Type Design: 3D Print Letterpress (Part 2)

With the Makerbot Z18 on ETSU Campus, several test prints  of letters at different sizes were created. The first print was fairly successful, (fig. 1) printed 2 inches high at an an extrusion depth of 1/4 of an inch. The block was sturdy and had a consistent ribbed texture with the exception of the turns at the edges, which seemed to mound up a bit. The face of the type was much rougher than I expected, but with a little sanding would be usable.

TestPrint1sm

fig. 1

My second test print was a “B” at a larger scale and a smaller extrusion depth (about .125 inches) than that of the “A” which achieved a much smoother face, so I converted the rest of my models to accommodate this larger, thinner format.  Unfortunately, a factor which I had not expected is the demand on print time nearing the end of the semester.  The third round of  prints, shown in comparison to the red “B” below, were much less successful (fig. 2). The printer head seemed misaligned and as time passed, the prints grew worse.

TestPrints2and3

fig. 2

When I returned to do some trouble-shooting with the Makerbot and do a round of final prints, I found that the printer was not extruding filament at all. After further investigation I saw the cleaning brush was clogged with different color filament and the printer head itself was caked in plastic. This suggested that it was left running too long and it overheated, clogging the head completely. I changed out the filaments, heated and cleaned the print head and ran a few tests to no avail.

A new solution was needed. I gained access to a prototype machine in grey, Tennessee at a company called VinTec, courtesy of Bob Oglesby at Host Engineering (he’s my dad’s boss!) I converted my Maya Bianry Files to STLs, which are compatible with this machine and I am off to make some prints!

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