You can print 3D models without owning a printer. Here's my experience printing 3D models using 3DHubs.com and a local printer.
There’s an easy way to experience 3D printing without having to create a model or own a fancy printer. 3DHubs.com is an online service listing tens of thousands of places where you can find a 3D printer and people who will help print your model, from professional printers to local groups to individuals with a printer. Add in Thingiverse, an online repository of 3D models, and it’s easy to pick a fun model then upload it to 3DHubs.com, find a local printer, and get a model back.
To prove this process works, I found a fun train model on Thingiverse, downloaded a file with the train engine and six wheels, then looked on 3DHubs.com for a local 3D printer.
I found printing prices ranging from a hundred dollars for a professional printer to the $30 I paid to a local high school all-girls robotics team with a 3D printer. They list on 3DHubs.com to raise funds for their FIRST FTC robotics team, Bionica 7120 (team motto: “9 girls, 1 purple robot”). I learned FIRST is a program for students ages 7-12 to form teams to design, build, and program robots for competitions.
“Our initial plan for 3D Hubs was to promote our Hub to fellow local robotics teams, so we could embody the FIRST FTC’s ideals of ‘gracious professionalism’ by helping other teams while helping ourselves,” said Allison H, the person who helped print my train engine. “We are planning on promoting our 3D Hub services further and earlier in the upcoming robotics season.”
I was thrilled to support a great team of students interested in technology (and all girls!) at the local high school where my son attends, as well as where his older sister, his mom, and my sister-in-law went for school. You might find the same opportunity in your community.
Allison also photographed the model printing process, at my request. You might be able to coax your local printer to let you watch. However, it can take hours to build your model.
Once I downloaded the 3D train model from Thingiverse, the only glitch happened when I uploaded the model to 3DHubs.com. The service asked me about measurements, millimeters or inches. Not having created the model, I didn’t know the answer but went with millimeters.
I wasn’t too concerned because 3DHubs.com makes it clear, whatever you upload, the printer checks all these details before printing. And that’s what happened. Allison never asked me about measurements. I had tried another 3D printing service awhile back and had to stop because of a similar technical question with no obvious way to prevent a printing error.
In this case, everything with 3DHubs.com worked. Their order process turned out to be very simple with an easy tutorial showing all parts of the order page. You get emails when your printer responds to your printing request, and any steps in the process. There’s also a checkbox under the box where you correspond with your printer that, when checked, sends a copy of your mail to a support person at 3DHubs.com. The name of their support person is easy to find if there are problems.
Creating 3D models doesn’t have to be hard or take a lot of effort and time. You can get started finding a model on Thingiverse then use 3DHubs.com to find a local printer to create your model. It might get you excited to create your own simple 3D models with TinkerCAD, or find models there to print, like dragons and laser-eyed chickens. It also looks like TinkerCAD models can be exported then imported into Minecraft, which would be fun to try.
Train Set (Thingiverse)
7120 Bionica’s 3D Printing Hub
FIRST Tech Challenge
Team 7120 Bionica
Also In The June 2015 Issue
The Internet of Things (IoT) connects dumb devices like refrigerators to the internet and uses software to connect them to our daily lives.
There are many operating systems for internet of things devices, from existing software used to control electronic boards to efforts by Google and Apple.
Disney Infinity 3.0, Rocket League, and Super Mario Maker are three fun video games to consider for the 2015 holiday season
You can learn a little software programming and have lots of fun with any number of coding apps available for your phone or tablet computer.
Operating system software is a key part of all computers. But what are they and how do they work?
Working through a book can help parents learn programming with their kids or kids learn on their own.
Board games and card games are some of the best ways to learn about programming. You don't need a computer. Play as a family or group.
These robots also can be programmed to move around rooms, one way for kids to learn programming.
Six women were hired to use their math skills to program the ENIAC computer. They called themselves The First Programmers Club.
Nicky is a Linguistics major who learned coding skills to further her research. She's also finished a PhD, won a few big awards, and co-founded Grok Learning.
Two women created an innovative online service to teach teenage girls how to code by using video.
The new Rust programming language is designed to solve problems with operating systems and fix issues with C and other languages.
Data can become alive and pose questions as well as reveal answers to questions we have.
Links from the bottom of all the articles in this issue, collected in one place for you to print, share, or bookmark.
DRY is an acronym for Don't Repeat Yourself. It's a critical programming concept and skill to learn.
Interesting news stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for August and September 2015.
CoderDojo is a free after school club for kids ages 7-17 where kids, parents, mentors, and others play with technology and learn to code.