Listed as the No 1 printer in Ireland on 3D Hubs, Jamie Tully shows us how Arduino electronics, open source blueprints and a collaborative industry makes for an innovative time in printing.
3D printing is strange. People think it’s becoming normal due to its marked growth in the past couple of years, but it’s strange. To be honest, the first time I saw my brother use a standard printer with our awful computer in the early 1990s, I thought it was weird.
Why do you need to make a tangible copy of what’s on screen, I thought? Who knew that my adolescent mind was predicting the coming of the cloud – I hate cloud computing, I hate my adolescent prescience.
Tomorrow’s World, today
Then I saw a Tomorrow’s World episode many years ago that took the concept of paper printing and looked at adding a dimension. A big giant machine sat there beside the presenter, gradually 3D printing something awful looking.
It was the size of a room, it took ages, but he said times would improve, printer sizes would contract and, just like most technological advances, it would soon become the norm.
So when we got in touch with Jamie Tully and found out that he had made his own 3D printer, then 3D printed parts to make two better versions, it was a TV prediction come true.
“I had an interest in Linux computing and Arduino electronics. I did a few projects and found out the same format was used in 3D printers, so I thought I’d try to make one,” he says, as his latest contraption gets to work on a little castle behind him.
Groot, of course
“The technology isn’t actually advancing much anymore,” says Tully, claiming the architecture behind the printers has been pretty stagnant for the past couple of years.
It’s in the filament – used to print things like handles, prosthetic arms and pop culture busts – where the real innovation is.
For example, the copper mix filament used in this Groot model – a character in Guardians of the Galaxy – means this little figurine is much heavier than the plastic bits and pieces he shows us.
“There are filaments that come out like a paste, then you bake them afterwards and they give a sort of a metal-finish product,” he says, but using anything out of the ordinary takes an oppressively long time to print at the moment.
Having worked with standard PLA and even a copper mix, Jamie has risen up the 3D Hubs rankings and is the go-to guy when people want a prototype dummied up quickly.
Citing websites like Thingiverse or My Mini Factory, he showed us thousands of designs, ready for you to download, tweak and print – our castle, for example, was designed by user Dutch Mogul.
So if, say, the knob for your cooker broke and you’re getting charged something oppressive to get a replacement sent out, you can pop online, find a replica and get it made for next to nothing.
Or, if you’re working on a project, or a device, and you want to try plastic frames for it, shop around for someone to quickly make you a few options.
To do this, you head onto 3D Hubs, put in your location and it rates the nearest people. Spoiler alert, if you’re in Ireland you’ll end up on Jamie’s Hub.
Outside of this prototype printing, we’ve seen some crazy advancements on an industrial scale. Last year, there was the company seeking funding for a 3D printer that could build the frame of a house in 24 hours, concrete and all.
Then there’s the scary liquid net-type construction that this printer works on. But on the smaller, trivially useful scale, Jamie’s the guy to talk to.
“It’s really only people like myself in houses doing this type of service. Things, printed quickly and cheaply, this suits people well.”
It’s still weird, though.