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3D Printing

The Thanksgiving holiday and preparations caused a delay in our blog and production schedule. Nonetheless, the printing is proceeding smoothly, and although with an initial first misprint, all cylinders are firing now and no other errors have presented themselves. Our first attempt at multiple model, single print, production yielded the following result:

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As you can see in the photo, the batwing cross failed. The remaining pieces were perfectly formed and have been placed in line for the first investment and metal casting batch. The Batwing Cross was then printed separately with excellent results, and more prints have since been produced with no failures.

Those parts that have passed the curing stage have already been trimmed of their supports and been sanded smooth at the support points, and await investment casting. I am initially preparing and printing as many silver content model parts as I can, then I will follow with the brass content models, and finally with the print models that will be cast in 18k gold. There is much preprint setup that is required, such as developing and adding the channel sprues that will feed the models of their metal content during casting. This can be somewhat tricky, since the 3D print software will add support points to these sprue channels, and this can make the model quite “busy” with a maze of print supports, which then must be trimmed free for casting purposes. Some of the supports, because of the small scale involved, can be very difficult, if not impossible to remove, so much thought has to be given to placement for optimum casting metal flow, but still enable ease of reaching and clipping away those hard to remove connections.

Quote of the week:

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – Les Brown

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Learning Curves

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Today will bring the first tests of the 3D printer. There was a short but complicated learning curve this past week in determining the optimum layouts and positions of the individual pieces to be printed on the print bed. Since the models need to be printed in particular positions, to avoid adding multiple and unnecessary support scaffolding, all of the model designs needed to be tweaked by adding injection sprues for the casting flows into the molds. This was determined by first laying the models into the 3D printer bounding box, positioning for optimum and minimum scaffolding placement, then returning to the original model designs to find the best locations for the sprue canals, based on the proposed printer layout.

Before I make the actual casting prints for the investment molds, I’ll have to first print the models in a less expensive plastic resin, since the castable resin is five times more costly. For that reason, I’ll have to shell, or hollow out the model designs to conserve the casting resin. So there is still some minor model development to be done before the first casts are made. I’m considering the Steampunk Steamray or maybe the Cogwheel ring, with a brass gear and silver barrel for my first attempt. Of course, the brass and silver parts will be cast
separately, and then soldered together with silver solder. Again, I’ll try to photo document the results of each step of the processes.

Later, as I get more familiar with the printing process, I can print multiple models in one batch or as many as I can array on the 6″ x 6″ printing bed. This will also allow metal-casting several models at a time. Like branches on a tree, the main sprue can support additional models in one casting throw. For now, experimenting with the one ring model will be sufficient.

Quote of the week:

“Deadlines refine the mind. They remove variables like exotic materials and processes that take too long. The closer the deadline, the more likely you’ll start thinking waaay outside the box.”
~Adam Savage

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Full Steam Ahead

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We are pleased to report that all of the final pieces of equipment are in house. We did have a major scare in the past week with the 3D printer, as the shipper delivered it to a wrong address and it was lost for a day. Fortunately the recipient contacted me and I was able to pick up the printer myself with no other problems.

I am deep in studies with the printer operation and hope to start the first test print by this weekend. I’ll make some test models before attempting the actual production models seen on the website, which I hope to begin next week. The kiln arrived at least two weeks early and the first run was performed with excellent results at first testing. The centrifugal casting arm is assembled and awaiting trial. In this case, no test is necessary and it will see its first use after the first production 3D model is invested for casting and burned out in the kiln. The longest part of the production is the wax burnout, due to the exotic materials used by the 3D printer and investment powder, the burnout of the material from the investment casting will take no less than twelve hours.

After the metal casting, post finishing may take a couple to three more hours. I hope to produce one of each item in the four subject folders, then start another four, etc. until all twenty four items are complete. There are more designs awaiting modeling with the software, and application of the gateway processing, photography and update of the website, so still lots of work to do, but at least we have everything in place to keep us busy.

Quote of the week:

“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.”
~Mark Victor Hansen

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Gathering Knowledge

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It’s been an interesting week of gathering new information. Formlabs,  our 3D printer manufacturer of choice, presented a webinar on the use of their preferred 3D modeling program, ZBrush , which is used to develop the digital wire-frame models that their Form II 3D printer then produces in stereo-lithographic solids.

Our own in-house soft wares have conversion applications that also convert our 3D models into wire-frame format that easily conforms to the Form II’s requirements to convert to solids. I don’t believe we will need a third software application to tend to our output at this time.

In the meantime, our studies continue in all areas of advanc3Design, with equal weight being given to each phase of operations, until the kiln and printer arrive. After unpacking, the 3D printer will be given the highest priority until we are comfortable enough to produce our first solids for investment casting. Casting and post finishing will follow, until all products are developed, at which point our photographer will step in to do his magic for upload to the website. I will try to capture the production process myself, with photos, to show step by step progression in the multiple steps required in the assembly procession.

Quote of the week:

“The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.”
~Steve Ballmer