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

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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;

http://cannybots.com/

3dprinting really does Rock!

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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 3dp.rocks/lithothane. 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!

http://3dp.rocks/lithophane/

 

 

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.

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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.

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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 https://beeverycreative.com/

Masters student pushing the boundaries of 3dprinting

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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 http://www.jadecromptonceramics.co.uk/

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.
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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.

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‘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.

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Take the 3Dprinting adventure of a lifetime with Project Shapeshifter.

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Ok, so we all know how cool 3Dprinting is. The media is reporting that this will change our lives forever and that we will all become makers in our own homes printing object after object. This is powerful thinking, the fact that ‘Star trek’ could suddenly be happening in our houses and schools in the not too distant future. Here’s the concept, you press ‘print’ on your printer and then come back in a few hours and bingo an object has been made! If only it was that easy.

I am an educator by profession and have spent many hours teaching students the concept of 3D CAD modelling. Anyone can easily download a model from ‘Thingiverse’ or the forthcoming ‘3dfilemarket.com’ and print it off. However, can the average consumer create their own models? I know from experience many students can get frustrated with the complexity of professional grade Industry CAD modelling suites  that are parachuted into schools. Can we expect a 13 year old to master the functions of a CAD programme that degree educated professionals use? My opinion is no, there has to be a bridge between education and industry. Many students know what they want to design but can’t access the right features on the CAD packages. Also many teachers are not skilled enough to meet these demands. Learning a complex CAD package can take years and sometimes we only have hours to familiarise ourselves with new technology before we have to teach it. So where is the answer to this? Could it be ‘Project Shapeshifter’ hosted by Autodesk.

Project Shapeshifter is the ability to create complex CAD models with the ease of simply dragging a slider bar. Templates are provided and you simply customise to your liking. The ease of use is fantastic and leaves you wanting more and more. Students in school ask ‘sir do you play COD, aka Call of Duty’. I respond with, ‘no I play Project Shapeshifter’ and tell them to Google it. I have had hours of fun with this programme and have created models that I have 3Dprinted that is far above my level of CAD modelling skills. Could this be the revolution that CAD modelling needs to bring 3Dprinting to the mainstream. Complete accessibility to create complex models with no CAD skills…. sounds too good to be true! Look at the evidence yourself below. There is a growing community of thingiverse modellers that are uploading their designs created on shapeshifter (see the screen shot below) so the word is spreading. Also, here is one I printed myself.  I needed a night light for some nice ambiance, shapeshifter delivered all the way! The best thing is this design is unique to me and created by me and no one else has this.

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Click the link below for an adventure of a 3Dprint lifetime! Get on it before the end of April as it is only running for a short trial. 

http://shapeshifter.io/