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