Posts Tagged ‘3D printing’

So, I’ve been thinking about collaborating. I wrote about the opportunity to have my digital fabrication students work with some 5th graders. Here’s the update.

The 5th graders sent us a handful of drawings. Some had multiple views and details. I gave the drawings out to any of my students who were interested (even when they learned there would be no money involved) and they got started. By the end of a class period, they had a decent design. I had them take screen shots of their Tinkercad models and put the pictures in a shared google folder.

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The next time we met, my students had comments back from the 5th graders on their designs, also in the shared folder. I have to say that my students were a little surprised to get back comments that asked for alterations. However, it was a great opportunity to discuss what it means to be hired, even “hired”, by and to work with someone with whom you are not in class. One student was annoyed that he was asked to put spikes on the top of the ziggurat he had designed as he did not notice them in the original drawing. I looked at the drawing again and there was definitely something zig-zag-y at the top, but it’s hard to tell. In the end my students did make changes.

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I liked that the 5th graders were calling the shots. And, since we were doing all the communicating via pictures and notes, my students did not intimidate or squash the voices of the 5th graders. Another benefit of this project was that it gave my students another opportunity to design something in Tinkercad and to improve their skills on something before we move on to our final, more open-ended project.

Since my class only meets twice a rotation of seven days, it hasn’t exactly been speedy work. Next semester I hope that I can find or run into another chance to do the making part of another project for another class. I’m already volunteering them.

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So, I’ve been thinking about the digital fabrication class that I teach. It meets twice in a seven-day rotation schedule and is ungraded. I have two sections of 9 students each; we have three printers. Sounds like a very reasonable situation. Until it is not reasonable.

The first project for class is a catapult. Students have to design a catapult in parts and have it throw a ping-pong ball 10 feet. For a while, everyone is just designing. Then they start sending me the files fast and furious. The big, fast printer wasn’t working at the beginning. Ok. The other two are not fast, but they were working. And then there was one.

With a back log of files to print, I had to regroup.

Lucky for me I had an idea based on what happened with one student before the total mayhem began. One student had a base and an arm, but had not figured the space for the arm to move within the base correctly. But, it was a lot of printed material. In an effort to gain something from this version, I suggested he try to use one or both piece in some other configuration. He turned his base upside down, grabbed a lot of rubber bands and got to work. He may have used an arm from other student’s project. The result was not pretty, but it worked. I affectionately named it the Frankenstein monster catapult.

So, when my next class came in a few days later when we were down to one printer, I announced it was a Frankenstein make-it-work day. I told students to take what they had, use whatever cast-off prints they found around, look for other materials, and get that ping-pong ball 10 feet. The students went to work. Some used popsicle sticks to create missing pieces, others rubber-banded all sorts of whatever together.

There was a flurry of making. Students were more creative in their ideas. There was gluing, drilling, hacking. And, many ping-pong balls were flung. Energy was up.

By the next class, I will have more pieces printed. We are back up to two, maybe three printers. However, I think I will just call a halt to more printing.

There was also a design component to this challenge, which our “make it work” moment did not address. I may take one more period to have students consider the design and look of their creation and make a plan for a next version. However, I don’t think we will print anymore.

It turned out the constraint of the printers being out of commission forced the students to think more creatively, which was the point anyway. Given the numbers and printer limitations, I may put students in groups next time. Groups would cut down on the items to print and force some discussion and collaborating, which in a class that includes students from several grade levels, would be helpful.

Silver lining found.

Update: As soon as I published this, I read John Spencer’s post about duct tape and cardboard. I am definitely thinking about how to start my next project with these materials and THEN move to designing and 3D printing.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the makerspace this year. One of the tools I have been working on a lot recently is the laser cutter/engraver. I am a beginner with Adobe Illustrator so that has been a challenge.

I don’t know where I first heard about it, but I kept hearing about taking 3D printer files and laser cutting them. I also then saw these fun bots made by RoboMustache at a STEAM/Maker event with my personal kids. Seriously, how cute are these little things? I put these two ideas together and decided I needed to learn to design the shapes that I would need to create my own RoboMustache-inspired closed shape in TinkerCad, which I am better at, and then figure out how to cut them.

I googled how-to change 3D printer files to laser cutter and found this directions from Make Magazine. After looking at Methods 1 and 2 and decided on Method 2, because 123D-Make is free software. Win.

I know the directions were step by step, but still it’s a lot of translating files. The more translations, the more places to mistranslate. After sorting out a few issues with depth/height of the .stl files and scaling in 123D-Make,  I had a beta version. After a few more tweaks to the TinkerCad design, I had a solid box (small on one right below). I have to say that I felt pretty proud of myself getting it all figured out. It was not hard, but there was also no one around to go to for support. Plus, I have now explained it to others.

Here are my first boxes.

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The one thing I haven’t figured out is how to get the DXF file from 123D-Make to come in to Illustrator the exact size they were created in TinkerCad. I’m not sure where I am missing a setting. With scale settings to set as the files move from each program to the next (.stl from TinkerCad–>123D-Make–>export as DXF–>open in Illustrator–>scale to size–>cut) I have a lot of combinations to try, and so far I have not dedicated myself to keeping track of attempts and results.

Onward!

So, I’ve been thinking about how spending a few hours in the MakerSpace does wonders for my general sense of well-being.

The other day I went up there first thing in the morning to check on a 3D print I had started the previous afternoon. Since I am co-teaching a minor course, Digital fabrication, in the space, I try to print the designs between class meetings. On the day in question, I honestly don’t even remember if the 3D print turned out or not. I’m sure I got a few more student designs going on the other printers. My plan had been to leave by 9 am at the latest and get back to my office. However, at 10:15  I was still there. I had the lasercutter/engraver working on a couple of patterns in several different materials. Then, I noticed how interesting the cut out pieces were and the design created by the holes in the pieces of wood and plexiglass. There are easily 2 other posts about the actual work I was doing.

lasercut pieces

My focus in this post is about the time. I can totally justify the time I spend in there. I need to become more familiar with the tools in the space, and there’s really no way to do that other than by using them. So, I’m now comfortable changing the filament on both types of 3D printers; I can take apart parts here and there to clean out the nozzle on the Polar3D printers; I am getting to know some of the idiosyncracies of the printers; I unclogged the CubePro the other afternoon after quite a bit of this-ing and that-ing (so satisfying! It’s like undoing knots); I am getting better at trouble shooting, knowing when to suspect the printer, when to look at the file. This does not even begin to make me an expert. I’m also getting the hang of the lasercutter. I have realized that moving the bed up and down impacts the cut dramatically; I am a wiz at moving the laser to a good spot to cut repeated objects out of the same piece of material; I’m learning to look for any warping in the material and tape down anything I can; I’m making progress with scaling the cut or raster; I have tried cutting and rastering all sorts of materials, including orange peels and chocolate. Adobe Illustrator and I are not what I would call friends, but we are getting acquainted and taking it slowly. Again, all this knowledge that I have gained does not make me an expert in this either.

What all this does is make me a learner-a learner of totally new stuff, not just a little new. It has been so exciting and energizing. I can tell that I have reached a tipping point. I know enough to be independent, and I know enough now to feel confident trying more, which will let me learn more. Our MakerSpace leader has encouraged those of us who use the space to just do/try/fix things, but I am someone who needs to feel she has a bit of know-how before leaping in too far. I’m leaping.

As with my foray into graphic novels, I have spent time on this MakerSpace learning. A lot of time. In big chunks. I have had support and encouragement. I have talked with all sorts of colleagues about ideas for creations. My Advice station/New Year’s Maker idea continues to progress. At this point, I have more plans, and bigger plans, than I could complete in a year of solid work. (I have a tendency to plan bigger than my skills would suggest is wise. It’s one of my most endearing or frustrating qualities; you choose.) Again, my question returns to how we make time for students to do this kind of learning, beyond sports which does get big chunks of time. While I am sure the students are quicker learners than I am at this point, even they need more than a few minutes here and there. We know that learning takes time and practice that doesn’t always happen in 48 minutes segments.