3D Printing Point of Contact

cell_detailsUntil recently, I was only concerned with which parts of an object touches the print plate in regards to deciding whether or not supports were needed. Then this kid came in needing to use the printer for a project. Finally! Someone had designed something with the express purpose of using our printer. I was thinking that this success would be Marvin’s watershed moment. Then things got touchy. Well, not-so-touchy really.

The dude was trying to print a 3D model of a cell. As in a human cell. It was an incredibly detailed design. All the major parts of a cell were there (I think, it’s been a number of years since I took biology).

I had to shrink the file a little, since it was larger than the print plate. At first I was concerned shrinking it would make us lose some of the details, since the printer can’t print details smaller than the width of the print head. But it turns out we had bigger things to worry about. Or, perhaps I should say smaller things.

The printer had laid down only two or three layers before I realized we weren’t going to be able to print it. Since the lad designed it as a sphere, the portion of the object that was in contact with the print plate was very small. As a result, there wasn’t nearly enough of the object glued to the plate to counteract the moving of the print plate. So very shortly the object was jostled free. In the screenshot below you can see it was, unfortunately, doomed to failure.


The part in the red square (heh) was all that was touching the plate

I recommended the lad go back to his CAD software and slice off the bottom of the cell to make it have a flat bottom, thereby allowing more of the object to come into contact with the print plate. Alas! ‘Twas not meant to be. The project was due the next day. His mom suggested they go get a big Styrofoam ball and carve that into a cell. Too bad, too, I was really excited to see the printer used for a school assignment. Perhaps next time…


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