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Wednesday, 17 September 2014 10:54

Working with the 3-D printer busy, time consuming

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Steven Penzes was a busy man when he worked at Canadian Forces Base Suffield with engineering and ironically enough, working with a 3-D printer there.

Now as  the 3-D Fabrication Technician, in the Innovation and Scholarship department of the Medicine Hat College he loves the challenges and the diversity of the work in an educational institution.
One day, he’s doing something for a visual communications student , the next, he is doing something in the medical field or on another something completely different on a commercial scale.
“When I worked at Suffield — for our end use, it was a tool,” explains the amiable Penzes. “Now it’s also about engaging with the students. It’s an educational institution so it’s all about creating intellectual property ... these are the regional stakeholders.”
For those commercial jobs or for those non-students, Penzes says the way it works is  a company will place a order for something they want done in 3-D.
Penzes needs a “.stl” file of the object in question. He explains if the client is conversant enough with this, the form which needs filling and the file being sent, means the object can be ready in a few days or less. If not, he can still do the project —he just has to talk the process out in fuller detail and on a simpler level. Any type or level of project can be done.
Bigger objects and the increased number of them, as well as how much discussion is required between Penzes and the client, will determine how long an order will take.
“Paths are good, but make sure the (specs) are printable,” adds Penzes saying some orders can be put through in as little as 10 minutes. “Once I start to engage the client, it doesn’t take that long.”
When an order is made, he builds a sheet, shows the customer how much material and run time is needed. Once Penzes figures out a price and is then paid, the object can be printed almost immediately depending on what jobs were there first.
“Once I build the sheet it can be done in eight hours (for the whole process) from the time I hit the print button. If I have a digression, a lot of exchanges (of specs), time delays and a lot of swaps from different models, the longest I ever had was 57 hours.”
He has to wash the object and put it in caustic solution in order to neutralize it. A really small print job can take as little as an hour to actually print —minus the setting time.
The college’s 3-D printer can create parts as large 16 inches long by 14 inches wide by 16 inches in height.
While it seems like the 3-D printer is in constant use, it is busy, but the experienced tech expert says he’s handling it just fine. Organization is key and knowing how long each print job will be is crucial. There are times where in order to complete a job, he will have to come back to the college at an early time.
“It hasn’t been difficult; the utilization rate is easily managed,” says Penzes of having to deal with so many different people in and outside of the college and of varying levels of expertise.
Any questions can be forwarded to Penzes at @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Ryan Dahlman

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