3D Printing is not as easy as I thought!

Over the summer of 2013, I received the news that I was going to be involved in learning about 3D printing and its different types of technologies to prepare myself for becoming a Teacher’s Assistant for the 3D printing classes held at Baruch College. I really didn’t know much about 3D printed images and models outside of what I once observed during a 3D printing demo here at the Lawrence N. Field Center. I felt like, “Wow, this is fantastic. It is groundbreaking.

ReplicatorIt can change the world.” It seemed such an easy process.  I thought I could start printing with just a push of a button. But, oh boy! I must admit that I was wrong. I knew so little about 3-D printing that I had to Google and YouTube everything about the process- from understanding the 3-D printing machine to creating a simple design model on SketchUp design software.  I quickly found that all I knew about the printer was how to turn it on and off!

The videos were really exciting, cool, and very fun to watch.  However, I realized that 3-D printing is not such as easy software for the average person to use, unless he/she has experience with CAD (computer-aided design) or product design. “CAD software is used by architects, engineers, drafters, artists, and others to create precision drawings or technical illustrations.”1 Therefore, anyone not in these areas of expertise may encounter problems understanding its functionality.

In order to accomplish my goal, being prepared for when students approach me with questions, not only have I read multiple articles on how to use the 3D printers and its software, but also decided to take it to the next level by attending the World Maker Faire New York.  It was at this event that I was able to ask questions and become aware of the existence of different types of technologies, including 3D printing.  The 3D printing revolution is rapidly growing at a pace where it will eventually affect the course of everyone’s life. We are able to print models made out of plastic, metal, ceramic, and much more. NASA is even in the process of developing a 3D printer that can print pizza. Now, that is something to be excited about!

My first printing attempt was not a success.  I just couldn’t understand what went wrong. It was clear that there was more to 3D printing than I had imagined.  I needed to understand the model’s dimensions.  I also had to learn how to set the printer’s temperature which was dependent on the room’s temperature.  What made it even more complicated was when the room temperature was not a pleasant one, sometimes it gets so cold! So even when I set the printer’s temperature at a higher degree than that of the room’s temperature, the model would not adhere to the platform of the printer so the model is vulnerable to movement during the printing process.  There were many times I could not follow the suggestions found online.

In addition, because there are different types of materials, ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) & PLA (Polylactic Acid), I had to remember that the setting to print with one particular material does not apply to the other.  Personally, I do not like to use the ABS material because it is a petroleum based plastic. Although it is known to be a more durable, heat-resistant plastic, it gives off strong fumes when heated. On the contrary, PLA, a plant-based plastic, has a lower melting and breaking point, which gives off less irritable fumes.  Therefore, I have decided to only use this type of material when printing.

My exposure to 3-D printing increased significantly when the Field Center, where I intern as a Field Fellow, was able to purchase two additional printers.  These printers, both CubeX, were of a higher quality and capacity than the Replicators I was already using.  These new printers could print in two colors. I was so happy! It was almost like the PC versus the Mac debate. Being a technology student and not a designer, I am drawn me to PCs more than Macs, and now I feel the same way about these two printers.  I can’t help but lean towards using the Replicator.

After printing with the CubeX, I find it’s even more complicated and a lot slower.  Then again, the resolutions of the models are so much better than when I print the same model using the Replicator.

The more time I spend printing and researching for answers when things go wrong, the more familiar I become with the technology and its capacity. After long research and practice hours in the office, I am now able to gauge just how long a model may take to print depending on the type of plastic I am using.  Although, my major is not Entrepreneurship, but, instead, Computer Information Systems, the ability to print just about anything you will need makes us all entrepreneurs of the future. You are not limited and bound by traditional manufacturing technology to get you what you want.  I may be allowing my first impression to be the judge, without actually giving myself the time to see its full capacity.



1 Rouse, Margaret. WhatIs.com. March 2011. 13 11 2013 <http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/CAD-computer-aided-design>.



Lissenellys Valdez, Field Fellow, Field Center