Make It Labs 3D printer brings projects to life

Close up of Replicator 2 completing a 3D printing job

NASHUA – For those curious creators eager to learn how to navigate the digital playground of 3D printing, Make It Labs has just the class to get you started. On Sunday, electronic engineer Paul Hardin taught a course on the Replicator 2 for anyone interested in a formal introduction to the 3D creating machine.

Coming in with a background in hardware and firmware design, Hardin has experience working with recycled glassware and LED lighting effects, particularly in fusing and casting large flat works. Once a month, usually on Saturdays or Sundays, Hardin shares his knowledge with Make It Lab novices eager to grow their skillsets and create something new.

“I’ve been teaching classes at Make It Labs since 2013, but started giving lessons on 3D printing after I bought my first printer in 2014,” Hardin said. “We set these classes up for people from every spectrum of need. I remember there was one person with a plan to go to India and sell 3D printed phone cases. The classes are a way for people to figure out what they want to do with the skills they learn.”

During this month’s lesson, Hardin taught the participants how to process the CAM job (3D printing software) for Replicator 2 output, load filament, operate the Replicator 2, trim, edge finish pieces and how 3D objects can be used for making metal, plastic and glass parts though lost polylactide (PLA) casting. He also provided the tools and materials necessary for students to print on PLA plastic.

Though members are welcome to bring their own project ideas, most chose to download files from www.thingiverse.comin order to orient themselves to the process, as was the case for first-time Make It Lab participant Dennis Holt.

Photos by Amy DeMien Paul Hardin teaching 3D printing to Dennis Holt and Brad C.

“I recently was given a 3D printer that I just finished fixing to make it work,” Holt said. “Afterwards, I really wanted a quick update of experience so I came here. It saved me a lot of trial and error. Paul’s been doing this a long time, so he helped me avoid a lot of mistakes. You quickly learn there are a lot of tricks to this.”

For his 3D printing project, Holt decided to download a Klein bottle, a mathematical object with non-orientable closed surface, created by joining two sides into a cylinder and looping the object back into itself. For him, the object served as a nice tribute to his mathematical interests and something he could proudly display for others to see.

After completing his design, Holt and the other students gathered around Hardin in the 3D printing room for a demonstration of the Replicator 2. Members watched as molten plastic oozed out the Replicators nozzle at a target temperature of 230 degrees Celsius and waited for the layers to build toward a definitive shape. Because the machine uses starch-based plastics to create designs, the formation of 3D objects released an aroma similar to that of burning popcorn. Hardin made a note of the fact, then had the students reach out to pluck the completed project from the machine.

“This is a great class for learning the basics,” said class participant Brad C. “I was drawn to the opportunity to learn something new, and it’s really great to have the resources Make It Labs provides.”

Outside of 3D printing, Make it Labs offers a plethora of other classes members can take, including those in woodturning, laser cutting, metal welding, car mechanics and even one on coffee tasting.

Most classes can only accommodate eight people at a time, but anyone curious about the creations born from the Make It Labs workshops can come and check out the workspace on open house nights, which are every Thursdays after 6 p.m. Also, everyone who’s a member of Make It Labs is invited to both learn and draw from their own experiences to lead classes.

“Though I’m technically teaching this class, there’s really no distinction between students and teachers,” Hardin said. “Whether you want to teach something or learn something, you’re welcome to do both. We’re all here to share experiences and learn to develop life skills. As far as I’m concerned, everything’s a work in progress.”