3D Printing Intro

To introduce the MakerBot Replicator, we will watch some instructional videos and complete a simple design. A 3D printer is a machine that constructs a 3D object by depositing (printing) thin layers of melted plastic. As each layer cools and hardens, another layer is deposited on top of the last. Thus, the object is built from the bottom up - layer by layer. The machine consists of a heated bed which prevents the plastic from cooling too fast, and an extrusion nozzle which is hot enough to melt the plastic filament. Once the designs are drawn in a computer aided drafting program like AutoCAD, the computer instructs the machine's nozzle where to move (x, y, z coordinates) and what to do when it gets there (speed, heat, amount of plastic to extrude, etc.).

The MakerBot Replicator looks like this:

Here is the 3D printer in action: 

To use the 3D printer, the following software is required:
1. Google Sketchup to create 3D part files. Sketchup is a free program for drawing computer models of 3D objects.

2. Use the STL plugin to save the file as an .stl (Stereolithography file).

3. Then import the .stl file to ReplicatorG, a software that allows user to set the origin, scale, definition, and the orientation of the object.  ReplicatorG then exports the information to gcode, a machine language that tells the print nozzle of the printer where to go in a coordinate system.

Challenge: Build a small emblem to be printed.

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