Friday, February 3, 2012

Textile Friday: 3D Printer Class in March

        Today I am pleased to bring you a guest blogger, Rye Gewalt, who some of you may remember from the summer Hello Etsy Event. This past Saturday Rye and Luis hunkered down over a bunch of parts and built a fun 3D printer in a few hours from scratch that you can currently see by the front desk and will be available for members to try out during our weekly meetings this month. Like many fellow artists in the area, I have been interested in rapid prototyping for a while, but lacked the knowledge or engineer bent to work one of these wonders. Now...I am fixing that oversight in March. :-) Like a happy little kid in a candy store. I hope you get the chance to take advantage of this opportunity too.

   As some of you know, our March meetings are rather ambitious and these two guys wanted to go through and test the series to make sure everything worked. I am pleased to say the model was a smashing success and is sitting by the front door at Techshop RDU if you would like to check it out.

So who is Luis Freeman and why in the world is he teaching this event?

"Luis Freeman’s day job is at IBM where he is involved in engineering and supply management chains.   He has been building and designing 3D printers as a hobby since 2007 when hobby 3D printers were more a matter of conjecture than hands on reality. He has has built several dozen machines of increasing complexity and currently has six operational machines that will be used to make parts for the class machines..  His printers utilize proven techniques from the Mendel and Openscad technology. The photo below shows Luis with his Mendel Prusa based machine which is considered an ideal machine for beginners due to it desktop size and large 8” x 8” x 8” product capacity. It is easy for even less nimble fingers to work with putting parts together without being so clunky that smaller frames have difficulty putting it together.   

This class provides an opportunity to build your own fully functional turnkey 3D printer in a group environment with a the help of knowledgeable hands-on instructor and the collective experience of classmates with similar interests.  Reinventing the wheel is seldom fun, but figuring things out with friends can be quite rewarding.
Each student in the class will build their own fully functional machine, starting with assembling the Arduino based electronics and finishing with the final checkout and test of their full system.  The build process takes place during five classes spaced over a four week period starting on March 6th  as detailed below.  

Week One (March 6th from 5-10 pm): You start with your basic kit and go over the basics. There are generally 50-200 separate parts that need to be soldered to your ardunio card as shown here such as stepper motors, capacitors, and hook-up connectors. This generally takes 2-3 hrs. depending on your prior experience soldering and doing electronics. No prior experience is necessary, but it is helpful if you have taken beginning soldering with Dr. Britton at Techshop RDU or have prior soldering experience.

Week Two (March 13th from 5-10 pm): You go to work on assembling the outside frame of the machine from wood. This part can be easy replicated with a 3D printer. Next you start filling in the gears and assembly that will house the extruder head and flat base you print on. You will use a combination of 3D printed parts and ball bearings. All the pieces have to come together cleanly and smoothly to function in real time. Extra steel wool will be provided for sanding and smoothing the parts.You will finish assembling the inside of the machine in the next class so focus on smoothing parts here is important.

Week Three (March 20th from 5-10 pm) Install and check all the parts you spend last week double-checking to create 2 platforms: 1 for the print head and the other for the print platform. You must check the that x and y axis move smoothly for when the extruder is finally installed. You will also practice printing parts on some extra printers Luis has on hand so you understand quality control when you need to replicate or replace parts on the machine. 

Week Four (March 27th from 5-10 pm and March 29th from 5-10 pm extra time for programming): On Tuesday you will finally install the extruder and wire all the parts you have been working on the past few weeks together. This includes wiring the printer cards, brackets, endstop brackets, and spool holder. You should be printing off your printer at this point. Thursday is available as time overflow in case you need to catch up. Luis will be going over using Openscad to do CAD design on your 3D printer and printing test parts. This time is for you to fine-tune and better understand how to use, fix, and work with your machine. This is what your Mendal Prusa will look like without the wooden frame around it. The wooden frame serves to stabilize the design and cause your pieces to printer with finer quality details." 

by Rye Dewalt

Happy Friday Everyone. I hope this post has been helpful about the next big leap forward in design innovation. And thank you Rye for all the photos and help. Neither of us could have done it without you.

If you have not already signed up, we have 2 slots left for the class on Skillshare:


  1. Hi, this blog is really amazing and provide me updated information . This is really informative and I will for sure refer my friends the same. Thanks for sharing .
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  2. Huge enthusiast on this site, a number of your blog posts have really helped me out. Awaiting improvements!

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  3. Thanks so much. I'm glad you have enjoyed. It's always nice to see readers enjoying the blog.

  4. There's an open space in your beginning. But the pictures you used had a lot of info i learned some stuff.


  5. Thanks, I think the print was in white for some reason.