Our Brush With History A Glimpse Of 3D Printing Technology From The 90’s

History is the base for the next big venture. Here is how history has shaped 3D printing

At Fracktal Works, we’re constantly looking for the next big thing. It’s part of what sets us apart. While this outlook works just fine, it’s refreshing to dip into the past once in awhile. This enables us to admire the legacy of those who came and conquered before us.

It’s not everyday that a piece of history drops into your lap, but it’s definitely satisfying when this happens. Here’s our tale.

Out of the blue, we were contacted by Mukesh Agarwala of 3DPD. He wanted to know if we could get an ancient piece of hardware chugging again. Of course, we replied! A challenge is always welcome.

Enter the FDM 3000. FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling.

A quick aside: The FDM 3000 is the brainchild of Stratasys, a company that is part of the old guard–one of the pioneers of rapid prototyping.

Stratasys, as you can see here, has evolved over time.

Stratasys_FDM_3000_3-D_Printer

 

Dimension_1200es

Shiny, yes?

Now let’s go down memory lane to see where the magic began, or at least, what it looked like a couple of decades ago.

Arrival

Brimming with excitement, we offered to go pick up the printer ourselves. After being told to sit tight and wait, we stewed in our anticipation till the machine was delivered to us.

We needed a truck to transport it.

This thing is massive. Just getting it off the truck was a task, never mind getting it up 3 flights of narrow stairway. Did we mention that our lift doesn’t work yet?

But solving problems is what we do here at Fracktal Works.

We took the thing apart, filled with the wanton glee that only engineers feel while dismembering a machine. For science, of course!

3D-Printer-Stratasys-FDM-3000

Stripped down, it still felt like it weighed a ton (it’s around 300 kg in reality), but we managed to wrestle it up the stairs and into our office somehow.

Tinkering

Now we get to the exciting bit. Time to see what’s under the hood. The control unit, (the little silver module on the side of our 3D printer, Julia) takes up the entire top of this machine. Behold!

FDM-3000-3D-Printer-Control-Unit-Stratasys

We estimate that there’s around 30 metres of wiring in the control unit alone. In scientific terms—that’s a whole lot of wire.

Here’s another shot of the body:

Stratasys-FDM-3000-3D-Printer-Fracktal-Works

Once we had a chance to run some tests (“Are the buttons working?” Nope “Okay, press them harder”), we realised that we needed to short the control unit in a particular place to get it running again. A well-placed zap, a couple of seconds of bated breath, and we tried powering it up again.

Great Scott, It Lives!

Stratasys-FDM-3000-3D-Printer-In-Action

One by one, we tested the individual systems and everything moved smoothly, lit up well, and gave off the satisfying hum of a well-crafted machine. Looks like the FDM 3000 stood the test of time after all. We’re truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to tinker with this beautiful predecessor to today’s 3D printers.

3D printing technology has grown exponentially, and in a mere 2 decades it has advanced from being the exclusive domain of hulking beasts like the FDM 3000 to a stage where powerful 3D printers can fit on your computer table and tend to cost less than some smartphones.

It’s an absolute pleasure to see the average 3D printer price in India fall as more leaps are made in the field with every passing day. We’re truly honored to be part of this revolution.

On that note, here’s a glory shot of Julia for your viewing pleasure. Ain’t she a beauty?

3D-Printer-Fracktal-Works-Julia

As always, stick around for more 3D printing news and, of course, our well-meaning misadventures.

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