Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Road to 3D printing

I have been working with a 3D printer for about a month now, but the road to get here is much longer then that. It started more then 10 years ago when i was still in college and my school got a few printers that were really just the beginning of the technology. I was enrolled as an Architecture student and we shared class rooms with many of the Engineering students. Meaning we all used the same drafting computer lab. Often I would come into class and find my PC already on with 3d models opened from the last student that forgot to log out. Or there would be 3D printed objects left out on display. I didn't have access to the printer, because it was in the CNC lab. I took a few tours of the lab when i got a chance but i would have to change majors to get access to the lab and work with the 3D printer. so I could only read about 3D printers for many years to come. Fast forward a few years and i was working in the drafting side of Architecture, right about the time of the big housing boom of the early 2000s. Jump a few more yeas to about 2005 this is when a lot of Architecture firms started to feel the market dropping and started laying off their drafting staff. So now I was with out work and no one was looking for draftsmen  in my field. Luckily I had a background with CAD and engineering because some many of the CAD classes had me molding simple production parts. I had taken these classes as a crossover so I could learn more CAD to use in my Architecture classes which still made most students do about 60% of their work on a drafting board. So I applied for any drafting Job I could find. I ended up at a X-Ray Security manufacturing job (think of x-ray systems at airports)  that need Drafts men to take the work load off the Mechanical Engineers, they new my work was all in a different field but were willing to teach me, because i knew AutoCad and they did all their work in that same program. However the company was also making a big change over to Solidworks and needed someone that knew both programs to translate all the Drawings from 2D autocad to 3D parts in Solidworks. I had played with solidworks in my down time when i was in that same CAD lab I shared with the Engineering students back in college. I was still a beginner but they gave me the job anyway. I spent the next 6+ years teaching myself how to use solidworks like a master, going as far as redesigning our office and creating many of the companies best selling products. My greatest being a Mobile X-Ray unit built into a van. we started with selling one and before I was laid off we were selling entire felts of 10+ to countries all over the world. So if they company was growing like mad why was I laid off? Well all their success lead to more government contracts, and governments like to work with Engineers with degrees, also the manager that haired me had moved on to a new company, and was replaced by someone who only had only thought Engineering. These 2 factors led to this manager taking on all the projects as and then having me do all the work and then taking full credit for the project. we had a team of about 6 ME but i was the only one that did not have a degree so i had to work under his direct supervision. This really hurt my reputation with the company and after he left to go back to teaching, I was left to only getting the simplest of projects until the company just figured they no longer need a draftsmen. In all this time I had still been tracking the progress of 3d printers. so once again I was out of work. Thankfully a long time friend of mine was looking for a expert in solidworks to handle prototype design, and this new office was looking to buy a 3d printer for their prototypes. So here I am. who knows where this road will lead next?

for anyone that would like to see my work check out my facebook album
work projects

        this is one of many mobile x-ray units I designed.

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