Category Archives: Workspace

A Custom 3D Printing Workstation Cabinet

Since receiving my Lulzbot TAZ3 from Aleph Objects more than two months ago, the printer has spent a lot of time inaccessible because of a remodeling project here. The original bench it was on was a temporary solution, and it had to be used for other purposes.

Workstation Cabinet with Lulzbot TAZ 3 3D Printer
My New 3D Workstation Cabinet with Lulzbot TAZ 3 3D Printer

So I decided that while in woodworking mode, I would build a workbench dedicated to TAZ and 3D printing. My original thoughts were of a simple wooden workbench with a shelf or two under the main work surface. But I was really in need of some better organized storage that uses my available space more efficiently than a couple of shelves.

I have an old but decent table saw and some other related equipment, so I decided to design and build a work cabinet that I would be happy with for a long-term solution. The idea for the basic layout came from a section of cabinets in our own kitchen, a combination of double-door cabinet opening with drawers above and to the right.

I knew just a few things about cabinet construction, so I spent some time with web searches and Youtube videos to learn more basics. Then I made my own custom design; taller and deeper, to be more suitable for a workshop bench, and I decided to use a single extra-wide drawer at the top, instead of two narrow drawers. The extra height was divided among the drawers and cabinet area, so everything received some extra height advantage. I also decided to combine into one unit what would normally be two discrete cabinets side-by side.

OpenSCAD 3D rendering
OpenSCAD rendering of the cabinet carcass and face frame

The two primary components of the cabinet are the carcass and the face frame. The carcass is the main body, and the face frame is the front visible layer onto which the doors are mounted. I modeled the construction of these two subassemblies using OpenSCAD, as it is a free CAD program that I’ve been learning. It was straightforward to specify and position the individual boards to build the final design. Based on this interactive feedback I was able to make several design decisions and a few corrections before starting to cut wood.

However, OpenSCAD is not entirely suitable for this kind of work, at least partly because it is still preliminary, in pre-release. It is very usable for many of my design projects, but it seems to be tailored for additive manufacturing in which the design will be fabricated in one piece. In this case I used it to model an external manual assembly process in which the components need to be of precise size. The limitation here is that when the parts are positioned and assembled in OpenSCAD,  it’s not easy to double-check their actual dimensions. For example, the face frame has a horizontal member that extends nearly the entire length of the cabinet, butting into the two vertical members on the edges. In OpenSCAD, this becomes one solid piece, and it doesn’t matter if the horizontal piece actually extends into the vertical pieces. Obviously this won’t work for joining wood, so I tested each piece by repositioning it out of the cabinet a slight amount so I could see the edges and verify that the piece was not too long.

FreeCAD 3D rendering
FreeCAD rendering of the cabinet carcass and face frame

I also verified by importing the design into FreeCAD, another free 3D CAD package. Both products can use the CSG file format. As you can see in the rendering above, FreeCAD shows the actual edges, so these verifications are much easier.

I didn’t model the drawers or doors in CAD, as these designs are relatively simple, and I was familiar with how everything would fit together.

Fast forward through a lot of cutting, fastening, and finishing, and I eventually arrived at the finished product. Watch for the next post, which will discuss the drawer handles and door knobs, which of course I designed in OpenSCAD and I printed on the TAZ.

The finished cabinet
The finished cabinet

 

Cabinet with doors open, showing the large internal storage area
Cabinet showing the large internal storage area

 

New cabinet with TAZ on top, showing the large drawer that can hold up to 9 spools of filament
This large drawer can hold nine 1kg rolls of filament.

 

Article text and photographs copyright 2014 by John Burt. All rights reserved.

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