Michaël prints in 3 dimensions

HiddenAgendaMiku - 2 - fotokader_resized

There is more to our colleagues than meets the eye. It's worth showing off sometimes but easy to remain unnoticed. This week: Michaël tinkers with 3D printers.

Q1: Michaël, can you give us a short introduction?

Sure. I’ve been with Sofico since the summer of 2000 and I had several roles in these past 20 years. I’ve been mostly involved in Documentation, training, and shaping the Learning Organization. Currently, I am Team Lead for the Product Knowledge Team within our Solution Group.

Q2: Did you start any new hobby projects during the stay-at-home year 2020?

No, not really but I was able to dedicate some time to a hobby project that I’ve had for 2 or 3 years now: 3D printing. I have a decent-sized FDM printer (pictured left) as well as a liquid resin 3D printer.

FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, which works by forcing melted plastic through a heated nozzle. The plastic then cools and solidifies and you print by adding layers on top of each other.

A Liquid resin printer uses UV light to solidify photopolymer resin, a fluid material designed to harden under UV light. The model is lifted out of the liquid, so you essentially print in reverse order. It offers a higher resolution but the resin itself is toxic, so it requires due care.

FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, which works by forcing melted plastic through a heated nozzle.

Michaël

Q3: I assume you graduated to creating and printing customer 3D models by now?

Yes. It’s a fun process to start with an idea, design a custom 3D model and then finally see the expected result come out of the printer (if everything goes as planned).

This can be quite simple, creating a little doorstop to prevent the door handles from damaging the wall or more complex. Like creating a small charging cradle for my Apple watch.

It does require time though depending on how detailed you want the final result to be.

If you use the MDF printer with a resolution of 40mm, it can go rather quick but if you want finer detail and bump up the resolution to 20mm or 12mm, it can take most of a day to complete. Luckily you can leave the MDF printer to it.

The resin printer (pictured right) is more precise (5mm) but also more involved. It requires constant supervision, you need to do it in a well-ventilated room (or outside if the weather permits - dry, around 20-21°C) and use Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as it is quite toxic. When COVID hit, I had PPE readily available at home, thanks to my hobby.

The finished model also needs to be washed in 99% alcohol to get rid of the toxins.

It’s a fun process to start with an idea, design a custom 3D model and then finally see the expected result come out of the printer.

Michaël

Q4: Is it an expensive hobby?

As far as hobbies go, I think the monetary investment is quite modest. The biggest initial investment is the printer, which ranges from €300 to €700 for an MDF printer, depending on the size and quality. A liquid resin printer (pictured left) is around €500-€600. The filament (a string of plastic to melt) is around €20-€30 for a spool and the bottles of resin cost around €50-€60 for a 0.5l bottle.

For less than €500 you can buy an MDF printer and some filament and discover the joy of 3D printing. That’s quite accessible, I think.

For less than €500 you can buy an MDF printer and some filament and discover the joy of 3D printing.

Michaël

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