First steps in 3D Printing – part 1

3D Printing is all the rage these days and I’ve been looking for an excuse to learn more about it for some time. However I really didn’t want to buy a printer, not least because printing technology is moving so quickly that this year’s printer will be outdated next year. But also, I learnt from having bought and rarely used various photo printers through the years that in the end it’s more economic to use a printing service. Therefore my interest in 3D printing took on serious intent when I discovered a website offering 3D printing services: The very cool thing about this website is that it lists local businesses and private individuals who are prepared to print components for 3rd parties – and in the Eindhoven region there are a lot of people prepared to print components for a small fee.

Around the same time that I came across the 3Dhubs website, I’d started building my Ultimate 70, 1/3 scale model and saw a couple of opportunities to try out designing some 3D components for this model. My first problem though was what design software to use? There are a plethora of 3D design packages on the market, many of which are pretty sophisticated. But I really didn’t want to have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to use a complex software package. After some searching, I came across the Tinkercad website: which provides an very simple way to design 3D components from basic building blocks. After playing around with it for a little while I decided that it was good enough for taking some first steps.

The first component that I wanted to design was a mount for a wing servo. There are four wing servos in the Ultimate, so I thought that I could save a lot of time by designing one and printing it four times. I also needed to make four servo access covers, two “left” and two “right”. The pictures below show the designs as displayed by Tinkercad. I exported the design file from Tinkercad and read it into 3Dhubs, which then gave me a list of local printing services. I chose a guy living in Geldrop, “Maurice”, with whom I built up quite a relationship for a while. The part as 3Dhubs displayed it is also shown below.

After a bit of discussion, Maurice printed the components and I picked them up a few days later. I was amazed that the servo access covers fitted the wings perfectly. However I had some problems with the servo mounts themselves. 3D printed components use a honeycomb structure internally. Maurice had set his printer to fill in the components with a fairly sparse honeycomb. When I tried to put a servo screw into the holder, there was not enough internal material for the screw to bite. So I had to ask Maurice to print the holders again with a high density honeycomb. The second time around the holders worked just fine. The final results are shown in the picture below.

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