At last it’s finally happened after 16 months of collecting the magazine series 3D Create and Print. In December 2014 Eaglemoss publications began a new partworks magazine series. It first came to my attention on TV when day in November. When I first got a glimpse of this beautiful white and grey machine that could churn out these fantastic works of art on demand I got blown away with excitement. I had been following the stories about 3D printing online and in the news. I never thought a product like this would be available through a partworks magazine series. I have fond memories of collecting these kinds of magazines when I was young. I used to collect a couple of them as a hobby and to fill my mind with interesting subjects like insects, human anatomy, currencies and electronics. The last one I collected was in 2003 when I invested in a partworks magazine called Real Robots which taught me about electronics, computers and progamming applications for machines. This one showed me how to build my first robot toy and I learnt how to operate it with the aid of a remote control and some CD ROMs, which is probably now a dead dinosaur for 1990s kids to remember.
Well now I suppose you probably want to know what made me buy this. I had been looking for a new hobby and something to boost my interest in science and technology all over again. I wasn’t getting much fun from my Open University textbooks anymore and I was planning on going to university later next year full time. I thought it would be a good idea to intercalate and practice a science and develop the technology into something that would define my future career prospects. I had always been fascinated by 3D printing and I wanted to know more about it without having to invest in an expensive 3D printer and I wanted to learn how to make 3D models as well. So I decided to investigate in this by starting a new collection.
On Monday night after looking at the stars I decided to invest my imagination in something new for a change from watching TV on my laptop. I got out the parts for the printer and laid them out on the bed issue by issue. Next while the kettle was boiling for a cuppa I got out the binders containing the first 15 issues and started skimming the instructions for the building process. It was a standard routine to study the instructions before picking up a single screw or part from all that paper and plastic packaging.
On the first night of construction I built the Y-axis shaft and tested it’s motor to see if it could function properly. If I am to have a fully operational machine then I must be sure to test the components. At this stage in the process if I had left it too late and started building once the magazine’s circulation had stopped then it would be useless. I probably wouldn’t be able to source replacement parts for faulty components then! The motor test board was very helpful for me and I managed to make the motor on the shaft move smoothly. The next component to be assembled was the frame of the printer that would act as the backbone for all the machine’s component parts. It really brought the printer’s main being into sharp focus.
The next day I was able to carry on with the build despite having a cold. It may have been quite difficult for me to muster the energy to build it under these conditions but I did manage to keep my head straight for this build. Da Vinci once had a cold while drawing a picture and it was a masterpiece, or was that a Dr Who myth! The next day while assembling the other two shafts I decided to show you a useful hack when constructing a kit. If you have a problem with keeping washers and nuts in the right place while screwing them in from the other side of a structure use blu tack to hold them in place on the opposite side of the screw. That way you don’t have to struggle with them.
The packaging to the parts started to overflow out of the bin as I carried on putting the other two axis shafts together. First I put the X-axis shaft together on the frame of the printer and tested it’s movement using the motor test board. Again this was another successful fitting. When I fitted the X-axis I discovered something rather unusual about this stereolithographic machine, which is the posh term for 3D Printing! Some 3D printers have the print head nozzle move in three directions going left-right, backwards-forwards, up-down. The Vector 3 however has the print head move in sync with the print bed. The print head here moves left to right along the X-axis only but the print bed moves backwards-forwards and up-down along the Y-axis and Z-axis to allow the plastic filament to extrude from the nozzle in the right way to make the model.
The following morning I got to work on my day off assembling the rest of the parts that lay on my bed. So far I had managed to collect all the issues up to Issue 59. So I was now 30 issues away from completing the Vector 3 and if I kept this going it would be fully complete by October 2016. It was time to get going on again. By now I had only to complete the Y-axis shaft and fit it to the frame. This required some assembly of another part of the printer: the print bed, where all those wonderful creations that my imagination would conjure up would come into existence. The Vector 3 has a print bed area of 14 cubic centimetres which means that I could make something small as a whistle, a toothbrush holder, a desktop toy or a mobile phone cover. I started to assemble the print bed and as I did I had to fit some more wires into the Y-axis shaft which required some practice to get neatly packed into the shaft. One thing you want to be sure of is fitting the wires in so that it doesn’t snag on the drive belt and jam the mechanism to make it print.
After that entanglement was sorted with the wires in the right place I had to fit the Y-axis to the Z-axis shaft which spanned across three shaft props. This was interesting to assemble and it was no easy fit. I had to improvise the fitting so I didn’t have to hold the shaft in place as it was quite heavy to handle. I got my cup and put the Y-axis shaft on top of it and fitted the two shafts together as it rested there. It was a simple enough procedure to fix them but precision was paramount. For this printer to work properly the two shafts and the print bed had to be perfectly level so that they worked right when the printing starts the model was made perfectly as it came out. I now have a new found appreciation and dedication to production quality in product development. I now think of how well the engineers behind my laptop and mobile phone where when they put it together to go into the shops for people to buy at their own convenience. That is the same standard of quality and attention to detail that I must follow if I am to make it work. The evidence of my attention to detail came when I tested the motors of the Z-axis and I can tell you all three shafts are working together greatly.
After I got through the shafts I decided it was time to fit the rest of the frame and case components together that I had. The printer looks great so far and as you can see the Vector 3 is now rested in it’s building process. I have got more parts with me to assemble and these are the electronics components that comprise the motherboard and the drive board for the operations of the machine so that it can unweild it’s magic with it’s own life. However I decided to leave them in their packaging and call off the rest of the construction process there. The electronic boards are vulnerable as they will be sitting there fitted to the base open to the elements with no means of protection. Do I want to risk ruining them, NO! So for their safety and so that I can protect my investment I am going to put the printer aside and wait until I get the covers for the boards so that they are safely covered when the printer is ready for final assembly. At the moment this is how it is for now. Only another 8 months to go now.
The next thing to do was to gather the last of the bits and put them together and kill the time by learning to make more 3D models. When I first started to collect the magazine I didn’t just end up getting a 3D printer I would also have the opportunity to learn about 3D printing in general. The magazine not only has building instructions for the printer it has instructions to use a free 3D model making program called Sketch Up, a useful free software tool for budding designers of products and models that could be made using a manufacturing machine such as the Vector 3. In the 16 months that I have had it I have been learning how to make 3D models of everything from toy trucks, die, castles, trophies and I have learned how to obtain 3D models to be printed on my own 3D printer. This magazine has opened up my imagination to a realm of possibilities in the news and features sections. I reckon that within the next 5 – 10 years stereolithography will become so common as home computers that people will use 3D printers to purchase and manufacture their own items in their own home. Think about Airfix, Hornby and Lego selling us their products straight to the home with no need for people to go out and buy these cherished models and toys. Instead I shall go online and buy one of their creations and have them made in my home on a 3D printer. I can buy them as whole kits and spare parts.