Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

project 4 – 3D printing

I am always looking for small ways help contribute to green awareness, so the first thing that popped into my mind when we first started talking about 3-D printing was “how can I use this project to raise awareness about the environment, but still answer the prompts”? I ended up choosing the flatware prompt, since using plastic utensils is a HUGE waste and there are so many ways that we can, and should, improve on. The inspiration behind this design was something re-usable, but also efficient. I started off with the design of the individual pieces:

Next, I thought about which areas I could reduce the material.

As you can see, upper box is the same for all the utensils, so I can essentially switch out the ends and re-use the container portion. 

The design for this project was much more complex than any of the past projects, since this this was a 3-D design that was completely done on the computer. I had no way of knowing if my design would work until after I printed it. 

I started off with the container since that portion was very clear to me. It was just a cylinder on the outside. The complication came when I had to design how the pieces would insert into the container. I ended up designing something similar to a water bottle, where you have to screw the inner portion into the container. I had to take friction and mistakes made by the printer into consideration, and ended up making the dimensions of the inner cylinder 90% smaller to account for those things. I was worried that it might not be tight enough to hold the utensil in place, or it wouldn’t be efficient if the utensil wiggled. 

The final design looked like it was practical, and would work when printed, so I headed to the Maker Lab at BIF. I worked with the staff choosing the final parameters and it began printing! (Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of it while it was printing). I was pretty confident it would work, and was really excited, but when the machine was done printing I found very different results. 

I did not take size into consideration when I printed things. The utensils are very circular, which the printer apparently does not handle too well. The spoon ended up with a hole in the middle since the surface was too thin, and I had a lot of plastic strings in areas that didn’t belong. Furthermore, the edges in the knife and fork did not turn out well, since it was so small. The structural support that was required for the utensils since they are round did not rip off well, and ruined some areas. Finally, the utensils did not fit well in the cylinder, so I should have made it even less than 90%. 

Even though the final product wasn’t great, I had a lot of fun working on it and learned a lot from my mistakes. I think trial and error is a big part of learning with 3-D printing, and observing how other projects turn out is important. It’s also important to take size into consideration, and leave room for error with curves and edges. I learned that the machine is not perfect since it’s working with real materials and not just conceptual shapes on the screen.