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How to Use a 3-D Printer: A Tour of the Printer

Kevin sees myriad possibilities for using a 3-D printer, so he's jumped right into using the technology. In this how-to video, he gives a tour of his CodeX 3-D printer. First he shows the print tray, where the item will sit. He shows where you apply the glue that will hold your creation to the tray as it moves up and down and the printheads move back and forth to spray the media to make the item. Next he shows the three cartridges that hold the three colors of media this printer can print in. He shows where the media comes out of the cartridges and the tubes through which the ABS plastic is fed to the printheads. He explains that there are about 30 different colors available, including neon, as well as another type of plastic that is more biodegradeable and recyclable than the ABS. Kevin explains that the media is not liquid but solid, and looks like a heavy weedwacker "wire" or a really, really heavy fishing line. It's pliable, so you can feed it through the tube into the printheads, which melt it at about 500 degrees F and extrude it. Next he lets you look through the top of the printer. He shows the three printheads and the X and Y axes, then explains how the table, or print tray, actually raises to begin printing and then lowers as the item is printed. That's how the thickness of each layer is determined. When the printer starts, the printheads center over the tray, which rises up just below the printheads' injectors. It's time to put the top back on and get to it! Kevin then prepares the tray with the glue stick so the item being printed stays put as the tray and heads move. It's a tacky, hot-water-soluable glue, that allows you to remove the item once it's printed by simply soaking it in hot water and scraping it off the print tray. He spreads some glue on in two different directions to make sure the sculpture sticks - he learned that the hard way! Next Kevin pushes the power button, tells the printer to print, and selects the file on the thumb drive he wants to print. The software then looks at the file, determines which colors it needs and if it has enough media, then raises the table, centers the heads, warms things up and gets to work. The next video will show the printer at work.

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