Richard Smith of Smith Engineering, Maryport, very generously showed me round their workshop highlighting the work they are doing there with 3D printing.

This is their third 3D printer. Richard has worn out the other two. 3d-a02

Smith Engineering design and make a variety of unmanned vehicles for use in inhospitable and inaccessible places. Part are design by Richard using an expensive 3D CAD package. And I mean expensive. £3k+ This could be a problem for my ambitions, I need to look into open-source 3D CAD packages to see if they are up to the job.3d-a04

The design is then output to the 3D printer. The current printer used by Smith Engineering is a Denford UP! (Currently £1250) The spool at the top of the picture is plastic used in construction. The table with the piece being built moves gradually downwards to print the layers. A combination of the table moving back and forth and the head moving side to side controls where the plastic is extruded.3d-a01


The results are really impressive! The piece being printed here will match with this piece to make a case. The resolution is 0.1mm so quite finely details models can be made.3d-a06

There is a fair amount of waste. Sprues and rafts and such like. Richard has a large box of waste pieces under his desk. He has plans for these.3d-a03From right to left: A motor, on the far right, connected to an electric drill step-down gear box. The output of this goes to a second drill gearbox which in turn turns an auger bit inside a copper tube. On the left is a heating element with a circular hole in the centre. The motor turns the auger which drives plastic pieces though the heated element creating a plastic filament ready to be re-loaded into the 3D printer. Cool!

Thanks very much Richard, it was a fascinating visit!