New 3D Printing Powers at the EPL Makerspace!

2018 has been a busy year for 3D printing at the EPL Makerspace; after upgrading to dedicated filtration cabinets, we gained the power to print with an even greater variety of materials. Last month we added a pair of Ultimakers to the mix!

While the Machina x20 still maintains the top spot as our largest printer (with a build volume of 22cm x 25cm x 25 cm), these new printers have a different trick up their sleeves: DUAL EXTRUDER PRINT  HEADS!

Twice the Colour

“Two heads are better than one,” they say, and I am inclined to agree. With two printing cores, we can now print models that have been specially designed to take advantage of two separate color feeds. There are two main ways to get a compatible model:

1)      Search on popular sites that host Creative Commons licensed models for distribution. For example, searching Thingiverse.com for “Two Color” will help you find the .stl files for the Two Color Flexi Rex model (pictured above)

2)      Modify an existing model or create one of your own using popular 3D modeling tools like Meshmixer, Netfabb, or Blender, Tinkercad, or Fusion 360.

...With a Twist

There’s a neat trick that we can do with two extruders: the second material can be completely different! Historically, all of our prints have been in PLA—a plastic chosen for its low melting point and durability. Our newest addition is PVA, which is unique because it completely dissolves away in water. By using this dissolvable filament to print supports, we can make things that were impossible before.

Step 1: Cura is used to generate tool paths for the printer. Supports are designated to the second extruder, which is loaded with dissolvable PVA.

Step 2: Our machine stitches together the model layer by layer, alternating nozzles to make sure that the right material is put in the right places.

Step 3: The completed print is placed in a tub of warm water and left to soak overnight.

Step 4: The print is removed from the tub and rinsed under warm water. Waste water from the dissolved supports can be safely disposed of in the sink. After a little bit of massaging, the model is free!

Curious about what the process looks like as a time lapsed gif? Say no more!

But wait there's more!

Thanks to the magic of dissolving supports, we are able to coax even more fidelity out of the machines. Small, detailed prints (like Dungeons and Dragons miniatures) used to be a bit (ahem) dicey. But now we are rolling natural 20s every time!

How much does all this new technology cost?

Our 3D printing rate is still priced the same: 10 cents per gram of material used. A general rule of thumb is that something the size of your thumb will cost about a dollar. Due to the popularity of our services, turnaround times are generally two to three weeks, depending on the size of the order. 

Ready to print? Submit your 3D print online.

Have any questions? Stop by the EPL Makerspace and speak with a staff, email us at makerspace@epl.ca, or call 780-944-5342.

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