Friday, 4 December 2015

3D Printing - The story so far for Makerspace at the library in NUI Galway

When we started our 3D printing service back in September we had just one Ultimaker 2 printer which we thought would be enough to satisfy demand. Soon we realised how slow 3d printing is and found that there was no way we could provide a service with just one printer. Many of the models we print can take more than 4 hours to print and some as long as 8 hours or more. Luckily we were able to purchase a second Ultimaker 2 and also managed to get the RepRapPro Mendel 3 that we built calibrated to where we now have 3 printers working.

We had also planned to have the Makerspace area open by now but delays with furnishing the space have meant we could concentrate on the 3D printing service. The Makerspace itself will open January 2016 for definite.

To date we have printed over 150 different models for staff and students. Some of the models were for students studying Biochemistry, Engineering and Biomedical Engineering and were part of their 3rd year projects. Other items were for post graduates to be used as part of their research. We did also print some items just for fun which is of course important too (both students and staff).

Here are pictures of some of the items printed -

Various project related parts printed on 3D printers

Various models printed in PLA



An Aorta printed from an MRI scan


Part of the Maamturk mountains


The Wicklow mountains


It has been a steep learning curve for staff of the library as 3D printing was new to us and we had a lot to learn. For instance you rarely print a 3D model 100% solid as that would take too long. There's a fine line between how solid you print an item (typically 20%) and it still being strong enough to be of use. 

Another thing we quickly learned is you need to keep an eye on the print job as it builds. If for some reason the model gets detached from the print bed it causes an awful mess because the printer continues to print into mid air. This does happen quiet a lot and we then have to print the item a second or third time.

Here are a few pictures of how it look when the model comes loose from the print bed -







3D printers are also plagued by technical issues such as the print bed not being level or a bad spool of the print filament resulting in constant blockages at the print head. Unblocking a 3D print head it not easy as the opening you are trying to unblock is .4 or .5 mm in diameter.

Thankfully we have worked through many of the issues with support from both Ultimaker and RepRapPro and can now pretty much resolve any issue that arises.

We look forward to printing a whole range of items for both staff and students in 2016 and are pleased to announce we are able to offer the service FREE of charge until the end of March 2016.

To find out more information on the 3D printing service just search for 3D printing NUI Galway or visit our service page http://www.library.nuigalway.ie/3dprintservice/.

If you would like additional information or to discuss your 3D printing requirements please email libmakerspace@nuigalway.ie







1 comment:

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