July 2, 2014 | By Don Foley

The Customs House

With the 4th of July approaching 3D designer Don Foley wanted to 3D print an historic building. The Statue of Liberty was a natural, but it's already been done in 3D print many times. Plus Don wanted a more traditional style building so he could demonstrate the ability to not only create a building, but to be able to 'take it apart' so that all of the interior could be seen. He had covered the Ellis Island Customs House for the National Park Service, so this seemed like a natural topic.

Ellis in Lightwave

Like all of Don's models, Ellis Island was built in Lightwave 3D from scratch. While the final would be simple to assemble, it would have only 4 printed parts, each part would be its own build. The building was designed to take up most of the build plate, which is about 8 inches wide and 6 inches deep. To build it in Lightwave, which has layers, it was simply a matter of building the first floor on layer one, the second on layer two and so forth. This way all the elements of the building would align. Don also built in 'stilt holders' in each corner of the building and designed two stilt styles, one would align the layers when assembled normally, and the other would levitate each layer for an 'exploded' view, like the illustration at the top of the page.

Ellis in Simplify3D

After the model was finished in Lightwave, he 'tripled' it to make triangles of all the faces (a must-do for 3D printing) and exported it as an STL file. Then he brought the STL file into his 3D printing prep program, Simplify3D.

To print the building, Don changed his settings a little from his usual 3D prints. Because of the details and the large number of unsupported areas (mostly the windows) Don dropped his temperature from his usual 205° to 200° and slowed down his print speed from 3600 mm per minute to 2500 mm (about 40 mm a second). This would make for a slower print, but would allow for more 'forgiveness' on the open areas. The new settings were tested and it worked like a charm. Don processed each layer at 0.10 mm height level and created 4 .x3G files (the format his printer, a Wanhao Duplicator 4 reads) and sent them to the printer. The printing process then began. Each layer would take about 12 hours to print.

First floor printed

Usually when Don is printing something with a large flat area, he puts ridges on the bottom to help it separate. Even when he's done that, removing the prints can be difficult and he's broken the glass printing plate as well as impaled himself with the knife he uses to pry prints off. After the impaling incident, Don figured something had to change. Removing prints from the bed was becoming the most difficult part of his 3D pipeline.

Running hot water on a print

On a whim, he wondered if running hot water on the plate would soften up the adhesive on the tape, allowing the print to come off the glass plate easier. Sure enough, he ran water on the print and on the bottom of the plate and the print easily came off. Problem solved!

To celebrate the Forth of July, this model will be available in THE STORE for free for two weeks.


Posted in 3D Design

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Don Foley wrote at 7/2/2014 2:31:40 PM:

I've updated this on the morning of July 2nd to fix a minor problem on the roof that I missed earlier. The back rail didn't have proper support. All fixed, feel free to download again, only the 4th floor needs replacing! Otherwise, you can easily peel it off an nobody would really notice because its on the back. Don



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