Printing Robots

It has finally arrived… The Ultimaker 2+ is installed and operating in the IT/DL Suite! In the past week we have unboxed, calibrated, and printed a few pieces to test out this beaut. The first print, this lovely little robot we fondly refer to as Paul. Paul is approximately 1 inch in height and maybe half an inch wide. As the Ultimaker mascot, it was only fitting that he be the first attempt at any printing success.

Up next we put the Ultimaker through the 3DBenchy test or, as it is more fondly known, “the jolly 3D printing torture-test.” This little boat asks the printer to try overhangs, symmetry, rounded surfaces, and inclines. All things that could go very, very badly and cause warping or dimensional inaccuracy, WITHOUT SUPPORTS*. Measurements are also taken to make sure that the printer is calibrated well (or more specifically the software used to send the file to the printer). So, here’s how the Ultimaker stacks up:

Accurate measurements (yay!)
Smooth print, no warping
Successful incline build
Small detail accuracy (mostly legible)

The one STRUGGLE was the overhangs. Each of the archways and windows had some drooping or discrepancy. This really isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it could be solved by adding supports to these surfaces (which can be sanded/melted out later). Overall, 3DBenchy was a success!

 So what does this mean? More testing! Up next we’ll check out duration prints (so far we’re up to 4 hour prints with success), tall prints, and wider prints. All leading up to, hopefully, working with interested faculty and students (and staff) on projects throughout the Fall semester. This will entail workshops in 3D modeling and training on working with (and often troubleshooting) the 3D printer. Lots of planning! But for now, here’s a quick overview of our newest technology:

The printer is currently set up to print using PLA and provide prints as small as Paul the Robot or as large as the build plate can hold (approximately 8in wide x 8in deep x 11in high). We have four nozzle sizes for more detailed prints or quick prototypes. Most any file type associated with 3D building (obj, stl, etc…) can be uploaded to Cura, the free software program that works with the Ultimaker printer. Decisions regarding supports and the density of the print can be made in Cura. This allows one to see how the object will be built layer by layer. These prints are then loaded onto an SD card to begin the print. That’s a pretty quick overview of what it does, but as I learn more I will continue to share.

If you’re at all interested in working with 3D modeling and printing next semester, please stay tuned! I will be working on training throughout the summer and would love to collaborate.

*Supports are small removable structural additions that are made by the 3D printing program


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