3D Printing Update

It’s been a few weeks since I invested in my 3D printer with the intention of printing a new fire escape for my dollhouse. At least for starters. I do realize one doesn’t buy a printer to create a single object. Since then, I’ve discovered more and more possible projects and experienced both satisfaction and frustration with my efforts.

But for now, I want to provide an update on that initial project.

Unsurprisingly, I had to scrap that first model after I learned a bit more about using Blender, the modeling application I’m learning.

I created a new lower half of the fire escape model and was astonished when it printed relatively properly at scale. Using that model file, I created the upper half of the stairs and this time I added some tiny bolts to the tiny plates where the two halves would join. When they printed correctly I was pretty nearly elated. Onward to the top of the steps. This one was tricky because the horizontal railing needed to mesh with the angled one on the stairs. By working in the same model file as the top half, I was able to design the platform with the correct angle. And a couple more of those clever little plates with bolts on them.

This one gave me printing problems and I had to learn more about positioning the model for best results. It took two or three prints to get an acceptable result. And I still had to reprint the railings. I try not to think about the plastic, but on the other hand, I’ve probably only scrapped the equivalent of a liter plastic bottle.

All three pieces had a lot of “stringing” where the print nozzle extrudes a fine hair of plastic when it moves between printed objects. There are settings to get rid of this. I’m still trying to find the right combination.

The next steps were cleanup with X-acto knife, sandpaper, and ultimately a micro-sized metal file to get into those tiny angles. I glued the three main pieces together and glued on the re-printed railing pieces that hadn’t printed well the first time. I decided to live with some weak points in the railings because it’s an old, weathered fire escape and iron deteriorates.

The printed fire escape–about four pieces in all–glued together.

Finally, I got out aging powders–fine powders in various colors like “rust” and “grungy black”–and a brush. Remember, the fire escape is outdoors in London. It’s gonna rust.

Not yet attached, but in place. Yeah, those vinyl bricks need some attention.

Next project: replace the waterwheel on my garden mill.

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