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Friday, May 31, 2019

Eighteen Months of 3D Printing - Where Have I Learned to Use It?

Eighteen months ago, I took on the task of running the 3D printer at work.  It's a Fusion3 F400-S, similar to the upgraded 410 shown on Fusion3's website.

It's a FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printer, in other words, it melts plastic and lays it down one layer at a time until it produces the desired result.  '




At least that's what's supposed to happen!

All I can say is that it's been fun, frustrating, rewarding, and discouraging at various stages of the journey.  I've tasted the sweet joys of victory, and I've muttered the bitter "F-Bomb" of defeat.

Most of all, I've realized that while I've learned a lot, I'm far from an expert. Because of that, I'm not going to tell you how to make a successful print.  There are plenty of people who are doing that, and frankly, they are much more knowledgeable than I.

But what I can share are my experiences watching our 3D printer making an impact in our design process.  So here I go, showing a few places where having a 3D Printer has shown itself to be a helpful part of our design processes.

One disclaimer before I get started.  I can't share the real parts online.  Words like "proprietary" and "security" start getting thrown around.  So I have to use "surrogate" parts that represent the concept.

Thanks in advance for bearing with me!

1) The "Show and Tell" 

There's nothing like holding a represenation
of the part in your hand.
When I think of 3D printing, this is the first application that comes to my mind.  It's simply a cosmetic print meant to give an idea of the "form and function" of the part.  In our case, it didn't do anything but give everyone a sense of size and shape. 

This might seem simple at first.  With 3D CAD Modeling tools, we can model our designs precisely.  So why "waste time" printing a part that's just "for looking".

Well, I know I've fallen victim to being able to zoom into a small screw until it looks like a table leg.  And with that, comes a distortion of scale that can affect those of us that live in the real world.

And I know I'm not the only one.  I've heard more than one person say, "I really didn't think about big/small that part is!"

A particular example comes to mind.  I was in a meeting where the projected image of the CAD model rotating on the wall was completely ignored because engineers and customers were drawn to the 3D printed model that represented a much more tactile experience that couldn't be experienced with the 3D model.

2) The "Assembly Test" 

This print is in reality a series of parts that make up an assembly.  It may even be a combination of real and printed parts.
A sample part with a real hydraulic fitting threaded into one hole

The purpose of this part is to ensure that the parts you've carefully designed can not only be put together, but put together easily.

I can see which fitting will have to get torqued in first! 
For example, can a bolt be inserted into the bolt hole, and once in there, can the wrench follow up and turn the bolt once it's in the hole.

3) Tooling and Covers

I've lumped these tooling and protective covers into the same category, partially because the two sometimes blend into each other, at least where I work.

An example of a protective cover that has a unique shape

Because the 3D CAD model exists, it can be relatively quick to create a negative of the part, then print that negative as quickly as a few hours.

An example of a cradle created by creating
a negative of the part. 
Sometimes these shapes are odd or unique, and can't be easily duplicated by the machine shop, or frankly, the machine shop just doesn't have the time to make them.

In any case, 3D printing provided us with the ability to create odd geometry quickly, without disrupting other operations.

In Conclusion

My intention here was just to share a few cases where I've found 3D printing helpful.  By no means is it comprehensive.  If anything, I hope it provides a few ideas, and dare I say, inspiration.

I think it's also important that we bear in mind that 3D printing is a new tool that can supplement existing tools.  Don't by a 3D printer thinking that you'll be able to shut down your machine shop, woodshop, or welding shop. .

So take these ideas and make them you're own.  And feel free to share in a comment if you have a good use for 3D printing in your home or office.

Acknowledgements




Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Thank Goodness for Fusion 360's Document Recovery!

I start work pretty early this morning, 6AM to be precise.  
Coffee..  The "Go-Juice to start
any day.

That means I usually get up around 4:30, get dressed, and make a little coffee to prime the pumps, so to speak. 

If I have time, I read a little news on the computer before jumping in the car and braving the Los Angeles traffic. 

This morning, I my laptop announced that Windows needed to install an update and restart.  Just as I was leaving for work, I told Windows to go ahead run through the update process. 

I knew I had saved all my documents... Including that Fusion 360 part I had been working on the night before.  Of course I saved....  right????  RIGHT???
Sure enough.  At lunch, I open up Fusion 360  to take a look at my part.  I'm going to bathe in the the power of the cloud and all the power of accessibility it grants me! 

And I see a blank screen when I open my document.  That part I was so sure I had saved???? I hadn't.  

I mentally shrug and accept that I'll have to redraw the part.  It wasn't complicated and it will only take a few minutes to recreate.  But still, the CAD version of "Groundhog Day" is never fun. 

Once I get home, I opened up Fusion 360, considering recreating my geometry, and with the voice of angels, the document recovery screen appears. 

And it includes the part I had forgotten to save! 

The File Recovery screen. Note this image doesn't contain
the filename for my recovered file. In my excitement, I had already recovered it.
I didn't have the courage to try to re-break it to see if it would recover again.
All I had to do was right click, choose open, and bask in the joyful joy-ness of File Recovery.  

File Recovery pops up when there are files auto-saved on your computer.  It's a handy reminder there is potential data that can be salvaged. 

It can also be manually by choosing the "Recover Documents" option from the File pulldown. 

Locating the "Recover Documents" screen manually

Regardless whether or not it's access at startup, or manually from the pulldown, it can be a great way to recover lost work in case of computer/software crash, or if, as in my case, a forgotten file save!

Boy am I glad I didn't have to rebuild this geometry!
(note the part name states its "Recovered"


Additional Photo Credits

photo credit: wuestenigel What's the worst thing that could happen? via photopin (license)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Painting PLA 3D Printed Plastic.

The valve body part I use for everything from machine
calibration to well, paint tests! 
One of my newer endeavors is running the 3D printer at work.  And with any new journey, it's got is rewarding victories, and frustrating setbacks. 

My most recent "let me figure that out" moment came when printing a "presentation" part, meant to give an idea of shape and volume.

I printed the company logo into the part, because that's just good marketing right there.  But then came the suggestion....

"Can we paint the logo to make it pop?  Do we have an white out anywhere?" 

After a build lasting 22 hours, I wasn't willing to roll the dice with white out.  But while home sick, recovering from the flu, I had an idea (fever dream?) to go to the local crafts store and see what they had for paint. 

So once recovered, I wandered off to the crafts store and found a paint pen.  Not willing to try my first attempt on the part at work, I tried it on another PLA part I had. 

The results for a first attempt weren't too bad.  We're they perfect?  No. but it'll do for what we're currently after, and if I do say so myself, not bad for a first attempt.

The "paint pen" and its willing test piece

Have you got any suggestions for painting PLA?  I've heard acrylic and spray paint work well, but haven't tried it myself.  For that matter, has anyone tried the good old fashioned whiteout?  Maybe I'm being a little elitist and it really is a good choice!


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Revisiting My Old Friend Fusion 360. And Searching for Documents in the Data Panel

My beacon many a night
A few months ago, I took a brief hiatus on blogging to concentrate on studying for my FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Airframe and Powerplant tests.  As many of us encounter, there are only so many hours in the day, and the body will only tolerate so much caffeine.

I'm proud to say that those tests have been passed now, and it is quite a thrill, and yes, a relief too.

But that means that my evenings are free to pursue other endeavors, and some of those evenings will involve building a few models in Fusion 360.

I don't expect I'll get too crazy with parts, my time is still somewhat limited.  But I'll share my adventures here as I learn new things.

So what's the first thing I (re)learned?

How to search for a file I saved to the wrong location!

That's right!  I'm diligent about saving my files!  What I don't always do, is remember to make sure I save to the correct location! 

However, Fusion 360 does have a way to fix that!

First, locate the search "magnifying glass" on the Fusion 360 data panel.


Once the magnifying glass is selected, the data panel shows  a search window.  All there is to do is type the name of the document you're searching for, and click the search icon.

It helps me when I misplace my files. Perhaps it can help you too!

Good luck!  I hope this helps!

Additional Credits

photo credit: bryan... 星巴克, 慶州, 徐羅伐, 韓國, 南韓, 大韓民國, Starbucks, Gyeongju, South Korea, Republic of Korea, ROK, Daehan Minguk, 경주시, 대한민국 via photopin (license)