As my 3D printer has been steadily growing from the surface of my worktable, I have noticed more than a couple house-guests stopping and pondering the strange contraption that has sprouted in my basement. With the aluminium frame completed and the motors set in their place, my printer has gone from a box of nuts and bolts to something a whole lot closer to a working machine. At this point, I am in the last stretch of the building process, meaning that my first printed object is just around the bend! However, after the machine is built, there is still quite a bit of work to complete in the calibration of it, which will ensure that all of my prints are clean and accurate. Among the text below is some photos of the current state of my printer, but I plan on going into more detail on the individual parts once the building is complete, so stay tuned!

The entirety of the printer as of February 7th.
A closer look at the extruder head (top), motor, and printing platform.

In addition to the time I’ve been spending at my worktable, I also have begun dabbling in some 3D modelling programs as my mentor, Ashley, suggested: TinkerCAD and FreeCAD. Both of these programs cater to a different set of skill sets, but with the help of some YouTube tutorials, I was able to start exploring pretty quickly.

To start, TinkerCAD is web-based program that allows the user to build models by accessing an already existing ‘toolbox’ of basic 3D objects (cylinders, boxes, cones, etc.). Using a ‘drag-and-drop’ method, a user can simply choose an object and place it on the work plane to manipulate its dimensions, colour, and grouping with other objects. I found the layout very simple and user-friendly, and I was pleased to learn that there is a database of other users’ models that can be accessed and incorporated into my own designs. I found this feature especially useful in terms of generating inspiration, and simply observing what was possible to accomplish within the program’s parameters. In alignment with one of my goals for In-Depth, I decided to draft up a simple model of a pawn for my 3D printed chess set; although not especially complicated, it was useful for applying some of the skills that I had learned.


As you can see, I simply combined two cylinders, two flat-topped cones, and sphere to create this shape. It was quick and easy, and got the job done!

Secondly, I also spent some time working with a program called FreeCAD, a modelling service that offers a plethora of different settings, tools, and ‘workbenches’ to accommodate a wide range of uses. It is almost impossible to jump right in to the program without any previous experience, so I looked to some online tutorials for help.  Although my skills have not developed enough to let my creativity run wild just yet, the tutorials helped me understand the basics of understanding the relationship of objects on the x, y, and z axes, and extruding 2D faces into 3D objects. With a little bit more time I hope to be creating some of my own designs, but I have found that that with there is a steeper learning curve with the professionally-geared FreeCAD than with TinkerCAD.

Before concluding this post, I should not forget to talk a little about how this all fits into DeBono’s How to Have a Beautiful Mind. The next chapter that we are focussing on is How to be Interesting, which directly connects to how I, along with my classmates, are presenting their project for their peers, teachers, and family to understand and enjoy. Writing this post on my blog, for example, is an excellent exercise in making my topic of study accessible to any potential reader, regardless of their past experience. It is here that I share the nature of my experiences within my project, which is aimed to help me and others gain a solid perspective of my progress and learning. In addition, even though I haven’t been able to meet with my mentor these past few weeks, my skills in making my study intriguing for others have been put to good use. Like I mentioned before, many visitors at my house have inquired about my 3D printer, which has challenged me to speak about my topic in a way that remains relevant to their own experiences and interests. And I can imagine, that as I delve deeper into the technicalities of 3D printing, it will be even more of a challenge to explain various aspects of my study to others, but will be useful on In-Depth night when speaking to parents and students.

So that is all for this week- the last bit of tinkering on my 3D printer should be done by my next post, and hopefully, we’ll be able to see it working in action!