From Design to Reality: 3D Printing at The Children's Museum
By Matt Niehaus, Construction Services Manager
When we started designing the Transformers: Robots in Disguise™ exhibit, we were thinking of ways to visually draw visitors into the design elements. We reached out to Hasbro to learn the process—from ideas to concept and design, and then reality. Their designers use CAD (computer-aided design) programs to model their design thoughts. They then use a 3D printer to produce a gray model that will allow them to test their concepts. We thought this would be an awesome way to show visitors this process.
Within the Design Studio area of the exhibit there will be a 3D printer making a simple robot that turns into a cube. The printing process takes 8 hours and 52 minutes to complete and just about 5 minutes to assemble. Our goal is to start the printer each morning and let it run during our open hours, producing 1 Cubebot a day. The exhibit runs for approximately 150 days which means we’ll have about 150 of these Cubebots invading our museum!
I personally have been fascinated with anything and everything mechanical. I started my career as a CNC programmer/operator which has evolved in the role I have at the museum today. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, which means that a design produced in CAD is converted into numbers that can be read by a computer. 3D printing is such an awesome way to take your ideas from concept to reality! I am fortunate to not only have had the opportunity to set the printer up for the exhibit, but also have one in my office that I can tinker with. I have already made a few parts for prototyping and other parts for elements in the exhibit. The advancements in technology today will allow almost anyone to get started, no matter their skill level. There are many websites and forums that have information to help you get started. Don’t be scared! Dive in head first and experience the 3D printing world for yourself—it really is an awesome tool!
Watch 3D printing in action in our latest This Week's WOW episode, featuring Matt: