Prints & the new power generation

Charley Rogers delves into the world of 3D printing & tries out the Dremel DigiLab

My first thought when encountering Dremel’s DigiLab was ‘how am I going to work this?’ Having never actually used a 3D printer before, I assumed that it would take a wealth of technical knowledge to operate. Luckily, I was wrong. The DigiLab is incredibly easy to use, and came to me from Dremel with a USB memory, pre-loaded with the software needed to format files. This software, Audodesk Print Studio, is similarly intuitive, with a drag-and-drop functionality, meaning .stl files downloaded from the internet can be easily formatted into Dremel-friendly designs. The software also allows for size scaling, which was good considering the DigiLab printer I was using wasn’t huge. 

In terms of using the printer itself, the most technical element is loading the filament. The removable panel on the side of the machine makes this easily accessible though, and being able to access the top of the printer via a door-like panel makes threading the filament very simple. From here, it was simply remove the build platform using the built-in press clips, apply some adhesive to the platform (which resembles purple Pritt Stick) and using the small touchscreen on the front of the printer, navigate through files, simply pressing ‘Build’ when you’ve found the one you want. 

“The DigiLab is incredibly easy to use, and came to me from Dremel with a USB memory, pre-loaded with the software needed to format files.”

Build quality was usually very good, but did rely heavily on the .stl file, and often the size of the model. Larger, more solid models printed very well, whereas smaller, more fragile models tended to break in the process of removing supports (which is how I ended up with a leg-less beetle on my desk). However, if the machine was going to be used in an educational environment, I think younger students would benefit. Speaking to six-year-old Carter Dearman from St Anne’s Infants’ School, who witnessed the production of his very own Star Wars keyring, I was happy to hear of the joy gained from the printer, which is now more ubiquitous in commercial and educational settings than ever. Carter said: “Wow! That’s amazing; it blows my mind! Could you print anything?” 

This insight into production, and the encouragement of independent and creative thought from students, is certainly a top benefit of technology like 3D printing. The relatively small DigiLab might not be set up to produce top-of-the-line prosthetics, but for primary or secondary education, it’s quite the gadget.