Adventures in 3D Printing

3D printing has long been on the Boswyck Farms radar as a tool for advancing hydroponics. This year, the dream was fulfilled. Early in February, our very own pre-assembled Printrbot PLUS arrived and it has been chugging along ever since.

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While technology for additive manufacturing (creating by adding material rather than removing it) has been around since the 80′s, ‘affordable’ 3D printers were not really available for commercial or home use until very recently. With increased interest in DIY projects and the advent of the Maker Movement, pressure has been on to get 3D printers into more hands, to help explore the realm of possibilities that this tech could offer.

For us, 3D printing was a way to start prototyping hydroponic parts that were not only improvements upon what was available on the market, but parts we needed -hydroponic or otherwise- that simply did not exist (yet):

NFT Rail Clips 

NFT Rail Clip Progression

You can see an evolution in the design of the clips, starting at the bottom left.
(It’s still a work in progress.)

Power Strip Mounting Brackets

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 Joints for PVC Polyhedrons

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Truth be told though, the first print to come off the bed was a wooly sheep  from Thingiverse a that looked very much like our own mascot, Boswyck.

The Strange Sheep Menagerie

This first sheep will be a business card holder.

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You may notice that some of the sheep above have not yet reached their final form. For all of the success we have had with our Printrbot, it would be unfair to gloss over the trial and error process of finding the best settings for a complete print. 3D prints can take hours to finish, depending on the complexity and size of the design, and it can be frustrating to find out that a print failed after waiting so long for it to finish. Patience is of upmost importance.

One common problem is failing to get a print to stick to the heated print bed at the start of a print. We’ve found that hairspray and/or painter’s tape can help with adhesion. Luckily, you can tell within a layer or two of printing if this is going to be a problem and cancel the print before it goes much farther.

More frustrating is having a print dislodge midway to being finished, but not see it happen until after the printing is done. Maybe the workstation moved or perhaps the print was tall enough to sway with the motion of the extruder as it moved around the print area. What ever the cause may be, you may come back to a print that is more spaghetti than actual object.

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Intricate prints are more susceptible to this problem, as there is less support for the design the higher it prints. The recommended printing software (we are using Repetier Host with Slic3r) will print auxiliary structure to support upcoming layers that can be removed once completed, but it consists of thin fibers of plastic that can get loose or catch on the extruder as it moves around. Again, it is a matter of trial and error, a work in progress.

This completed polyhedron is the same design as the previous photo. (Support structure success!)

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While perfect printing every time is still a goal to strive for, we’ve got some bigger plans for experimenting with new materials and parts. We want to get creative with multicolor prints and start testing out nylon. (The prints above are all ABS and PLA plastics.) A new aluminum extruder head is also in the works, which should improve the quality (smoothness and precision) of our prints.

We’ll be sharing more of our 3D works as we go!

 

 

Look ma, we’re on CUNY TV!

Andrew Falzon of CUNY TV made an excellent half hour special segment on the Food Revolution. He talks about vertical farming, and swings by to inverview Lee! Lee’s part begins around minute 15, but you should really check out the whole thing — see the YouTube video version of the broadcast embedded below. Thanks for coming by, Andrew!

Hey Teachers! Come have lunch with us.

What are you doing this Columbus Day? Come by for a potluck lunch at our Bushwick Starr rooftop farm! We’ll be hosting NYC teachers (K – 12, public, private, and parochial) from 12 – 2 PM for a special presentation on hydroponics in the classroom. Plus we’ll have farmers on hand to answer your questions, printed materials to take away, and a great crowd of colleagues to chat with.

See the flyer below! No need to RSVP, but if you have any questions, just email us: education@nullboswyckfarms.org.

Please note: the event will take place at the Bushwick Starr. That’s 207 Starr Street, 2nd Floor. L train to Jefferson Street.

Wyckoff Farmhouse: old building, new project.

We’ve been thrilled to work with the folks over at Wyckoff Farmhouse, the oldest building in Brooklyn, to install a new hydroponic project. We’ve partnered with Sustainable Flatbush on the solar capacity. This is our first project that will be run off solar power, and we’re really excited to see how things shape up.

For now here’s a photo of the build in process (and one of our van loaded to the greatest capacity yet!), but we’ll keep you posted with more. We already got a shout out in Edible Brooklyn for this work, so we’re pretty psyched.

Bushwick Open Studios

Hello to everyone visiting us this weekend for Bushwick Open Studios! We just wanted to leave you a note to say we are at the Bushwick Starr, not at the loft space. Join us at 207 Starr Street.

Lee was on Leonard Lopate!

Public radio fans (and others), we have an exciting announcement to share with you. Last Friday, Lee was on Leonard Lopate’s Food Fridays, talking about Boswyck Farms and the benefits of hydroponics. This is a major dream come true for us — we love the Lopate show and all things WNYC. Have a listen!

Spring means lots of farming.

 

Happy to announce that we have an upcoming New & Improved 5-Gallon Bucket Workshop on Saturday, April 6th from 11 AM – 1 PM. This workshop is a perfect introduction to basic hydroponics appropriate for any space: your home, your work, your rooftop or garden, or whatever else you may have available. For more information, and to sign up, check out our workshops page. We hope to see you there!

Seeking summer (college) interns!

Spend your summer farming!

We seek a motivated intern who is comfortable working both independently and cooperatively, not put off some of the less nice aspects of farming (decaying plant matter, insects, bee stings, and rain), good with following directions, and always on time. No previous hydroponic experience is required, but we are hoping to work with interns who have a demonstrated interest in the sciences, food justice, and agriculture.

The intern’s duties will focus on general farm maintenance (at both indoor and outdoor sites), including plant care and insect control, crop harvesting and distribution, and data collection. Other tasks may include assisting Boswyck Farms staff during the construction of hydroponic systems for clients, and helping to set-up and teach workshops for farmers of all ages. It is also sometimes possible for interns to conduct their own research projects using Boswyck Farms’ facilities. If this is of interest to you, please let us know.

To apply, please email Chloë Bass, Communications & Outreach Specialist: chloe@nullboswyckfarms.org. Include a cover letter detailing your interest in the internship and summer availability, and an up-to-date resumé or CV that highlights relevant previous work experience. Please also let us know if you have a cat allergy, as we have a wonderful cat at our main research and development site.

This position is unpaid. However, we are happy to arrange for academic credit where possible. Please ask your college for more information about summer internships for credit.