As you know, we acquired a 3D scanner. Today, we had some time to play around with it, so we naturally decided to scan all of the Multimedia lecturers’ faces. Below you can view each of us in glorious 3D! Do you recognise your lecturers?
The VRI lab has expanded over the last few months. With the purchase of our own 3D printer as well as our acquisition of a second 3D printer from the MakerSpace we now have the capacity to print various sizes. We (and by “we” I mean Diffie Bosman) developed a queuing system to enable us to manage the printers and the models of the students.
The 3D printing queue system
The queuing system allows students to log on and upload an STL file. The students can also select the colour they want the model to be printed in. Currently the system is only usable by the honours students and the 3rd years as we are still streamlining the workflow. The uploaded file is then put through a slicer (software that changes the STL file into a format that the 3D printer can use – gcode). We use CURA as our primary slicer with two different profiles for our two 3D printers. This part of the process is done manually by one of the lecturers. The print is then added to the queue using the queuing system.
While the printing is done, students can view the printers working online. The URL for viewing the webcam feeds are only accessible while on the UP intranet (wired network). The students are charged a fee for the printing which includes material cost, an hourly rate (for printer maintenance and upgrades) as well as a handling fee (for miscellaneous purchases for the printers). The students get notified about the cost before hand but a minimum fee of R 10 is charged for each print. The students are notified when the printing is done and can then collect their printing.
Managing the 3D printers
On the printer side of the process we use free software called Repetier that allows us to communicate with the printers remotely. Each printer has a webcam feed which allows us to check up on the prints. If something goes wrong the print can be stopped remotely. The software also allows use to upload the Gcode files directly to the printer and start the printing process remotely. This obviously requires the printer to be set up and be ready for the print to start.
Manual management of the printers are also required as the prints need to be removed from the printer. The print surface also needs to be cleaned after each print. On the large printer (The Robobeast – 350 x 350 x 300 build volume) we print on of masking tape that allows us to more easily remove the prints when they are done. The smaller printer (Duplicator – 200 x 200 x 180 build volume) has a heated build plate which also requires cleaning after each print.
With the 3D printing section of the VRI lab functioning we are planning to expand to our other undergraduate students. Currently most of the printing being done on the printers are by students seeing “what the printers can do” and testing the boundaries of 3D printing. This is evident in the amount of game related items, figurines and models . The honours students are using the printers mostly for prototyping for their final year projects. Below you can see some of the prints that was done up until now on our printers (click on the image to access the album).