Thursday, May 3, 2012

3D Printing and Rhinoceros (3D CAD Program)

This semester, at LSU,  I took a 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design), we designed our objects on the computer and then printed them on a 3D printer!

The computer program we use is called Rhinoceros-
This program is incredible. It is accurate up to one ten-thousandth of a millimeter. The program is designed for and works best on Windows programming-which was tough for me because I am a MAC fan. 

The class is taught by Christopher Hentz. He has been teaching Jewelry and Metal Smithing at at LSU for over 30 years. Rhino3D was first created for Jewelry designers in 1991, and thats is also when Chris learned the program. Because of the extreme accuracy and precision required for fine pieces of Jewelry other designers and manufactures took interest in the program and now 21 years later this 3D CAD program is used to design literally anything that could be thought of- you can create buildings and everything that is inside of the building- you can create cars or airplanes and every single mechanical part that makes those things function. Chris knows the program inside and out and is a very talented artist. 

The first half of the semester we learned how to use the program and how to use the tools and features within the program. To do this we had to go through a book and complete given assignments. After we learned the program enough to sketch our own objects we were required to make 2 projects. These projects were not just intended to be designed on the computer but we were required to have these designed objects in a physical 3-deminsional form. To do this we had to print (or grow as Chris likes to say) our files on a 3D printer.

LSU School of Art is very fortunate to have a 3D printer, this is a $60,000 machine. That is right- sixty thousand dollars. The machine can print anything as long as the size fits within the 8 inch cube. The material the objects prints in is basically a type of plaster. The machine lays down a layer of powder (plaster) and then prints a "binder" where part of the object is- and then there is a bed (which the powder is on) that raises up and down. Each time the binder is printed the bed moves and a layer of powder is applied allowing the binder to be printed on the next vertical layer.

For my two projects I created a JAR and a CAR. Well not exactly. Here is my first project on the computer. A pentagon Jar ( 5 sides). I will be making a plaster mold for both pieces of this jar- for slip-casting. 

Screenshots of the object being created using Rhino3D.
The 3D Printer

The objects print in and on top of the metal tray on the left side. That is the bed that lowers and fills with powder while printing the binder (explained above). Once the object is printed is fully inside of a big cube of extra powder. Carefully using the vacuum (black tube) and a variety of different vacuum heads and brushes the extra material is removed (recycled back into the machine) and then you have left the object. Next the object moves into the right side and this is the depowder area. There is giant lid that closes over all of this with openings for your hands. There is a very small hose that pushes through compressed air. The compressed air is pulsating (less likely to break objects). The compressed air and even finer brushes and needle tools (similar to dentist tools) are used to remove the rest of the powder especially around detailed and fragile areas. 
The Pentagon Jar (and lid) being printed. The printer just put the binder on and hasn't yet placed the next layer of powder on yet. 
Printed Jar!
My second project is not actually a car, the word just rhymed with jar so I have been saying I made a jar and a car. In reality I designed a BIG WHEEL vehicle. That is right a big wheel. This took me countless hours to design (especially because the program is new to me) I had to design the frame, handlebars and the fork for the front tire, back tires, seat, pedals, and of course the big wheel. 

The big wheel in "shaded mode". Rhino 3D
Forrest's first Big Wheel in "rendered mode" Rhino3D

Unfortunately the printer can not print my Big Wheels fully assembled. The parts need to be spread out within an 8 inch cube and not touching. You can print objects vertically in space above other objects just not touching (the fork is above the big wheel).

3D Printer in action

Video of the one layer being printed on the 3D printer

The next step is to seal all the parts with super glue- this increases the strength drastically. The objects are completely submerged in the glue- this much glues requires buying bottles in bulk. And this is actually rather expensive. The one of the bottles we buy is supposed to cost $210.00. Chris (our professor) found the product on ebay for $40.00! What a deal!

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