From little knickknacks to massive projects, it's amazing what can be made with a 3D printer. Combined with appropriate modelling software, the list of things that can be designed and created are only limited by the laws of physics and the power of the imagination.
One such designer and printer of impressive products is Paul Gardiner of Victoria's Latrobe Valley. In his professional life, Mr. Gardiner manages two hydroelectric plants, but it is as a hobbyist where he gets the most use out of his printer and software.
Mr. Gardiner's factory
The Factory - what Mr. Gardiner likes to call his printer setup - is an Ultimaker 2. It is actually his first 3D printer, but you'd never guess that by looking at his impressive collection of designs. He has certainly gotten a lot of use out of it in the several months since he purchased it.
"I just like gadgets," he said.
"I have a workshop where I'm constantly making little brackets and the like for different projects. I just thought how easy it would be to do that with a 3D printer instead of having to use glue and nails."
Some of his most notable projects include window brackets to replace broken ones in a friend's car, replacement hold-down brackets for a friend's bench grinder, a cover for a rain gauge display and a lever to adjust a display on his hot tub so he can see it from inside.
3D Printed Car Dashboard iPad Holder
One particularly cool design Mr. Gardiner has made is a dashboard holder for his iPad, complete with holes that provides access to buttons on the dash. The holder features a tongue that slides into the car's CD player for support, and the whole thing is angled towards the driver's seat for maximum visibility.
Choosing the right software
Of course, printing products is only half of the equation; 3D modelling software plays just as crucial a role in the process. Through various jobs that he's held, Mr. Gardiner has quite a bit of experience with CAD software, including experience in producing 3D models with AutoCAD, which he used for designing projects before getting the Ultimaker.
When he first purchased the printer, Mr. Gardiner was using SketchUp. After consulting with Redstack, he upgraded to Autodesk Fusion 360. After getting some experience with it, he was sold.
"SketchUp is pretty good, but Fusion is ten times better," Mr. Gardiner said.
"It's not easier to work with because it has so many wonderful options - it has a bit of a learning curve. SketchUp was much easier to get started with, but you couldn't produce anywhere near the quality models you can with Fusion 360."
Lifting off with 3D modelling and printing
Some of the most innovative projects Mr. Gardiner has undertaken are his model rockets. His first was a model of the German V-2 rocket and he plans on designing future rockets with Autodesk Fusion 360. Making rockets through 3D design and 3D printing has proven to be an improvement over traditional methods.
"It's a hundred times better," Mr. Gardiner said.
"Normally it's glue and all that nonsense. You can't get complicated shapes, and things have to be glued on that can break off easily. If it's 3D printed, it's all one solid thing."
He noted that the actual modelling is one of his favourite parts of the process.
"One of the joys, I find, is doing the 3D modelling - so I don't care how long it takes. The best bit is that it's software, so you can just model it. If it doesn't seem to work, you just delete it and start again without wasting material." See images of Mr Gardiner's Rocket project below:
See video footage of the Ultimaker 2 3D printer producing the nose cone:
For his next rocket project, Mr. Gardiner plans on building a three-stage rocket with a pod to hold a miniature video recorder on the side. His design so far includes an interesting innovation - a launch lug integrated into one of the fins rather than sticking off the side. This gives the rocket a sleeker design.
Bath House Dowel Project
Outstanding Support from Redstack
Through all his experience, one thing that Mr. Gardiner has really appreciated is the support he's received from Redstack. "Something that I would like to emphasise is the support I get from Redstack," he said.
"If you have a bit of a problem or you've got a question, they're only too happy to help."
What will be next out of Mr. Gardiner's Factory? We're excited to find out!