed object to double as the symbol of SILS. I featured UNC's Old Well, the symbol of the university, with the acronym "SILS" in place of supportive columns. Since the SILS Help Desk has printed a model of the Old Well in the past, this made it an even more fitting object to select. Otherwise I simply had fun with shapes and colors using Illustrator.

Finally, beyond promotional materials, I have also continued to try making new prints. My favorite print so far has been a model of the Omotesando building designed by Toyo Ito and Associates. The actual building is in Tokyo, Japan, and was completed in 2004. The tree branches that compose the building's walls mirror its surroundings. Omotesando is a tree-lined avenue in the Aoyama district. The structure, composed primarily of glass and concrete, is home to Tod's, an Italian shoe and handbag company. I really enjoyed the building's combination of the natural and the urban.

In addition to being a beautiful building, the model can also act as a light since it is perfectly designed to fit a small tea light. I decided to insert one I had bought for jack-o-lanterns that changes colors. In order to capture the various illumination effects this light creates, I made a gif using Photoshop. Enjoy the colorful display below.

Lately I have also been "tinkering" with Tinkercad, but I have yet to create something of my own that's worthwhile. Other good programs for designing your own 3D models include 3D Tin and Cube Team.


Thanks to SILS for offering me the opportunity to explore new technologies through my work. Even though I was only at the Help Desk for a semester, I learned a lot. I'm so grateful for all that the school has given me and I'm looking forward to starting a new job soon (after a much needed break) and continuing to grow as a librarian and information professional.