Sunday, March 01, 2015

an odd position...

I find myself in an odd position that I suspect will sort itself out in time.  We began using the 3-D printer in school because I wanted students to begin to understand the process of designing work. We started with drawing boards, made our own t-squares, did some very basic orthographic projections, and then went through an introduction to Sketchup™ in the hopes my students would follow through and use their at-home computers to take an interest in design. The making of legos™ came next in the process.

Then in order to get some additional mileage out of the machine, I introduced the idea of making a prosthetic hand and the joining of e-Nable. So we've done that. I have become a slave of the machine, in that when it needs something to complete a hand, I poke at the controls, try to figure out why it messed up, adjust things and start over.

It is a bit like baking. You have to step back out of the way while the oven does its work, but keep an eye on things so you don't lose the product. I've found that the 3-D printer is a lot like other tools. There is a learning curve in its use. For instance, the plastic is spewed in layers onto the build plate. The build plate can be covered with blue masking tape so that things can be removed. If the build surface is too slick, or the table is out of level, the parts, and supports will come loose, making the printer make messes instead of the desired plastic objects. If the build surface is not slick enough, then the plastic objects require a chisel and mallet to remove them from it. People don't automatically tell you these things, so there are still things to discover about the process. That's a good thing.

Finally, I think I have things worked out. I am using premium green masking tape on the build plate, but to make it just a little less slick, I'm wiping down the surface with alcohol between builds, and I'm trying to build fewer parts at a time, so that if something messes up, it won't be a whole hand.

I am at that point in my own life that I am beginning to come to terms with my own mortality. I have a shop full of tools that were necessary for me to earn a living. I have a barn full of woods that were gathered because they were of interest to me. I have an inventory of works that ought to be sold. And we do get to a point that we would prefer our relationships to be with people rather than with things. Things can become burdensome, whereas friends can lighten any load.

Make, fix and create...

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