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OT. 3D Printing of 'Signs'


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I want to apologise for this being OT, and also admit it might be 'sad' to admit this site is the most modern technology site I visit. Without it I might not have known 3D printing existed!!

The question.

In the past public signs were often cast in steel or iron; this sort of thing.

'Road vehicles over 2 tons must not use this Bridge', to try to prevent traction engines crossing small bridges.

'The penalty for interfering with these works is Transportation', to warn vandals off railway property.

Obviously expensive to make.

Could they be reproduced by 3D printing?

By reproduced I don't mean the actual examples I've given, but the physically robust bias relief style, where the text survives modification by felt tip pen, spray paint tagging, surface scratching, etc.

Are there specific fonts used for this bias relief signage?

Or is there a software programme (or programmes) that take particular standard fonts and convert them to give suitable instructions to a 3D printer.

There would after all be additional instructions to generate the base plate, and to set the protrusion of each character.

Regards.

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They can, all you need is a 3D cad package with the ability to output .stl files which the printer can then read in direct. There are various materials avaliable for printing, ranging from plastics to use as they are, to waxes suitable to go direct to lost wax casting, to printing in actual metal.

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Is done a lot.

But not cheap if done properly.

I have had several badges made - engraving - by Gavin Martin.

He 's in Ireland and makes very nice stuff...

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Plenty of ways to skin that cat, TBH though the biggest issue is that big heavy lumps of metal cost a lot more than a flat sheet with a sticker on.

Casting, printing, or machining would all give similar end results. My guess for old-fashioned ones is they had wooden blanks of the sign frame and letter forms they could arrange in a frame, then make a sand-casting negative from, and that could be the easiest way to achieve a solid metal sign with a consumer 3D printer - print out a form and then sand-cast from it. Instructables.com has plenty of home-casting guides of varying quality & safety.

You could also laser-cut the letters etc. out and then attach them to a flat back plate but then it's not solid (unless you weld them on).

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I see I've omitted a particular characteristic, which I'm afraid I took for granted.

I now realise I took 3D printing to mean, automatically, the output of a plastic product.

I suppose I realised that other materials were available, but at much greater expense.

Yes I had thought of using CAD design to make individual block letters and numerals, then gluing them to a base plate, but what I was hoping to find was that I could type my message on my PC, just as I would create a document, choose a suitable font, send the document via an intermediary programme which would ask for thickness of base plate, amount of relief, etc, then send that file to the printer, which would produce a plastic sign.

The 'etc' might cover the width of a stiffening rim, the size of attachment holes, again with a stiffening collar around them, possibly the surface finish of the baseplate, and anything else that is needed for a sign, but isn't included in an ordinary document or text file.

Regards.

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Yes, very doable with a few caveats:

- Print quality can be very variable

- Print area (size of object) is usually very limited, 8"x8" is normal-ish

- Could be a little spendy depending how solid you want it

- Vandal-proofness may not be super if that's your goal

Also there's no completely off-the-shelf "3D printed sign maker" software so you'd have to work out a few steps, although anyone competent with one should be able to take an image or document you give them and 3D print it in relief as described to your spec. Then again, a plank of wood and a router can get you a very passable sign, the forestry commission have been making theirs that way for decades, I suspect with templates rather than computers / CNC. Depends if your end goal is a 3D printed plastic sign or a vandal-proof sign with raised/relief lettering.

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I made a sign for my Mum & Dad's house on my printer! I can print about 10x10" but this was printed on the diagonal giving about 12x3" The individual letters were 10mm thick but joined together rather than on a base plate.

Mind you, I also plasma cut the same sign - and my Dad decided to use that one instead. Glued to a white painted brick wall - looks pretty good!

If there is something specific you'd like - I'd be happy to print / cut it pretty much for free!

Si

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FF "Depends if your end goal is a 3D printed plastic sign or a vandal-proof sign with raised/relief lettering.".

A useful summary, thankyou. I'll rearrange the words to say:

The end goal is a 3D printed plastic sign with raised/relief lettering and light vandal proofing :-)

Simonr

Thanks for sharing your experiences, and your personal offer.

I confess I was not thinking of anything for myself, rather I was looking to have 'something superior' up my sleeve while in local discussions with the Peak District National Park Authority.

If the discussions go negative (which I expect) I hoped to use my idea as another example of the failure of their management regime.

If the discussions go our way, my idea would have been something to gild the lily.

Thanks all, I can see that 'at the moment' it's not as simple as I hoped.

I'm sure it will come; or, for more immediate results, I rein in my expectations.

Regards.

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What about Laser Cutting the signs in negative (cut the letters out). Cut from perhaps 10 or 12mm steel plate, intended to go rusty - you could produce something that makes a statement in itself.

The laser cutting firm will turn whatever design you have, whether on a computer or scribbled on the back of an envelope into metal. You don't need CAD unless you want to cut them yourself.

Si

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what about a sign in "Corten"... designed / with a purpose to go rusted looking...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weathering_steel

http://www.mig-welding.co.uk/corten.htm

You could do the front facia is stainless or painted mild steel then the middle.

Stainless and plasma needs a water bath, and nitrogen to keep the edges from blackening / blue'ing.

I haven't got corten, but I'm happy as Si to cut whatever you want, send across a sketch and see what I can do (thought about setting up a sideline hobby business for a bit of landrover money with a 4'x4' plasma cnc, done a few bits for mates and the stuff is coming out really well [still got a day job, not going to change that yet, not as brave as Si).

Rob

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I've done exactly that on machines and jigs at work and they've lasted a lot better than a bit of laminated paper. They're screwed to a flat surface and I just use the stock solidworks font.

They wouldn't survive against a guy with a hammer but they're rigid 'plastic'.

You can get a reasonable finish too. I've don't quite a few like this for cars.

FB_IMG_1434124085339_zpspalfzpjh.jpg

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I have wondered if a print head could be added to a plasma table.... Suspect there may be a problem with the part becoming too cool though (plastic is not for me I won't be trying one on mine in the near future)

Could have a word with Si as he has both (plus spare kits)

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No reason why you can't add the print head to a plasma. There is plenty of free software around so I'm sure you could get everything to talk depending on your hardware I guess. I think it's a good idea for the home user to get more for your money.

Some of the professional FDM machines head the cabinet to control shrinkage more than anything, it's usually around 70 dec C so below the melting point of the material. The home ones just layer onto cold plastic and rely on the 'stick' of the layers rather than getting a true molecular bond and people seem happy with the result.

I have seen 'home' type FDM 3D printers that will do a couple of meters in build size for sale for around £7k.

The one I use is a polyjet and will do 250mm in it's longest direction, I have used it's big brother before that will do 500mm. The advantage of the polyjet over the typical 'home' FDM is that it has a support material that allows undercuts and has a resolution of around 30 microns so you can easily build clips into the design to link parts together to make bigger components. The material is UV hardened and it takes 4 passes of the UV light to fully cure so you get uncured material on not fully cured material for a better layer bond.

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sorry I don't mean to take over the OP's thread or take it off topic...

there is a plugin for mach3 to run a 3d printer directly https://cnc2printer3d.wordpress.com/software/ (cannot attest to how good it is) I guess the problem I have is a) can't seem to justify printing something in plastic, and b) not really sure where to start with print heads etc (most of my other ebay purchases for the plasma have been upgraded / up-spec'd, hence am a little cautious to go in for something that would output carp)

.... think we need a thread in the fab stuff on 3d printers (maybe a muppets guide.... of components / build), you never know how useful a 3d printer may be for landrover bits (I know I've seen the off button or knob and badge done on one and shown on here, but no one talks about their build.... I know this probably isn't the right forum, but most of us only habit a few and there seems to be a wealth of knowledgeable people about here who use them from..

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Robert - you'd be surprised how useful a 3D printer is!

I use it a lot for prototyping ideas - even if I end up milling / turning them. It's great for enclosures for projects, bushes brackets of all sorts. I printed a multi-part Dashboard for someone, new knobs for the cooker, a phone holder for my Defender, a new cylinder head / valve block for a water pump. Rarely does more than a couple of days go by when I don't print something!

My first go at a printer was actually just a hot-end to attach to my Mill - but at the time there was no software or easy way to drive it. I've been meaning to have another go though as, just like milling, the more rigid the machine, the better quality the print!

Heating the cab is good, though a heated sheet of glass (heated bed) to print on works just as well. Most of the current crop of extruders are very similar in performance, including the chinese ones such as this.

then use one of these to control the temp of the bed and another for the nozzle. Mach 3 will control the XYZ and the extruder stepper motor. Probably about £100 all up to add to a mill or plasma table.

The hardest part with a plasma table would be getting the bed absolutely level (to within 0.05mm over the whole print area). On a mill however, that's easy!

Si

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Si as per usual thanks for the guidance and steer

Rob

Being a newbee to this world what do you print with I've heard ABS and PLA mentioned but then Cynic-al mentioned FDM??.

With regards to bed levelling... There is a programme more of an add-on for mach3 when making DIY pcb's that is used to correct the pcb milling gcode to allow for bed variance (since some diyers of pcb's are using mdf and drawer slide router tables) http://www.autoleveller.co.uk/

What do you know spoke too soon

https://github.com/eras/gcode-leveler

Apologies to the Original Poster for the thread hijack

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...

Apologies to the Original Poster for the thread hijack

There's no problem.

In post 11 Cynic-al has illustrated pretty closely what I was thinking of, although I'm not sure if he 3D printed the green background, with the raised rim, or if he just printed the white bit, the end effect is close to what I wanted.

The other ideas are, as ever, interesting. Some are off in La-La land, others are more likely to 'engage my interest'.

Regards.

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My original mill based printer was just a single extruder. The first commercial printer I bought had dual extruders which worked fine but the software to utilise two has never been that good.

I now have an Ultimaker 2 printer with single extruder and to be honest, I've never really wanted a second one. It's useful for printing support structure in another material you can later dissolve but printing parts, it's usually just as easy to print it in two halves that snap together.

Decent software is the most difficult bit.

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Yes sorry, FDM is the way it works rather than the material, FDM is most common for the home machines but but there are loads of different methods, each with pros and cons.

The machine I have has 2x192 dot print heads, one for the model material and one for the support. It can only handle one material. The next machine up can do 8 materials I think. The one up from that can blend materials so you can print 'rubber' of different hardnesses by mixing 'rubber' and 'plastic' at different ratios.

The downside of not being able to print a support material is that you have to design to the capabilities of the machine, for example you can't print a horizontal hole so you either have to print the part with the hole vertical, print it with a pointy top or drill it after printing. If the machine can lay a support material you end up with a hole that's filled with a waxy or brittle material that can be removed later. This means that you design what you want rather than what you can print. Before I got a professional machine I couldn't find a 'home' machine that could reliably do this but things have moved on. The cheapest professional machine I could find that did this reliably was the uPrint, from memory the SE model was £12k. For a plaque it wouldn't matter as there are no undercuts.

Don't forget that you also need something to design on, the lines of ProEngineer used to do little free packages for schools but I think they've dropped a lot now. Is google sketchup still on the go?

Maybe this is a better example, I make things like this for the various jigs at work to identify them for production / maintenance / h&s. It lasts longer than a laminated bit of paper!

20150625_124427_zps5zkar4vw.jpg

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Maybe this is a better example, I make things like this for the various jigs at work to identify them for production / maintenance / h&s. It lasts longer than a laminated bit of paper!

20150625_124427_zps5zkar4vw.jpg

Yes!!

That is exactly the style I had in mind!

What I need to know next is that I don't have to spend several £k to buy a machine :-)

I think using a single material, and drilling my own holes, are entirely acceptable 'limitations'.

Thanks.

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Any of the makerbots or 3d system cube or whichever takes your fancy would do the above with holes as it's all vertical. Even Maplins sell project kits starting from about £400. Not sure what free / cheap software to recommend. I've seen a link to one called autodesk 123d design and google sketchup but haven't used either. However as they're free no reason why you couldn't try master them before buying the printer!

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