When I bought the Cube 3D printer eight years ago my son Russell was five. He went nuts the first time he saw it printing. I remember once I had designed a mobile stand for myself and I had extruded my name onto the design. When he saw the printer printing the stand he came running to me as asked, “Dada, how does the Cube know your name?” I looked at him stunned for a few seconds and then burst out laughing. The poor boy couldn’t figure out what was so funny.
Russell is now thirteen years old and he has started using the Cube to print the stuff he designs. He noticed me struggling to prop up my phone on my desk during WhatsApp video calls with my friends. So he designed a mobile stand for me which I could use in landscape as well as portrait mode. The biggest problem I faced was in portrait mode. The headphone jack plugged into the bottom of the phone and I couldn’t stand the phone properly. So he left enough space for the headphone wire to bend out of the way.
But what impressed me the most was Russell used his knowledge of DfAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) to design a 3D model which didn’t need supports. If you look closely, no face of this design is inclined to the base at an angle less than 45 degrees. This means the entire structure is self supporting.
He even took the trouble to understand how long of a bridge span the Cube could print without the molten plastic sagging or falling down. He printed a few test bridges at different span lenghts and measured the sag. Then incorporated his findings into the design. If you look closely there are some areas edges which are horizontal. But their lengths are within the limit that Russell figured out during his tests. The thing about DfAM is that the rules change for different printing technologies, printers and even materials. So its important to understand what your printer is capable of doing and what its limitations are.
Eight years ago I use to sit Russell on my lap and scroll through designs of toys online. He used to scream “This one!” when he saw something he liked. I used to download the design and print it for him. He used to patiently stand by the Cube as the printer laid down layer after layer of molten ABS plastic and slowly bring his toy to life. Now my son is designing and printing parts for me. Life has come full circle for me as a parent.