Shrinking the Design Process Using 3D Printing/RepRap

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[Flash Snoot - test print at approximately 10% completion.]

One of the primary advantages of affordable, accessible 3D printing like RepRap is the way that it facilitates the design process. The ability to imagine a new part or product then quickly prototype the concept and hold the actual part in your hand within an hour or so is totally mind-blowing.

A good example is the digital flash snoot that I selected as my first 3D printing test part designed from scratch. I wanted to produce something practical that other people could understand and relate to. Printing squirrels or Yoda figures is great, and I’m sure I’ll print lots of them, but I also want to use my 3D printers in a more pragmatic and useful way.

Once I got the Tantillus printer up and running, which went quite rapidly and trouble free, I used Slic3r to produce the G-code for the snoot from the solid model design created in ViaCad.

My objective was twofold. First, to check the printer calibration and make any adjustments necessary to produce the snoot. Second, to test the printability of the snoot design. Since I’m a total RepRap novice, I’m trying to take things slowly, step by step, and not assume that a part is printable just because it looks good on the screen.

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[Side view: Exterior finish looks great. Of course the final part will be printed with black filament.]

The results were very encouraging. The gap between the hot end and the bed needs to be opened up slightly using the Z-offset so that the first few layers print smoother. Based on suggestions from Sublime (the designer of Tantillus) I’m going to try slowing down the speed for the initial layers as well.

As far as the snoot printability is concerned, things look pretty good. The light channel grid is printing smoothly with a minimum of stringing. That means that the cleanup will be pretty simple. The external surfaces look great. The finished part should look extremely professional.

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The next step is to flip the part upside down to print the end that has to slide over the flash unit. For that test I only need to print about the first 20% of the part – just enough to try it with the actual unit. If everything goes as planned, getting the fit just right will only require some minor scaling.

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Related posts:

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  3. Learning From Other People’s Failures
  4. The Right Tool for the Job
  5. Makerbot Industries Visit – Bre Pettis Interview Part 1 (Video)

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Avid technologist with a passion for 3D printing, RepRap, and robots of all types and sizes.

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