For as long as people have been smoking there has been a need for ash trays. Historically craftsman, have made ash trays out of wood, stone, ceramic, glass and metal. These were works of art that were handcrafted. As industry progressed companies would start mass producing ash trays out of metal, plastics and ceramics. Working in the shadows has always been craftsman making custom ash trays for those that did not want the same as everyone else. Most custom ash trays are made from wood, some are machined out of metal and some even made from used engine parts. Recently with the technology getting more and more affordable you are even seeing some ash trays manufactured using 3D Printers.

The design and manufacturing of ash trays with a 3D printer is considered by some to be a melding of art and technology. To produce an ash tray or anything for that matter with a 3D printer you need to start by first designing the item and creating a 3D model of it in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) package. Then the model needs to be converted into a set of commands that the printer understands. Then the item is printed. After the items is printer the part is cleaned up and then any finishing work that needs to be done is done by hand. Sounds simple, but it is far from simple.

Some of you are probably wondering how do you print something in 3D and what is it printed with? For starters let’s address the how. A 3D printer works a lot like an ink jet printer. If you have ever watched an inkjet printer work you have seen that it will place ink on the page going back and forth as it works down the page. The command set for a 3D print breaks down the object being printed into slices. Think of each slice as a layer of the object that is a fraction of a millimeter thick.   The printer will print the first layer of the object and then shift up a fraction of a millimeter and print the next layer on top of the first. It will continue to do this layer after layer until the object is complete. Now you are probably wondering how long does that take? Well a print can tack anywhere from a couple of minutes to couple of days depending on the size and density of the object.

Now let’s get to the what. Most of your consumer available 3D printers will print in either ABS or PLA or both. Most people have heard of ABS plastic, but most have never heard of PLA. PLA is a slightly more flexible plastic and also works well in hybrids. Hybrids are in plastics are similar to alloys in metals. They make PLA hybrids that have everything from wood to metals mixed into the plastic at various ratios. This gives people the ability to get the look and feel of a metal or a wood, but still get the durability and resilience of a plastic.

With the advent of 3D printing craftsman are now able to create beautiful custom ash trays in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of more mainstream methods like carpentry, molding, machining, and CNC. So now a cigar, pipe or even cigarette smoker can have an ash tray made that is completely custom to them in not only looks but in style and shape as well.

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