Category Archives: Op-Ed

It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere! 3D printing in a neighborhood near you

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Partnership lets you print a thing within 10 miles of home

It’s big news that now, even if you don’t own a 3D printer, you can find a design for an object that you like and get it printed. It’s even bigger news that the partnership making this possible is a merger of two key concepts that are shaping the future.

The facts: MakerBot, a subsidiary of Stratasys Ltd., made two announcements this week. The first was that it is reducing staff and closing locations. The second is that it is partnering with 3D Hubs to connect Thingiverse products to printer hubs.

As a result of this partnership, more than 1 billion people who don’t own 3D printers will be able to 3D print objects from Thingiverse within 10 miles of home by touching a button. The average turn-around time is less than two days!

One door closes, and another opens. While 3D printer sales may not have measured up in recent quarters for MakerBot, with this partnership it has taken a giant step toward “creating a 3D printing ecosystem,” in the words of Joey Neal, Chief Experience Officer at MakerBot.

Founded in 2009, MakerBot is known for having the largest installed base of desktop 3D printers. More significant in relation to this partnership is that it operates Thingiverse, the world’s largest 3D design community.

Based in Amsterdam, 3D Hubs operates the world’s largest 3D printing network. It’s a marriage made in heaven, or at least a marriage which signals a paradigm shift reaching the masses.

So what are the specifics? Thingiverse boasts more than 700,000 designs. It has invited eight of its top designers to place a button on their items, “Get This Printed.” Pressing that button will allow a consumer to choose from 15,000 3D Hubs locations where the object can be printed.

Once a location is chosen, when a user enters payment information, there is an opportunity to “tip” the designer. Formerly Thingiverse provided designers with an opportunity to showcase their work. This arrangement allows designers who choose to monetize it. Eventually it will be an option available to all designers in Thingiverse.

Everyone wins: consumers who do not yet own their own printers, both designers and general public, have the capability to get the item printed locally in a very short time. Designers have an opportunity to make some money on their creations. 3D printer owners have an opportunity to maximize the value of their investment in a 3D printer, which might otherwise have periods of “down” time.

Power to the people: partnership brings creativity and production power home

The really big 3D print news is that a paradigm shifting concept has come to our homes.

Two ideas have been an important part of the 3d print “revolution,” open source design and distributed manufacturing.

From opensource.com: “The term “open source” refers to something that can be modified because its design is publicly accessible.

“While it originated in the context of computer software development, today the term ‘open source’ designates a set of values—what we call the open source way. Open source projects, products, or initiatives are those that embrace and celebrate open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community development.”

From The World Economic Forum: “Distributed manufacturing is one of 10 emerging technologies for 2015 highlighted by the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies.

“Distributed manufacturing turns on its head the way we make and distribute products. In traditional manufacturing, raw materials are brought together, assembled and fabricated in large centralized factories into identical finished products that are then distributed to the customer. In distributed manufacturing, the raw materials and methods of fabrication are decentralized, and the final product is manufactured very close to the final customer.”

So let’s think about this for a moment. At our end as consumers, we are used to hoofing it to a series of local stores to find a finished product, very likely made on the other side of the world. Usually personalization and modifications are not options other than to have a design we want added onto a factory produced t-shirt from China or some tailoring done on a mass-produced suit or dress we purchased. We are offered “options” on expensive purchases like cars to personalize them, but that’s something different. The options themselves are manufactured in the traditional way.

In an open source world, we can tinker with the code for a design to make it work exactly as we would like it to work. If we don’t have that capability, we can interact with a designer to make adjustments. It’s easy to see some of these interactions from people’s comments in Thingiverse.

It’s only the possibility of distributed manufacturing, though, that makes that personalization or customization practical. The altered code can be used to 3D print one object locally. It doesn’t have to be applied to masses of product in a centralized factory.

So here we are with a paradigm shift that will completely alter the way we think, the way we shop, the way things are produced and our economy. This paradigm shift is the result of two ideas that are core to the 3D printing industry: open source interactions and distributed manufacturing.

Bram de Zwant, CEO and co-founder of 3D Hubs, calls this a merger of creativity (MakerBot’s Thingiverse) and production power (3D Hubs local printing of custom items).

So it’s great news that we can all choose an object from Thingiverse and print it locally with a button that connects us to the resources of 3D Hubs.

But the really big news is that now it’s possible for each and every one of us to be part of a dramatic revolution in how we do things and how we think about things. Before we know it, this revolution will become so pervasive that we won’t even realize any more that we’re part of it.

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3D Printing Helps Seniors

3D printed soft food delivers appetizing nutrition to seniors
3D printed soft food delivers appetizing nutrition to seniors

3D printing enhances quality of life for seniors

DENTISTRY

We’ve all heard them, those jokes about getting older: “You know you’re old when you and your teeth don’t sleep together.” It’s a humorous accommodation to the fact that one of the unfortunate features of aging is that bodily structures and systems deteriorate at a more rapid rate.

As anyone knows who has needed a dental implant or dental prosthetics, they are costly, as in the thousands. Medicare doesn’t cover this particular expense nor do most insurers, even dental insurers. In addition, there is usually an uncomfortable waiting period between tooth removal and implantation or development of a dental prosthesis.

That set of facts makes it exciting news that 3D printing is taking off in the dental industry. This development isn’t futuristic: it’s happening now. While at the moment, 3D print technology is focused on reducing the cost and increasing the accuracy of dental surgery through lifelike modeling, 3D printing implants and dental prostheses isn’t far behind.

Says Andrew Wheeler, a 3D print journalist of Stratasys Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer, showcased at the International Dental Show in Germany just last month, March 2015: “I think it’s pretty nice that we are coming to an age where you can have a crown replaced almost immediately after having it scanned with an intra-oral scanner, have the data processed on 3D software, and then have the replacement 3D printed out for you while you comfortably relax with your pin-pricked gums, numbed out face, blinding light, and crappy TV or music.”

SKELETAL IMPLANTS

More than 50% of women in the U.S. suffer from osteoporosis and more than 25% of men. Hip fracture is a serious and costly public health problem in this country and internationally. Fragility fractures as a function of osteoporosis are associated with an approximately doubled risk of death in the year following the fracture. The annual cost of osteoporotic fractures to the US healthcare system in 2001 was approximately US$17 billion.

3D printing offers life-saving solutions as implants into the skeletal system. Two particularly impressive stories are these, one a hip implant, the other an arm-saving shoulder implant. 3D printed knee replacements have been used with good success. Particularly exciting are the stories of 3D printed implant processes completed with stem cells.

3D printed hip replacements can save lives and improve the quality of life. A year ago, surgeons at Southampton General Hospital 3D printed a hip joint for 71-year-old Meryl Richards and used her own stem cells to hold it in place.

3D printed shoulder implant. Also a year ago, a hospital in the Netherlands 3D printed the first shoulder prosthetic. The expectation was that the patient would have better mobility than with a traditional shoulder implant. Prior to that surgery, only knees had been replaced through 3D printing.

In another shoulder implant story, a tumor patient’s shoulder and arm were saved from amputation with a 3D printed shoulder implant.

APPETIZING MEALS

Degenerating teeth aren’t the only reason seniors may have difficulty eating. Sadly more than 60% of elderly people have dysphagia, difficulty swallowing. Until now this problem has been addressed with unappetizing purees.

One German company, Biozoonhas a new approach. They have created a 3D printer that manufactures beautiful, appetizing, nutritious 3D printed soft foods. Developed in 2010, the concept has been adopted in over 1,000 retirement homes in Germany. Biozoon is now working with 14 companies from 5 countries and has received money from the European Union to develop the technology and improve supply. –

Transitioning from 3D Printing to Bioprinting: life everlasting?

Does 3D printing combined with bioprinting technology promise more comfortable and productive sunset years for all of us? Or even eternal life?

Bioprinting is a technology that artificially constructs living tissue by printing layer upon layer of living cells.  It is not futuristic: it is here! In March 2015, Russian scientists unveiled a functional 3D printed thyroid.  They hope to have a functional 3D printed kidney sometime during 2018.

As we are able to print functioning body tissue, some enthusiasts envision . . . well, eternal life. In this vision, 3D and bioprint technology will print replacements for each body part that wears out. In addition, by studying exact functional replicas of body parts produced with 3D modeling, we may be able to find solutions to many of the mysteries of aging.

The Smithsonian builds on this futuristic theme with “Organs made to order.”  This idea points to a shorter term, very practical and probably less ethically laden use for 3D and bioprinting technology, though: Huffington Post explains “How 3D printing could end the deadly shortage of donor organs.

In the even shorter term, 3D and bioprinting technology may assist failing organs instead of replacing them.

We live in exciting times!

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3D Printing: Coming Soon to Kitchens Everywhere

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How 3D printing freed the slave in my kitchen

I’m a foodie, and I love to cook. Naturally all the buzz about 3D printed food stimulated my curiosity. I have discovered very interesting possibilities and wonderfully useful applications . . . but probably not yet for my kitchen. Does that mean there’s no place for 3D printing in my kitchen today? Not at all!

I use a lot of lemons in my cooking. Awhile back I was chatting with a next door neighbor, complaining about the shape, cumbersomeness and relative ineffectiveness of lemon juicers currently on the market. Short of getting a professional juicer like I used to have in my cafe, there isn’t much I like.

Did I mention that my next door neighbor owns a 3D printer? The next morning I received a beautiful 3D printed lemon juicer. It was love at first sight. I knew immediately it would be the  BEST lemon juicer I have ever had. One minute later, my neighbor had fresh lemonade!

Having a 3D printed lemon juicer in my kitchen may seem like a small thing, but like I said, I squeeze a lot of lemons when I cook. And now I’m free from a little bit of kitchen drudgery! Not only that – I can make lemonade in a heartbeat.

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The Real Lemonade Revolution: brought to you by 3D printing

A few years ago I offered a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade to a 20+ employee. She took a sip and had a stunned look on her face. “Amazing,” she said. Noting her ecstasy over the drink, I wondered if it was possible she had never had real lemonade before? Sure enough, prior to this moment lemonade for her was something made with water and canned powder. She had no idea you could just make lemonade from . . . well, real lemons.

Have you ever compared the ingredient list on a lemon with the ingredient list on one of those cans of lemonade mix? Here is a typical powdered lemonade mix ingredient list: Sugar, Fructose, Citric Acid, Less Than 2% Of Natural Flavor, Ascorbic Acid, Maltodextrin, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Citrate, Magnesium Oxide, Calcium Fumarate, Artificial Color, Yellow 5 Lake, Tocopherol.

Compare that list to: Lemon. No wonder my employee was so amazed with that glass of fresh lemonade I handed her.

Now you, too, can make fresh lemonade faster than you can open that can of powdered mix, just in time for summer – with a 3D printed juicer. I’m going to have one made for everyone I know this year.

Three more MUST-HAVE 3D Printed Kitchen Tools & lots more

I love my 3D printed juicer so much. It started me wondering, what other ways could 3D printing transform my life in the kitchen? Here are a few things I found that I want to try.

For now, I’m going to go enjoy a tall glass of fresh, 3D printed juicer lemonade and figure out how I’m going to hit up my favorite 3D printer owning neighbor for a Cheese Press.

The “Juicy Juicer” featured in this article can be found on Thingiverse, here. Model credit: Procrastinator.

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A New Model for Rapid Progress

I’m an impatient person. I think that’s part of the reason why I’m enjoying 3D printing so much. It seems to be following an amplified version of the Moore’s Law trajectory. So why is that?

As I see it, this is due primarily to a combination of three factors. 1) open source licensing and the open source community, 2) Internet-driven collaboration, and 3) a widespread willingness to share the results of one’s labor freely.

It turns out, this is a very powerful combination! It’s the exact same combination of factors that has resulted in the e-NABLE volunteer community accomplishing so much in such a short period of time, with over 1350 members in just one year of existence.

Recently, Autodesk threw their significant weight into the ring, committing to a significant investment into that open source process by developing an entirely new open source hardware and software platform for 3D printing.

Internet collaboration technologies are empowering individuals everywhere to get directly involved in solving real-world problems and helping to move important technologies forward. This is something the larger companies are going to have to adapt to if they wish to survive in the long term. Companies will need to learn to leverage this model instead of trying to compete with it.

Like any well-managed company, 3D Universe has a clearly defined set of strategic objectives and targets. Unlike most companies, financial profit is NOT the top item on that list. Profit is one factor that plays into our decision-making, but social impact and alignment with our core principles carries more weight in our considerations.

I sure hope that idea continues to catch on. Companies can no longer afford to act or make decisions in isolation from the broader community. With continued population growth combined with Internet and computing technologies, everything has become too connected for that to work any longer.  It’s amazing how many companies still have profit as their number one objective without realizing how that leads to bad decision-making. When we focus too much on profit, at the exclusion of everything “outside” of the company, our view is way too narrow and disconnected from the broader reality of the situation.

We need to change our definition of success. Real success isn’t measured by a bank balance. It’s measured in terms of the impact we have on those around us. It’s measured in terms of our peace of mind when we go to bed at night and the enthusiasm with which we greet each day.

If we consider the model of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, we can view this shift as moving beyond the more basic physiological and safety needs, to focus more on matters of self-actualization (which can apply to companies as well as individuals).

maslow

Interestingly, it seems there is a growing number of people who share this view and therefore wish to do business with companies who operate on this basis. As a result, financial goals can easily be achieved, even without that being the primary focus.

There is a strong current rapidly developing through Internet-driven collaboration and sharing. Companies who try to fight against this current are going to lose. Those who learn to ride the current will find things progressing quite rapidly!

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 3

For background on this, please see:

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 1

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 2


Time for another update!

Sierra celebrated her 11th birthday yesterday. Happy birthday, Sierra! This is a big week for Sierra – her science fair is coming up this Thursday!

As I showed in Part 2, I sent some 3D printed parts and assembly materials to Sierra, and she was able to assemble a fully functional mechanical hand, with minimal assistance. As a nice surprise, Sierra’s mom recorded the whole assembly process as a time-lapse. I am therefore very pleased to share with you this wonderful video:

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Isn’t it great? I especially love the ice-cream break!

Then, on Thursday, May 29th, I had the opportunity to do a Skype call with Sierra’s entire classroom (14 students). These kids asked the most amazing questions. So intelligent! We got to spend more than half an hour talking together about 3D printed hands, and 3D printing in general. We talked about where 3D printing is likely to be a few years from now, and how they might be using it.

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This is the second “virtual field trip” I’ve had the opportunity to do so far. I previously did the same thing with a classroom in Massachusetts. It’s wonderful to see how kids respond to this technology. They listen attentively, they ask intelligent questions, and they seem genuinely interested in learning more.

The e-NABLE volunteer community is now beginning to formulate plans for helping more classrooms to get started with 3D printing, and to make 3D printed hands for people who need them in their local communities. There is so much talent and good-will within e-NABLE – I’m very excited to see what we’re able to come up with.

So on Thursday, Sierra goes to her science fair to present her work to the school and community. But even though she hasn’t finished that yet, Sierra has already volunteered to make another 3D printed hand for another child who actually needs one!

Another e-NABLE volunteer helped me to quickly identify an 8-year-old girl who doesn’t have most of her fingers on one hand. She does, however have a fully functional thumb. e-NABLE is currently testing a new design, specifically for people who have a functional thumb but need mechanical finger replacements.

I printed the parts out for this new design and have sent them to Sierra. She’s going to assemble and test the new hand. She’ll then provide some feedback about how the new design seems to work. When she’s finished, she’ll send it to me for a final check, and I’ll then send it to the 8-year-old girl who is awaiting her new hand.

Having done a similar assembly already, I can guarantee Sierra will be able to put this one together without issue. So we now have an 11-year-old girl making a new hand for an 8-year-old girl who lives 2,000 miles away from her – for free! And BOTH girls are very happy about it!

Here’s a photo of the new hand parts, unassembled:

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A note to Sierra:

Sierra,

Good luck with the science fair on Thursday! You’re going to do great! Of course, the outcome (if they even select “winners” at this science fair) doesn’t really matter. You’ve already achieved so much and inspired so many people!

I’m so proud of the work you’ve done, and especially the way you’re volunteering to help make a new hand for our new friend. To see someone your age who already understands how rewarding it is to do things like this for others is a wonderful thing!

Your friend,
Jeremy


Continue reading…

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 4


For more information about e-NABLE, please visit:

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 2

For background, see e-NABLing Sierra – Part 1.


I’m so impressed with Sierra! I sent her a bunch of 3D printed pieces and some assembly materials:

Sierra04

From there, she was able to assemble a fully-functional mechanical hand prosthesis.

Sierra05

And she’s TEN YEARS OLD.

Now, let’s look at the bigger picture here for a moment…

Sierra has already caught the attention of Ed Tech, who wants to interview her, and the science fair hasn’t even taken place yet.

Her classmates have been excited to hear stories of her work, so this Thursday, I’ll be doing a Skype call with her whole class to talk about 3D printing and the kind of work Sierra and I are doing.

And of course, stories and photos of her work are being shared on the Internet.

Now, think about the downstream effects of all this. Sierra is going to be reaching thousands of people – sending a strong message about how powerful this technology is. An affordable technology that allows a 10-year-old to do something that used to require a big company and millions of dollars in R&D and manufacturing costs is a really big deal, and Sierra is helping to spread the word. For that, I am truly grateful to her.


Continue reading…

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 3

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 4


For more information about e-NABLE, please visit:

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 1

I have a new project that I will share with you as it develops. I think it will serve as another great example of why 3D printing is so important for students and schools.

Sierra

Meet Sierra, a 10-year-old girl who is getting ready for a Science Fair and wants to show how 3D printers can help humans and animals who need limbs. I have volunteered to help her with her project.  I’ll send her some assembly materials kits so she can make her own 3D printed prosthetic hands. The photo above shows her first “Cyborg Beast” e-NABLE Hand printing with the help of a local 3D print shop.

Sierra’s mom described Sierra’s feelings about this project:

“She is so incredibly excited about this project. She goes to sleep talking about it and wakes up asking what we have to do next…”

“Her enthusiasm for this project has ignited interest in 3D printing in her classmates as well as her teacher. I’m sure her teacher would be interested in turning this into a class project (probably for next school year since we are winding down).”

Well, I’m excited too! I’ll speak with Sierra and her mom via Skype soon, and I hope to speak with her teacher as well. Maybe I can help Sierra’s teacher get a class project going and eventually maybe even a whole curriculum for 3D printing!

3D printing is an amazing technology, and children in particular seem to recognize the potential. I’ve seen my own son’s eyes light up when he realized he could have an idea and turn it into a physical object overnight. I’ve had other people bring their kids over to see our 3D printers and talk about how it works. Within minutes, these kids become engaged in a way we don’t see often enough these days.

We adults grew up in a world where companies make the products, and the rest of us are just consumers. Our children will grow up in a world where we are all co-creators. They seem to recognize this potential intuitively and get genuinely excited about it. Our educational system desperately needs something like 3D printing to provide a more practical education that can truly engage kids.

The power of 3D printing to engage is why I’ve been so excited to see students, teachers and schools getting involved in 3D printing, specifically in 3D printing prosthetic devices. Most schools with more than a couple thousand students are likely to have at least one student with an upper limb difference. Students in that school can work together to make a new hand for someone they know — and learn all about 3D printing along the way!

Here are some videos showing students involved with 3D printing. Notice how genuinely interested and engaged they seem:

Today, I received the following update from Sierra’s mom, Lianne:

“I just got back from an EdTech conference, and 3D printing was a VERY popular subject. Sierra has also attracted some big attention to her project, and it looks like some Ed Tech leaders in VT will interview her. The Keynote speaker described this exact kind of learning and how it needs to be more evident in schools if we are going to keep kids engaged. Very cool!”

Very cool, indeed!

I have two assembly kits ready to send to Sierra tomorrow:

IMG_7261

Each kit includes all of the assembly materials needed to make a 3D printed “Cyborg beast” e-NABLE Hand.

 


Continue reading…

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 2

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 3

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 4


 

For more information about e-NABLE, please visit:

KICKSTARTER JUST LAUNCHED! Strooder: A Consumer-Oriented Filament Extruder You’d be Proud to Have on Your Desktop

The KickStarter campaign for the Strooder just launched! Check it out here!

Anyone who spends a lot of time with 3D printing eventually starts to look at how to reduce the cost of filament. It’s the biggest ongoing cost of 3D printing by far, so it’s where we naturally look for savings. A typical spool of filament weighs 1kg and typically costs around $30-45 (USD) for ABS or PLA, the most common 3D printing materials. Costs vary for other kinds of materials, but most of them are more than ABS or PLA.

Once my wife saw all of my filament orders, she started asking if there was a way to make our own for a lower cost. I told her about filament extruders, which have been around for a while. She loved the idea, but when we looked at available options, we found that 1) everything currently available was either in a kit form, over-priced, or both. A kit would have been fine and could have been a fun project for us, but . . . 2) the available designs tend to look like something built from spare parts out of someone’s garage, and 3) the general consensus in online discussions seemed to be that it was difficult to obtain consistent results from available models and that it may end up being more hassle than it’s worth currently. So, I continued buying filament online.

Several months later, along came Strooder:

strooder

I had a chance to talk to the founders of the company behind this attractive device via Skype the other day. Greg Gruszecki and David Graves are two robotics engineers in Bristol, UK who joined forces and founded OmniDynamics. They started out working on an overall robotic system but they found themselves limited by the lack of materials available for prototyping. Strooder, therefore, became a vital stepping stone to enable the company to achieve those initial goals in the future, by enabling faster, lower cost prototypes and the use of more exotic materials.

They turned their attention towards developing a consumer-oriented filament extruder. As you can see from the above and below photos, design was an important consideration from day one. It was important that the final design be something people would want to have sitting on their desk, next to that fancy 3D printer. I’d say they hit the mark there:

Colors

Along with design, their focus was on being able to help lower overall filament costs and increase the range of material options available for consumer-level 3D printers.

The initial investment seems reasonable, especially compared to other existing options. The Strooder will have an early-bird Kickstarter price of about $250 (149 GBP) and a final retail price of about $420 (249 GBP).

OmniDynamics plans to sell ABS and PLA pellets for somewhere around 20% the normal cost of filament spools. They also plan to offer a variety of colors, and eventually additional materials, so that users can mix up custom colors and obtain specific physical properties by mixing different pellets in the hopper.

color_mixing

 

Aside from being cost effective, the Strooder is also environmentally friendly. I have bins of material left over from failed prints:

filament_bins

So now I’ll be able to cut up those failed prints (into pieces no larger than about 1 inch) and feed them into the Strooder to make new filament! Recycled prints can be combined with new pellets to help prevent the material from breaking down from too many repeated extrusions.

Of course, I haven’t had the opportunity to use one myself, but having spoken to Gruszecki and Graves, I can tell you this much: I intend to back their Kickstarter campaign. Here’s why:

  1. Having seen other similar Kickstarter campaigns, and knowing the demand for a solution like this, I have a feeling their campaign will succeed, so the risk seems fairly low to me, given the early-bird cost
  2. It comes fully assembled and ready to use
  3. It includes an easily-swappable nozzle for 1.75mm, 2.85mm, or 3mm filament
  4. It has an interactive onboard display so you can easily select what material and nozzle size you’re using, and the machine will determine all of the appropriate settings for you
  5. It’s designed with safety in mind (i.e. active protection against overheating, no exposed parts that could burn someone)
  6. Once their company has revenues coming in, they plan to develop and offer a filament spool winder, as well as a grinder for recycling failed prints, which, when combined with the Strooder, will provide a complete desktop filament production solution.

Their testing so far has yielded very consistent results. They claim you can load a full hopper of material, push the button, and walk away. I pointed out that, while that may be true, you would probably come back to find a tangled heap of filament on the ground. That’s when we started talking about their plans for the prints grinder and filament spool winder. They might end up offering those as part of a stretch goal for the Kickstarter campaign, but that hasn’t been determined yet.

In order to help ensure the highest quality results, the OmniDynamics team has been focusing their testing primarily on PLA, which is somewhat more challenging to extrude properly than ABS. Most other designers of filament extruders seem to focus more on ABS and sometimes have difficulties with PLA. Later, OmniDynamics plans to offer the ability to work with other materials in addition to ABS and PLA, such as HDPE, PP, and LDPE.

Strooder’s specifications are as follows:

  • Screen: 2.4inch, 340 * 220 Pixels
  • Hopper Volume: 1 litre
  • Pre-set Material Options: PLA & ABS
  • Extrusion Rate: 0.7m – 1.5m/minute
  • Extrusion Temperature: up to 250°C
  • Enclosure Size: Height 225mm, Width 165, Depth 285mm
  • Feed Screw Speed: up to 10RPM
  • Input Power: 115VAC and 220VAC
  • Power Draw: ~200W
  • Filament Diameters: 1.75mm, 2.85mm, & 3mm
  • Filament Tolerance: (+ .1/ – .1mm)
  • Pellet Sample: 100g

For more information, please visit: http://www.omnidynamics.co.uk/

The KickStarter campaign for the Strooder just launched! Check it out here!

Autodesk Makes Two Big Announcements That May Help Move 3D Printing Forward

Autodesk just announced two things that could be significant for 3D printing:

  1. An open software platform for 3D printing called Spark. This platform will make it more reliable yet simpler to print 3D models and easier to control how that model is actually printed.
  2. Their own 3D printer that will serve as a “reference implementation for Spark. Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass says this printer “will demonstrate the power of the Spark platform and set a new benchmark for the 3D printing user experience.”

Autodesk has already supported the 3D printing community in a major way, especially when it comes to students and educators. They have also actively supported the e-NABLE community and other sources of crowd-based innovation. This announcement further demonstrates their commitment to contribute to an important technology already having a very positive impact around the world.

Regarding licensing for their new software and hardware, Autodesk says:

Spark will be open and freely licensable to hardware manufacturers and others who are interested. Same for our 3D printer – the design of the printer will be made publicly available to allow for further development and experimentation. The printer will be able to use a broad range of materials, made by us and by others, and we look forward to lots of exploration into new materials.

Spark’s open licensing could have a significant impact. Think about how far 3D printing has come in recent years.  This growth and development has primarily been the result of open source designs (for example, the RepRap), shared with the world, picked up by others, further developed, re-released, and so on.

Now, Autodesk, a company with significant financial and personnel assets, will give that very active global community an open software and hardware platform.  This offering will provide an opportunity to address many of the common complaints with the current state of 3D printing.

The details on Autodesk’s new software and hardware platforms are scarce for now, but Autodesk says both be available later this year.

The printer sure looks pretty, but I’m actually more interested in the software side of Autodesk’s announcement. The whole 3D printing workflow could be significantly improved with 1) better software and 2) moving away from the STL file format in favor of a format developed specifically with today’s (and tomorrow’s) 3D printers and materials in mind.

My experience with Autodesk’s software so far has shown me they know how to build applications that provide a smooth user experience.  I can think of no other company that knows 3D modeling and 3D file formats better than them.

I don’t know exactly what features their software and hardware will include, but I’m confident both will be of a high quality.  Since the software is open and hardware designs will be released, others will be free to build upon these offerings. I’m guessing it will further accelerate an already rapidly developing technology.

We’ve waited for the “big players” to get into 3D printing. HP and Epson are still getting ready, and we know they’ll shake things up when they do.  Whatever they offer, though, it’s not likely to be shared or licensed freely. Autodesk is making a significant contribution here.

If you’d like to sign up to be notified as more information becomes available from Autodesk, please visit here.

Review of Simplify3D All-in-One Software for 3D Printing

Simplify3D is designed to be a complete solution for 3D print preparation, and has features not found in other popular slicing programs. It also has a price tag of $140, with no evaluation version available, which makes many people hesitant to give it a shot.

To help with your buying decision, check out our four-part video review on YouTube:


Part 1 provides a 20 minute overview of what Simplify3D has to offer:

S3D1


Part 2 shows a specific use-case where the custom support features of Simplify3D prove to be especially useful:

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Part 3 demonstrates how the visualization features of Simplify3D can be used to avoid failed prints:

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Part 4 shows how Simplify3D customized support allows for “stacking” parts, positioning smaller parts underneath the overhanging portions of larger parts:

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Purchase Simplify3D now at shop3duniverse.com.

First Impressions of the Flashforge Creator X 3D Printer

I recently received the new Flashforge Creator X and figured I’d provide a side-by-side comparison with the original Flashforge Creator in this video review.

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This video doesn’t focus so much on technical specifications, as those are readily available on the Internet. Instead, the focus here is on the differences between the Creator and the Creator X.

In summary:

  • Same technical specs – both have dual MK8 extruders, 6x9x6″ build area, and a heated build plate
  • The Creator X costs $100 more than the Creator ($1299 vs $1199)
  • Improved build plate, with 6.3mm thick aluminum to prevent warping and provide a level print surface
  • Aluminum frame for improved rigidity
  • Side panels for better results when printing with ABS (keeps the temperature higher within the build chamber)
  • New mounts for y-axis rods to improve stability
  • LED strip lighting mounted inside for improved visibility
  • Noise level seems to be about the same between the Creator and Creator X

Purchase the Creator X now at shop3duniverse.com.

 

Video Review of Taulman 3D’s New Bridge Nylon Filament

Taulman 3D recently released a new nylon filament called “Bridge”, so named because it bridges the excellent qualities of other nylon filaments with the lower cost and ease of use found in more common ABS and PLA filaments.

Unlike other Nylon filaments, this one can be printed on glass, with a thin coat of PVA glue. Bed adhesion and warping challenges have been significantly reduced. This filament also absorbs much less moisture than previous nylon filaments.

Here’s a video review.

Purchase the Taulman Nylon Filament at shop3duniverse.com.

Modern Manufacturing – Happening in Homes Across the Globe

IMG_4179

 

It may not look like much, but this is what the manufacturing facility of tomorrow looks like, tucked away in the corner of a quiet suburban home. Similar setups are appearing in homes across the globe, and the rate at which this is happening is far greater than most fully appreciate.

There are some limitations when dealing with FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), but it’s become pretty affordable, and it’s a good way to get started in 3D printing. Other options will be emerging soon, now that the patent on Selective Laser Sintering has expired, so we’ll have consumer level printers capable of printing in metals, ceramics, glass, etc.

It may not look like much now, but this is the very early phase of what will eventually be a Star-Trek style replicator, capable of building anything we need by assembling individual atoms and molecules. That will mean an end to global hunger, and an end to resource shortages (a big reason for wars currently). It’s going to take several decades of further development, but it can be done. And if we continue to work collaboratively, leveraging the Internet to share our findings, the timeline will be shorter than most would currently guess.

3D Printing in a Nutshell, Now and in the Future

It’s hard to appreciate the importance of what’s developing with 3D printing and related technologies. Many people equate the current state of 3D printing technologies to the state of computers and software in the early 1980’s. I agree with that, but there’s one BIG difference. With the modern Internet, there is an interconnectedness and ability to easily share and access information that we did not have in the 80’s. Many of the 3D printer designs and related software are released under open source licenses, so others are free to download the designs or source code and make further improvements, then release it back to the community. This Internet-based, open source, community-driven approach to developing a new technology is tremendously powerful!

Here’s a look at the current state of 3D printing, and a glimpse of what’s ahead:

 

Now

As of today, here’s what’s happening in 3D printing and related technologies:

  • Consumer-level 3D printers are becoming less expensive, more widely available, and easier to use.
  • To show the cost effectiveness of 3D printing, students at MTU printed $1,944 worth of household items for a total cost of $18 over the course of a single weekend.
  • Designers can now create digital 3D models and then sell physical replicas of those models in a variety of materials using services like Shapeways or i.Materialise. No need to own a 3D printer!
  • Children are seeing how easily ideas can be transformed into a physical object. Schools and libraries are starting to install 3D printers, enabling a new kind of experience-driven education.
  • Organ tissues are being 3D printed for medical testing, and surgeons are starting to fix serious injuries with 3D printed implants.
  • The first food printers have started to arrive: Consumer levelprofessional level, and some just for the chocolate lovers.
  • The Smithsonian is in the process of 3D scanning their archives (which contain over 137 million objects, only about 2% of which are on display). They are being made freely available online, with many of them in a downloadable format for 3D printing at home.
  • NASA is sending a 3D printer to the International Space Station so they can build parts on demand.
  • The ability to 3D print entire houses has been developed.
  • Prosthetics are being made available much more affordably and being made available to those who need them.
  • Prosthetics are also being turned into works of art the wearer can be proud to show off.
  • And of course we can’t forget, 3D printing has made its way into the world of fashion.

The Future

In the years to come, things are going to get really interesting:

 

In Summary

These technologies are going to radically change our world in ways we can only partially imagine now. As the technology continues to develop at an accelerated pace, those futuristic, almost magical technologies we keep collectively dreaming about in our sci-fi movies will begin to materialize. And it’s going to happen faster than you might think, thanks to something that we as humans are hopefully rediscovering – that many people working collaboratively on a challenge can achieve incredible results!

 

Here’s a nice infographic that sums it all up:

Infographic source: http://www.nerdgraph.com/the-possibilities-of-a-3d-printer/

3D Printed Architectural Design Brings an Idea to Life

As I’ve said before, 3D printing has the power to bring ideas to life in a very real way. Here’s an example of how well this works for the smaller ideas as well as the big ones.

For the last 4+ years, my mom has owned and operated a wonderful vegetarian café in Woodstock, IL, called Expressly Leslie Vegetarian Specialties. You can check it out here.

We recently discussed possibilities for creating a Health-Department-approved production kitchen in her home so she could prepare certain dishes on a larger scale than what she can produce at the current café.

She laid out a design for a small production kitchen that would fit in a corner of her basement, and drew the following for me as an illustration:

Initial sketch of a design for a small production kitchen
Initial sketch of a design for a small production kitchen

I decided to surprise her by not only designing a 3D model of her concept kitchen, but also 3D printing a physical model of it for her. So I did a bit of searching and found a free piece of software for designing homes (or rooms in this case) that is able to export in a standard 3D file format. Using SweetHome3D (link below), I put together the following according to her instructions:

Production Kitchen Design - 2D View
Production Kitchen Design – 2D View
Production Kitchen Design - 3D View
Production Kitchen Design – 3D View

 

SweetHome3D lets you export as a Wavefront OBJ file. But when you export a room by default, it does not include the floor, which I wanted in my print. To get around this, I created a “wall” but set it to only 2″ high and with X and Y dimensions slightly larger than the rest of the room. Then, I edited the properties for each object in the room to increase the elevation value by 2″ so it would sit on top of the floor. There might be a better way to do this in the software, but I couldn’t find it, and this worked well for my needs.

I then used Blender (link below) to import the OBJ file and export it as an STL file. From there, I brought it into Slic3r and prepared it for printing.

And here is the result:

3D Printed Model of a Small Production Kitchen Design
3D Printed Model of a Small Production Kitchen Design

As is common with objects with large, flat surfaces like this one, there were some problems with warping and delamination. I treated those the best I could by brushing on a bit of acetone to seal those gaps as they appeared, but some of the issues occurred while I was sleeping and are still visible in the final print.

After printing, I treated the whole thing in an acetone vapor bath (using a large deep fryer and a version of the method outlined by Austin Wilson and Neil Underwood here.)

A time-lapse video of the print can be found here.

The model I used for the 3D printed sign on the font can be found here. Model credit: Steven Morlock

SweetHome3D software can be found here.

Blender software can be found here.

 

Opportunities for 3D Printing in K-12 Education

As discussed in a previous post, there is exciting potential for 3D printing as part of an educational curriculum. It can help to bring ideas to life in a tangible form that can help facilitate new understanding.

Here are just a few possibilities that come to mind for using 3D printing as part of a K-12 curriculum:

  1. 3D Printed Bridge-Building Contest
    Challenge kids to design, model and print a bridge that can span a space of about six or seven inches (that way, the bridge will fit on most 3D printer build platforms). Limit them to a specific amount of filament used to create the bridge (the 3D printer and/or slicing software will tell you exactly how much filament any given model uses, so you would just have the students submit their STL files to you for analysis). For younger kids, an adult can help do the 3D modeling, but the kids can still figure out what design they want and then see the result created before their eyes. When one bridge breaks, they would just make a change in the model to try to address the issue, then reprint.
  2. 3D Printed Models to Illustrate Complex Ideas
    Simply providing students with a 3D printed model that they can hold in their hands, turn around and look at from all angles can be very helpful. Examples might include molecular/atomic models, biological models (i.e. internal organs), or geometric models that illustrate mathematical concepts. For physics classes, models for things like catapults, working gears, pulleys, etc. can be printed to illustrate specific principles.
  3. Product Design Challenge
    Challenge students to come up with a unique design for a new product, or an improved design for an existing one. Students would then 3D model the product (with help from adults as needed) and then print it out. Not only does this create an incredible experience for the student, as they are able to take an idea and turn it into a physical reality, but it also provides valuable experience in terms of the modern product development lifecycle.
  4. Replicas of Famous Figures and Historical Locations for History or Social Studies Class
    Teachers can 3D print busts of famous figures so students can experience them in three dimensions. Historical locations such as Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Roman Colloseum, the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, etc. can also be printed. The Smithsonian Museum has undertaken a massive project of 3D scanning their collection of over 137,000,000 artifacts and making them available online, here: http://3d.si.edu  So, for example, you can now download a detailed life mask of Abraham Lincoln, made a day before his 56th birthday, in the STL file format, ready for 3D printing!
  5. Architecture and Interior Design
    Have students design a house or other architectural structure, or design the interior of a single room, then 3D model and print the design. There are software tools available that make these kinds of designs easy to create with mostly dragging-and-dropping components where you want them. Just make sure to pick a software package that can export to an STL file for printing. For example, http://www.sketchup.com/, which has a plugin available to import/export STL files, available here: http://extensions.sketchup.com/en/content/sketchup-stl. They also offer K-12 grants and deeply discounted educational pricing.
  6. Digital Sculpting
    Art students can explore digital sculpting, using software to virtually sculpt a model, just as they would if working with clay. For example, Autodesk makes many of their excellent applications available free of charge to students and educators. Go to http://www.autodesk.com/education/free-software and check out 123D Sculpt if your students have access to iPhone or iPad devices. They can create a model by “pushing” and “pulling” on a virtual lump of clay, then export the file for 3D printing. It’s a very easy and intuitive way for kids to get started with 3D modeling.
  7. 3D Printed Prosthetics
    In a school with several thousand students, there’s a good chance that one or more of those students are missing fingers, a hand, or some other limb. What if a group of students could 3D print and assemble a fully functional prosthesis for that person? Well, it’s very possible, and some schools are working with the e-NABLE volunteer community to do exactly that.
    http://www.3duniverse.org/2014/05/16/e-nabling-sierra/
    http://enablingthefuture.org/2014/06/04/students-3d-printing-hands/
    http://enablingthefuture.org/2014/03/10/teaching-to-e-nable-others/
    http://enablingthefuture.org/2014/02/28/e-nabling-young-minds/
We have to think about the profound value and potentially life changing experience that these types of activities can have on students of all ages. Then ask ourselves, in today’s schools, where the focus is on standardized testing, can we make room for something like this? I certainly hope so because 3D printing will be a part of our future whether we like it or not. Our kids will need to learn about this new technology just like they will need to know how to code. It’s important to really think about what education is, what it should be, and make changes that are child driven, rather than financially driven. Technologies like 3D printing are giving us an opportunity to provide our children with an exciting kind of experience-based education that has the power to truly inspire them to achieve great things.
Here are some videos showing students involved with 3D printing. Notice how genuinely interested and engaged they seem:

3D Printed Marble Display Stand, Designed by a 10-Year-Old

I had a terrific experience today. Yesterday evening, my 10-year-old son came to me with a drawing of a display stand he wanted to make for his favorite marbles (yes, it’s okay to laugh at that). The marbles were of different diameters, and he wanted the stand to have a square base with cylindrical towers to hold each marble. He had very specific instructions on how tall he wanted each tower to be.

So, he went off to bed, and I started to learn some 3D modeling (which I have never done before, so please don’t laugh at my almost non-existent modeling skills).

Here’s what he gave me (I added in marble measurements so I’d know how to size each tower):

Initial Sketch of Marble Display Stand
Initial Sketch of Marble Display Stand

And here’s what I modeled:

3D Model of Marble Display Stand
3D Model of Marble Display Stand

So, I started it printing and went to bed myself. When we woke up in the morning, this was waiting for us:

3D Printed  Marble Display Stand
3D Printed Marble Display Stand

Zachary (my son) arranged his marbles and found that everything fit perfectly!

 

3D Printed Marble Display Stand, with Marbles
3D Printed Marble Display Stand, with Marbles

The look on his face when he saw this was priceless! I could tell that this made a huge impact on him. He had an idea, sketched it out, and then we brought that idea into physical form – from his head to the real world in just a few hours.

My wife and I homeschool Zachary, and it’s clear that 3D printing is going to be an important part of his education. It’s no wonder that schools and libraries across the country are installing 3D printers. Much like kids in my generation grew up with computers, Zachary’s generation is going to grow up with 3D printing. The thought of having a new idea for an object and then printing out a physical model of it may seem somewhat magical to us, but it will seem very normal to our children. Over time, this will help us as a society to become co-creators, rather than mere consumers.

 

A time-lapse video of the print can be found here: http://youtu.be/x_CIL2l2pcs

And if for some strange reason, you want to print one of these for yourself, you can download the model here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:206589 (model credit: Zachary S.)