Archive for CAD software

Worlds Collide: 3D Printing Experience Informs Metal Sculpting

Dynatorch Super B 4x4 CNC Plasma TableSince I became a full-time artist in 2006, I’ve purchased and used a lot of tools. A lot of tools. If you took the recent video tour of my studio, you see many of them, and yes, I use them all. Using the right tool for the job can mean the difference between a job well done and one that turns out just OK, and the difference between spending hours and committing days to a single task.

Recently, I “moved up” in the world of metal working with a purchase of a Dynatorch Super B 4×4 Plasma CNC table (right). This tool allows me do jobs in an hour that would have taken me days, and does them better. It cuts out the metal accurately and cleanly – no more cutting close, then trimming or grinding to size!

The CNC table is a game changer for me, much like my 3D printers have been.

Interestingly enough, my experience with 3D printing helped me get up to speed on the Super B a lot faster than I would have otherwise ….

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‘You have to do what?!’ – Barriers to 3D printing

Using CAD to design - Kevin CaronAlthough the buzz about 3D printing isn’t as red hot as it was, people are understandably still jazzed about this transformational process.

I see the reactions all the time, whether it’s at a gathering focused on how the process works, how I use it in my practice as a sculptor, or just a bunch of people who are fascinated by 3D printing. What I almost also invariably see is disappointment.

The dirty little secret about 3D printing is that you must have a file that you can print.

That’s easy enough if you are satisfied printing other people’s files, such as ones downloaded from Thingiverse. But what if you want to create something yourself?

Well, at this point in the evolution of 3D printing, you’d better know CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, or know someone who does. That’s what most people don’t realize: 3D printing itself is the culmination of a longer process ….

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Try, try again with 3D printing

I just can’t help myself.

3D printed Farkle board - Kevin CaronSometimes I just get an idea in my head, and I have to follow it through. Fortunately, 3D printing makes that easy. (Well, easier.)

In this case, it’s that Farkle board that I have come up with yet another design for. The one at the right was my first attempt, which came out pretty well. The black field you see, though, is cloth I added later. That means having to cut it exactly right to fit and gluing it in without dripping glue on the PLA board itself.

Being around or using something always helps me understand it better, or see a better way to design or use it. (That’s why I like to bring home my sculptures – living with them helps give me a new perspective and, I hope, appreciation for them.)

My buddy from the service and his wife were in town recently, so we had a rousing couple of games of the dice game Farkle, whereupon a new design popped into my mind ….

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Using a 3D printer to refine a design

Creating isn’t always a one-shot process.

When I first conceived my 3D filament sizing set up, the bent piece of metal through which the filament ran to ensure there were no lumps that could jam the 3D printer seemed a simple yet elegant solution.

After using it for a while – and catching my coat on it, as you’ll hear about in the video – I realized there was a better way ….

This video explains what I came up with and how I used my 3D printer to create, then refine the design:

The more I use my 3D printer, the more uses I find for it ….

When I got my first 3D printer, sculptures were definitely on my mind. I thought about how I could make things that metal just resists, despite the fact that many people think I’m a metal magician (blush, blush).

Custom sculpture pedestal by Kevin Caron

Pedestal, printing upside down

As I’ve gotten more familiar with the machines and their capabilities, though, I’ve begun to see other ways to use them.

For instance, this week I started printing a custom pedestal for a sculpture I sold at a recent art show ….

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3D printing starts with CAD

One of the reasons I was able to get involved with 3D printing so quickly was that I was already using CAD software. Computer Aided Design software allows you to create an .STL file, which creates an item in 3 dimensions and is the file from which a 3D printer works.

I started using Alibre software about five or six years ago because, honestly, I can’t draw. Yes, I know that’s weird, because I’m an artist, but I’m a sculptor. I can think in 3 dimensions, but drawing is, at best, a challenge for me.

I picked Alibre because it was free. I could download a trial version and play with it, which I did. A lot. I spent many hours just dinking around with it.

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