Randy Thompson - Printer of the Month
Tell us about yourself and your experience with 3D printing
I’m a car guy, having spent my youth auto racing and restoring vehicles. Since I have always been mechanically inclined, 3D printing was a pretty natural choice. I bought my first 3D printer in 2015 as a hobbyist and that same year my daughter was born. Near the end of 2016, I started Affordable 3D and soon after left my job in Mechanical Engineering to be a stay at home dad and run the 3D business. My wife and I have enjoyed the challenge and have learned a lot and had the opportunity to work on many very interesting projects.
What 3D printer(s) do you own?
Currently we have two Lulzbot TAZ 6’s, a modified Printrbot Simple Metal and a Prusa i3 copy. We also have agreements in place that allow us to use some amazing high-end technology including SLA, MJP and CJP.
What design software do you use most often? Why choose this over other software?
Autodesk Fusion 360. It does everything I need a software to do, and it is offered free to small businesses.
What is your favorite filament to print with? What do you like about it?
PLA is by far our most used filament - you just can’t beat the ease of printing. When more durability or strength is required I tend to go with a PETG or an ASA. Ninjaflex is great stuff too.
Randy's custom built enclosure for his Lulzbot taz 6 3D printer
Are there any additional tools, resources, or software you use often with your 3D printing projects?
All of our printers are in custom built, vented enclosures and I think this is something too often overlooked. Not only does it improve print quality by reducing warping and layer adhesion issues, but also from a safety standpoint I think it is important. A thermometer on the inside of the enclosure helps to monitor temperature and I keep it as high as possible while still maintaining a negative pressure. A good set of calipers, diamond files, and plenty of hobby knives always come in handy too.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew when you first started 3D printing?
The advantages of a heated bed and PEI print surface! My first printer did not have a heated bed, and I remember having to lay masking tape down before every print. PEI on a heated glass bed is a no brainer, and it is on all of our printers.
Randy's Open RC 3D printed car
What common mistakes do you see new users make?
With so many different printers out there it is easy to get caught up in their claims of “plug and play”. New users often have the misconception that you just hit print, and there it is! Realistically no 3D printer is exactly plug and play – at some point you are going to need to diagnose and resolve an issue, but there are definitely printers that are more user friendly (Lulzbot TAZ 6 being one).
What are the biggest challenges you face with 3D printing?
Balancing design for function and design for printing. The ideal design for an object isn’t always the easiest to print, so a compromise has to be made. As materials technology continues to improve and dissolvable filaments become more common I think that will become less of an issue.
3D prints of model homes Randy designed and printed in Mason Martin Home's showroom
What is your favorite project you have 3D printed?
A few cool ones are still under non-disclosure agreements for the time being, but easily one of my favourite projects was working with Mason Martin Homes to fill their showroom with 1/64 scale 3D models of the houses that they build. I designed them in a way that they come apart to show the full floorplan layout. I think this was a great application for 3D printing, and I learned a lot about architectural drawings and designing with “printability” in mind. One of the coolest aspects is that often when a customer builds a home with them, they give them the 3D model of the house while the real thing is being built. I take a lot of pride in knowing that homeowners are showing off their Affordable 3D model to friends and family.
Where can people learn more about you and see more of your work?
Our website: www.Affordable3d.ca
Our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Affordable3D/
And our 3D Hub: https://www.hubs.com/3d-printing/canada/calgary/