Another great use of 3dprinting

I had the great pleasure of interviewing leading educator, James Novak to learn more about his 3dprinted bike he designed. James is a lecturer at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and has gained world wide recognition for his bicycle he developed.

The great thing about this designs is it shows how far 3dprinting can be pushed with a creative mind. To read the blog please click here.DSCF6909.JPG

Learn how to low poly model with these easy steps.

Ever wondered how to create amazing low poly models? The answer is simple, you can easily create low poly designs using Autodesk meshmixer. I have written a tutorial on how to do it and posted it here.This is a great hack for altering models quickly and requires almost no CAD modelling experience.

Low poly modelling tutorial by


3d print your own open source toy robot by Cannybots.

Remember Scalectrix as a young child? Hours of fun were had racing toy cars around race tracks as fast as possible. The game never seemed to get old. Now you can take it to the next step with Cannybots open source toy robots. The idea is simple, download and 3d print the designs for the robot, then you can programme the electronics through the use of simple programming interfaces such as – Arduino, Blockly, Python, mbed and Scratch. The robot is controlled by a powerful single board controller called the ‘Bluebrain’. 05_Cannybots-46This ‘Bluebrain’ incorporates an ARM processor, Bluetooth (4.0) and motor controllers that when programmed allow the robot to follow a line or track (usually in the format of a racetrack design). The great feature about Cannybots is you can control it from your smartphone, tablet, PC or even raspberry pi and you can even 3d print the designs yourself. In an age where programming and the study of 3dprinting is taking precedent in education, Cannybots can really help drive the teaching and learning of new technologies within our schools. Currently in the UK, there is a national drive for teaching children how to 3d print, programme computer chips and how to study new and emerging technologies. Educators are always looking at new innovative ways to capture the imagination of students and this seems a great project to work on with classes. Cannybots creator Anish Mampetta explains how “The openness of the platform lets secondary students delve deeper — peeking behind their visual programming to see the Arduino code that actually runs on the robots — and physically taking apart and reassembling their Cannybots to see how the components fit together and communicate. Schools with 3D printers can 3d print their own cannybots as well as develop custom designs for the bots using free design software like AutoDesk Fusion or Google SketchUp.”06_Cannybots-59

Even if you don’t have a 3d printer you can easily purchase a kit from their website so this is truly open to everyone. Along with this a forum on the Cannybots website where users can discuss new ideas and collaborate and share how they are working with Cannybots. There is even a discussion thread about how a programmble hovercraft has been developed. With a kickstarter campaign planned for mid june, Cannybots is really helping to drive the 3d print world forward. To see the Robots in action click the image above.  To download the files you click here and to visit the website click on the link below;

3dprinting really does Rock!


Want to start 3dprinting but not sure where to begin? First place for many is thingiverse for a free download, however what about when you want to design something yourself? There’s only one real option, spend hours learning a CAD package and try to attempt your design. Keep it simple and you might succeed, but anything more complex than a book mark and it could take up hours of your time. Imagine having a Ferrari and needing someone else drive it for you? This would get frustrating after a while. One of my first blogs was about project shapeshifter by Autodesk. This allowed anyone with no design experience to create complex designs in seconds ready for 3dprinting. Then there was Makersempire 3dprinting modelling app for tablets aimed at younger children allowing models to be created by finger commands. Now one of thingiverses’ top designers Mark Durbin has developed a programme called The aim of the programme is to easily create 3dprintable models that are high quality and image based. Got a favourite holiday snap or a precious memory? Then you can immortalise it in 3dprint with this great programme in seconds.

The creator Mark Durbin explained how he first found out about 3dprinting after watching tomorrows world (BBC) in 1994 and later on in 2010 he bought a makerbot first generation ‘thingomatic’ after seeing Bre Petis on the cover of Make magazine. Mark actually purchased the 44th thingomatic ever made. A true founding father of 3dprinting! He explained the inspiration behind 3drocks/lithothane was to ‘help with the process of converting two dimensional images into three dimensional shapes for 3dprinting’. In line with the open source community that helped grow 3dprinting, Mark said he wanted to ‘make the tools as accessible as possible and make the source code available for modification by others’.2015-02-11_20.47.26_preview_featured

After asking Mark his views on the direction of 3dprinting he explained, ‘I think it’s stalled a bit, the RepRap movement has had and still has lots of ideas, but there doesn’t appear to be any real weight behind it.  Lots of small (and some large) companies are coming in to try and claim some of the ideas as their own and protect them commercially, which has tended to close down some of the collaboration and openness that I’ve seen in the past.  That’s not to say that it’s stopped, but it seems that every company that can claim “3D printing” is in some way associated with their product jumps on the band waggon which tends to ‘cheapen’ the general concept. There are still lots of ‘good guys’ out there who acknowledge the open source roots of their business and try to keep their commercial activities from damaging that.  I’m not against commercial activity in this space, I’m all for it, but a lot of it tends to be profit focussed and therefore aimed at the people with deeper pockets. I still think cheap/reliable home/school 3D printers are a great way to allow developing minds to express their ideas in an accessible way that plays to the ‘I want it now’ philosophy that seems to prevail’.SophieMusic_preview_featured

As an educator of 3dprinting this is totally in line with the reality. In the classroom one of the main stumbling blocks to the adoption of this by high school students is cost. Many can’t afford the $1000 – $2000 for the main branded machines and taking a risk on a cheaper unknown relatively new manufacturer is one that many parents of these students can’t do. Also the ‘I want it now’ philosophy resonates with high school students in most aspects of their digital dominated lives.

With such a great programme available for free and with such ease of use 3drocks/lithothane has great potential to help grow 3dprinting and allow easy access for users to create unique designs personalised to themselves. Mark said he has many ideas planned that can ‘extend’ on this and they will allow users ‘to be creative without a huge investment in learning’. Sounds like a great plan and one I will follow carefully. The images shown are some examples of the designs created from 3drock/lithothane. The sketch above is an image drawn by Mark’s daughter that he then turned into a 3dprinted light feature using the programme.

To check out 3drocks/lithothane click the link below and start creating! Thanks for this great programme Mark!



A breath of fresh air in a crowded 3dprinting market

I first saw this printer at the 2013 3dprintshow in London and it caught my eye immediately. This was different from other printers. This actually had good design as the core feature. Many times when looking at 3dprinters you see a strange attempt at a cross between a microwave and some space age structure. But in this case you simply see good design. All printers essentially do the same thing, print objects, but many neglect the product design aspect as this is usually an after thought, and in my opinion is a contributing factor to why the mainstream consumer are not yet embracing the technology. Many 3dprinters you just would not contemplate them in your homes. Some are even an eye sore. The beethefirst printer is different. Design is what sets it apart, this printer looks like it is right out of Apple’s design studio. Jonny Ive once said his aim was to ‘Design out the design’. The design has to be so good that it blends seamlessly with the user and is almost an afterthought. Here we have a 3dprinter that fits this ethos. It looks stunning and is timeless in its appearance. This printer has won many awards including best ‘Prosumer printer’ and best ‘consumer printer’ at the 3dprintshow 2014 and is gaining a reputation as one of the top players in the industry by being awarded the ‘Rookie of the year’ in Make Magazine. There’s a reason for this as well. This printer is by far the most user friendly 3dprinter that I have used and also the most consistent and reliable. From opening the box to 3dprinting the first part was 20 minutes. The user flow of setting this up, calibrating, loading the filament and printing the first part was flawless. A major issue with printers is the calibration of the bed, in this case it was as easy as clicking a mouse button. Everything about this printer has been designed with the user as the focus. Even down to the packaging of the product. When you open the box you are met with a message from beethefirst and the excitement of the unboxing process is like being a child at Christmas again. Every step of the experience brings happiness.


I met with Diogo Quental at the 3dprintshow and the whole team have to be the most friendly bunch of people I have met in 3dprinting. At their stand was free hugs and ‘beescuits’, what more can you ask for! Friendliness and trust goes along way in the world of business. Diogo outlined some of the plans for the future of Beethefirst that includes expansion into the education market with a partnership with Nautilus and also myself as a Beta tester of their printer. I have put this printer through its paces for the past few weeks and it has delivered exceptional results. There used to be a time with 3dprinting when it was hit or miss if a print would be successful. Since printing on the Beethefirst I have not had one print failure and I have printed over 200 parts without needing to calibrate the bed.

As an educator myself, the area of 3dprinting in schools is still an uptapped market with no one clear printer taking the lead. The reason for this I believe is reliability and usability. I think Beethefirst could be a contender to lead in this market. Teachers and students need a 3dprinter that will work time and time again and not have to worry about if a print will be successful. Then there is the fact that this printer is a great case study for good design. When I teach Design and Technology/Product Design lessons, the design of a product is just as important as the functionality side of it. I inform the students that if a product doesn’t look good then it probably won’t sell. If users aren’t attracted to it then the likelihood is it won’t succeed. This looks good and you would be proud to have it on your desk.


With more models planned for the future the direction of Beethefirst is extremely exciting and is one to watch closely. At the 2013 3dprintshow they had one small desk with a 3dprinter exhibiting. At the 2014 3dprintshow they dominated the show floor with the biggest stand. What will 2015 bring?

For more information visit their website

Masters student pushing the boundaries of 3dprinting


3dprinting and slip casting? When I first read this on twitter I had to investigate further. Being a follower of this technology for the past four years I have seen many different uses and applications of the 3dprinting. However, the use of 3dprinting in slip casting is a first and the results of this new technique is truly stunning. The concept is being pioneered by graduate designer and masters student Jade Crompton (Liverpool Hope University) Picture1. The idea behind Jade’s use of 3dprinting is to design and 3dprint a mould, then plaster cast into the mould, then using this final plaster mould for slip casting. So in more simple terms, 3dprint a mould, cast this mould, then use the mould to make the final design. The outcome is not 3dprinted, but the process revolves around using 3dprinting as a core stage in the manufacturing process. After catching up with Jade she described how she wanted to “create a 3Dprinted mould in plaster” that would allow her to create whatever design she wanted. With 3dprinting in plaster not at a developed stage yet and still more research needed, Jade decided to create a 3dprinted mould using a Z-Corp powder printer.  This would then allow her to achieve her ultimate aim of slip casting her solidworks designs.

When asked about the positives of using 3dprinting in her work she explained, “The positives to 3D printing the mould for a mould is the time I’ve saved not having to create the model for producing the mould, claying up the model and not having to work out the seams for the mould part.IMG_0105 The mould should be very accurate and I should be left with the perfect slip casting. Another benefit is that I can create multiple moulds from the 3D printed moulds without the prints showing any signs of wear, which is ideal in a mass production scenario. This is something I am very interested in.”Garnet Mould

Looking at the outcome of this process is exceptional in terms on innovation. With the use of 3dprinting to create ‘moulds for moulds’ adds another dimension in terms of the creative use of additive manufacturing technology. The outcomes speak for themselves. Jade has plans in the future to study a PhD in Digital design with the aim of researching a way of producing a 3dprinter that can print with liquid plaster rather than powder, allowing her to create moulds that are ‘slip cast ready’. Picture2This would then allow her to test and prototype designs much faster that her current process and allow for even greater creativity. I have personally seen and blogged about many different examples of 3dprinted art work and sculpture, however this technique is unique.  3Dprinting evolves through designers, artists and engineers pushing the boundaries and taking risks with the technology and this is an example of how in the right hands, 3dprinting is a powerful creative tool for innovation. Picture3

Jade is currently exhibiting her work at Cornerstone Gallery – Liverpool Hope University – 24th November – 10th December and then the Sara Preisler Gallery – The Custard Factory, Birmingham – June 2015.

For more information and to contact Jade please visit her website

Makers Empire – A revolution in 3dprinting education

3dprinting with no experience?  No cad modelling skills required? Anyone can create a 3dprintable design in under 5 minutes? Sounds like a dream come true and that is now reality with the release of Makers Empire 3dprinting software. One of the biggest barriers to elementary/primary school children learning how to 3dprint is the cad element. Teaching children how to 3d CAD model is not as easy as paint by numbers. Having taught CAD lessons to groups of 20 plus teenagers they can be tough lessons that are long and drawn out, with lots of challenges from differing groups of students. The thought of embarking upon this topic with even younger children is a daunting idea. I have always thought to myself there must be an easier way to start students off with 3d design at a younger age. Makers Empire allows users with no experience of 3d design, to create models from scratch in a matter of minutes. The software is based around an app that uses finger commands through touch screen to draw and manipulate shapes into 3d that can be exported for 3dprinting. The process is simple, you draw a shape, extrude the shape, then resize and alter the design through the easily usable interface that anyone of any age can use. No mouse or computer desktop is needed, as this has been optimised for tablet use and is available on both Apple App store and Google Play. In the time of more and more schools turning to personalised tablet based learning, this is a perfect time to release the app. After speaking to Co-founder Lap Leung, he explained how, “Makers Empire have spent a lot of time testing and developing the 3d design app and learning program in classrooms with teachers to make sure it achieves learning outcomes.” As a teacher, this is music to my ears, many times organisations or companies want to promote their 3dprinting technology, but have never actually considered teachers or students views. If you want something to succeed in the classroom then the first point of call is the teacher and students for testing and development. Children don’t lie and as we have all probably experienced in our time and teachers can be brutally honest.

Easy to follow lesson plans.’
Another great feature of Makers Empire is the international appeal of the app. The teaching resources have been written to meet both the UK and Australian national curriculum with clear and concise lesson plans that are easy to understand and have easily achievable learning outcomes. This is the most important feature of all, it’s clear what the students will learn and it’s clear how they will learn it! The activities are pitched correctly to the relevant age range and there is minimal preparation needed by the teacher. Also, this app is fun! It has its own personality and gives users instant feedback when you have successfully achieved something new. So many times my students have battled with CAD packages and hit the CAD modelling wall. This app puts an end to those frustrations and it firmly puts children in control.


‘To be trialled in 20 NYC schools’

A trial is planned with 20 schools in NYC using the software, along with current many Australian schools embracing the technology. With rapid expansion on the horizon and a UK launch coming soon Makers Empire could soon be a regular in most schools. The feedback from children has been fantastic, Co Founder Lap explained, “The students are wonderful. The first time we worked with the students, they were in grade 6. We were not quite sure what to expect. We never doubted their ability but in that first pilot class, how quickly they picked up their iPads, made their first pendant/keychain design in Makers Empire 3D design app – to this day still astonishes me! Goose bump kind of stuff. Then later we also tried with a reception and grade 1 class. It was just amazing. Children come to class familiar with tablets already and when we walk them through the Makers Empire design app within moments they were ready for more advanced design suitable for older children. And that was coming from students in reception and year 1! It is a real privilege for our team to be able to help young children – providing them design tools and curriculum for 3D printing to help harness their natural talents and achieving learning outcomes.”

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‘3dprinted Maths avatar’

As well as student feedback being the most important, the teachers have embraced this software and are seeing new opportunities for using 3dprinting to enhance the learning across the curriculum. One teacher allowed their grade 2 students to create their own maths avatar designed in Makers Empire app and then 3D printed it to become their maths champion. Another teacher used it in their buddy program. Older primary school students would work together with their younger buddy in a lower grade and design their own 3D model. A great way to collaborate with different age groups!

‘Better tools, near instant creation of their designs’

When asked about plans for the future and 3dprinting in general, co-founder Lap explained he would “like Makers Empire to inspire students with the possibilities of creativity and innovation using 3D printing all around the world. They have enormous talent and by enabling them to be innovative and different they will build a world that we cannot imagine and that is exciting! 3D printing is going to be challenged by these young leaders because their imagination and possibilities are endless. They are going to demand better tools, near instant creation of their designs, select from any materials known and unknown to humankind and in various forms and properties that do not even exist today. I can’t wait, it is definitely an exciting time and I am really looking forward to seeing more creative expression from the next generation coming through. Their design skills and knowledge, communicating abstract ideas will be far more powerful than we know today that will enable them to tackle even bigger and more complicated challenges in the future.”

Overall this app, and the teachers portal that supports the app, is truly a game changer. Every child can succeed regardless of ability and they can embark upon a 3dprinting journey of a lifetime. 3D CAD modelling has just becoming exciting! For more information about Makers Empire click the logo below.


Bioprinting and 3Dprinting – a potential lifesaving use of the technology.

There have been many innovative uses of 3dprinting that make the news almost every day. 3Dprinting cars and even houses are just a few examples of how fast the technology is emerging. It is widely recognised that the medical industry stands to make great strides from the use of 3dprinting through research and development and this was evidenced at the 3Dprintshow in London. During the 3Dprintshow there was a stand in the ‘3dprinted hospital’ section that caught my eye over all other exhibitors. There was no flashy corporate stand dominating the event hall, no pushy sales reps promoting their printers, just a desk with a 3dprinter and an information board explaining the project, along with Alan J Faulhner-jones. Alan is a PHD student from Heriot Watt University, who won the Inspirational individual award in the 3dprintshow annual awards ceremony. Alan won the award for creating a ‘bioprinter’ that is capable of 3dprinting human cells with the aim of using the printer to hopefully one day help cure some of the worlds most common diseases. alanFJ-02

Alan explained that, ‘New drug development can take more than 10 years and only around 16% of drug candidates that begin pre-clinical testing are approved for human use. Some of this low success rate is due to the different responses of humans and animal models used for testing. At Heriot-Watt we are working towards creating micro versions of human organs from human cells, such as the liver. These so called “micro-tissues” should produce the same responses that the entire organ would, but on a much smaller scale.’ The shear scale of this is truly ground breaking, if we could 3dprint living organs to test out new drugs, this could throw the medical industry on its head and really advance the fight against some of the most deadly diseases we so often encounter. alanFJ-01

Alan’s background is Robotics & Cybertronics for which he gained a Masters degree at Heriot Watt University and he has since used this expertise to create the Bioprinter that forms the core element of his PHD studies. Alan explained that, ‘It’s a continuous development cycle, I started my PhD in 2010 and I’m currently working on the 4th generation machine now.  The biggest challenges lie with the biology; sometimes cells don’t do what you expected they would do.’ Also, in the first stages of application of the printer Alan is aiming for ‘liver micro-tissues for drug testing’ and in theory the technology could then be applied to generating tissues to repair the body using patients own cells to avoid rejection.

Artificial Liver Cells 07

This really is ground breaking use of 3dprinting technology and in terms of impact, it could have the biggest of them all. Alan really has a special project and I wish him all the best with this as I really believe that this will help the masses. Many people ask me how would 3dprinting benefit them in their lives, well this project right here could benefit us all in the future. Definitely one to watch.

For more information check out Alan’s 3dprintshow page

“At the moment my GCSE students are 3dprinting some pretty cool stuff”



I am often asked how do you teach 3dprinting to whole classes of students? Many people outside of education seem to think that there is some kind of barrier to teaching the technology in a classroom. They see these great machines that print out objects layer by layer, but when it comes to education I have heard comments such as, ‘well they can’t all 3dprint at once so how does it work?’ True, you can’t have 20 students work all 3dprinting at the same time. We’re not in a situation where students all have their own printers in class to tinker with. The situation we’re in is like when personal computers first came out, if you had one in the classroom tucked away in the corner you were I remember having to take turns in class to use the ‘BBC computer’ we had just acquired. Now we have developed to a place where each student will have access to a computer without limitations, we have dedicated computer rooms with 30+ machines and in some schools they are moving to a climate of students having their own ipads to use in all lessons.

3Dprinting in class is not like traditional technology lessons where all students would be working away cutting mdf or acrylic. The process behind 3dprinting and creating a 3dprinted part is almost purely digital and the 3dprinting part is the end result. The key important feature to teaching students about 3dprinting is not the actual machine, but how to design a successful product that can be printed on a 3dprinter. Numerous companies have asked me how do I teach the technology? Many times during a sales pitch of them trying to sell their printers they claim, ‘the kids can download free models from thingiverse and print them’.  ‘Ok, where is the educational value in that’ I respond….’ lets just print someone else’s work… what have I learnt?’ The answer…. nothing. The key learning behind 3dprinting is getting the students working on 3DCAD packages. The design aspect is everything to 3dprinting. Students need to learn the basics of 3DCAD and then apply the knowledge to design their own product. From personal experience, teaching 3DCAD to whole classes of mixed ability students can be a real challenge. This is when a teachers knowledge of the CAD package is vital. Teachers need to know the CAD package they are teaching inside out, with so many features and options for students to explore and venture into, teachers need the confidence to be able to guide students in the right direction and ultimately teach them how to correct their mistakes. That’s another great thing about 3dprinting, we teach children it’s ok to make mistakes and that we learn from mistakes. We are in an educational culture at the moment where children feel like failures if they make mistakes, some children are afraid to fail. We celebrate success and look down on failure. However, how are we supposed to learn if they can’t  repeat things that have gone wrong? 3dprinting helps challenge this fear of failure. During the design process in lessons, students find they when their designs are printed they have to go back and re-design and print again to achieve perfection in their design. They are ok with this as they can see that their product will work, it might just need some minor adjustments. That’s another great feature of 3dprinting, you can make perfect designs that look fantastic. The technology takes away the lack of practical skills that some students struggle to adopt. If I design a basic iphone case and then teach my students to design the same case, when printed you would not be able to tell the difference between the teachers case and the students case. It allows the outcome of students work to be on a level playing field with anyone, no matter how practically skilled they might be . I have also found that with my current GCSE students they are extending their own learning by experimenting with 3DCAD and have lost their fear of failure. They are ok with the fact that it might not work first time around and they expect to have to re-design and this is where the key learning happens. This replicates real life Industrial Design. Apple doesn’t get it write first time, sometimes they have to re-design thousands of times to achieve perfection in their products.

The technology is so powerful in the classroom and has had such an impact in lessons, I asked students what they thought about the introduction of 3dprinting into their learning, their responses say it all;

I feel excited as there are a lot of things to do using the software and the 3dprinter. I also feel challenged to make new things.

I think 3dprinting is totally relevant as it is new technology which will soon be very big in the world. Therefore I think it is very relevant to Design and Technology.

I feel challenged as it is something new and you can be creative.

It allows you to be more creative and helps you to easily and quickly create intricate products.

I do think that 3dprinting is as it is the way of the future.

You feel excited because you have the freedom in what you do and you can design a lot of things.

There is no real formulae for teaching 3dprinting in lessons, you just have to concentrate on CAD give it a go and see how your students take it. If it works as a whole class great, if it doesn’t then maybe small groups or after school clubs. One thing it will do is spark students imagination and creativity, that a given!

Below are some photos of how 3dprinting is used to various projects. From left to right is a culture inspired desk tidy by a year 10 student. The robot leg is 3dprinted and will form part of a retro styled robot lamp that will move. This student is working from his initial cardboard model for measurements and then 3dprinting the final design in separate parts along with vacuum forming and lasercutting. The lampshade is a prototype for lamp that will be designed in the style of a vintage camera and the final image is for a part of a design that will be a Di Stijl lamp when finished.

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Follow my tweets in lessons MrCotton@ladybridgeDT 

3D Printing Teacher of the Year – Exclusive Interview With Philip Cotton

Founder of the, an online community to download and share 3D printing designs and to promote 3dprinting, Philip Cotton is a teacher consultant for BBC learning who teaches design and technology at the UK Ladybridge High School. Philip Cotton was one of the first teachers in the United Kingdom to introduce 3D printing in the classroom. For the second year in a row, Cotton recently won the 3D Printshow 2014’s Educational Excellence Award for his services to education.

Recently we’ve learned that Ladybridge High School’s students had created 3D printed lamps for their GCSE examination. Philip Cotton has been working closely with students teaching them to design and print models. Thea results were outstanding and students were awarded some of the highest marks that the teacher has ever given. The lamps were later on displayed at the school’s annual Arts, Products and Textiles exhibition.

Philip Cotton’s 3D printing contribution to education is already yielding positive results. Some of his students are having their designs published on websites and are using YouTube to train others.

– Why is the new generation so important?

The new generation is extremely important as today’s children will be tomorrows future engineers/designers in 3D printing. If we don’t educate our school children in this technology then they will get left behind in the global economy of 3dprinting in the future. We are educating children for technology jobs that do not exist at the moment so we have to prepare them as well as possible, and that means educating them on the latest available technology in 3dprinting.

– How is 3D printing accessible to children?

3Dprinting is accessible to children through many different avenues. The first and most important should be in schools where children can use the technology to design and make objects or prototypes in technology lessons. Also at home is a great place for learning with 3dprinting. When parents buy 3D printers to tinker and make things, undoubtedly children will take an interest. Children are naturally inquisitive and given access to the technology they will show an interest and be engaged with it.

– From which age can we really give children access to 3D printing?


For safety reasons, unsupervised it should be 14 years old, while supervised, any young age. 3D printers are amazing but they can be dangerous if children mess around with them. They have extremely hot extruders that can cause extreme burns and also moving carriages that can cause injury if children get their fingers trapped in them. You can teach children about 3D printing from any age and the younger the better, however I do feel that they should be supervised when using the machines for their own safety.

– What took you to create the

I decided to create the 3dfilemarket after using cubify for about a year. I hosted my designs on their platform and people started paying to download and 3dprint them. However cubify ended their open marketplace and I had nowhere to sell my designs. So I decided to set up the 3dfilemarket. I hosted my own designs and then other users started to add their own designs, both for free and for a download fee. All the designs are checked for print-ability and if there is no photo of the actual printed outcome then it will not appear on the site.

– Is your Business Model only based on the exchange of 3D printing designs that you select?

The website is based on exchanging STL files. I don’t select them but I moderate them. The reason is for good design. The idea is to keep all the designs printable. Every design that is uploaded to the website is checked for print-ability. This is to ensure that users have a smooth and positive experience when using the 3dfilemarket. If there is no proof of printability then it will not appear on the site.

– Why don’t you accept any CAD screen shots in your website?

If you create your design in CAD, no matter how complex your design is, it doesn’t mean that it can be 3D printed. If you create a file to upload onto the 3dfilemarket, and especially to sell it, you need proof that it can be 3D printed on a desktop 3D printer like Makerbot, Ultimaker or Solidoodle. If designs where allowed on the site that had not been checked for print-ability then the people could be paying for copies of designs that do not print and this wouldn’t be good. If you buy a copy of a designer’s work then you expect that what you pay for is proven to be printable.c

– But there are so many more models that are free than paid.

This is true and the great thing about 3D printing at the moment is so many good designs are free to download and 3D print. Some designers add a download fee to their work and that is entirely their choice to do that. It’s like the app store or Google Play Store, when you download apps, some are free and some are paid, the concept is the same. I don’t have an issue with paying for good design as I feel that good designers should be rewarded for their talents. When MP3s first came out they were all free to download and file sharing was common, now ten years later paying $1.00 for an MP3 is the norm and everyone excepts it. The artists get rewarded for their work.

– What do you think about the open source model? Do you think it is sustainable?

Open Source is great because everyone shares ideas and makes technology better. Open source is good for getting ideas out there and for developing technology. But there comes a point when the technology becomes so valuable and addvanced that companies are reluctant to share their secrets of their work so they stop being open source to protect themselves financially. If you think about Apple, they guard their technology to the highest level as their platform is so valuable, if they were open source and shared all their technology to everyone, their designs would be copied and cheaper models would be released and ultimately Apple would suffer as a company. Also if technologists are developing software for free and then companies embrace this software when selling printers, should the developers not be rewarded for their work, as open source software can be an extremely valuable asset to a printer company selling printers who have not developed their own software.

– How do you imagine design copyrights in the future?

In the future I expect the 3D printing process to be more streamlined with direct printing ability that cuts out the need to slice the models. On top of this will be the ability to stream prints directly to 3D Printers using wireless technology, it would simply be a file-print option. I think hobbiests who are designing for fun will not be worried about releasing their STL files for download. However top designers will want their work protected. I have had enquires from some of the top 3D print designers in the world who will not share their STL files due to the risk of them being copied and shared without their consent. Some top designers have insisted on a model where their designs are streamed to the printer and the print code is good for only one print, so the user will only be able to print one copy of the design. I personally don’t see an issue with this, however the designs have to be proven printable and the technology needs to be to a point where printers are 100% reliable in that when you print an object you know it will print and there is no risk of print failure. At the moment 3D printing can be quite ‘clunkly’ in that sometimes prints fail for various reasons e.g. don’t stick to the print bed, warping issues, printer extruder gets clogged with plastic etc. All these things need to be ironed out before we can get to a point where streaming of files is commonplace. At the moment STL is the best option with the current level of technology that the printers offer. Maybe FDM is not the final answer for 3D printing?

– The 3D printing process is still very complicated for beginners!

Yes, it is very complicated. If you download an STL file, you can’t print that STL file. You have to slice the STL file into layers so that the printer can understand how to print the design. You need separate software for that, which creates a print code called the G-Code. For example, Makerbot’s slicing software is Makerware, Ultimaker’s is Cura and Solidoodle has open source software Repetier Host. Without the slicing software, you can’t print. As mentioned above the easiest way would be to have a ‘direct’ print option, but the technology needs to advance further.

Philip Cotton, Seated, with Students

Philip Cotton also recommended Bonnie Roskes’ ‘Modelling with Sketchup‘ for 3dprinting.  As always you may head over to the 3D Printing & Education forum at to discuss this story and others related to the education space with our community.