02.26.2016 - by Jim Moore
“A 3-D printer in every home!” Remember reading claims like this a year or two ago? That reminds me, where are our jet packs?
Although there are a few places in the world that somehow still don’t have a 3-D printer, Educational Resources isn’t one of them. In fact, over the past three years, we’ve graduated from an entry-level Solidoodle (yes, that’s really the name of the company) 3-D printer that created objects out of a single type of plastic, to our new printer, the CubePro Trio. This printer not only prints larger objects than the Solidoodle and does so using different types of plastic, but it also prints support material that can easily be rinsed away.
To appreciate this latter feature of the CubePro Trio, you’ll need to understand just a bit about how most 3-D printers work.
– They build objects upward starting from a base and do so by adding tiny layers of material sequentially to the base. If there are over-hanging parts of the object that you want to build, those parts need to be supported. If the over-hanging layers aren’t supported, the printer will ‘refuse’ to create the build as it is programmed to recognize that those layers would collapse. Apparently, the laws of gravity apply to 3-D printing.
To avoid running into these problems during the building process, many 3-D printers print the supporting material out of plastic. When the object has finished printing, the supporting material is then removed manually (i.e., with pliers). Not the best scenario, but this is how we dealt with this situation when we were printing objects using the Solidoodle.
Now, however, we can print this supporting material out of a water-soluble material that rinses away with warm water. This allows us to print more complex objects, such as a skull or vertebrae, and the final results are incredible!