What I don’t need to do when 3D printing

Artist Kevin Caron standing beside his Gigante 3D printerDuring my recent art show when I had my Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer running, several visitors asked whether I just pushed “go” and walked away while printing.

After I finished laughing, I’d explain that running this printer is like having a 3-year-old. You can never entirely take your eye off of it, and sometimes it requires extra care, other times it needs discipline. (I haven’t spanked yet, but I’ve sure thought about it.)

All of that is to say there is plenty to think about when a print is under way.

A few months ago, my business manager asked me if it would make sense to keep a log of my prints. For instance, she thought maybe I could note when I started the print, when I changed spools, etc. I could even track when I turned on the fan, what speed I was running at for how long, and other such details.

“That’s probably the last thing I want to do!” I replied ….

There are so many variables when doing these large prints. First, they occur over multiple days (someone asked, “24 hours?!” Yes.). My longest print took 111 hours (that’s more than 4-1/2 days), and a lot can go – and has gone – wrong during that time. I have to keep an eye on variations in temperature between day and night, power fluctuations or, God forbid, outages, when a spool needs to be changed, whether any aberrations are  developing that I need to address, and anything else that might stop this print from finishing correctly.

Josephine, a 3D printed contemporary art sculpture - Kevin CaronKeeping a log would be just one more thing to do when I really just want to concentrate on keeping the printer running smoothly and the print turning out at least close to the way I envisioned it.

We even talked about the value of a log. Would it be helpful to know that this particular print, on this particular day, required me to turn the fan on at 2:35 a.m.? It might if I were more of a number cruncher, but frankly, I’d rather not be distracted from the main goal, which is to make beautiful sculptures.

As for that sculpture I started on Friday so it’d be printing while the show was under way Saturday (right), it turned out just fine – after printing for two days, turning up the speed to 150% since at 100% when it inexplicably seemed to be running at half-speed, turning on the fan as the afternoon brought in heat and light, even in November, then turning it down as it got to the top.

It’s a journey ….

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