Three-dimensional printing is changing the world of manufacturing and as technology division student Adam Nail, Neoga, learned more about this growing technology, he thought it best to get in on the ground floor.
“The world of manufacturing is changing drastically and 3D printing technology is booming,” explained Nail. “These changes are kind of approaching a sweet spot and that’s why I decided to move forward with this project.”
Nail, who is double majoring in Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Integrated Manufacturing Technology (CIM Tech) at Lake Land College, recently built his own 3D printer out of 3D printed parts.
At Lake Land, students studying CAD and/or CIM Tech regularly use the 3D printer to bring their virtual designs to life. Using software like Autodesk Inventor, a graphics based tool that allows drafters, designers and engineers to develop products by automating complex design tasks, students in these programs design everything from model vehicles, wind turbines and even computer tablet stands. Three-D printers then create an object by depositing plastic in very thin layers until a three dimensional object is formed.
“I wanted to build the printer mainly to see if it was possible and also to try to get my family a little more interested in what I can actually do,” said Nail.
After introducing the idea to his parents, it didn’t take long for his father, a mechanic, to become interested in helping his son build a 3D printer. Nail said that once his father realized he could design and print things such as custom auto parts or rare gun parts, his dad’s interest was piqued and he helped him cover the cost of materials and parts.
Nail first became fascinated with 3D printing when he was introduced to it through his classes at Lake Land. That’s when he set out designing the component parts for his own 3D printer and printing them using the lab at the college. According to Nail, he found open source resources online to help him design and then later program the printer to work with his laptop computer.
The printer, formally known as a Delta Robot but informally known as a Rostock 3D printer, operates using three positional motors that connect three carriage arms to an extruder that melts and forms plastic shapes onto a heated bed. Electronically, the machine is controlled by an Arduino Mega, a small computer on a single integrated circuit containing a processor core, memory and programmable inputs and outputs.
“Programming the machine to get all of the parts working together was probably the most difficult aspect of this project,” said Nail. “But building this will allow me to show it to prospective employers and say, ‘Look at this! I built this from scratch and it works like it is supposed to.’ It’s a pretty decent resume builder."
When building the 3D printer was all said and done, Nail spent approximately $550, but he has plans to make a return on his investment.
“My plan for the printer is to make it pay for itself by possibly printing kits for other printers or using it to self-replicate and make another printer to sell it at a profit,” he said. “Or, I might tap into designing customized, hard-to-find parts if there is demand for that.”
To learn more about the Lake Land College Technology Division, visit: www.lakelandcollege.edu and look for the “Manufacturing Programs” button under special events or contact Tim VanDyke at (217) 234-5313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.