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Old 02-12-2015, 04:01 PM   #1
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3D Printing to the Rescue

Much to our delight, when we went to Alameda, CA in 1998 to inspect, sea trial, and have surveyed the boat we ultimately bought, we found its windows had Venetian blinds instead of curtains. The boat we chartered prior to buying our own had curtains and we'd learned to detest them.

But... the blinds were old when we bought the boat, and while the blinds themselves have held up fine all these decades, the ends that clip into the brackets screwed to the lower window trim have not. The rims of the end pieces go around the lower bar and are very thin. Over the years these had started to split and deteriorate to the point where when we bought the boat half of them (there were 28 of them) had tape wrapped around the rims to hold them together and onto the bar ends.

Since we've had the boat the situation has only gotten worse. The end fittings have not been available from Levalour for decades (they told my wife) and there was not even a dusty box of them on the top shelf of the warehouse.

We came up with various schemes to create another method of holding the bottom of the blinds in place from metal rods run through the lower bar to wood ends with pins fitted into the bar ends, but we didn't feel any of them were really the right way to solve the problem.

Then the videographer in our department who shoots with me all over the world told me that his son, at the time just ending his freshman year at the University of Washington, was going to build, from scratch, a 3D printer over the summer (this past summer). His parents felt this was a very worthwhile project that would help him far more in the long run than stacking boxes in a supermarket, so they picked up the tab for his expenses living at home and not getting a summer job.

He designed the thing, ordered the necessary parts, and wrote the programming. And at the end of the summer, he had a fully functioning 3D printer. It's a pretty amazing piece of equipment to watch operate.

When my co-worker brought in a sample "block" his son's printer had turned out, I realized it was about the same size as the end pieces we needed for our blinds on the boat.

By now the son had started his sophomore year. I brought one of the parts in for the son to see and determine if he could replicate it on his printer. He not only did, he came up with three potential designs. One of them, a piece that fits inside the bottom bar on the blind instead of wrapping around it, was obviously the best, strongest way to go.

What was interesting is that one of his designs exactly replicated the original piece, complete with the pin that on the original is a separate piece that projects both out and back inside from the flat end. But the 3D version was one solid piece of plastic.

Last week he ran off 30 fittings, which was an automated process-- he read a book while the printer was cranking them out--- and our 16-plus year problem is solved once and for all.

The photos below pretty much tell the story. The red pieces are the original test pieces for some of his designs. The far one is the one we selected, the near one is the exact replica of the original. The red plastic is used for testing purposes for some reason. The last photo is one of the final, production parts.
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Old 02-12-2015, 07:58 PM   #2
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I got this photo too late to edit it into the previous post. This is the 3D printer that made our parts. Basically, it consists of three arms that move the print head in extreme precision through all three dimensions in space to lay down the layers of material to build up the component.

Both Boeing and Airbus are actively pursuing the use of this technology to "print" the entire fuselage of a jetliner. The whole thing (the tube at least, not the seats although it's possible to do that, too, at the same time) just one part.
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Old 02-12-2015, 08:04 PM   #3
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Greetings,
Mr. Marin. Where is the table/pallet upon which the parts are printed?
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:04 PM   #4
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Then the videographer in our department who shoots with me all over the world
I'm guessing you shoot skeet? Or maybe film...

Sorry for the thread jack
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:06 PM   #5
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Greetings,
Mr. Marin. Where is the table/pallet upon which the parts are printed?
Good question. When this photo was taken by my co-worker last summer the printer was still in the early development and construction phase. His son was testing the movement of the arms at the time (my co-worker shot a little video on his phone of the mechanism working--- it's pretty cool to watch.)

So I have no idea what it looks like now other than being told today by his dad that it still has this non-enclosed, exposed-guts appearance. The son took it with him when he went back to university last Fall so even his dad hasn't seen it for awhile.
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:07 PM   #6
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I'm guessing you shoot skeet? Or maybe film...

Sorry for the thread jack
That's okay. We shoot trap, actually.

No, it used to be 16mm and 35mm film. These days it's 2K and 4K HD video.
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:09 PM   #7
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We were in Dubai last year at their big shooting event, quite the affair
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:27 PM   #8
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We were in Dubai last year at their big shooting event, quite the affair
The shooting trap thing was a joke, actually. My videographer doesn't shoot anything that goes bang, and the only thing I shoot anymore is the occasional moose.
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:36 PM   #9
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You can buy 3D printers at Home Depot now. One day there will be no more machine shops or parts stores that actually stock parts. They'll just make them to order.

Then there is the 3D printing of human organs.

The mind boggles!
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:37 PM   #10
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did he digitally scan the original in order to 3D print it?
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:48 PM   #11
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did he digitally scan the original in order to 3D print it?
I have no idea how he genererated the data to drive his printer. I didn't hear anything about scanning. I have the impression that he used measurements and then wrote the code to replicate it. I'll try to remember to ask his dad to ask him what he did.

I gave him an original part--- the one in the photo-- along with some clay impressions I took of the end of the blind bar. Some of the prototypes he made didn't quite fit, and he said that if we selected one of those he would make the adjustments necessary to print the same design but it would fit properly. So it doesn't sound to me like scanning was part of the process.

The one we decided was the best design fit right off the bat, no adjustment to the data needed.
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:54 PM   #12
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The shooting trap thing was a joke, actually. My videographer doesn't shoot anything that goes bang, and the only thing I shoot anymore is the occasional moose.
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Old 02-12-2015, 10:39 PM   #13
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You fellas are confusing the hell out of me. Nevertheless, this will keep me "straight" if continuing to focus.






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Old 02-13-2015, 12:27 AM   #14
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Greetings,
Mr. Marin. Where is the table/pallet upon which the parts are printed?
RTF--- His dad just told me that the print table is installed on top of the three red mounting tabs you can see in the middle of each base connector bar.
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Old 02-13-2015, 02:40 AM   #15
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Marin-had a friend recently do a similar thing with two odd shaped cast iron exhaust elbows. He took a class at a co-op on Capital Hill learning how to use the 3-d printer, with input from a 3-d scan. He scanned in the pieces, 3-D printed them in some kind of hard material, don't think it was plastic. He took the models to a foundry/metalshop in Ballard and they cast them for him. He ended up with custom made pieces that cost him less than $250. Plus he still has the model pieces if ever needed for future use. Pretty amazing technology. The whole process is pretty similar to the huge 7-axis router at Janicki in Sedro-Wooley. I watched them rout out a male plug for a 40+' hull a few years ago.
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Old 02-13-2015, 11:26 PM   #16
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RTF--- If you are still lurking about, here is a shot I was sent tonight of the completed 3D printer that made my parts.

Also, someone else asked how my co-worker's son had gotten the data from my original part that the 3D printer needed to make the new parts. Here is the answer to that question I got from the son this evening:

"I measured the dimensions of different features on the part and then used a program called OpenSCAD to recreate them. OpenSCAD works by defining different "primitive" shapes (cylinders/cones/boxes) and then performing basic "Boolean" operations on them (union, which is just overlaying one shape on top of another; difference, which is subtracting one shape from the other; and intersection, which preserves only the geometries common to both shapes and removes the rest). It's actually all text-based, pretty similar to programming."


What followed in the e-mail was the long file (program) that recreated my original part.
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Old 02-14-2015, 07:13 AM   #17
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Greetings,
Thanks Mr. Marin. It's all a bit clearer now...Amazing this new fangled stuff.
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