6 December 2020: The 3D Printer has become an Essential Tool

It’s been an exciting couple of months with the Prusa Mini 3D printer that I acquired in mid-October.  Just this evening I installed my second roll of filament (382 meters, MatterHacker Pro Tough PLA).  I’ve had the printer running a lot…and I’m not printing little toys…I’m printing things that I need.  The quality of the 3D prints is much better than I had imagined that it would be…and I can print smaller than I thought I would be able to print.

The software (FreeCAD) was difficult for me to learn…but I’m now able to design many of the parts that I’m wanting to print.  Each time I design something I get a bit better with the software.

At this time I’m creating an automata that has a working title of “Auger Lift”.   The first image shows the crankshaft arms that have been 3D printed.  In the past, I’ve made these crankshaft arms from wood.  I work carefully however have never been able to create crankshaft arms that are as precise as these 3D printed crankshaft arms.  They are each exactly the same size.  What this means is that there are no binds.  The motion flows smoothly.  In the second image you see the 3 journal pillow block (also 3D printed).  I drop the crankshaft onto the pillow block, tighten the caps down, and rotate the crankshaft to find no binds what so ever.  It rotates in its bearings very smoothly and freely.  Tough to do when working at this small scale and working with wood.

And another beautiful thing is that I’ve now got the crankshaft arm design saved and available for reuse.  So yes, it did take time to work with the software to create the crankshaft arms, but I can now print on demand.

What I’m finding is that the 3D printer is allowing me to work at a higher level of quality.  For example, the third image shows the elliptical motion test stand.  The motion is generated by a gear motor and then transferred to the crankshaft through pinwheel gears.  There are no binds.  Had I made these same components from wood (and metal) my work would not have been as detailed and there would have been binds and irregularities in the drive train.

I know…it sounds like I’m just blathering on and on about the 3D printer.  Sorry, if that’s what you think.  However, if you are someone who has been considering acquiring a 3D printer I say to you that this little printer has become an essential tool in my workshop.  Ironically I am even now considering purchasing another one because I don’t want to find myself in a “down” situation.

And on the national/international front, COVID 19 continues to top the headlines, along with Trump continuing to attempt to tear down our Democracy.  I hope that the electorate and the Republican party have learned something from this experience, I also am trying to learn something.  There is obviously something that I still don’t understand.

Anyway…I live in California…and our Governor has just locked us down again.  Some folks are pissed about this…but I say that we’ve brought this lockdown onto ourselves.  I’ve been watching the numbers carefully.  It is obvious that we are getting sicker quicker.  Sicker quicker is not sustainable.  At some point, we will overwhelm the medical systems, and then where will we be?  So I’m staying home and working on automata.  I feel very fortunate to be able to do so.

Crankshaft for the Auger Lift. The crankshaft arms have been 3D printed. 4 December 2020.
Crankshaft Assembly: The 3 journal pillow block and the crankshaft arm have been 3D printed. 5 December 2020.
The elliptical motion for the Auger Lift is in a test stand being ‘run in’. The motor mount, pinwheel gears, pillow block, and crankshaft arms have all been 3D printed. 6 December 2020.
The Auger Lift crankshaft assembly in the test stand. 6 December 2020.