The original idea of building our own 3D printer really started when we both bought a DIY Kit printer at home. (Yeah, somehow, we bought the same thing) When I built that DIY kit by following the provided instructions, I had a feeling that it might not be too hard if we design our own printer. The kit we built is a variant of the “Prusa i3” open source printer which many people has commented about the decent quality it produces; however, the printer didn’t work nearly as well as I expected it to do so. Aside from those low-quality prints, it also experienced very frequent jam and other random failures as well. Through the process of repairing the printer, I had a better understanding of the community of DIY 3D printers. These “DIY” kits are originated from the project called “RepRap”, which means a self-replicating rapid-prototyping machine. The project was founded after the patent for Fused Deposition Modeling expired, which allowed these DIY models to happen.
After all that research, Sam and I were thinking about building one by ourselves, just about that time, Ms. Pinton announced the AIP option, which we thought might be a good option for us. We started the process with close to zero knowledge about computer modeling (aka CAD), so first, we all need to learn how to do this. After trying out Inventor, AutoCAD, and Solidworks, we decided to go and learn Solidworks. It not only felt more powerful, but it’s also being widely used in the community as we discovered during our research.
As both of us are part of the robotics team, so we did not have much time to work on this during the fall season; however, we did manage to have a preliminary design by winter break. I brought those part designs with me when I head home for winter break. During the winter break, I was able to test the preliminary design of the printer, and found many parts we have designed did not put the printer’s error margin under consideration; thus, a lot of the parts really did not work. With me spending a lot of time redesigning, reprinting, and retesting the parts, I finally have a working prototype that is a scaled down version of what we are going to build as our AIP.
Coming back to school after March break, we met together and discussed the problems I have seen during my design process and reworked a few parts to adapt the large build plate we have here at school.
As of right now, we have the printer working for a few months now; however, we are still fine tuning things, which is expected to continually happen throughout the lifespan of it. Looking back, I personally believe the AIP give students with creativity and talent in a specialized area a chance to develop those skills and have the experience of the process of bringing ideas to life. At the end, I encourage everyone who has an idea, and want to make it happen to apply for an AIP, it is just a fantastic experience.