These days most people can simply buy a pre-made 3D printer and only need to press a button to get it to work, but there are those in the maker community who feel the only real way to understand how 3D printing technology works is to go back to the beginning and build your own. So when a growing number of new makers are looking to explore the world of 3D printing, there really isn’t anywhere to go to find out how to build one other than the RepRap project. Currently there are more than fifty varieties of 3D printers of various quality and configurations available, not to mention all of the software, blueprints and tips and tricks that anyone would need to build a functional printer. Of course building a 3D printer when you haven’t ever done so before is still quite a project to undertake, and one that requires patience, skill and a lot of time.
And it turns out, it isn’t the only way to learn to build a 3D printer from scratch. A new Baltimore-based digital fabrication design firm called Buildclass is taking the 3D printer out of the workshop and into the classroom. Evan Roche and Harrison Tyler, a pair of entrepreneurs at the Maryland Institute College of Art, developed Buildclass as a 3D printing workshop that would act as an intensive introduction to digital fabrication. The three-day-long class will walk participants through the entire 3D printer fabrication process. Not only do they build their own 3D printer, but they learn how to wire and program it, and of course they also learn how to customize their 3D printer, troubleshoot any problems or errors that come up and even write their own code.
Buildclass works directly with community workshops at schools, institutions, labs, and makerspaces all over the country to set up the three-day-long sessions dedicated to learning every aspect of 3D printing. The classes are led by Roche and Tyler themselves, who also cut and package all of the individual kits containing the two hundred individual components needed to complete the printer. Roche and Tyler recently held one of their Buildclass events at Johns Hopkins University in the MakerSpace located at the Digital Media Center, where students were exposed to the wonders of 3D Printing.
The 3D printer that the class will get a chance to assemble, wire and program for themselves is a pretty standard, but sturdy and robust 3D printer. But it is still quite a powerful machine that was clearly built to last. The FDM 3D printer uses a powerful NEMA 17 stepper motor and can 3D print objects with a resolution of .07 mm on one of two sized build plates. Users can select between a compact 100 x 100 x 100 mm (3.9 x 3.9 x 3.9 inch) plate or the larger 200 x 200 x 200 mm (7.8 x 7.8 x 7.8 inch) version. The Buildclass 3D printer is made entirely of high-quality aluminum parts, a CNC milled aluminum printing bed, a CNC milled chassis made of HDPE plastic and it even has a magnetic toolhead mounting system so the 3D printing nozzle can easily be removed and replaced with different nozzles, including a nozzle equipped with a paste extruder.
“Building a 3D printer is a lot like assembling Ikea furniture,” said Johns Hopkins University sophomore Ryan Demo, who was one of six students at the workshop held on January 20th, 21st and 22nd of this year. “It’s better than buying a 3D printer. This way you learn how the entire thing works from the ground up. We did the physical structure of the printer, we did the wiring, we could see the software, and we learned the computer side of things where you prepare the 3D file and it comes to the printer.”
Here is some video of students learning to build their own 3D printers at a Buildclass event:
After each workshop the design of the 3D printer is improved on by Roche and Tyler, who integrate any feedback from the students into the printer set to be built by their next class. The workshop costs each student $1,6000 and at the end of the session they will get to keep the 3D printer that they made. You can learn more about Buildclass here, and either sign up for a local event, or try and convince them to come to your local makerspace. Discuss in the 3D Printing Intro Course forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source: JHU Hub]