Saturday, January 14, 2017

Manufacturing Coming to a Place Near You

It’s old news, 3d-printing, unless you just got a printer for Christmas.

The manufacturing hub newly assembled.
I have been following the advent of consumer 3D-printers for quite a while, and they’ve basically revolutionized how an individual (normal, not owning a fab-factory) can think about custom trinkets or replacement parts.

Other than the price why am I excited to get a 3D-printer? While watching them get better and cheaper, it really has to do with two things: Exposure to the tech at COS and a major failure almost exactly 10 years ago.

First a bit of panic about the fact that it has almost been 10 years since the end of my undergrad degree. I guess I am celebrating by taking two graduate courses: Computer Vision and DB systems… Ten years later. It brings up some interesting memories of how bad a student I was, and how my senior project suffered because I had no clue what I was doing. I needed to design a circuit board, get parts manufactured, and write a program that would all be part of a telescope system. Much too much work for one person period, and I was a mess as a human.

I could not stay awake and I was afraid of failing with my project, therefore I did nothing. I think the first part was either just being dumb with sleep patterns or a real chemical imbalance that extended a few years into my first job. My money's on bad sleep patterns, I’ve now found that 7-8 hours really helps me stay awake during meetings, rather than field stripping and reassembling pens just to stay awake. The second part has slowly been remedied, mostly through COS as I explain in an earlier post.

There was also a revolution that started quietly just as I was finishing school: DIY. After I left the project in shambles and had been working there was a proliferation of things like Arduino and other premade programmable circuit boards (I designed a terrible circuit board that wouldn’t have done a tenth of what Arduino can.) Exactly what I needed to design for my project, but prepackaged. And then 3D-printers, I could have iterated on designs for the hardware, not worrying (too much) about getting it right the first time.

My failure was all my fault, but maybe it would have been worse if I had fewer excuses, or I wouldn’t have been as frozen in indecision.

Either way I watched 3D tech getting cheaper and cheaper, and I really wanted to jump on the boat. When it was less than $1k I thought that it would be good, but still other things like life were in the way. Then I started at COS and Brian had his printer at work. I thought about asking to work on it for a long time, especially when another employee was printing quite a few things. I still know that I have a slight starting problem (Slight, ha) but I finally asked for a quick tutorial and started printing. Now I know what to expect and have an inkling of troubleshooting.

There were failures, but overall I am hooked. Now I’ll need to post follow-ups as I print pieces, once I get this thing properly calibrated.

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