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’.
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’.
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!
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) . 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. 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.”
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’. This 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.
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/
I was recently contacted by a high school in Texas regarding some 3dprinting advice. This was through my linkedin profile and on the back of winning the 3dprintshow education excellence award. This was a proud moment that a school thousands of miles away wanted some advice in introducing 3dprinting into the classroom. After a few months of experimenting with 3dprinters, Javier Saavedra had successfully exposed high school students to this amazing technology with some really good results. Ones that I feel I need to share, as for technology teachers this is a great way to introduce the new technology beyond design and into STEM areas. Javier explains;
Second Baptist School geometry students set out to blend their skills in 3-D printing and math to create their very first object from the 3-D printer. Mr. Javier Saavedra, Global Technology Specialist, and Mrs. Patti Otwell, geometry teacher, joined forces to teach a lesson that combined design software, spatial reasoning and math.
The first task on hand was to find measurements from a blueprint of an object drawn on the board with the basic dimensions provided. Students calculated measurements, coordinates and the positioning of independent structures. They then inputted their data into a 3D software and submitted their files to print their objects.
To test the accuracy of their measurements, Mr. Saavedra created a “negative” model of the “positive” shape the students made. The grade for the project was determined on how accurately each student’s model fit into the “negative” model; a perfect fit, a perfect score!
Mr. Saavedra said that most student models fit perfectly and the ultimate goal of the project was to, “teach the next generation the necessary 3-D design skills to succeed in their future careers while applying their knowledge acquired in mathematics, geometry, science and beyond.”
This project and way of introducing students to 3dprinting gets the thumbs up from me! Teach them the basics of CAD and then let the students apply their knowledge to a given task. The more accurate the outcome the higher the mark, the less accurate the outcome the mark is reduced. The prints are small so they will be quick and easy to make so time would not be a big issue here. You could also really make it more demanding and give students a tougher task after this project… Design a container to hold a given amount of fluid. The students would then have to design their own hollowed out shape/container and use their maths skills to calculate the volume. The closest design that holds just the given amount of fluid would gain the top marks!
Second Baptist School in Houston, well done I like this project!
By Philip Cotton