He had been involved in setting up a computerized process by which an item could be built in 3 dimensions by printing the material. The overall goal of the project was to vastly reduce the number of machine and other parts his employer had to keep in stock and thereby reduce the storage and carrying cost of all these parts.The process was called stereolithography.
His description of the process seemed impossible to fathom. How could a computer printer, as I knew of a printer back then, print out an object in 3 dimensions like a gear for example.
On a different note, the more I learned about 3-D printing by talking to individuals involved in the process, the more the bits and pieces I heard in each conversation started to fit together. Without actually designing an item by drawing it out in 3 dimensions and then having to deal with an organization like Shapeways to get my design printed in 3-D, I gained a working understanding of the pros and cons of 3-D printing.
When Terry Gaskin approached me about test building his new CRT 4000 Baldie kit, I discovered I had to pass on to Terry how to improve his kit from the kit builder's stand point. Terry had designed and engineered an interesting kit. My observations regarding building the kit will be shared with you in the next post.
Three dimensional printing is so unique and "mind bending", being told what the process is like builds an almost impossible picture in the mind. You have to be told of so many new, involved processes at one time. Without seeing what is going on, each part of what you hear becomes what sounds like a "pie-in-the-sky" idea.
Three dimensional printing is not what you printer does at home or in the workplace where you may work. The 3-D printer does not print in the strict definition of the word "print". From what I can tell the 3-D printer and print head may be specific to the material being used to make the object.
The print head does not transfer ink to paper like your printer at home. Instead it may have more than one laser, aimed at a specific point, to heat the material being used into a molten mass which becomes the object being made. Or, the print head may activate a "glue" to hold the material together.
You may have seen a process similar to 3-D printing in TV programs where a forensic scientist has a computer make a skull or head out of slices of paper individually cut and "glued" together. The skull is "read" into the computer. The computer in turn decides the size of each sheet of paper to be cut. Or, if a head is to be made, the computer utilizing a program adds on the muscle mass to the skull, and then decides the size of each sheet of paper to cut.
The individual sheets are somehow stuck together with adhesive in the order in which they are printed. Watching the process is amazing.
The computer generated head can be painted for the individual whose skull is used. Furthermore a wig, or different wigs, can be placed on the head. The head with painted facial features and hair have been used to identify missing individuals.
Bill Becwar a good friend of mine who is a computer programmer wrote an email to me in which he explains 3-D printing. In the email he wrote,
"Yes, 3D printing is a tough concept to explain to someone who hasn't seen it, partly because it is so new, and partly because there are a number of different types, each with different techniques and materials. On greatly simplified explanation is to think about it as machining in reverse, where material is added on to make a part, rather than removing material. Our Canadian friends had a pretty good segment on "How It's Made" a while back, explaining the process pretty clearly. It's on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6Px6RSL9Ac . Although it sure isn't cheap, the idea of making cast parts in metal without expensive tooling or lost wax wok is pretty amazing. It does for objects what word processing did for text."
The YouTube video he recommends watching was part of a Science Channel program "How It's Made". If you have not seen this video, please watch it.Micro Mark and other vendors have a 3-D printer available. The price is not cheap. At the same time what can be printed using this printer is limited in size and materials used.
Shapeways has told Terry Gaskin they plan on purchasing larger printers which will be able to print the side of the Baldie in one piece utilizing a builder friendly material. Builder friendly meaning a nylon requiring less sanding and at the same time free of some of the current printing problems. I'll mention 1 or 2 problems in the post on building the kit.
A larger printer, if it is 50% larger, does not cost 50% more. Instead it costs far more, perhaps 10 times more than the printers Shapeways currently has.
While I can say more about 3-D printing, it's time to go on to other topics.
The new Baldie kit has been added to the post dated February 11, 2012 "Available CRT/CTA Rapid Transit Models in Kit or Other Forms". The new model should actually be called a CRT/CTA Baldie.
You may ask when will a list of O scale CSL/CTA streetcars kits, bodies, etc. be made and posted. The list was started. I lost interest in it. If someone is interested in making a list, it will be posted, and the writer acknowledged.
Finally on the blog page is a section titled "Total Passengers" and a number. This number is the number of times the blog has been viewed. In a few days, if it has not already, the number of times this blog has been viewed will pass 50,000.
For those of you who read my blog, Thank You! I appreciate you viewing the blog and returning for more material. I run the blog in a way so as to not repeat material unless it is very important. For this reason, it's best to read the entire blog from the beginning to pick-up on information.
As long as I am thanking everyone, take a look at the blog Randy Hicks (Hicks Car Works) from the Illinois Railway Museum has been writing. A link appears in the right hand side of this post under the section titled "My Blog List". Randy has been doing a wonderful job restoring the Museum's CA&E cars. He deserves many thanks for his work!
The next post will be the start of the CRT/CTA Baldie kit. It's been in the works for a couple of months so it's time to sift through my notes and photos.