Tim:So Mary, we have here your logo for a makerspace called The Foundry.But what is the existent status of The Foundry right now?
Mary:Currently we have a location and we have a lot of machinery, and a lot of knowledge to support that machinery.But our doors are not yet open.We’ve got a couple of things to finish up before we can open our doors.
Tim:Can you talk about what some of those things are?What are the obstacles between now and a working makerspace here in Bellingham, Washington?
Mary:Well, most makerspaces only allow you to join if you are 18 years or older.And we are trying to make a makerspace that is safe enough to allow anyone to come in.So that’s our challenge, is insurance hurdles.But we are getting there.
Tim:So what kinds of changes or accommodations make it possible to allow people under 18 to function without a problem?What sort of accommodations do the insurance companies want?
Mary:Now we need to be able to lock down some of the more dangerous machinery so that only people that have been checked out in our space in the use of the machinery are able to turn them on and actually utilize them.There are two ways that we are going to doing that:One is just physically structuring the shop in such a way that children can come in and can do a number of hands-on activities at the classroom tables but they may need to be accompanied or they are probably going to be using RFID tags to be able to open up the doors that will get into the larger space, where we will have a large number of 3D printing machines.We will also have CNC milling and laser cutting.
Tim:Now let’s talk about some of the things that you’ve got.One thing, you have a very interesting kind of printer that’s quite unusual that uses paper as its basis. Talk about that a little bit.
Mary:Exactly.There are several different ways that 3D printing is possible.The most affordable machines that are starting to become available for most people are the fused filament type machines. That’s what this machine here is.This is an Afinia H3 machine. It is currently printing on an ABS plastic that Legos are made of.So it heats up the plastic and lays it down in a nice thin layer and builds it up from there.Those are the majority of the machines.There is a new machine that’s made by a small company in Ireland and it is a paper printer.I don’t know if you can show that paper piece.It is about right there.
Tim:Hand for scale, okay?
Tim:Describe that to me.
Mary:That machine is really unique.It takes technology that has been around for years but it is all combined into one machine.So you load in a ream of paper just like you would load into a Xerox copier.That machines makes the color, it does the color printing, and then it also cuts into out, puts on a layer of adhesive and then lays down another layer of paper.And so your resolution is literally paper thin.And four color printing.By the end you have essentially got reconstituted wood.So the materials are nontoxic which is very different than a lot that make plastics.It is much less expensive to run.It is easier to recycle a lot of materials that then become waste.In order to utilize whatever you have printed, your model you only need to seal it.
Tim:Can you show that upfront and show me how it seals with it? What is the density of it?
Mary:Certainly, certainly.So this is the paper model here, this one is unsealed and left unsealed so that you can see it, but it really truly is just layers of paper—this side is sealing a little bit better. Also that it is colored actually colored all the way through the model.
Tim:It is really pretty early, you can’t really do that yet even with the multicolor 3D printers with ABS plastic.
Mary:No. Not with the fused filament.
Tim:It can do different colors at a time, right.
Mary:That’s correct.That’s correct.This one actually is displaying the stress pattern of this little connector rod.So, yeah.
Tim:A lot of things you can do 3D models and then expand them intophysical objects.
Mary:Absolutely.And really that’s what the makerspace is about.There are several.This is kind of an up and coming business model.And what we really intend to be is a community hub to share skills.So it would be run like a gym, a gym membership.So you pay a membership fee and you come down and you can utilize the machinery.And as we grow, as we grow our memberships, then we also grow our knowledge base.We hope that our members will also be giving workshops. And then that allows us to support a much wider variety of applications, a much wider variety of tools and usage.
Tim:Let me ask you one more question which is:Besides the use of the paper based printer, which would give you really a pretty different kind of media, you are also concerned about the recyclability and the life cycle of the plastic that is used in more conventional 3D printing.Talk about that a little bit.
Mary:Absolutely.Currently, the 3D printers, the fused filament 3D printers, require filament which is essentially plastic string.So melting down the plastic and extruding it into filaments that then can be fed through the machine.Most of the companies are using brand new plastic to make this filament.We already have enough plastic on our earth.We really really can reuse it.So my friend, Liz Havlin, has a project through the Northwest Center that she has built an extruder machine and she has been able to print through recyclable plastics.The number is on the bottom of the plastic.She actually has printed in numbers 1 through 7.We do have a couple of favorites.One of them is PET which is the plastic water bottles because they are so very very common and really should be utilized.The other one is the number 5 plastic because that one actually is food safe.And that one is very rarely recycled.But there is a capability to do so.
Tim:Using that you can actually make a food safe container using your own equipment and design.
Mary:Absolutely, absolutely.And when there is one small gap in closing that full circle and having something that you no longer use, chipping it up, extruding it into filaments, and printing out what you do need.And that little piece is, in order to extrude quality filament, we really need to move from plastic pellets.And going from chipping up that plastic to making pelletsis quite a toxic process at the moment.So we are working with The Plastic Bank up in Vancouver, Liz’s project.We don’t have it going just yet but we intend it to be the sort of recycling program where people can bring their raw materials to us, and we will then give them filament to print, recycled filament to print on their machines.One of the things that is special about this particular program is that we will also be color sorting the plastic so that you will be able to have a nice brilliant blue that’s recycled plastic.Or a nice red recycled plastic.And that’s unusual.Usually everything is thrown in together and that is kind of murky grey.
Tim:It is really good to see the infrastructure emerging not just from the US,but other places too in the plastic for 3D printing, and you have got the corn based and you’ve got more colors coming out and some qualities like conductivity.I think that’s really exciting.