Having seen 3D printers in action at our nearest Fab Lab in Ironbridge, we’ve been experimenting with 3D printing to make rubbing plates. A 3D printer is a bit of equipment that lays down a fine plastic-type filament in many layers to build up a 3D part. You can print pretty much anything (check out Pinterest, and Thingiverse for some ideas), but if you design a flat part with raised or indented sections then it makes a perfect rubbing plate.
I was a little daunted at first with the idea of designing a 3D thing. I’m familiar with software like Photoshop, but I’ve never used a CAD program before. I made the designs for the plates in this post using Tinkercad which is a free online CAD app. The file that Tinkercad outputs will need to be prepped for your printer. We used Cura for this which suits the printer we’ve been using (Ultimaker 2). Again the Cura software is free.
We’re printing the plates using PLA which is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from sources such as starch or sugar cane.
Here are the two plates we made first. I designed a base plate and then added shapes to it. The shapes in Tinkercad are preset so it’s pretty easy to add them to the design and then adjust size and placement to suit. As you can see, these plates have raised shapes on a flat ground.
For the next plate I tried creating a base plate and then a rubbing pattern by removing shapes to create a recess. This is easy to do; you can add a shape as a solid object, or as a void. As you can see I also experimented with the thickness of the base plate. This one is much thicker. It’s pointless though! The thinner plates are perfectly strong and rigid enough. Printing one this thick just uses more filament and time.
Learning as we went, we modified the base plate to be much thinner, just a couple of millimetres which made the final plate, the single circle in square shown in the photo below, much quicker to print out.
3D printers are becoming increasingly common and you can find them available to use in community creative hubs such as Fab Labs. Try a Google search to find one near you.
Our plates are early experiments and by no means perfect, but if you’d like our files here they are. These are .stl files:
Thanks for visiting the blog today. If you’ve been using a 3D printer for your creative art and craft work we would love to hear all about it!