By DE Editors
The Bolton Science and Technology Centre (BSTC) was developed to inspire and develop innovative activity and enhance relevant skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics across the northwest of England. The core focus of activities at the BSTC is working with young people from 4 to 19 years of age to stimulate and engage their interest in design, technology and engineering disciplines.
The centre also provides support for students and academics in higher education and community groups, as well as offering service facilities for local industry.
The BSTC houses a range of 3D digital technologies—integrating software and hardware—including 3D computer-aided design software, 3D modeling software, and manufacturing machinery such as additive manufacturing, laser cutting, 3D scanning, large-format printing, vinyl cutting, and PCB routing.
One of the latest acquisitions to the center’s arsenal of manufacturing equipment is the RapMan 3D printer, manufactured by Bits from Bytes. Complementing the BSTC’s existing 3D printers, the RapMan was selected by Torben Steeg, head of service at the BSTC due to the system’s price/performance ratio.
“When I first saw the RapMan in action at A1 Technologies, the advantages of such a machine very quickly became apparent,” he says. “The low capital investment, together with the low running costs is a perfect fit for the activities of the BSTC—and for individual schools.”
The kit was built intermittently over a three-month period, though the company says it is possible to have it built and running in under a week. Mark Gilbert, the designer in residence at the BSTC, was responsible for building and installing the RapMan at the centre.
“Despite some fiddly elements, the kit was really very straightforward to build,” he says. “The interactive PDF instructions are very good with exploded views and animations. Each sub-assembly is built in chronological order within the instructions starting with the part needed and the tools required. The corner sub-assemblies that clamp the frame of the machine are easy to put together and could be made by small groups of students as a learning exercise in itself.
“Building the frame with the corner sub-assemblies is quick. The laser cut spacing tool supplied with the kit makes it very easy to build the frame square accurately. The total build time was 32 hours.”
Getting the 3D printer’s operating software up and running proved a little more demanding, but using all of the information provided on the websites and interactive forum provided by A1 Technologies and Bits from Bytes it was implemented successfully. It is also possible to establish print settings such as extruder temperature, extruder feed speed, wall thickness, and the type of infill—all of which can be saved. Once these print profiles are setup, they can be applied to parts depending on the part’s function.
The BSTC primarily builds parts on the RapMan using standard ABS material, a plastic that is used throughout industry and can be easily recycled.
The RapMan 3D printer is used to demonstrate the results of students’ 3D design work.
“It has been staggering to see how quickly and positively the kids grasp these advanced technologies—fully engaging with all aspects of 3D design and printing,” says Steeg.
BSTC is planning to have a second RapMan running in the near future. The plan is to put this second machine on display, so that all visitors can see it in action.
Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.