It took us about 8 months to get from 3D prototype printing to casting the first metal. In the meantime, we went through almost all stages of production and imitation of real metal, opened new rooms and enjoyed many worries with the reconstruction. Of course, we didn't wait all the time before we learned to cast metal, only our path was a bit winding and went in different directions, until we finally somehow naturally arrived at the metal casting. So in this article you will learn (not only that) how we got from 3D printing to metal casting.
When we opened our first FutLab workshop in April, we had big plans, big expectations and also a lot of projects waiting to be implemented. Before we could inhale and start creating in peace, we were drawn into the preparations for the first DIY festival in the Czech Republic, Makerfaire . This, of course, made our plans a bit more complicated, as we needed to devote our time to renovating the room, buying equipment and promoting the lab overall to attract members. However, the invitation to such a festival is definitely not refused, so we started preparing.
The first serious question arose at the outset. What can we actually show from our work at such a festival, apart from the performance of our lab and, by the way, one of the first makerspaces in Prague. The answer was that we would show many products from 3D printers: a helmet from Star Wars, a rifle from Fallout, or various replicas of sculptures and art. We have to thank Denis Ker back, who advised us that 3D printing is everywhere and we should focus on something unique. She was excited about our 3D printed fabrics and printing on fabrics (although 3D printing, but at least original in the Czech Republic), so we brought many samples of fabrics to Makerfaire.
At that time I had a great taste and need to show the first metal casting before the festival (I dreamed about it, but at that time I was not ready yet). In the end, I was told and I am quite happy, because casting requires a lot of preparation and patience. At best, it would only end with a bad casting, with worse burns and a fire. At Makerfaire, our stand was an unexpected success.
A lot of people admired our 3D fabrics, printed and engraved longboards , or just the fact that we opened this workshop in Prague. If they saw us putting our stand together from a few discarded boards at the last moment, they would probably laugh a lot and would not believe that this is supposed to be the first makerspace in Prague. But overall, we had success (and also a lot of fatigue, then in two people at the stand) and we also gained several members and participants in future training.
After Makerfaire, there was minor disillusionment. In the beginning, a lot of journalists came to us , wrote articles about us and filmed interviews with us in the media. We expected queues to form in front of our lab, but that didn't happen. During the summer, interest waned a bit (we blamed it mainly on the summer season). In September we waited again for armageddon and long queues. It did not happen. In the meantime, however, we didn't even have much time to deal with it.
We decided to open 3 more rooms: Office, 3D Alchemy Lab prototyping / casting workshop and dirty wood and metal workshop. The original plan was a month of renovation, a month of purchasing equipment and within 3 months of opening. The reality was that in the evenings and at night we built the partitions ourselves, made tables and reconstructed everything ourselves (or with the help of the members and we thank them again). It took almost 5 months.
When the reconstruction was coming to an end and we had the necessary equipment, we finally found the reason why we actually implemented it all. We threw ourselves into casting. First resins, then silicones, gypsum with an admixture of metal powders and finally gypsum and sand molds for metal casting. Thanks to the dirty workshop, it was much easier to produce wooden molds, or to make various special tables and other equipment for work.
And then we finally finally ordered our dream CNC. And we immediately chose the size 1500 × 1500 mm. Now we put it together (it came as a kit) and of course we are proud to put it together ourselves.
In the last 2 months we have been making tables, welding iron structures, casting tables with resin, producing silicone molds for polyurethane castings, casting gypsum with metal and rubber admixtures, casting epoxy resin as decoration, producing gypsum molds for metal casting and finally successfully casting into the sand mold aluminum. Thanks to the dirty workshop, we were then able to cut, grind and polish the casting to a metallic shine.
We now plan to continue casting brass, copper, bronze and even glass. Among other things, we also want to focus on the production of decorations, casting realistic face masks, carved and engraved longboards, or the production of silicone clothing accessories.
And to return to those members, in the end our attendance increased again, in November the members started to walk again and at the moment we have exactly enough members to pay for everything we need and to be able to improve the lab even more. Sometimes, in short, not all plans work out the way you plan them, but all you have to do is have a little patience, willpower, and eventually your plans can come true.
What do we plan for the future? We want to become the best high-tech workshop and training center for technology and support for start-ups, an incubator and accelerator of modern technology companies, which significantly improve the competitiveness of Czech companies.