Printing With Plastic: The 3D Printing Process


Noah Stamborski, Staff Writer

We have many recourses to make things like paper, paper clips, and rubber bands, but never plastic. However, a program by the Lincoln Way West’s Library has changed this with the cheap and effective use of 3D printing! 3D printing is very complicated, however, not only does it make sense, but it is fast and accurate. 3D printing comes in many forms Like SLA and CNC however for simplicity we will be focusing on FDM. Its process is simple.  Paste very hot plastic onto a surface to meld with the surface, or for our welders it’s like welding over welds over welds! With 3D motion it can paste plastic to form a 3D shape.  This simple process can make anything from basic boats to concrete houses. The library provides this service to the student and faculty body. Such a program seems simple, right? Print what the students want. However, it is like a machine with 100 switches affecting 4 things, time, quality, plastic, and human time. Prints take time, hours sometimes even days. Time, speed, and size affect the number of prints and what print can be made.  That affects the quality of the print and how many human hours are spent “cleaning” the prints, as it’s referred to.

Finally, plastic, it’s not cheap.  It can be $16-$20 a kilogram so we try to reduce the plastic as much as possible and this has a benefit of taking less time. The person running this service is myself, Noah. I organize, maintain, manage, and clean the entire program and machines. This job takes a lot of computer wizardry, so he has automated some processes to be done by Excel’s “function” feature. Prints will be accepted if they follow school rules so. Originally, I thought about a Jell-O mold, however, I was told the plastic type used “PLA”, which was not food safe. So, sadly I settled on a name tag. Originally, I thought that 3D printing was fast, thirty minutes fast, however it’s not. It’s a multi-hour process that has loads of limits. Even attempting mass production is futile because each printer needs to be manually programmed, calibrated, loaded with plastic, checked for issues, diagnosed for issues, and fixed for issues. For example, one of the printers are down due to an issue that has seemingly no explanation. However, these limitations don’t take away from the feel of a perfectly printed part! These reports show the difficulty of printing and the beauty of it!