Exploring 3D printing for several years has been a good experience for developing skills with FDM (filament style) plastic extrusion printing and with DLP, a projected light style 3D printing using liquid resin. Both methods produce items that are plastic.
Using these processes in the foreseeable future will continue. It is a great way to make things in plastic.
The move into 3D printing did take away from many other favored workshop activities. Getting back to other crafts in the machine shop including metal machining and lost wax silver casting is the present desire.
I thought retirement would provide all the time needed to keep doing more of everything. Boy was that naive thinking! Ha!
There are very good learning experiences from 3D printing besides the printing itself. Such as improved skills in 3D CAD drawing. Most of it with a program called Autodesk Fusion 360. Also using Vectric Aspire and a 3D CAD called Rhinoceros. (Rhino for short) are favorites.
Skills in CAD, especially 3D CAD carry over to any type of three-dimensional manufacturing. Any student wanting to get into any product design engineering as a career, can (even from home) start working with Fusion 360, as it is free for students, start-up business, and hobbyists.
OK, call me a CNC computer junkie who also loves manual tools. Making things from wood or metal using non-CNC operations remains a passion. Detailed CAD drawings are not necessary when using manual tools in a home work shop. A dimensioned sketch with pencil is usually enough. Cutting layouts are also doable with just paper and pencil, a needed skill for planning best use of material. No need for CAD.
However, anything made with 3D printing or machine CNC, requires a CAD drawing.
Most designs start with pencil and paper. That is where basic new design free thinking is most flexible. CAD on a computer screen is dimensionally critical. A sketch book or especially a drawing pad with cross ruled lines is a good rough design starting place. There are computer-based sketch programs, but pencil and paper are cheap and extremely portable.
Then, critical drawing and all details are completed using CAD, based on the sketches. It’s not unique designing this way. The story often told is how great designs always start with a sketch on a napkin from a restaurant. Producing the sketch is the starting point. Having at least two-dimensional drafting and drawing abilities is a good skill.
A professional design engineer also needs communication skills. Any desire to work beyond a private home shop or personal project, requires presentation skills. Design drawing for personal use needs no information sharing. Everything in industry needs to be explained as well as drawn so others can share or in many cases, approve.
In the “olden days” a newbie draftsperson could be hired to ink drawings, tracing over pencil lines so the drawings could be duplicated many times. A good learning/starting position in drafting and seeing new designs. Inking was the final drawing stage of design. CAD killed that occupation. The “D” in CAD is Design and design/drafting have been combined. The point is the “artist sketch” is still the best starting point for most new design concepts, not the CAD screen. The sketch can be skipped when a solid idea of exactly what is needed is in mind.
Another piece of software called “Z-Brush” that is both CAD capable but is also free form sculpting like working with clay is available. It’s an expensive 3D drawing software program. Organic design and very high detail are possible without using a dimensioned sketch. It removes the dimensional drawing accuracy required with standard CAD and allows working live and freehand on the computer. An extremely unique visual graphical art system that can generate 3D machine CAM drawings suitable for CNC. There are other similar 3D graphic software programs available.
Without a design to turn into reality, the workshop is only good for repairs. The name could be changed to the “repair shop” Ha! Nothing wrong with that. It a very honorable need. This post is about new design and creating new items.
The adventure into Printing Plastic is not over. It honed a lot of transferable CAD skills and creative thinking that can and will be used for conventional CNC machine shop and silver casting projects. Also for the wood carvings produced on the HB2 overhead CNC router.
Three dimensional printing is moving from the spotlight of a new interest, to a useful addition to a well rounded creative workshop.