Here at AstroCamp, one of our coolest summer classes is 3D Printing! It’s a quickly evolving field, with lots of exciting improvements always popping up. Our class at camp is pretty simple, but still allows you to get a lot of hands-on experience with the whole process. The 3D printer itself is a relatively simple device. Similar to how a hot glue gun works, a solid material gets pushed through a heated metal tip called an “extruder,” where it melts and can be laid out in a specific pattern.
Instead of glue, however, printers use a filament called PLA. There are other types of materials to use, but by far the most common — and the kind we use here at AstroCamp — is this awesome biodegradable plastic.
In order to actually 3D print something, you’ll first need to use design software! Some can be found online for free and others for a paid subscription. There are small differences from software to software, but they all allow you to create a 3D design of what you want to print. Alternatively, you can find files online that other people have created. We’ve seen designs for everything from small toys to an entire violin.
Once you’ve figured all the computer stuff, all you need to do is load your print file onto the printer, make sure everything is set up correctly, and let it go! Depending on the resolution and size of your model, it can take up to several hours for your print to complete, so patience is definitely important while printing.
3D printers are super cool, and they give you the opportunity to go from designing something to holding it in your hands just a short while later. If you’re interested in learning more about how they work, consider taking the class during our summer camp! You’ll even get to take your work home and show it off to all of your friends and family.
Written By: Scott Yarbrough