Since the day we brought our little Roomba home, we Van Sandts have lived in a semi-robotic household.
As the years have passed, additions to our fleet have edged us further from “semi” and closer to simply “robotic.” We’re now on our second Roomba, and keep it going with parts cannibalized from the first. We have a Google Home in damn-near every room, ensuring that there is a constant chatter throughout the house as we ask for and receive the weather, music requests, reminders, a good substitution for fish sauce. For shit’s sake, our thermostat knows when one of us gets home and turns the air to a more comfortable temperature. All these little devices playing their own small part in making our lives more efficient and comfortable.
We made a new addition to our electronic family that I’d like to introduce you to, and this one just might be my favorite.
(That’s not true. If my cats and my Roomba were both trapped in a house fire, I can’t promise I would save the cats. Those little bitches don’t do floors, and I really, really hate vacuuming.)
Okay, so maybe it’s not my absolute favorite (That’s like trying to choose a favorite child; you might have a favorite but you sure don’t say that out loud.) But it’s definitely the one I’m having the most fun with.
Guys, meet A8.
A8 (her full name is Anet A8, A8 for for short) is our 3D printer. We’ve actually had her for a while, over 6 months now, but it’s only in the past few or so that I’ve really gotten to know A8 well enough to have some fun and dip my toe into all of her possibilities.
There are two things that make A8 different than the rest of the 3D printers on the market: A8 doesn’t cost thousands and thousands of dollars, and A8 comes out of the box looking like this:
“Some assembly required” indeed.
It took us a while to get A8 dialed into a point where she was working with any grace or consistency; to say that she’s not a plug-and-play is an understatement. (Plugging-and-playing costs money, and a lot of it.) A8 is definitely meant for the DIYer, the adventurer, and the super nerdy. Luckily, the 3D printing world is very much about open-source and sharing information, so there are a ton of resources available for the new printer-parent. Many additional parts to sure up her structure and function were printed in order to make her as sound as we’d like, but now that she’s dialed in, there’s not much she can’t do.
Printing shit is a motherfucking blast. For one, A8 herself is fun to watch. It’s easy to watch the print-head zip around the build plate and imagine that it’s her little finger delicately drawing the design. And her noises–the movement of the belts, the whirring of the fans, and the chirping of the electronics–make it sound as if she’s enthusiastically carrying on a conversation with herself. My favorite is when we give her something involving circles to print, because then the harmonics of the vibrations are just so that it sounds like she’s singing us a song.
But beyond the adorable anthropomorphization of this little machine, there’s something inherently thrilling about watching A8 lay down line after hair-thin line until it creates a solid object. It’s absolutely mind-blowing to go from nothing more than a picture someone has posted oneline (I could peruse Thingiverse.com for hours and still be blown away by some of the amazing things people have created,) download their file, send it to the printer, and then–line by line–watching it come into being. I can’t really explain it other to say that once you’ve printed something, it feels like the world is at your fingertips. Anything you need, you just…make.
Breeze keep blowing your door shut? Print a doorstop! (Or four…)
Can’t find a Christmas gift for your bestie that excites you? Print her some jewelry…
…or (my personal favorite) a robot planter.
(Or, as the recipient of this particular Christmas gift named it, the “ro-pot.”)
But my favorite projects are the ones where I saw a piece someone designed and made it into something else completely different or (even more rewarding) created something entirely from a wisp of an idea in my head. I love these projects, because they feel like they are unequivocally mine. My favorites so far?
…one of my earliest projects, my leaf earrings…
…and (my personal favorite) my geometric cube jewelry.
I particularly love those pieces, because they allow me to not only continue to explore the technical aspect of 3D printing, but to then use those skills to fulfill my creative side. It’s a wonderful feeling to dream something up in your head and (through not an insignificant amount of work) get to hold it in your hand. Fucking magic.
When A8 was but a desire in Kyle’s heart, he tried to sell me on the idea by telling me that 3D printing was going to be our super fun hobby, and that he legitimately thought I would really enjoy it. I, (knowing full well that he mainly wanted it so that he could print parts for his racing drone,) was suspicious. But much to my begrudging surprise, he was absolutely right. I never would have imagined that I would count myself among the community of 3D printing enthusiasts, but here I am.
Well played Kyle, well played. Thank you for convincing me to bring A8 into our lives.
Author’s note: After receiving endless compliments on my 3D printed jewelry, I’ve decided to offer some of my work for sale online. On February 2nd (write that down,) I’ll officially be launching my Etsy shop: MonsteRawrMakes. If you’re interested in any of my pieces, contact me to buy direct (and before they’re available to the rest of the world!) or stay tuned for the opening of MonsteRawrMakes! I can’t wait to share my creations with all of you, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of a few of my pieces: