The Makerspace team of Ghana Tech Lab has recently discovered a new method of 3D printing. By definition, 3D printing is the process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file on a 3D printer. The printer usually allows the creation of a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of filaments in succession.
The Makerspace is a developmental space in GTL that is focused on churning out imaginations and creativity into manifestation. For instance, they have developed many innovative products, and were extra creative, especially during the COVID. Some innovative products were automatic sanitizer machines and buckets. The team also spearheaded the mass production of face shields which were supplied to the Israeli Embassy. It was during the developmental process of the shields they discovered that 3D printing works better with an acrylic board than a heat bed. They also realized that PLA filament is smooth to work with than an ABS filament.
Successfully, the team produced their acrylic board from materials they could find in their space. They used the laser cutting machine to cut the boards. It took just two minutes to produce an acrylic board.
The process 0f 3D printing
Before a three-dimensional object is turned into a final product, the printer has to be set up. Its nozzles are toggled to 200°c and the heat bed is set to 60°c — to easily melt and model the filaments into the final products. The filament is fed into a heating chamber in the printer’s extruder assembly, where it is heated to its melting point and then extruded through a metal nozzle as the extruder assembly moves, tracing a path programmed into a 3D object file to create, layer by layer into the envisioned object.
The first printing method had two problems; the heat bed and the filament type. Formerly, the team used an ABS filament which they described as a “stubborn” filament. According to them, an ABS filament improperly models into a final product due to its shrinkage during printing. Its sticking properties are weak hence its inability to properly stick on the heat bed.
For the heat bed, the team also noticed that;
- It wore off quickly
- It was expensive to replace
- It easily got dirty
- It did not allow a filament to stick properly on it
Out of frustration, the team decided to cook up methods to speed up their work.
The new method
A PLA filament and an acrylic board were considered as the best options for the second method. A PLA is tougher, stronger, stiffer, and can easily stick on a hotbed. Compared to the heat bed which has to be heated to 60°c, the acrylic bed models filaments without prior heating.
- It is easier to clean
- It is shiny and uniformly laid out
- It is efficient and faster to print with
- It saves energy
- It has a perfect sticking ability
Essentially, the acrylic board is cheap to use. The team noted that the old method used 9 amps in printing which cost 90gh. The new method uses 3 amps which costs 30gh. Following this, the team has saved 60gh from this innovation.
Speaking to Digital Times Africa, Team Lead Gideon Mensah stated that they were excited about their innovation and look forward to producing the boards on a mass scale.