3D Printing – The Madness Continues

3D Printing – The Madness Continues!

Several days have passed and I’ve been trying to cram as much as I can into my little brain as fast as I can. I have the unwanted luxury of being alone this 4th of July, so I’m making the most of it as fast as I can.

I’ve been busy. Mentally and running around town, at least. My suntan and physique are takings some hits via this geeky endeavor. But this is some great “free” time to place as much learning as I can into this phase of something I want to pursue more in-depth. I have a lot of interests, and they all involve a lot of time for mastery. So efficiency is important to me, as I’ve noted in a recent post about how organization is vital to productivity. You simply can’t be reaching new levels of productivity without taking organization into account. There’s no way. If you want to optimize your time and life, get organized. It pays huge dividends and sets good examples for your kids.

Preaching over.

Onto learning. If you’re a lone wolf like me, there are about 2 good ways to learn for yourself. One is to seek out resources and teach yourself from experts and what others have learned by whatever methods they’ve learned that they have/had. Sometimes how others learned is important, other times it’s not. It’s good to know in any case where they’re getting their “info” and “Mad skillz.” Credibility is important. But if you’re starting out as a noob, you can’t be too picky. Curating some good forums and sites and resources pays dividends, which I’m doing and have organized here.

The other way to learn as an autodidact is by trial and error. That’s an expensive and often inefficient and sometimes even dangerous way to learn. It’s how I’ve learned pretty much everything I know outside of the 400 years of classroom instruction I also have under my belt for various things. That doesn’t mean I’m smart. I’m just not ignorant of many things. Some other things, like 3D printing, I’m an idiot about. This is why I’m notating everything I learn here. I’ve learned that’s a smart thing to do over 50+ years of trial and error-style learning.

I’ve learned some people are protective about their brand and model of printer. Prusia owners especially. Just an observation. Why? I have no idea. Just something I’ve already noted. Like so many people will waste their time writing negative unhelpful and petty comments online for no good reason but to be a wart on the internet. I don’t know why they think that’s a good use of time or anyone would care about their negativity, but they do it anyway. Same for graffiti, for that matter. Why? Some deep-rooted character flaws, I have to imagine. I’m growing to love the decision I made of buying the printer I did, which is an ANYCUBIC Mega S. But that hardly means I’m going to belittle anyone that has what I consider a “lesser” printer. As if. But people do it. It never ceases to amaze me.

I’m learning the rabbit hole of 3D printing is even deeper than I imagined. That’s good and bad. For me, at least. I don’t like taking up a hobby or broad interest and then finding out it’s a shallow, uninteresting wade into the pool. That happens more and more as I age, as a kind of “been there, done that” kind of experience. 3D printing has a world that’s growing beneath it, which is cool, I think. That means the opportunities are growing as the community does. More brains=more creativity=more assets to fork and build upon=new, unexplored terrain. Which I love. Exploration of any type.

Although the basics of 3D printing seem to be just that, “basic” it’s interesting to me that there isn’t more that’s being done with it. Yet. Creators are all experimenting with temperatures, fan speeds, multi-extrusions, and fine-tuning the software for it. But there’ more. The material, for sure. That representation is growing. I can print “wood” and “metal” and all sorts of things with my humble little printer. But printing living tissue? I mean, what’s the limit?

The filaments themselves are fairly inexpensive for basic PLA, which is wonderful. And the more exotic, of course, the more expensive. Biodegradability is important, but the waste of the printers something I’m intrigued by.

You end up with a lot of supports and botched/aborted jobs that leave a lot of “waste” material. To reuse/recycle it makes sense, and the are machines you can buy and some services that do it. But it isn’t free or cheap. A setup for yourself will run you about $5500. You’d have to be reusing a LOT of scrap for that to make sense. But when I do a search for recycled 3D material here in Louisville, a mid-sized city in America, there are no results. None. It’s a joke to just throw this stuff away. Honestly, while I’m printing all this stuff out and writing about it and just going about my day, I’ll consume several bottles of Citrus-Swish Gatorade, which is my new favorite beverage of all time, and Cokes, which I’d like to give up. But I’m heaving a lot of bottles into the trash. We have recycling, but when I once asked the garbagemen where the recycling goes, they said “the landfill.” So what’s the point? And it’s an extra-paid-for service and effort on my part to separate. Crazy. But how about melting those bottles into 3D filament? Too smoky or chemically? I don’t know. But there’s an opportunity somehow.

This brings me to note the lesson I learned this week about 3D printing: Supports.

When you print something that obviously can’t be printed in 3D because something has to hold part of the object up, like a ball, supports are created by thin webs of filament that make a ghost-like cloak around the object you’re printing. I didn’t know this. I had seen and read about supports” but I wasn’t sure what the deal was and hadn’t gotten there yet.

And I began printing a dinosaur and a dog for my daughter, the print job as it went on, as it was a loooooong job for the dinosaur, started looking like a big mess of filament that to the untrained eye (mine) caused me to abort the jobs.
Mistake! I started thinking about it, and just allowed a job that was casting these webs all around to just compete and see what happened. And my theory was right. The webbing is the supports for the object, which are peeled and scraped and sanded, and finessed off the object at the end. Duh! That’s why I ended up with some “expensive” mistakes of scrap PLA I’d like to recycle. Glow-in-the-dark PLA, for example. So that was my lesson about supports, which I need to learn more about, obviously.

And that brought me to another fact about 3D printing and the rabbit hole: you need a lot of tools and apparati for printing detailed stuff. None of it is very expensive, which is good, and a lot of it you already have on hand. Of course, there are specialized tools that may be considered. I always say that use the best tool for the job is the best idea. So sometimes it’s worth shelling gout a little coin to do the job right and easily, trust me. But not always. I have a Swiss-Army knife hanging on a magnetic hook on my printer. And the tools it has in it are perfect for many little jobs I may need. But of course, I have a growing toolbox of specialized and better tools than an all-in-one. One thing I’ve learned about “all-in-one” products or even “4-in-1,” or multipurpose wonder tool, is that the more they try to do usually the worse job it does for each specific job. And when one “tool” therein fails, it’s not long before the whole house of cards collapses. It’s better to buy a dedicated tool especially meat for a job, even if it seems pricy. In the long run, you’ll thank yourself if you are getting it for a serious endeavor. Like an “All-in-one” printer/fax machine/scanner/copier/ slicer/dicer, etc….? Don’t do it. Get the individual machine for the job.

I learned that even though you may have a glass-topped, heated bed, like my MEGA S, it might be a good idea to have a safety net and use a dab of purple glue stick for extra adhesion. I found that out by getting 87% into a 7-hour job, and the item becoming unattached and the whole job going down the drain. So I went to Target, bought 4 purple glue sticks for .25 each 2-pack, and now I’m set. (And managed to lock me out of the house while doing it. It never ends for me. I should 3D print a spare key for myself, eh?)

A deburring tool is handy as well. Here’s where I spent a little more and got a good one. I printed out a couple of small handheld sanding blocks/wedges that have screws for them, and there are little burrs in the screw threads. No good. I also like to use PVC pipe for projects and cut copper and tubing all the time and know what problems burrs can do to your project and skin. Those things are sharp. So I consider this a good investment as long as no one steals it from me. It’s ridiculous what I have to worry about these days.

3D printed goodies

I learned that although 3d printers are precision-made and smartly & highly engineered, sometimes you have to roll your sleeves up with them and get the ol toolbox out and use a little muscle. That’s fascinating to me; that this product was made by big brains that know electrical and industrial engineering, product design, computer engineering and development, chemical engineering, marketing, import/export, and global business best practices(not to mention overcoming language, legal, governmental {China}, regulatory and time obstacles) and a hundred other factors. The very least being able to sell this item to me and ship it to me, Quality Assured, with warranty and AWESOME customer service, at the price point they did. They’ve sent me 2 extruders. Normally, if this were in America, someone may complain that that demonstrates a poor product. But they tested this actual printer in the factory in China and it passed, with a person signing off on it. I have the signature and QA ticket right here. And when I had an issue, they promptly acted, dressed, helped me, and did everything humanly possible to correct it without blame or fuss. Incredible.

You can learn code and fine-tune everything imaginable as it comes to printing. And if you use Fusion360, CAD-CAM software, or even Blender(heck, even TinkerCAD) you can customize and build nearly anything you can dream of if you’re clever and masterful enough with the software. That’s where time spent behind the screen is necessary. I’m watching tutorials and practicing and learning what I can but I’m just 1 guy on 1 laptop with 1 printer. Not super-efficient but I’m doing the best I can. The tutorials and resources for Blender, for example, are plentiful, well-done, and much appreciated. But it’s SUCH a powerful piece o software that it simply will take anyone some time to be able to use and have muscle memories trained. I say that humbly as someone who has taught himself a LOT of coding and software himself. The developers are always making it better, faster, easier, and more intuitive. God bless them.

I’ve learned to double-check the levelness of where you have a printer working. I’ve been printing all along with the printer on a large coffee table next to me and my computer. And a lot of other stuff. But the table is w very wide planks of wood. Which look “flat.” But as I was just sitting here, I noticed the printer wobbling as it prints. It’s not sitting flat. And that tiny wobble is throwing things off. It needs to be on a rock-solid flat surface (or at least have the printing bad leveled flat on a rock-solid surface.) I suspect it had something to do with my failure at 87% printing job done earlier today, in fact. I’m biting my nails as I am giving it another go right now, after using some purple glue stick. But I still see that printer slightly jiggling. No good. But I don’t want to bother it in the middle of a job. If I were more knowledgeable I’m sure there’s a way to pause it, fix it and resume, but I’m not there yet.

I learned that when the printing nozzle has a big yellow sticker that says “Caution” and I know it’s heating up to 230 Centigrade (NOT Fahrenheit) that means it’s hot. And not to touch it. This is an example of how some people will NEVER learn. The very first word I spoke was “hot.” Why? Because after my mother pointed to a glowing red hot range before I could even speak and told me “hot” over and over again, what did I do? Touched it. And ran around yelling “HOTHOHOTHOTHOT!” Which was my first word. And today I did it again at age 52 and have a blister on my fingertip. Idiot. (And locked me out of the house! It’s a miracle I’ve managed to live to be the age I am.)

I’ve learned something I already really knew, but it’s been cemented into reality for me now, that 3D printing isn’t just for nerdy old men and nerdy young boys, which a lot of the time are 1 in the same. All kids, women, and yes girls like my own daughter, can do it and enjoy it. Females don’t gravitate to STEM endeavors, as much as media and some groups want to believe they should, despite Mother Nature being more in control than they’d like. I’m not going to force my daughter to LOVE science and sports and engineering and cars and a lot of things males like any more than a parent should force their male kid to LOVE barbie dolls and dresses and makeup and the color pink. It makes no sense and is abusive, frankly.

I think that 3D printing is still in the crude days of its evolvement and still relatively unrefined, which is exciting. since I’m able to hop in now where I am, as is anyone. I base that statement upon the level of having to still “roll up my sleeves” and get involve dot make sure the prints are going correctly. It’s not mainstream, in other words. I’m not saying anyone can’t do it. ‘M saying not everyone would want to. It may never reach the level, like with cars. Yes everyone could build their own car and maintain them themselves. But most people aren’t geared that way. Same with paper copiers. There will be a point when 3D copiers may be as easy as home office paper printers, which may or may still not be that user-friendly, depending…. But I digress.

I also base that statement on the fact that when I search for “3D printing Louisville KY” to see if there’s a creator’s group here in a mid-sized city in the middle of the USA, I get 3 results, which aren’t really even anything. Thera re she high-margin niche markets out there, I’m sure of. I know some people have found some, but the nature of this phenomenon is that they don’t go about publicizing why they’re doing it. It’s word-of-mouth “marketing” and cold-call selling. This is true of many new technologies, and I’m actually interviewing with a company that is involved in such a niche business. They’re in the fabled “catbird” seat now, but people are taking notice and sharks are smelling rich blood. It’s how all these things go. But 3D printing is taking a bit to hockey-stick. We’re almost there, though. I sense it.

Something I’m considering doing is making video posts about these things.

They aren’t super-important, but I like chronicling where I am at certain points to refer to for later and possibly even helping someone else out. But that doesn’t mean I have to write these novellas about it every few days.

Firstly, I’m a terrible typist, I admit. I have absolutely no excuse, and admit it to great shame, because I’ve taken courses on typing, and even had a private tutor come to my house to teach me how to type. And I’ve been an editor for high-level, important documents, and written books and miles of blather over the years, and I still hunt and peck. And autocorrect is no help at all. I have to go back and fix what autocorrect blows. It means I have to back and edit the autocorrect corrections, which a lot of times are wrong.

Plus if I videoed it, I could SHOW what I’m talking about. That’s worth more than me trying to verbalize it with a limited vocabulary. And a vocabulary I’m finding less and fewer people can comprehend. We’re moving away from literacy, not deeper into it. When we have PhDs and professionals that have the reading comprehension of an 8th grader, we’ve got a problem. And we have problems. They’re real and I see them around me every day. Miscommunication is the source of nearly all interpersonal problems and more. And the ability to communicate is crucial. That means being able to elucidate your thoughts as well as being able t comprehend what someone is saying, and yea, even on a higher level than you may be used to. That’s when it’s time to break out the dictionary. No one does that anymore. So, maybe it’s easier to just video and has people “look” at what I’m saying since they may no the ability to understand the words I write. It’s real, people!

Video brings up some factors I’m not 100% on board with though. That’s having people have to listen to my voice and look at my face, which they nor I may enjoy. I’m not Fabio or Jonah Bieber or whatever his name is.

And while video opens up my world to people, does anyone really want to see that? My house, my stuff, it’s sort of like “The real world” starring me, which I’m comfortable with on a social level – I have nothing to hide. But creepy in another. Yes, I could set up a “set” and video from the same-looking spot each time. That has pros and cons. I’m not sure how well that would work-real-time, though. If I’m talking about. Sprint job, I’m going to have to put the camera on the printer and move around and that would ensure a glimpse into my life, which I’m OK with, but it seems unnecessary to the message.

Just throwing some thoughts out, obviously.

Happy Fourth of July!