Getting started with 3-D printing

Purchasing a 3-D printer is beyond what I can afford right now, but I might be able to get access to one at work and I have a few ideas on things I could design that would help us out, especially if I can get them sent up to corporate for evaluation.

From what I read, you start with a CAD program that can export to the STL format, then that file has to be processed so that it’s compatible with whatever brand of 3-D printer you’re using. That processed file is then sent to the printer and you then wait for it to chug along and build the thing.

I could probably get started with FreeCAD and work on the designs before even worrying about physically making the parts. Is there anything else I need to be aware of?

Oh, and Lee? Really? Isn’t that what they used to do in the Cold War with typewriters before dot matrix printers made that kind of analysis too difficult?

Yes, they did. Also, at one time, there was a camera in the early Xerox copier in the Russian embassy.

Couldn’t you just put some sort of white noise generator in the room with the printer and throw off the attacker that way?

Will a Cone of Silence fit over a 3-D printer?

Has anyone used FreeCAD? I’ve never worked with a CAD program before.

I did a while ago. Haven’t really played with it much recently.

As for 3D printing… Gratch got me a Da Vinci Pro from XYZ for Xmas. It’s a decent starter printer. Cheap but high end. Not bad for simple designs. I’ve run into some problems lately though. I had the hot end jam on me twice. The last time it was so bad, I had to send it and the controller board to CA to get it fixed. XYZ doesn’t do easy part replacement. To my credit, I was running it hard printing out game pieces and NASA wrenches for the kids of a friend of mine.

You are correct on the process but most people are printing other people’s designs. It’s quicker and easier and you see a result faster. Thingiverse is pretty popular. For design stuff, I’ve used SketchUp and OpenSCAD most recently. Simplyfy3D is one of the best out there for start to finish design work. Having an STL file is not all of it. You then need to run the file through a slicer. This is what takes your shape and figures out the path your print head will take to print it out. Simplfy3D also supports most printers on the market and has a good built-in slicer.

When you start printing, no matter your printer expect a lot of fiddling to get it to work. A lot goes into a good print. Adhesion to the print bed is number one. You want the first layers to stick but not so much you can’t get it off or push so much down the layers deform. And everything seems to affect your prints from a wiggly table, leaving a window open, whether you put enough glue down or just a setting change because you’re using a different brand of filament. It’s fun don’t get me wrong. But there will be a lot of frustrations when you first start out until you get everything dialed in. You can also send your design to a shop and have them print it out for you. That’s an option too.

I do love my printer though. I broke the knob off my radio in my truck and designed a new one from scratch and printed it out. Looks almost the same as the stock one. And my printer is fine for a starter one but I do plan on replacing the hot end soon but that’s just because of the problems I had. It’s currently not working because the feeder tube for the filament keeps popping out. I need to fix that one of these days. But if I get fed up with this model, I plan on buying a Prusa i3 printer. I like the idea of putting it together myself and being able to get the parts to fix it myself easily.