Rapid Prototypes

February 12, 2014 Additive Manufacturing

While I’m doing concept work on the WebGL interface for my masters project, I’m also trying to experiment with structures that are designed with customization in mind.  Going off of the tetrahedral forms I experimented with before, I came up with some modular components with simple enough geometry to be quickly manufactured using 3D printing, CNC, or a combination of processes like using CNC to create quick molds for resin or metal casting.


So, after laying down some skeleton geometry in Solidworks, I was able to come up with the following parts.

  • This geometry was based around connectors near the tetrahedron vertices, so I’ll call it the Point Connector model.

In actuality, this exercise was primarily an excuse to make use of my new capabilities with 3D printing and laser cutting.  I am a new member of NextFab, a gym-style, members-only workshop and fabrication facility in South Philly.   Recently I took the classes granting me proficiency and access with the Rep Rap Mendel 3D printer, as well as the Trotec 500 Laser Cutter.

The RepRap project is truly amazing, in my opinion.  The main mission behind RepRap is to create “humanity’s first general-purpose self-replicating machine”.  Currently, this takes the form of a 3D printer, and since the project in 2004, there have been 29 fully documented, open-sourced designs uploaded to the website.  While it is expected that the drive, control, etc components will have to be purchased, as many structural components as possible should be able to be printed by the machine itself.

A little post processing was required to get all of the components in the correct orientation and file formats for manufacture.  The end result of the Web App will be that it outputs geometry files that are ready to go.  Here is the assembly process for the Edge Connector model:

  • Connectors directly off of the Prusa Mendel at NextFab.

And this was the assembly process for the Point Connector model:

  • Parts from the laser cutter and 3D printer.

The whole process of using the RepRap machine got me a bit more familiar with and excited about 3D printing.  So, after some careful research… I ordered one!  Staying within the RepRap family seemed to be the most logical option for me… from a cost and complexity standpoint, so I picked up a Prusa i3 from MakerFarm!  Don’t worry, I’ll be posting about the build experience… so it looks like you’ll be seeing a lot more about 3d printing from me!

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