Summer Internship at a 3D Printing Service Provider

I am an incoming freshmen to the University of Dayton in their Engineering programming the fall of 2019. The last few years, I have had a growing interest in the world of 3D printing. This summer, I took it to the next level and had an internship at Re3dtech, a 3D printing service provider. We printed some of the most amazing parts, from a full-sized baseball helmet to thousands of intricate end use parts.

What an experience.   

A 3D printing service provider is a job shop/contract manufacturer for people and companies looking to outsource 3D printed parts.

Re3dtech uses two of the most cutting edge technologies in additive manufacturing, HP Jet Fusion and Markforged. The HP MJF technology is a full production printer. This allows customers to go from one piece prototypes to thousands of end-use production parts. Markforged produces carbon fiber parts that often replace metal parts for fixtures and EOAT(end of arm tooling).  

I got to experience nearly every aspect of the business. The process starts with generating a quote for a customer looking to print a new part. Re3dtech uses Paperless Parts for their digital quoting system. We would take a look at the uploaded file to make sure of its printability, number of parts necessary, and provide pricing and delivery dates. I also got to set up builds for the HP 4200 Jet Fusion printers using Autodesk Netfab software. The monte carlo auto-packing feature was always fun to watch, nesting hundreds of parts together in a build. Most of my days were spent in the back of the shop, working on the post-processing of hundreds of parts a day.

My day started with an alarm at 6:50 and entering the  shop at 8. The first thing I would do was check with the Production Manager to see what was to be prioritized for the day. Re3dtech runs two HP 4210’s and the newest HP 5210 production 3D printer. These printers needed to be cleaned every morning to prepare for later printing. Moving build units from the printer to the post-processing machines, I would go through a strict 20 minute cleaning process of the printers, checking supplies, filters, and printheads to make sure they were fully optimized.  

Now, it’s time to unpack the build from the day before. The HP technology uses a powder-based PA12 material. The unused powder acts as support for the printed parts. The parts are buried in the powder, and I am like an archaeologist uncovering artifacts in the sand. I am always surprised at what I discover. One of the coolest parts was a model of a race car simulator used by Dallara at their Indianapolis Speedway facility. Other fascinating parts included prototype golf clubs, a Mars rover, and a jet engine turbine. 

The powder covered parts now had to be cleaned.

I needed to get as much powder off of each of the parts as possible. I would start with brushing off the parts, then working with several tools to reach difficult angles where powder was trapped in. Drills were used for holes that went through parts that couldn’t be picked out. However, drilling through parts was a risk during this process that unfortunately happened to me once during this summer. Once this was finished, the parts would enter my specialized station, the Bead Blaster. For hours a day, I would stand at this large metal rectangle with thick rubber  gloves reaching into the inside to shoot compressed air carrying tiny glass aggregate at the plastic parts to completely remove all powder and give the parts their standard grey color.

Ninety percent of everything Re3dtech ships out is a black part. To the dye station we go. This is as basic as it can get. We use a black Rit dye heated up in a large lobster pot and the rest is the secret sauce. Once out of the pot, the parts are rinsed and dried. One final post processing step with our DyeMansion Powershot S. HP personnel have repeatedly stated that Re3dtech produces some of the greatest looking parts in the industry.

The day comes to an end around the shipping station, which is the ping pong table, where we organize the outgoing packages. I’ve done everything from packing hundreds of boxes to producing shipping labels for parts going to NASA, Canada, Australia, Tokyo, and all around the world. One final run to the local UPS and FedEx and I’m on my way home for the night. 

How would I sum up my summer internship at Re3dtech?

The experience has been invaluable. No doubt, a lot of hard work, long days covered in powder, but the ping pong matches, country music, and friendships developed with the other interns made it worth while. The knowledge gained about additive manufacturing and the hands on skills I developed will serve me well as I strive to become a mechanical engineer in the additive manufacturing industry. 

 

Author-

Re3DTech Intern-Hayden Beck

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