We had a great visit to the Williams College maker lab, where Michael Taylor showed us some of the work students have been doing on the RepRap printer they built this January. A RepRap self-replicates by making a kit of itself, printing its own parts. Taylor has been using dual extruders and two different filaments–PLA (bio-degradable polymer from lactic acid, derived from fermented crops such as corn) and PVA (Polyvinyl alcohol)–to create complex objects that might require support while they cure. The PVA is used as a support structure, then soaked away over night in water, leaving the finished design.
Michael explained how the Williams students were inventing their own adjustable phone case that would allow phones—camera, video—to be mounted on the lens of a microscope. This would enhance ease of viewing, but also allow for easier documentation through photo and video. Film an Amoeba in action!
Another fascinating piece Michael shows us was a small box, printed as one discreet print entity, with working hinges and clasp. No assembly required!
With all the work they have been doing at Williams–assembling, testing, adjusting, and tweaking their printer; and then experimenting with different test patterns and objects–they have had a lot of failures. It was reassuring to see this evidence. It confirms that failure is part of the process. And we know this well at our lab, where we for weeks had been printing blobs of goo PLA instead of perfectly right-angled cubes. We only last week printed a squirrel successfully.
Below see what Ethan deemed “The Bucket of Failures.”