Tuesday, March 25, 2008

3D Printer Training - Day Two

Although we saw many many samples of parts that were printed by the Z Corp machines when at their headquarters a few weeks ago, there's nothing like the feeling of printing the part yourself, removing it from the powder and performing the post-processing. When I came in this morning and I could just barely see the tip of the parts under the powder, I had no idea of how the parts would actually look. Were the colors correct? Did all of the parts stay together? How hard would it be to remove the powder?

What lies beneath?

Once Gary arrived, Dave and I got right to work removing the parts from the printer. During the few classes of anthropology I took while in high school and in college, I had the opportunity to watch several videos chronicling site excavations of such finds as Otzi the "Ice Man" in the Italian Alps, and the oldest human remains ever found (at the time (2003) - 160,000 year old skulls found in Ethiopia).

Otzi the "Iceman" (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Human Skull found in Ethiopia, estimated to be 160,000 years old by examination of volcanic rock found with the skull (Courtesy www.newscientist.com)

Much like when Dinosaur fossil remains are just barely noticeable on the surface, the extraction of the human artifacts began very carefully, using a brush to wisk away the dirt in order to preserve as much of the delicate remains as possible until enough of the dirt was removed that the fossil/remains/artifact could safely be removed. This was my initial impression as we began to brush the top layers of the powder in the build bin away from the parts we had just printed. Despite having seen what was underneath the powder on my computer screen (much like in-experienced archaeologists and anthropologists have seen pictures of certain fossils/remains/artifacts) the prospect of seeing the actual parts for the first time was really exciting.

I'd like to say we were just as gentle as those scientists dealing with thousands of years old artifacts, but we weren't, so we did break a few of the parts!! The damage was minimal, but this was good learning for future "archaeological expeditions" of our own kind, when we are making parts that we will be using for the prototype.

Next up is the 3D Scanner training!


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