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Second Thoughts on 3D Printing

Second Thoughts on 3D Printing

I look around me and I have this almost overwhelmed feeling about all the “Plastic Junque” I have been making.

When everything is done and I am holding a new plastic creation in my hand, I realized it is a piece of plastic.

Some things should be plastic. If that’s the case (literally), then I don’t have these thoughts.

I just made a nice plastic slip case for a set of nail manicure tools that came in a cardboard box. It’s functional, but not an artistic craft item. I enjoyed creating the design. The printer did the work. The nail tools have a good storage box.

I do make some plastic items that people enjoy. First to mind is a rotary knife cutting blade holder used for cutting threads. A big item for My wife’s quilting buddies. Another favorite with the quilters is a plastic magnetic steel sewing pin holding device similar to a pin-cushion. 

So not all plastic is Junque, but in a way it still is… plastic.

The missing ingredient for me is the fact the print machine does almost all the making. I only do the CAD design and convert it to a data file I feed the the automation system. I think I have a guilt complex because much of the crafting is automated. Designed, not made directly by me but by my machines.

I am not feeling guilty about automation. Much of my lost wax jewelry work includes CNC (computer controlled) carving of the wax. But the carving automation is but a small part of the total effort. There remains a lot of personal hand-work effort in a finished cast metal object

Sometimes I glue plastic components together, as every 3D print is not one piece. But it is not the same “hand crafted” experience.

I have tried to use 3D printing as the pattern maker for my castings. It works in some cases, but wax has always been the best material for me to use in casting master models. 

The professional jewelers are now using 3D prints with good success. The hobbyist doesn’t have all the resources and funding of a professional operation. The good resins and materials for casting burn out models are very expensive.

Trying Another Direction

I have invested time and resources into LASER engraving. It’s another computer automated process. It almost like 3D printing for the same fact the LASER machine does all the work. So it can (and will) produce some of the same “hand crafting remorse” as does 3D printing. Except for the fact the finished engraving work will not be Plastic Junque. The engraving is a decoration on something that can have more intrinsic value. Like wood, leather, some metals. even glass.

The engraving alone is not the end product. It is one step in a longer process. Its a way to place 2D art onto a 3D object. Combined with LASER cutting, 3D items can be cut and assembled. They can be of wood and some plastics like acrylic.

The engraved art can be almost any graphic, line art, and/or photographic. Engraving is a high heat burning process. The LASER engraver works much the same as all CNC machines, except the “tool” is a burning hot spot of concentrated and coherent light.

5 to 20 watts of power concentrated in a tiny area the size of a pin point is an intense amount of energy for the surface area. So the surface literally vaporizes from the energy.

With a beam of light there is zero force being placed on the object being engraved (unlike metal or wood rotary tool machining). It does create a good bit of smoke and fumes rather than chips and sawdust. 

Not a lot of time and effort required to design how the object will be held in place before starting. A very important concern with edge type rotary cutting tools. Many times how to hold the material part for mechanical machining is more work than the machining itself.

My Conclusions

I will certainly keep doing whatever I like. 3D printing and new LASER projects will keep me busy. But I think I will find a way back to doing more of the hand-crafting as well as continuing the CAD design.

I will eventually find a way back to Lost Wax casting. Metal and wood seem to me to be far more a hand-craft than printing plastic Junque…


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