3D printing outreach at Mini Maker Faire Elephant & Castle

I had a great time at my first (mini) Maker Faire today, at the London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle. http://makerfaireelephantandcastle.com/

After piling 5 people and 3 3D printers into my old Volvo estate, and a lovely sunny drive to London, we arrived with just about enough time to comfortably set up and make a decent job of stitching our Maker name badges with needle and thread (yes, we were given sharp objects as soon as we walked through the door).

The plan was simple, Thames Valley RepRap User Group (http://tvrrug.org) were on a mission to complete a ‘parallel’ print, a life-size bust of Alan Turing divided up into fist-sized chunks to spread across multiple printers, and meanwhile to promote our community based approach to getting people into 3D printing.

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Both were successful; we created a pile of parts of high quality*, I think we had printed Mr Turing’s chin by the end of the day, and we were notably hoarse from talking with passers-by about 3D printing, RepRap and our community.  Hopefully this will translate into additional members for our 3rd public build round, which is nearing the mark of 20 participants which will give the green light to ordering several key components in bulk.  If you are interested, a kit costs only £500 including a donation to your local hackspace, which is incredible value, especially backed by a vibrant group of enthusiasts with a depth of knowledge which has impressed me since I joined in Round 2.

[*except… right at the very end of printing the second piece I encountered a rare bug in the fantastic slic3r (0.9.9) which caused my extruder to go wild, spinning for many seconds and grinding down the filament with the hobbed bolt, so the top few millimetres of my second piece were missing, but it was still usable.  Shame, it looked lovely up until then!]

I enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of the great and the good of the UK 3D printing scene, including the lovely people at Faberdashery, who <shameless_plug> kindly supplied filament for our group print </shameless_plug>, and I hope to visit them to learn more about how their filament is produced.

I talked shop (literally) with Replicator Warehouse, who have a real, physical 3D print shop around the corner from the venue, this excited me hugely, as it’s a great platform from which to interact with the public, and I’ve toyed with the idea of a modest physical presence in a Reading shopping area.

Last but not least, I met Richard ‘RichRap’ Horne, did a bit of frankly uncool groupie hero worship and told him how much his designs have inspired me to get busy in OpenSCAD, and talked with him about my ideas to use multiple extruders for multi-material handling as well as his more artistic colour creations.  He had his own take on the delta printer running, ‘3DR’ producing a beautifully detailed vase. 3DR [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11PVy4AUbeQ&feature=youtu.be] looked to be an extremely simple and elegant design, using 2 Bowden tubes, and he said that it has been very easy to calibrate – so if you are interested in building a delta 3D printer, I recommend keeping an eye out for this one.

At one point I was interviewed about 3D printing, and the crew wanted a shot of Nozzle-cam.  Highly recursive photo of this:

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With us was a table display for Reading’s Hackspace – rlab.org.uk – I’ve recently joined, so it was great to see so much interest in their exhibits, from Raspberry Pi powered undersea rover prototype to St Pancras station in ‘n’ guage.  If you aren’t already part of a hackspace, join one!

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I escaped the 3D printing area only briefly, to have a very quick look around the rest of the Mini Maker Faire.  It looked absolutely great fun, and I could probably have spent all day looking at the exhibits, if I weren’t more tightly focused on 3D printing right now – in the end I chatted with the team at Sugru, to talk about inclusion of Sugru in 3D printing, and spoke with Peter at Bare Conductive, whose conductive ink could have possibilities for inclusion in some types of 3D printed circuit.  Very disciplined and very productive – this is a great environment for thinking laterally!

Speaking of lateral thinking, I really enjoyed talking with an artist sharing our space, Paulo Goldstein.  His installation was causing some controversy but it didn’t take long to work out we were on the same page.  He had ‘fixed’ a director’s chair, missing a crucial piece of wood holding up one arm, and therefore wrecking its stability.  Paulo wanted to make the point that so many of our modern systems are overly complex, such that no-one can see where the true issues lie.  So instead of making a new wooden piece to fill the hole, he had left the gap and ‘worked around’ it, with an enormous protrusion of wood off to the side of the chair and a beautifully bonkers arrangement of tensioning strings as in a suspension bridge.  It worked, you could sit in the chair!

More beautiful was an intricate re-building of a trashed iPod shuffle, spread out across two pieces of hand-carved bone with finely crafted peg construction.  I’d personally go straight to OpenSCAD, design and  3D print a replacement shell, complete with Minkowski shape, that would be a lot closer to Sir Jonathan’s iLook, but the point was beautifully made that things do not need to be thrown away the moment they become imperfect.  Built-in obsolescence is an extravagance the planet can ill afford.  3D printing has already saved several of my household objects from the skip, and even helped to improve others.  Unscrew, upcycle, use again!


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