3D Printing

3D Printing Sand Castles

Summertime is here, with the holiday booked and the packing done you wake on your departure date. You realise that there is something that you have forgotten to pack: Sandcastle buckets! (Yes, really!) And shovels. Handily what you do have access to is a 3D printer that can create them for you in the mere three hours that you have before you need to leave? This is what happened to Joe Borello, Marketing Associate and Experience Ambassador at 3D Systems. Did Joe make his train? Did he make his sandcastle?

sand 3d printingThe morning that his holiday was due to begin and Joe Borello squeezed in the time to finish packing his bag. Those bags were packed for a week-long trip to the easternmost end of Long Island for some fun in the sun. Whilst on the commute to workthough,  Joe realised that he had yet to pick up one of the most important can’t-go-without-it items of all… a bucket and spade for sandcastles.

Once Joe arrived in work he decided to fix his oversight  and set about digitally creating a structure that would hopefully represent the sandcastle buckets of sandy beach fame. He had a mere three hours before he had to leave to catch a train to Montauk – and as yet not even a real design for the sandcastle. Now, when I envisage a sandcastle it conjures up a specific image of what it looks like. You know the one that I mean, small cubes around the edge of the top face of a big cube? This design however is optimised for rapid 3D printing with the CubePro – Joe’s unsurprising 3D printer of choice.

Two and a half hours before the departure of Joe’s train and he was importing his .STL file into the CubePro slicing software. With a number of other tasks he could be doing Joe made the most of the time. Two hours before departure and Joe assessed that he required a fast functional model, so rather than opting for the higher resolution settings which could lead all the way up to a splendiferous 70 microns, he chose 300 microns.  Other work (proper ? work) took him away from his office for about an hour and a half, and when Joe returned it was essentially time to leave. But was Joe’s sandcastle kit finished?

sand 3d printing

Indeed it was: “from start to finish the process took a mere three hours, from bland castle to sand castle. As is the case with many first prototypes of groundbreaking (pun intended) technologies, my sandcastle was not perfect,” according to Joe. “For one thing, it an effort to maximize printability and speed, my object ended up looking more like a post-modern sand castle than the ones most toddlers make on the beach. Secondly, I ran into trouble a few times getting the castle out of the mould. My guess is the castle tapered too sharply and had small nooks and crannies that kept the sand stuck. Also, it was the first time I’d make a sandcastle in over a decade, so I might be a little rusty too.”

He continued, “All in all though, I would say my mission was a success. I went from idea to prototype in less than three hours and went from prototype to childhood in the course of an afternoon. Were it not for the CubePro, I would not have been able to bring my 3D printed passions to the most unlikely of places: a beach at the edge of New York.”

So, this is not likely to be the most serious article you read today — or ever — but apart from possibly raising a smile (cynical or otherwise) it does demonstrate a rather nice point about accessibility and usability of 3D printing, specifically that you can use it to make what YOU want, when you want it.