Project Spotlight: Al Nolan’s 3D Printer

Al Nolan, a carpenter by trade, possesses an agile mind that likes to explore beyond the technology of wood. Last year he bought a 3D printer and enjoyed making stuff with it, including parts for a telescope and parts for a pendulum clock. Not satisfied with merely making stuff with the 3D printer, he decided to make a 3D printer itself. Some of the parts of the second 3D printer he had to buy, such as the motors, the extruder head, the Arduino controller and the three motor shields to control the x, y, and z-axis motors. But he designed and created the overall structure himself out of aluminum angle stock and he “printed” the connecting plastic pieces using his first 3D printer. Very impressive indeed.

Al’s electronics and programming knowledge is recent and self-acquired. First he learned to solder and played around with an Arduino or two. He taught himself how to use Blender, the open-source 3D drawing software. He learned programming by working late into the night next to his friend Shannon, a professional programmer. Shannon’s encouragement kept him going. He looks forward to similar collaborative relationships at the Generator. “When you’re self-learning, it’s intimidating. [Generator] is about providing a support group. That’s empowering.” Al plans to give back to the Generator: he is eager to teach people how to draw with Blender and he plans to help with a group effort to build a 3D printer. He also plans to donate a bandsaw to the Generator.

Al sees a political side to the Generator and makerspaces in general. “They are a counter-force to the ‘greed industry’, he says. “They are about people getting together and open-sourcing hardware and software and sharing ideas and helping each other financially to complete projects. It’s more than just building together, it’s a revolution against corporate values.”

We the editors of this website plan to write a monthly Project Spotlight. Want to submit your project? You can write it up yourself and submit it or have one of us interview you. We promise to make it as flattering as possible while still staying outside the realm of fiction.