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How to Use a 3-D Printer: Final Clean Up



Kevin finally reveals the shape of the sculpture he printed - and does his Michael Jackson impression .... Kevin begins to remove the webbing the printer added to support the sculpture as it printed by snapping off as much as he can. Unfortunately, the webbing is thicker on this piece than previous pieces he has printed. "I may have had a setting wrong in the program somewhere," he admits. He shows what has to come off and how thick the webbing is. He has several different tools, including some cutters, a "hot knife" he made from a heavy-duty soldering iron and a piece of metal round stock that he sharpened into a blade, his Dremel with a woodworking bit that really likes plastic, and carving tools. Next he uses the hot knife to remove large sections of the webbing. He stops often while he works to make sure he is removing the right parts. Kevin says slicing through the plastic is like cutting cold butter from the refrigerator - it doesn't take a lot of pressure and slides right through. He cuts it broadly at first because one slip could ruin the sculpture, then he can come back wth something more precise, like his carving knives, the Dremel with different bits, some of which are finer to allow him to be more accurate. Finally, he'll use many different grits of sandpaper to get the surface he wants. The entire process takes about 3 hours. Part of the time is letting the sculpture cool - after cutting with the hot knife, using the Dremel immediately could lead to a gummy mess. Kevin says a bandsaw or coping saw, a jigsaw on a stand, might be good for doing this type of clean up, too. If he had printed the sculpture larger, he could clamp the sculpture in a vise while cutting it with the hot knife, which would be steadier. The Voice says, "I wish we had Smell-O-Vision so they could smell the burning plastic." "No you don't," replies Kevin. He removes a large section and then gets out the Dremel, removing more sections, then shows how he needs to get really careful and remove more sections of the webbing without touching the sculpture itself. After about an hour of more Dremel work, he shows the sculpture basically done. Now he gets out his carving tools for the tight corners and the places he couldn't reach with the Dremel, getting into sharp corners. He uses his white carving glove, which he first claims is a tribute to Michael Jackson. It's actually a Kevlar mesh glove that is cut and grind proof. Finally, Kevin shows the printed sculpture alongside the steel maquette of the same sculpture. He's pretty happy with the finished product, despite the areas on the bottom of some sections that didn't print properly, but says that might be able to be addressed in the future by orienting the sculpture differently on the print tray, perhaps on its side. As Kevin says, "Still learning, still playing ..."

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