Tuning You Straight: 3D printing for oldies
WERNER Ehlers from Mt Michael asks “Please explain to an oldie like me what the term “3D printing” actually means”.
The shortest answer is to think hot glue gun. Heat up a stick of glue in the gun, plant your elbow firmly on the table, and now carefully squeeze out the glue in a little spiral to build a little wheel. Or move your arm to and fro in a straight line to layer a little wall. Adding a fan to blow over the glue will help it quick dry. Using the thinnest nozzle will ensure the neatest surface, a thicker nozzle will speed up the layering process, but require a bit of fine sanding when the shape is dry.
All 3D printers use these three elements of a hot resin that is squeezed through a suitable nozzle, which is mounted on a well-greased axle and moved exactly, using much the same motor that drives a dot matrix printer.
The exception is the 3D pen, which extrudes thin lines of air-drying rubber and uses your own arm, which of course does not have the nano-millimetre precision control of a dot matrix printer.
You can 3D print ANY liquid substance that will ooze through the nozzle and set hard enough for your needs.
South Africa’s 3D-print pioneer Hans Fourie said he used quick glue forced through a nozzle by compressed air when he made rapid prototypes for F1 cars in the UK in the 1980s. He now uses chocolate to 3D print any shape you like in his company Fouche’s Chocolates.
Another South African 3D printing trendsetter, woodworker Richard van As, does 3D-printed prosthetic hands for children. The medical field is also experimenting with liver tissue and embryonic stem cells to print body organs, from ears to hearts.
And while the catering world is abuzz with the latest trend of 3D printing pasta into special shapes for that romantic anniversary dinner or quirky business pitch, Nasa is experimenting with printing 3D foods for astronauts.
Olympic athletes also run in 3D-printed track shoes that match their feet exactly, and of course, fashionistas have long been printing anything from brassieres to purses to dresses.
The liquid substance does not have to be soft, however. In the world of mountain bikers, super light and strong titanium frames are increasingly popular, because not a granule of the expensive metal goes to waste when they are 3D-printed.
Dita von Teese showed the world’s first fully articulated dress produced with a 3D printer in 2013 in a collaboration between Lady Gaga’s dress designer Michael Schmidt and architect Francis Bitonti. They uses powdered nylon and 3 000 joints to allow Von Teese to move, but only in the upright position.