It’s not every day you meet someone like Matt Donnelly.
A first year at UOW studying Communications and Media, he’s a tech whiz who’s set up and sold his own online store, remixed music online through Soundcloud and a veteran at creating amazing 3D printed creations.
Towards the start of Year 12, his high school acquired a 3D printer. In software class, the teacher encouraged them to test things out and experiment, mostly to see how it went. It was after this brief encounter that allowed Matt to really start to develop an interest in 3D printing. “It just seemed like a neat topic in general and it’s growing and expanding super fast, so I guess it’s kind of an exciting platform to follow.”
Not being that tech savvy myself, I queried him on a rundown of the process behind 3D printing. “So it’s like this machine that looks kinda like a giant microwave. You download a 3D model of whatever you want from Thingiverse, the software does some magic and sends it to the printer. The printer melts plastic and lays it down layer by layer as it goes up. Some prints can take several hours or even days.”
Pressing further, I asked him about the online websites people could download 3D models. “Thingiverse.com is by far the most popular, you can do a search for pretty much anything you want and someone will have posted it there. It’s also user friendly and helps you discover some neat stuff you wouldn’t have found otherwise. Every model on Thingiverse is free as well.”
“It depends entirely on the size of your model and the quality settings you chose,” he answers when asked roughly how long it would take to completely 3D print an object. “A very small print which doesn’t need to be accurate could take around five minutes, and on the other hand I’ve seen some huge and detailed prints which have taken upwards of a hundred hours.”
Getting into the more technical side of 3D printing, I asked him about the difference between the two UOW 3d printers. “The two main ones at UOW are the Mojo printers and the Flashforge Dreamer. There’s a pretty big difference between these, basically the Mojo’s are more of an industrial printer which uses custom parts and plastics so it’s way more expensive to run. The Flashforge Dreamer is completely open source, so you can use whatever plastic you want and even try some of the fancier experimental filaments like nylon, wood and glass.”
Finally, how easy would it be for someone like me with absolutely zero technical skills and knowledge to get into 3D printing?
“It’s actually way easier than you’d think!”
“Usually it’s just a matter of downloading a model from Thingiverse, loading it into the software, weighing up whether you want speed or detail, and then just waiting. Once you learn the small aspects of the process, such as getting the plastic to stick on the plate properly, it’s really not hard to do.”