Thursday, 10 June 2010

Greenock Academy Rainy Day Build

Another rainy Tuesday in Scotland, the perfect opportunity work on a RapMan. Visiting Greenock Academy it is clear that the club is in full swing building their kit in order to produce some models for Friday. The team here are a great bunch of 4th years now progressing into 5th years and their highers, allowing them a great opportunity to use the kit throughout their later years.

The day started with the team each building different parts of the top corners, y axis, x axis and the carriage. Thankfully with two University of Strathclyde ambassadors (James and Gavin) it was possible to make some adjustments and provide some clarity on the instructions, speeding up the day of building.

Posters explaining CAD and Rapid Prototyping were provided by DMEM and much appreciated by the school, discussion later turned to the Friday competition and event, it was explained that there were two competitions and the brief was distributed. Talking over the possibility of bringing the machine to the event it was remembered that even the Bits From Bytes representatives said the machine did not travel well in January so perhaps just bringing some of the prints would be best.

It seems this school are using a mixture of AutoCAD and Inventor for different classes but the staff has a good understanding of both. The confusing process of exporting CAD models as STL, then conversion of STL to GCode with NetFabb was given and some experimentation of slicing with NetFabb was performed in expectation of printing some real models later in the week.

There were a few interesting observations made on the day including the manuals containing some unclear and contradicting parts but sense was eventually made of the stages. It was noted that there was originally confusion between the version 3.0 and 3.1 instructions online that are subtly but quite different. This club prefers to view the print version on screen to enable zooming of the pictures.

Even with the build over a short period of time there were already some screws, bolts and nuts missing, some substitution for technology department supplies was necessary. Quite a bit of time was spent attempting to get wires through conduit with the sample ABS filament until it was eventually suggested steel wire be used, this made the process a breeze.

The day finished by powering on and successfully testing the machine movement for the first time. The to do list for following days included soldering the extruder connector, tightening Z-axes, assembling the PCB and finishing fitting of the sprung loaded bed. The main steps of the operation manual were explained and we wish the best of luck to the group in their 3d printing future.

- Gavin and James from the University of Strathclyde

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Menzieshill High School; Final Visit

My final visit to Menzieshill High School, Dundee, saw the machine being used to make test parts for the team's own Competition piece. Having come up with an original shape design as a team, the students are now readying to assemble their design.
The RapMan had a slight hiccup where the extruder head dropped and began burning through the platform! However, we caught it in time and only a tiny hole of damage has been made! (Phew)
The machine is working well and the team are very excited for the Competition, having already run off a copy of the Tolerance Piece.
I'd like to wish Menzieshill the best of luck and thank them for their wonderful work and also for my little souvenir :)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Earlston High School Visit

Now it is time for an update on Earlston High School and their kit. After some morning engineering inspiration when passing the very impressive wind turbines of Dunlaw Wind Farm we arrived to the brand new building of Earlston High School in the Scottish borders.

The visit started with a quick tour of the design and technology facilities of this brand new school, lots of machinery that can easily compete with the equipment we are used to at the University of Strathclyde. It is clear from the work on walls that the students can be very creative with Autodesk Inventor 3d CAD software, an excellent starting point for models that can later be produced on the RapMan 3d printer.

We then met some of the students from the club who were very keen to see their hard building work on their machine producing some tangible output. The team had finished the build manuals and so the next step was the operation manual, this required levelling the print platform, sanding the bed surface and adjusting the extruder nozzle to just the right height (0.5mm) above the print bed. These steps took several iterations over the course of the afternoon from additional sanding for an improved bed surface to fiddling until suitable levels and heights.

After these adjustments and having remembered to bring a small amount of spare ABS (2m) and a SD memory card (the school don't yet have one), we got to work printing out the test rafts (single layer test patterns). There was much suspense in the room as we had to wait for the head to heat up to the 230°C required, the first rafts highlighted the bed to nozzle was too wide (curly pattern) while the second was too narrow (stuck to bed). After fixing the height we got on with printing something real, the mini-mug example.

The print was going well until the mug started turning out square because of skipping on the X and Y axis. It was quickly identified that tightness between the sandwich of laser cut sheets and the bearings was causing stiffness that was sticking the axis on some steps. Quick re-orientation on one bearing seemed to fix the problem for one axis and so the club now have to fiddle with the rest and can hopefully get on with printing more tests and then on to some of their own design.

The teachers were all very enthused to have a kit, noting that this provides much needed practical examples of rapid prototyping to the product design coursework that would otherwise remain a fairly detached concept but can now be integrated with their projects as applicable. The students are also very keen to see physical solid copies of their 3d designs come to live. The club has some good ideas for the June meet and competition and are looking forward to visiting and engaging the other schools in Glasgow.

- Gavin and Claire from University of Strathclyde

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Menzieshill High School, Visit 2

Having just returned from my second visit to the school in Dundee I am happy to report that the RapMan is working well and progress is being made! Parts made are now to a tight tolerance and the kids are becoming more comfortable with designing and setting up jobs for the machine.
Several examples were given to me of the work being done and both teachers and kids are enthusiastic to begin work on designing their competition piece!
The PLA material is now working well and 2 fully finished 'Walt Disney' heads have been manufactured with the material. The fan is now also working (thank you for the tip!)
The team are now experimenting with the limitations of the machine so that they can create unusual shapes. They are using Inventor 11 to design their CAD drawings.
The only problem being experienced is a small Thermistor fault. This is due to a faulty wire in the extruder head and replacement wires have been ordered. This fault can be avoided by resetting the temperature manually.
Many teachers from other departments (and also other schools) have now visited the department to see the 3D printer!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Menzieshill High School, update 2

Hello, Hannah here again.
I have not yet returned to the school but am just writing to update on the current activities.
The machine is running smoothly and new parts are being produced without any issues.
The PLA material is now working correctly in the machine and is no longer clogging up the extruder!
A small article about the machine has been posted on the school website:
I will be returning to the school with the information I've gathered from here and from the uni on the 25th of March!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Bucksburn Academy

My name is Ross Thomson, I am a pupil from Bucksburn Academy. We have just this week started building our Rapman and it has been coming along quite nicely. Due to the numerous mistakes in the instruction sheets (wrong pictures,parts,tools needed) we have found the 3D PDF to be the most useful tool.

To make our Rapman more sturdy we are thinking of making a permanent jig out of sheet steel and bar to keep all the rods at the critical places. Whether this sounds like a good idea or not you can let me know. It just occurred to me.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Menzieshill High School, Dundee. Visit 1.

My name is Hannah Rae, I'm a Product Design & Innovation Student in my 4th year.
I visited Menzieshill High School in Dundee on the 18th of February 2010. The Engineering Club at this school is held at lunchtime and so I was present in the school from 11am until the end of the day.
The teacher, Mr Jack Waghorn, and his pupils and colleagues have been very busy and have already finished building the machine. It is now fully functioning and we got to work getting some of the kids to design simple shapes to try some quick builds.

The machine took roughly 24 -26 hours to build. This was about 8 days of working 3 - 4 hours a day on the machine.

The sheer volume of parts of the machine was the biggest challenge. Also as some of the parts are quite fragile there were one or two breakages. These were remedied with glue and pressure and do not seem to be affecting the machine at present.
Getting the top platform to remain level was a difficult task at first also.

The easiest part of building the machine was said to be setting up the corners of the frame. This task was found to be simple due to its repetitive nature. The staff and pupils found that once the machine was finished it gave them a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. It took a lot of concentration to build.

It has been reported by Mr Waghorn that the 3D PDF file provided in the kit was OUTSTANDING and very helpful to all of those involved in putting the machine together.

Problems currently being experienced with the machine are:
* The machine can be a bit jumpy building parts with thicker walls

* Several nuts and bolts have shook off of the machine during a build and had to be replaced after the build was made. However, the build was made so it did not affect the machine's function.

*the PLA material has been clogging up the extruder when set up as directed onsite. Could a higher melting point be required?

* During a manufacture of Walt Disney's head, the build fell over 8 hours into production causing a mass of spaghetti-like plastic to be produced.

* The fan does not seem to be coming on during building. They have taken to opening the window during builds to help the plastic cool. Does the fan come on on its own?

Questions which the club would like to ask are:
* For information regarding the competition and what will be required of them.

* What, naturally, they could win?

* And if they could get a poster of the machine to put up in their corridor to demonstrate to parents and visitors the function of the RapMan?

The club are very capapble and very enthusiastic. Other activities going on in the school are equally impressive and all students are very knowledgable and capable with CAD. I look forward to visiting them again next month with more information for them!

Hannah Rae