For my In-Depth of 2014, I chose a field of study that was strongly geared towards the arts, through spoken-word poetry. As an emerging art form, I found it especially fascinating and validating, because in addition to conducting my own personal poetry journey, I also became part of a larger movement and community. When deciding on my In-Depth project topic for this year, I wanted to replicate this sense of innovation, and finally chose to turn my efforts toward 3D modeling and printing. Like slam poetry, 3D printing has only recently been gaining international attention, and has intrigued people for its applications to many areas of study. Science, technology, art, and fashion have all been affected by the boom of 3D printing interest in the past couple of years, and I am excited to experiment in this media that still has yet to meet its full potential.

To a bit of background on what 3D printing is exactly, it can be described as a method of manufacturing that produces three dimensional object from digital ‘blue-print’. Most commonly a 3D printer uses a heated nozzle to lay down very thin, successive layers on a platform in according to a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file, and this can be achieved with a variety of materials like plastic, steel, and even ceramic. Either the nozzle or the platform can move on the x,y, and z axis to produce 3D objects that are accurate to the virtual design. See the video I have posted below for a more visual representation on this process.

My plans for 3D printing do not start and end at the process of printing. As I mentioned, I also hope to learn some basics of 3D modeling as well, so that I can print my own original designs, and it is most likely that I will be using a design/architecture program such as Google Sketch-up. My prediction is that the modeling process will account for a large portion of my time spent on the project, and the printing will act as a way to manifest my designs in physical form. I would like to start with modelling some basic 3D shapes, and then gradually progress towards more complex objects, and one of ideas for a larger project is to create a full-piece chess set. Other than that, I plan on seeing where my skills will take me within the modeling process, and hope to gain an in-depth understanding of the tools that are available through design programs, and how I can use them to my greatest benefit.

In addition to the 3D modelling process, there is the matter of the printer itself. Because both my dad and I are interested in learning some skills in the area of 3D printing, we have decided to purchase our own start-up kit, which we will be attaining in the next week. We will both go through the process of assembling the printer, which will hopefully aid me in the understanding of the printing process, and act as a good introduction to my project. I will document that particular experience so that I can describe it here in some videos and pictures.

Finally, I would like to comment on my pursuits in getting in touch with a mentor, and I have one particular lead that looks hopeful. In Vancouver, there is an organization called Hack Space, which focuses on giving people a space to learn new skills and discuss ideas relating to robotics, woodworking, crafting, electronics, machining, and 3D printing. They have open nights on Tuesdays, and I plan on visiting next week to inquire about the possibility of mentorship in the area of 3D printing. My hope is that a mentor will be able to offer some guidance and support in the area of design techniques, but also share some expertise on the printing process as well. In the mean time, I plan to seek out some other sources where I might be able to find a mentor, in the situation that my current option won’t pan out.

As my online research continues in the area of 3D printing, I find myself getting more excited for what lies ahead of me in this project. I predict a substantial learning curve in the next five months, as this area of technology is something that I was previously unfamiliar with, but I think it will hold some pretty cool experiences that I’ll be able apply to future projects and studies. In terms of my timeline, I hope to include visits to the Vancouver Hack Space to supplement my own home projects throughout the five months, and keep a steady process of designing and printing once I have learned my basic skills. As I do this, all of my various experience will be detailed right here on my blog, which may hopefully be interesting to my classmates, but perhaps also helpful to others embarking on their own 3D printing journey. To spark some of that interest, I’ll leave you with this video, which shows a real 3D printer in action (the same model that I will purchase).