Needless to say, the World Maker Faire had a ton of 3D printers. It’s really becoming an obligatory fixture of any booth, whether you’re Microsoft announcing to the world Windows 8 now supports 3D printer drivers (don’t ask), or you just have a Makerbot Replicator on your table for some street cred.
Even the 3D Printing section of the faire wasn’t without a lot of what we’ve all seen before. Yes, the RepRap Morgan and Simpson made a showing, but 3D printing to most people attending the faire is just plastic trinkets, Minecraft figures, and single-thickness vases and jars.
Deep in the outskirts of the faire, right by the Porta Potties and a generator, one booth showed everyone how 3D printing should be done. It was AS220 Labs‘ table, and they’re doing their best to make 3D printers more than just printing out owl sculptures and plastic octopodes.
Fun With Filaments
First up from AS220 is [Matt Stultz] who has been experimenting with filaments other than the usual ABS and PLA. He gave a talk at the 3D Printing stage where he introduced the crowd to High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS), an amazing filament that produces unimaginably smooth objects, but can also be dissolved away with Limonene. This allows [Matt] to create objects with incredible overhangs with direct-off-the-printer mechanical builds such as gear trains and transmissions possible in the future.
If you’re running a 1.75 mm extruder, I highly suggest you pick up a spool of HIPS from Filaco just to play around with. It has the same dissolvable support qualities of PVA, but it also produces wonderful prints to boot. If the people running Filaco read this, I highly suggest you make some 3 mm spools of HIPS because somewhere around half the market has 3mm hot ends.
Along with HIPS, [Matt] also showed off two interesting filaments you need to feel to believe. The first is Laywood, a type of PLA embedded with wood fibers. It doesn’t exactly feel like wood, more like a big chunk of MDF that someone had taken a rasp to.
Laybrick, the PLA infused with chalk dust to emulate a stone texture, also made a showing at [Matt]’s table. It feels a little like a very fine-grained sandstone, but isn’t cool to the touch as a normal stone should be. With a greater infill, [Matt] should be able to come up with something that really does feel like a natural material.
Using 3D Printers as Intended
Also at the AS220 booth was [Dan] who can produce ten sets of MendelMax printed parts in under three hours.
Although we would not be where we are today without the RepRap project, the idea of using 3D printers solely to print more 3D printers is a dumb idea. Self-replication is a fine goal, but rapid manufacturing techniques should be used to build one of something, not an army of something.
When [Dan] decided he should look into building another 3D printer, he came to the same conclusion. Printing all the parts for his printer is a 30 hour job, but by making molds of the parts and pouring in some resin, he’s able to crank out a new set of parts in one tenth the time. It’s brilliant, and kind of depressing that this technique wasn’t seen more at Maker Faire.
To make his molds, [Dan] is using silicone rubber, with all the holes in each part plugged with steel rods before being cast. After the silicone cures, the halves of the mold are separated, the parts removed, and resin poured into the mold. Despite the complex geometries, this can be done, and is the way 3D printers should be used to replicate themselves.
It was great talking with the guys from AS220, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year. If you want to follow their 3D printing adventures for yourself, you can check them out at 3D Printing Providence,
If I could make one suggestion, has anyone looked into printing the molds themselves? They have a great dissolvable support material…