Senior Tom Jaeger's 3D-printed chess set. "I collected all of the aspects I wanted and figured out the models and how it was all going to work out," he said.

Jasper Green

Jaeger employs 3D printing prowess

October 9, 2018

Senior Tom Jaeger began 3D printing back in middle school, but it was not until his junior year that he started investing a lot of time in the hobby. And with the arrival of the new 3D printing technology to the Schilling Center, Jaeger sees no limit to his creative potential.

“It’s easy to make anything you want. There aren’t really the same limitations as other ways of manufacturing and making things. It’s a freedom of expression and it’s so flexible that the sky’s the limit,” Jaeger said.

It’s a freedom of expression and it’s so flexible that the sky’s the limit.”

— senior Tom Jaeger

Jaeger uses tools in a modeling software to create his pieces. And through trial and error, he figures out the adjustments that need to be made to achieve the final product.

“I start by making a model of the object I want to print. If it needs to interact with something I already have, I’ll get measurements from the preexisting object and use those in my design. Then it’s basically a matter of working with the dimensions of edges and surfaces until I have whatever I want to print,” he said.

Since 3D printers work by repeatedly laying down a thin layer of plastic, one must convert the model from a solid object into layered instructions that the printer can understand. This process is called slicing. Another addition that must be made are supports underneath parts of the design that are lofted. Without these supports, the melted plastic would fall and harden into a mess. These supports can then be removed from the final product.

“I’ll take the model and put it into a piece of software called a slicer… This stage of the process is really all about balancing print quality and time, as thicker layers will save time but look worse. This is also the point where you’d tell the printer to add supports under areas that would otherwise be hanging out over thin air,” Jaeger said.

When faced with failure in his designs, Jaeger keeps at it and continues to adjust the rendered model until he succeeds.

“If your print doesn’t work, you can go back and change settings, flip the model around so it prints in a better orientation, and add more supports,” Jaeger said.

A lot of the time, when I print something, it’s out of necessity. If I have an issue that I can think of a solution for, I’ll print it.”

— senior Tom Jaeger

When many others leave their final products with visible layer lines, Jaeger puts emphasis on doing extra work in order to create a more attractive final product.

“If you do get a print you’re happy with, then you can either leave it at that or do a little more work to clean it up so it looks better. One of the easiest things to do is just sand it with some low grit sandpaper in order to get rid of most of the layer lines. With certain plastics you can even put the print in a container with evaporated acetone to actually slightly melt the surface, giving it a super smooth and glossy finish.”

Jaeger enjoys creating useful items such as clips for daily items so that his work can be impactful to his everyday life. And, he thinks of his craft as very functional; every aspect comes with a purpose.

“A lot of the time, when I print something, it’s out of necessity. If I have an issue that I can think of a solution for, I’ll print it. I’ve made pencil clips to organize pencils. I made a tie clip, that was fun. I like functional pieces,” Jaeger said.

One of his largest projects was a chess set which he recently completed. It involved many challenging rounds of shrinking and stretching the shapes until he was satisfied with their proportions.

“I just recently finished modeling every piece in a chess set, so that was really satisfying,” Jaeger said. “That was fun because I got to go through a bunch of Google pictures of chess sets and say, ‘Hmm, I like the design of that one or I like this aspect of this piece in that set.’ I collected all of the aspects I wanted and figured out the models and how it was all going to work out.”

 

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