Thanks to a generous friend I got a 3doodler handheld 3d printer as a holiday gift.
My daughter took a look at it and said, “it’s basically a hot glue gun, right?”
She’s right, except that instead of clear glue you get several varieties of colored plastics — ABS, what I had always thought of as the “standard” 3d printing plastic, PLA, which melts at a lower temperature, and FLEX, which, I guess, is more flexible.
The colors are pretty garish for the most part, reinforcing my notion that 3d printers in general and handhelds in particular are really just good for making junky toys.
My immediate reaction was to delay and dither. I kept the stuff in the boxes and bags it had come in. My friend kept asking, “so, did you make anything yet?”, and I kept saying, “any day now.” I was procrastinating.
Frankly, I was unsure of my abilities with a handheld. Building an object out of plastic from scratch is no mean feat. I’ve always wished I were better at drawing, and now that my drawings were going to be sort of permanently etched in plastic, I was shy.
I looked at a couple of YouTube videos to get my courage up, and this video of a young woman making a plastic fake hamburger, was particularly charming in a funny quirky way.
And empowering. If she could make a fake hamburger, I could certainly make something too.
I finally resolved to make a small model of a ukelele. I have a tenor uke sitting in my study at home, barely used. I keep meaning to learn the chords — I play very rudimentary rhythm guitar and so know a lot of the chords on the six-string — but they are different enough on a uke to make it daunting, and my project — to re-record an old song of mine with a rhythm uke part — is foundering.
So if I can’t use the real uke, at least I can make a model of it.
I wanted to find some ABS color that was near the brown of my real ukelele, but that was not an option. I chose garish blue instead.
As I had watched the YouTube woman do, I sketched the outline of the uke body first.
Handling the end of a “line” was immediately a challenge. The plastic wants to pull away from the work with the pen, and the nozzle leaves a little thread connecting it. You have to tease the line down onto the work surface and then clip it with a wire-cutter or the like.
It began to occur to me that you had to be pretty dedicated to make anything this way.
Then I set about filling in the body with solid blue made by line after line of goop.
My first attempts here were really bad. I couldn’t get the lines to sit next to one another and every time I ended a line the whole rat’s nest pulled away from the work.
Then I had the inspiration of not lifting the pen at the end of each line. This went much better.
You can see the partially-finished result in the picture. The upper right is the later stuff I did, and it’s getting pretty fluent, if if not smooth or solid.
But then the plastic inexplicably stopped feeding out of the pen. I tried the various troubleshooting steps outlined in the manual, and got some blocked plastic plugs out of the combustion chamber and the nozzle. But the plastic still wouldn’t flow.
I put the work down for now while I mull over next steps (and begin the working week).
The overall plan is to do two body parts like this, then join them with a “depth” piece which makes an actual hollow-bodied shape, and then tackle the nect, the fretboard, the strings, and the tuning pegs. At the rate this is going, might take a while.
Anyone have 3doodler or other experience with handheld printing? Please let me know it’s easier than I think :-).