3D Color Printing the 2014 Arizona SciTech Festival Awards

photo 2The best way to promote and celebrate science and technology is with science and technology.  And this year PADT was able to do just that by using 3D Color Printing to make the recognition awards for the 2014 sponsors of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

The Arizona SciTech Festival is a new but growing player in the Arizona STEM landscape.  After three short years it has become the preferred way for science and technology companies and educators to engage with the public.  This year’s festival, held in February and March, was a huge success.  And none of it would be possible without the support of sponsors. PADT was honored to once again the awards that are given to these sponsors in recognition of their contributions. 

In the past we mixed traditional manufacturing and 3D Printing to make the awards. But this year we were able to use our new Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 to make the bulk of this years awards, and our Stratasys FORTUS 400 to make the stands.  The resulting awards are better than we had hoped for. 

The Process

The way the color printer works is you have to create a separate STL file for each color you want to print. So I needed to take a 2D vector art file and convert it into a collection of 3D STL files that represent the part I want printed.

I started by taking an Adobe Illustrator file of the AZ SciTech Festival logo, cleaning it up, and exporting it as a *.DWG file.
azstf-award-illustrator
I then imported it into my CAD tool. I happen to use SolidEdge, but the process should work with any modern CAD tool. I had to clean up the lines a lot.  In a graphic art image you can have small gaps, little line segments, and even polygons that self intersect. But in CAD you have to clean that all up. Plus some features were just too small to see in the 3D Printed object, so I simplified those. This was the most difficult part of the process.
azstf-award-solidedge-sketch

Once everything is clean you simply go through and extrude each polygon that you want printed, using the cleaned up sketch as your geometry.  Here is the first solid, and the simplest, the tail:
azstf-award-solidedge-extrude1

Once all the polygons are extruded, I assigned colors so I could visualize what the final part would look like. I also put a round on all the top edges, knowing from experience that even putting a small round on a part like this will increase the final parts attractiveness.
azstf-award-solidedge-extruded

The base needed to be a separate solid, because I needed it to be a different color. So I just made a new part for that and made an assembly. This keeps all of the solids separate. The letters were made just like the lizard logo, I went in to Adobe Illustrator and created the text outline, following the circle that defines the award. I exported that as DWG, imported it into SolidEdge, then extruded each letter.  
azstf-award-solidedge-medalian

The next step was to export the assembly as an STL file.  This file contained all the solids.  This was read in to the software that comes with the Objet500 Connex3. The operator then had to click on each object and assign a color from the chosen pallet.  It turns out that the official ScitTech Festival colors match one of the pallets closely, so we were able to get all the colors in the print. 

Once this was done, we simply printed 28 at a 3″ diameter, and 9 at 2″. Here is a video showing the printing process.

The resolution and brightness of the colors was very nice. Here are some images. Color parts just look better.
p7

For the base, I just came up with something that was thin and easy to build in using FDM because I wanted a strong part that was inexpensive that would also take a decal with the recipients name on the front, and information about the award on the back.  
azstf-award-solidedge-base

Here is a stack of the printed bases.
photo 1

And the final awards, ready to go to all those sponsors.
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Why Does it Matter

This effort is great example of the power of 3D Printing to a create a smaller number of custom objects. Standard awards form an awards shop are cheaper, but they are generic.  Using traditional methods to make custom awards is expensive and often labor intensive.  By making the whole award using a 3D Printer we were able to reduce the cost and the time for these unique objects, and were able to use advanced technology to highlight the sponsorship of an event that celebrates just that.  Kind of cool.

It is also a great example of the long term power of 3D Printing.  As was covered in a recent blog post, the real power of this technology is that it lets people without manufacturing or craftsman skills to create real objects, without a collection of equipment they don’t need or don’t know how to use. The applications of this power are endless. 

If you want to learn more about how you can do your own 3D Printing or how PADT can provide it to you as a service, contact us today.