3D Print your Toy - Now!

About 3D-Printing

The traditional way to manufacture spatial objects is e.g. by injection molding or milling.  These production technologies are very cost-intensive and profitable only for thousands of objects.

3D Printing works in a different way. Three dimensional objects are created by successive laying down in different shapes. This process needs exactly only the amount of material of which the object eventually consist. There is no need of casting or modling, nor is material removed in a subtractive way like by milling.

This allows to produce almost every geometry, personalized objects, various objects at the same time and only one or a few pieces economically.

Basis for 3D Printing is a three dimensional digital design like from CAD programs. Before the 3D printing process starts the design file will be sliced digitally into thin layers e.g. each only 100 microns (0.1 mm) thick. The data with these layers will then be sent to a 3D Printer which puts down a material exactly at the position of each layer of the sliced file. Step-by-step the object will be created this way. That’s why 3D Printing is also called “Additive Manufacturing”.

Good consumer 3D Printers start at about 800€. These allow to produce objects with layers of about 0.05 and 0.3mm height and a Position precision of about  12.5 / 12.5 / 5 micron (X/Y/Z direction). Usually thermoplastic materials are used like PLA (starch/sugar based, bio-compatible) or ABS (petroleum based).

There are a lot of online repositories for 3D Designs where you can find models free of charge or for a few Euros. The other options are to scan an existing object or to create / draw your own 3D Design.

The 3D Printing Process

The following example shows the production of a specially designed combination of a Lego DUPLO and a Brio model train connector on a consumer 3D Printer. Like a glue gun the thermoplastic (here PLA) is heated up to 220°C and then pressed through a nozzle of only 0.4mm diameter. Each layer of the material is 0.2mm layers high.

3D Druck Lego / Brio CAD 3D Model lego_brio_brick_3dprint_phase1 lego_brio_brick_3dprint_phase2
1. Base is the digital 3D Design e.g. a CAD Model 2. The 3D Design will be sliced digitally into layers. Then the layer instructions are sent to the 3D Printer

3. The 3D Printer starts to lay down the first layer of the molten thermoplast material (here PLA).

(see a 30s Video of that)
4. Layer by layer the object evolves. In this picture about 20 layers are produced.
lego_brio_brick_3dprint_phase3 lego_brio_brick_3dprint_phase4 lego_brio_brick_3dprint_final lego_brio_brick_3dprint_final_in_use
5. After 50 layers 6. After 70 layers 7. The final produced part after 100 layers

8. The Lego DUPLO  / Brio connector in practical usage

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