3D Printing at BLUE164725 Jun 2015
Every visit to BLUE1647 is full of pleasant surprises. There’s new equipment, a new opportunity to learn new technology, new people to learn from, or all of the above.
I recently bought a second Parallella for a WisdomGroup project. Since it’s important to protect the device with a case, this seemed like a good time to try one of the 3D printers at BLUE1647. The result is in the photo, above.
Why 3D Printing Matters
The current state of 3D printing feels like laser printing in the 1980s. Back then, laser printers were big and expensive. Sharing the printer among many users made the cost easier to justify. 3D printers are in a similar position in the year 2015. And, as with most new technology, prices are on a downward slope.
The 3D printers at BLUE1647 are available to any member. Talk to Rashad Glover or Patrick Harris to get started.
What to Know about 3D Printing
Printing any object in three dimensions takes a long time. The case in the photo took over four hours to print. The MakerBot Thingiverse has a wide variety of STL files to choose from. This particular STL file was created by Ben Reed, a maker in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
STL File Internals
Instructions for 3D printing an object are stored in a STereoLithography (STL) file. Open an STL file in your favorite text editor and you’ll see something like this:
solid OpenSCAD_Model facet normal -0.998027 0 -0.0627913 outer loop vertex 0 66.2 1.95 vertex 0 124 1.95 vertex 0.020502 66.2 1.62413 endloop endfacet facet normal -0.998027 0 -0.0627913 outer loop vertex 0.020502 66.2 1.62413 vertex 0 124 1.95 vertex 0.020502 124 1.62413 endloop endfacet ...Skip about 58,000 lines... facet normal 0.803458 -0.261061 -0.535072 outer loop vertex 91.7184 1.76127 0.69744 vertex 91.5557 1.82567 0.421758 vertex 91.6374 2.0769 0.421758 endloop endfacet facet normal 0.803459 -0.261059 -0.535071 outer loop vertex 91.7184 1.76127 0.69744 vertex 91.6374 2.0769 0.421758 vertex 91.8068 2.03339 0.69744 endloop endfacet endsolid OpenSCAD_Model
The objects described in an STL file can be viewed through a free online tool like ViewSTL.com.
3D printing is still in its infancy. Next time you visit BLUE1647, maybe for a ChicagoRuby meeting, check it out.