Friday, May 29, 2015

3D Printing: We the Builders- Edgar Allan Print (Poe)

Last week, I printed out and mailed a part of the newest collaborative model by We The Builders, titled "Edgar Allan Print (Poe)."

I've heard good things about We The Builders, a site that constructs busts of famous figures through a network of 3D printers. Each printer creates a chunk (or more) of the model, and after the parts are mailed to WTB, they are assembled into the finished figure. A very neat idea that can be accomplished with the power of distributed manufacturing.

Here's a picture of WTB's original bust of George Washington (photo credit We The Builders):

It was displayed at the Maker Faire in Greenbelt, Maryland, and it was successful enough that WTB was motivated to make some more fabulous models! Although I missed the boat on the second model, which was of Ben Franklin, I managed to get on board for the bust of Edgar Allan Poe.

(photo credits We The Builders)

According to We The Builders, this project is a bit different from the previous ones. Instead of getting randomly colored parts, they are currently interested in certain colors for different parts of the bust. This bust also is made up of smaller "chunks". On the "Edgar Allan Print" bust, there are 250 parts, compared to 110 parts for George Washington. This allows the volunteers on the project to make more parts and create the parts with smaller printers. 

So let's get to how the process worked!

After a quick signup through Google, I selected the button for the "dark color" file, and put it through Slic3r. With only 3 shells and 15% fill, the print would be sturdy enough for use on a bust.

I soon loaded the file onto the 3D printer's SD card, and prepared to print it.

One thing that I wanted to be sure about was that the color was in the right category (dark colors). So I chose dark grey in PLA, which is definitely one of the darker colors.

After cleaning off the bed from any dust or oil, and putting on a bit of a glue stick, I was ready to start the print.

And the part began to print out.

I immediately noticed that the print had a rather small footprint. However, it was made up for in volume because of the print's height.

The two flat sides of the print (the print is the inner loop in the image) are for mounting to other printed parts, while the other side is textured and makes up part of the outside of the bust.

The print was set to take eight hours, so I left and came back later.

One of the interesting things that the We The Builders creators mentioned was that they enjoy receiving parts that are unique. Whether it is an interesting material, an neat color pattern, or a funny note, a cool quality to a part is something that they find entertaining.

Looking at the hex pattern inside the part, I had an idea.

I snatched up a little scrap bead of orange PLA with forceps, and dropped it into one of the hexagons.

And there it sat, while the printing continued.

Soon, the part was complete! It's probably the only one that the WTB folks will get that makes noise.

The curvature of the part was especially interesting. Is it a lock of hair? Maybe a part of the scarf around Poe's neck?

I guess I'll find out when the model is made.

The bottom of the part shows the hexagonal fill pattern. If you tilt it towards you, the orange bead is visible through the bottom.

I was instructed to label the part on the flat sides with the correct number, sign it, and write the dimensions. However, the Sharpie was especially hard to read on the dark gray, so I added an index card with information as well. Dimensions were also entered on the website.

The part was quickly sent away to the project team, and I had to type in the tracking number on their website. Looking forward to seeing results in a couple weeks!