Friday, January 31, 2014

EDD Takes GE

This past Thursday, General Electric Research and Development was kind enough to offer the InvenTeam the opportunity to tour their buildings. We mainly toured their rapid prototyping, and 3D manufacturing facilities. The class first met with two mechanical engineers, working with medium sized resin and polymer-based printers, much bigger than machines like the MakerBot, yet still manageable. These engineers allowed us to ask questions, and showed us the project they are currently working on, such as the new Leap jet engine (due out in 2016). From there the class went to a building that housed a metal SLM 3D printer, which lays down layers of extremely fine cobalt chrome-moly and uses either a 400W or 1000W laser to weld the metal together. After getting a look at these incredibly intricate machines, we were shipped off to a more industrial building, which housed extrusion machines and a cold spray “jet”. For an explanation of cold spray, The Slow Mo Guys and GE on Youtube have a great video of the exact machine that the team was introduced to. After our amazing tour, the InvenTeam was treated to lunch, and we were even joined by Juan Pablo, our new friend from GE! Just before leaving, we received a presentation about the future of GE engineering, and a brief outline of today’s focuses in GE and engineering as a whole, one of which was 3D printing. The whole team would like to thank GE again, for their hospitality and for the wonderful demos that many of GE engineers gave us. We hope to visit again in the future and can't wait to show them what we've done at the end of the year!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Saturday Engineering Program

This January was a very busy month for the Educating Young Engineers group! Our most amazing accomplishment was filling up all ONE- HUNDRED slots for our premier Saturday Engineering Program! A major priority of the EYE group has been organizing all aspects for our Engineering Day. We have been working to plan out all of the modules that the participants will go through. We have decided on a Wind Tunnel, a Marshmallow Catapult, a Toothbrush Robot, and an Egg Crash Car module. The Saratoga Springs technology teachers have been working to gather all of the supplies necessary for their stations. The EYE group has been providing teacher support by building the bases for the Egg Crash Cars, printing posters, and shopping for supplies! We are excited and a little bit nervous for our first Saturday Engineering Day, but we have faith in our volunteers and participants that this day will ultimately be a success!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Charlie's Personality

As part of our marketing strategy, we want each printer to be unique. We want individuals to build a personal connection with their machines, as exemplified by our use of names such as "Charlie". To accompany the various names and personalities of our printers, we have designed our software to have different color schemes, some of which are pictured above. These color schemes will match the paint job on the robot.

In addition to changing colors, our application can change size. It is designed to dynamically adapt to various screen sizes, so users will have a consistent experience regardless of form factor. The menus, buttons, and pages automatically fill the screen, and use the space they are assigned as effectively as possible, so buttons are always as large as possible relative to screen size.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Z-Table in Z-Making

For the z-table we have been working to improve our initial z-table design which consisted of a removable U-shaped z-table surrounding a box that was permanently connected to the printer.  Our goal was to lighten up this design, decrease the build space to fit the aspect ratio of the projector, create a sturdy set-up that will allow for precise printing, and have an easier way to detach the z-table from the printer.  

We have been able to lighten up our z-table design by using laser cut wood to make up most of the z-table.  Also, by decreasing the size to match the aspect ratio we were able to shed some weight.  We have also improved the design for removing the z-table to one that uses a large hand twist-able screw for easy removal of the table. Currently, we are still having difficulties making the z-table completely sturdy. The torque exerted by the whole table on the wooden base and on the connection point to the threaded rod are causing a little bit of wobble, something that needs to be fixed before the table is print ready. Next we are going to work on refining our prototype to a point where we will be able to use it for printing and from there amp up the quality on all accounts of the printer.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Time to CR8!

Introducing... Charlie CR8, the name of the EDD class of 2014's 3D printer! Why is Charlie so special? Due to our goal of creating a personal machine, we have decided that Charlie is the best name for our final product. For every printer we sell, our consumer is going to receive a uniquely named product. To keep from confusion however, they all will end in CR8 (create), because it's the family's last name.
We wanted our 3D printer to stand out from our competition and Charlie definitely does. By purchasing our product, you will join the InvenTeam family, and that helps show the consumer that they are not just a consumer. Everyone who supports our product is an important part of our project.

Stay tuned for the announcement of our upcoming website,

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mid-Year Presentation

A big thanks to the Bechtel engineers who came and listened to our mid-year presentations this evening. Bechtel has consistently been one of our biggest sponsors, so we were very excited to have representatives visit us and give us feedback on our projects.

For this evening's presentation, each group made a presentation detailing what they have been doing from the beginning of this year to now, our half way point. Not only did our presentation help the groups organize their progress, but also allowed everyone to improve upon their public speaking skills. Each student was able to showcase what they have been working on, and also showcase their knowledge of the project as a whole as unanticipated questions were fired around. 

Even more exciting yet from today's presentation was the d├ębut of our printers name:

Charlie CR8

Each printer will have an individual name as to personalize the user experience. To add a commonality, each printer has the same last name (model name), Cr8-- create. When a customers purchases one of our printers, they will be expanding the Inventeam family, an experience unlike any of our competitors.

With future goals in mind and suggestions noted, it is time to Cr8!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Taking the Next Steps

Progress in the electronics field is moving steadily forward. Despite a few broken microchips, we have successfully ran the stepper motor with a simple "blinking" program, and will soon begin to test its functionality with more specific inputs. With our ultimate objective being to adjust our z-table with this stepper motor, integration into the machine prototype (along with some tough number-crunching) will be our next step after testing.

With our prototype slowly coming together, there are more parts to test and integrate than ever. From the sensors to the motors and pumps, we certainly have a long road ahead of us.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ready, Set, Slice!

One of the crucial elements of a 3D printer's software is the process of taking a 3D model file (usually in the form of a .stl file), and figuring out how to go about printing each layer.

Since we're going to be projecting UV light onto resin to create thin layers of polymer, we need to generate cross sections of whatever we're printing. This process is known as slicing.

We've utilized some existing libraries to handle some of the heavy mathematical lifting involved, namely a toolset known as Skeinforge. From here, we need to turn the many slices into image files to be projected. To do this, we generate an empty image file and draw to it, tracing around the slice we've created.

Once this is done, any file will be able to be sent to print!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Reflecting on Progress

Today was a busy day for the Build Team as our deadline draws near to finish up the physical construction of our first prototype. New parts were printed using the laser cutter and team members began to piece together some of the last components of Prototype 1. Additional research was also done on the UV filter in the projector, which will be crucial for the machine to print. However, this isn't the only roadblock we have found with the projector. With the previous version of the 3D printer, too much space was needed for the projector image to cover the entire build space of the resin pool. To solve this dilemma it was decided that the projector would be laid on its side and a mirror would be put in place (at a perfect 45 degree angle) that would reflect the image up to the resin pool. Though the math was not as simple as originally thought, we were able to determine the exact dimensions of the mirror that was needed and placement of the resin pool in relation to the projector. This seems to be a much better alternative as it now fits in a more reasonable area. Another problem we encountered was we found that our first model was much too large and the base contained far too much unused space. Changes were made to eliminate unnecessary space and reduce the dimensions to a much more appealing size. Sometimes bigger isn't better.