I know 3D printing is a hot topic… and as many other people, I also would like to have my own 3D printer. However, thanks to collaborative effort there is a new trending which consist in ordering the parts to local 3D printers instead of printing them yourself.
That’s basically what the web-page 3DHubs does. If you want to print any part cheap and fast but you don’t have a 3D printer…. maybe someone near you can do it for you and sell you his services.
In order to show you how this whole business works, I have a nice project: building a cap for the battery holder of an old video game (which I lost many years ago).
Note that flames are not real.
So, first thing, a quick draft of what we want to do. Basically one cylinder for the top, one cylinder to go inside and hold the battery in place, and 2 side wings to hold the cap in position. Something roughly like this.
Now it is time to make the 3D design.
Due to AutoCAD popularity, usually the 3D models are refereed as CAD files, but there is many formats and programs for editing. What is important, is to convert the files to *.stl format, as it is the standard format people on 3D printing are using.
So, for this project I choose a professional open-source software called Blender (and in addition, I refresh my skills with Blender).
Blender is quite easy to use, and there is lots of tutorials and videos. So, I leave to you learning the basics. Just remember a very useful tool (the wrench icon) Modifier>>Add Modifier>>Boolean. This allow you to perform operations as intersection, union…which have infinite applications.
In my case, the design is quite easy. The only problem I found is that I couldn’t specify space units in Blender, hence I’m not sure which size my design will be. Anyway, this is how it looks like.
(By the way, if you don’t want to make a design, maybe you can find what you need on-line in pages like Instructables or thingiverse… there is a useful compilation in the 3DHub links).
After a few tries, I solve the space problem by setting that 0.5 inside the program scale corresponds to 1 mm in the final *.stl file.
Almost forget. For some reason, which I don’t know yet, before exporting, you need to select all. Then simply export with default options.
At this point, if you want to double check, an easy options is an online *.stl viewer like viewstl.
Now everything is ready for printing. Let’s go back to 3DHubs and load the model. Click on 3D Print (1) and then load your file (2).
You can check the size (4) and select the scale of the file (3).
Now it is time to select the printer. Normally you will choose a printer nearby and simply pick the object once finished. In the London area it is not a problem to choose printer, there is lots and lots… however, I’m choosing one in particular, 4Delta.
I choose 4Delta because 4Delta is a start-up about 3D printing which aims to develop 3D printing and create training courses for companies, schools, universities and home users. On top of that, the guy behind this project is my friend and we use to work for the same institution.
Just to mention that they offer printing services as a way of maintain their printers busy, their main activity at the moment is training. If you are interested, I recommend visiting their official webpage.
Going back to the printing. I select 4Delta as printer. I choose to fabricate 8, in PLA material (standard).
As you can see, the price is very low. In fact, 4Delta is offering the cheapest prices in the London area in order to get more projects and gain experience in the problems that people face when approaching 3D printing.
So, now that the order is placed what? Well, first of all, there is emails reporting every step on the process, and of course, you can check it online.
Be advise that the people doing the printing have a limited amount of time to accept the order, otherwise it will be redirected to another printer. I tell you this because if you place the order during weekends or midnigth you may ended having it done by a different printer.
Next step is paying, which can be easily done by debit card… and waitting for the job to be done.
In my case, I just pick it from my friend, which also gave me some advises for next design. For instance, the lateral wings need to have some type of support. But in any case, you can see that the job was done perfectly and it fits.
Finally, thanks to 3D printing, this old game works again!