by General Fabb
Design firm Freedom of Creation supported the fight against cancer by helping a popular fundraising event in France on 3 June this year. FOC manufactured a special clip for riders in the annual Alpe d'HuZes. The Alpe d'HuZes is a gruelling cycling event in which participants ride not once, but six times up a mountain that is used for the Tour de France.
FOC's clip features the Alpe d'Huzes logo, and will be in a new color each year. This encourages participants to return and collect a new clip as a remembrance of their odyssey up the mountain.
The event was clearly a success, as almost 3300 riders and over 72,000 donors produced an record amount of more than € 10,000,000 for the cancer charity. The value of the clip? Priceless.
Something struck us the other day when thinking about the variety of 3D printing approaches. Traditional manufacturing is typically "subtractive", in that you take a large chunk of material, say a granite cube, length of wood or a 17 tonne cube of solid titanium and go at it with tools, manual or automated. When the smoke clears, material has been "subtracted" from the original object to "reveal" the final item. Interestingly, Michelangelo believed every stone had a sculpture hidden within it echoing this process.
Subtractive manufacturing can be wasteful. Consider the titanium cube that might be milled down to a final object comprised of only 10% of the original cube's mass. Sure, you might be able to recycle the shaved-off bits, but that's not going to be efficient.
Step forward to the 21st century where we have "Additive" manufacturing. In this approach there is no original material to subtract from. Instead, we simply deposit new material in an "additive" way to gradually build up an object from nothing. We do this with extruders, laser sintering, powder fusing and other approaches. But they are all additive.
Or are they?
Consider the case of Solido and MCOR, who use sheet-based additive manufacturing approaches. In this approach, a flat sheet represents a layer that is added. Then the machine removes (subtracts?) the areas of the sheet that are not required. The question then is, are MCOR and Solido additive or subtractive? We think they are both because they add layers, but subtract from each layer.
To print on one of these machines you must visualize the input material: a stack of sheets, plastic or paper. Your object has to be contained within that stack. So like Michelangelo, we believe every stack has an object hidden inside. Even pancakes.
MCOR's Matrix 300 paper-based 3D printer is now in use at various industrial and educational institutions in the UK.
The Matrix 300 has been installed at Ravensbourne campus in Greenwich Peninsula; Pera, The Innovation Network in Leicestershire; the Royal College of Art in London. No doubt more installations are coming.
These MCOR clients are all in the UK, but when will they sell in other locales? According to MCOR, they expect to distribute into Europe and the United States in 3Q / 4Q 2010.
Commercial Laser Sintering giant EOS has been focusing on the medical market recently, using their SLS expertise to produce a variety of solutions.
EOS uses several plastic approaches, including laser-sintered nylon for "disposable, customized operating devices such as drill guides for knee and hip replacements". They're also developing "PEEK HP3", which is a "a high-temperature, high-performance thermoplastic" that is biocompatible and sterilizable.
EOS also produces direct metal laser sintering to create such items as:
- Stainless-steel prototypes for customized spinal surgical instruments
- Cobalt chrome replacement knee joint prototypes, and end-product dental copings and bridges
- Titanium dental implants with porous surfaces that promote osteointegration
In an unusual example of Web2.0 colliding head-on with 3D Printing, Objet announced they've sold a Connex 350 3D printer to social product developer Quirky.
Wait a moment, you ask, what exactly is a "social product developer"? The Quirky answer is a startup company that accepts ideas from the public and produces new products. And they do it - every single week! Here's how it works:
- You submit your idea to Quirky (fee USD$99)
- Quirky's community members take a look at your idea and refine it, much like a wiki develops
- Units are pre-sold to the community to gauge interest
- A winner is selected by the Quirky design team
- Professional engineers, designers and marketers then take over and properly design your product and place it on sale
- When the number of orders reaches the appropriate threshold, the item is actually manufactured and you receive a portion of the revenue
The event this week was Quirky's acquisition of a 3D printer, which can clearly speed up their already warp-speed weekly product cycle by making prototypes, components or even finished items in some cases. Why did Quirky select an Objet printer? We'll never know for sure, but speculation is that Objet's Polyjet Matrix multi-material capability might be one reason.
We think this is yet another example of a personal manufacturing model, in the same vein as Ponoko or Shapeways.
Fabbaloo has obtained 3D print samples from printer vendor Solido, including the dramatic skeleton hand above. Solido uses a unique plastic sheet printing technique in which successive sheets are glued and cut, eventually building up to an object. This process certainly produces a lot of waste plastic - but don't fear! You can send the unused plastic sheet clippings back to Solido, who recycle them for you.
We were amazed at the quality of the prints. Here we can see the fine details of the hand bones (click for more detailed view). While there is some very fine layering visible and touchable as you can see in the image above, the shimmery visual quality makes it a memorable object.
Solido included a nut and bolt to illustrate the fine detail possible with their system. The nut fits and turns very well, although we're not sure of the fragility of this sample and don't want to find out via experimentation. Perhaps it's the almost clear view through the bolt that makes one feel that the object is glass-like?
The final object we'd like to show is this Round Clip, which functions rather smoothly. The material is sufficiently bendable and strong to lock together strongly when the teeth are engaged. Even better, the huge flexibility of the clip would easily permit insertion of something the width of the opening. Very well done!
Our thanks to Solido USA for providing the samples!
We received a follow up comment regarding our post "Poor Man's 3D Printing: The Design" from A1 technologies, marketers of a variety of 3D gear. They wished to point out one of their products, the Chameleon, might be considered as an inexpensive design alternative.
What is the Chameleon? It's a hardware/software combination that enables haptic design of 3D shapes. Haptic? That means based on the sense of touch, and indeed that's precisely what the Chameleon's hardware does. The Chameleon includes a 3D haptic mouse, the Falcon from Novint, which "provides users with a more natural interaction within three-dimensional virtual space and allows significantly more intuitive working". The hardware is combined with Anarkik3D's Cloud9 modelling suite to enable 3D newbies to create imaginative shapes without significant training. Cloud9 produces files that are immediately useful on A1's 3D printers, and others, too. In other words, the Chameleon is a totally different approach to 3D modelling that could be a more viable point of entry for new modellers.
We're very keen on this intuitive approach, and have written of it before. But could it be part of "Poor Man's 3D Printing"? The cost of the Chameleon is only £495 (USD$715) so it is tremendously less expensive than other haptic options.
We like to think that it depends entirely on the modeller. If the modeller is sufficiently familiar with traditional 3D modelling software such as Blender or SketchUp, they might not have a need to spend on a Chameleon. On the other hand, if the learning curve of Blender is beyond your time threshold, perhaps the Chameleon should be sitting on your desk.
Via A1 Technologies
A wonderful story by Julie LaChance relates her first encounter with a 3D printer. We love these stories because we can see the awesome and profound revelation people feel when they suddenly "get it" and realize what could be when 3D printing breaks out.
In this story, Julie had a "you have to see this" moment when a student modelled an engine block and then printed it (apparently on the school's ZCorp 3D printer). Julie walks us through the steps from design to curing with Z-Bond.
What a fantastic opportunity! Drafting classes across the district can print to this printer and while i was in the classroom, I saw a few other student graduation projects that were being printed. I think this is such a great way to display the works that students have created in a way that is more meaningful to that student as well as students or teachers (like me) that really don't understand the programs they're using in that class.
Welcome to the 3D world, Julie!