There was a new addition to my household a couple of weeks ago that I am really enjoying. It’s a secondhand Replicator 2 3D printer by Makerbot. The Replicator 2 prints polylactic acid, a hard, shiny, biodegradable plastic that’s pretty easy for the home user. The printer is also fairly user friendly, as the seller promised it would be. During my first forty-eight hours with it I was able to generate the clogged extruder of the century, but I was also able to take apart and reassemble the affected parts with a little help from the internet and just a touch of drama.
Forgiving as PLA is, 3D printing can be pretty touchy. I’ve even found that different colors of filament require slightly different temperatures and settings to achieve the best possible results. My first prints were knick-knacks for around the house I downloaded from Thingiverse. By the way, this is proof that the future has arrived. For better or worse, I downloaded and printed a flower pot I needed last week instead of going to the store to get one. Then I graduated to some projects of my own. It’s really informative to be able to print off a concept model and have something to hold in your hand. As wonderful as 3D computer aided design is, it’s still hard to imagine what the physical presence of a model will be like when you’re straying from your traditional styles or most familiar designs. But while my downloaded flowerpot printed well enough with just a little warping due to a not quite level print surface, getting delicate details from this type of printer isn’t always easy. To fine tune my understanding of best printing practices, I decided to print some bobbin lace bobbins I modeled recently.
As you can see, it took a lot of tries to find the best way to print them! At first I had them lying horizontally, but this required a lot of supporting structures and didn’t result in a great finished surface. Printing them standing up on gave a much better finish, but the temperature had to be just right to keep the new layers from drooping on the overhangs, and since the bottom comes to a point, the first few attempts broke off their bases and fell over before they were completed. Eventually I went back to my CAD file and added some custom supports, which I filed off of the finished prints. I’m pretty happy with the results.
If you’ve never seen it before, bobbin or pillow lace is a traditional weaving technique that is how lace was made for a solid couple centuries in Europe. I’m attracted to it for the same reason I love lots of other crafts. It takes pretty much nothing (in this case, thread) and turns it into something (delicate lace fabrics). The tools for bobbin lace are simple but can be hard to come by, and though I’m still very much a bobbin lace novice, I’m excited to add these colorful bobbins to my little box of supplies. Traditional bobbins are made of wood but they come in lots of different shapes, so I plan to model some more when I have the time.