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


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!



“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 

3Dprintshow 2014 rocks London once again.


The return of the 3Dprintshow to London was one of the most highly anticipated 3dprinting events of the year. The event started three years ago as a small get together of growing 3dprinting enthusiasts/companies  and it has now turned into a Global brand expanding year on year helping spread the 3dprinting revolution. Year one was solely London, year two was London, Paris, New York and now year three is London, Paris, New York, Dubai, Berlin, California, Milan, Madrid and Mexico with further plans announced at the annual awards for even more destinations in year four. One thing has to be certain is that every year the 3Dprintshow tops the previous year and is a standard barer for the rest of the 3dprinting community to try and follow.IMG_8058 On show was an unbelievable exhibit of the latest 3dprinting fashion, technology and consumerism for the world to see with possibly the best art exhibition I have ever seen. More innovative exhibits ranged from the 3Dprinting of soil to Bio Printing of  stem cells by PHD graduate Alan J Faulkner who won an award for ‘Inspirational Individual’ for his research into creating a Bio Printer to aid with Stem Cell research. The use of 3dprinting in the medical industry is one that will change lives beyond anything we have ever seen, I wonder what will be in the ‘3dprinted hospital’ next year?

Thrown onto the show floor was the usual printer companies jostling for the title of best consumer printer with big players such as Ultimaker and Makebot dominating, along with growing brand Beethefirst. Last year Beethefirst exhibited on a single table, this year they claimed the show floor with their award winning brand of printers that won best ‘consumer printer and best prosumer printer’ at Thursday nights’ Global 3dprinting awards. This brand has won the design contest of all the printers hands down. Anything that resembles an iphone is a winner by my book and they have a infectious likeability factor that draws you to their printers. This company is one to watch in the future. Shapeways exhibited their brand with their European team on hand to answer any questions and their enthusiam for 3dprinting is a reflection of how much we owe to the Dutch in their pursuit of world leaders in the technology. IMG_8105Holland has thrown out Shapeways, Ultimaker and 3Dhubs (who have just had a cash injection of$4,5 million) and there are many more smaller Dutch companies waiting in the wings that are sure to make an impact. From such a small country they are surely making their mark in the world of 3dprinting.

The annual 3Dprintshow Global Awards were held on the banks of the river Thames with a stunning backdrop of London Bridge and the Shard. They celebrated the industry and individuals who have significantly contributed to 3dprinting through their work/projects. Here’s a list of the winners;


Artist of the Year (Sponsored by Adobe) PussyKrew

Fashion Designer of the Year (Sponsored by Stratasys) Noa Raviv

Green Award MCor Technologies

Educational Excellence Philip Cotton (for the 2nd consecutive year).

Rising Star Julia Koerner

Positive Change 3D Control Systems

Inspirational Individual Alan Faulkner-Jones

Best Business Newcomer (Sponsored by Fabbaloo) M3D

Best Online / App-Based Service Tinkercad (aka Autodesk)

Best Consumer Product Ultimaker 2

Best Consumer Software Cura by Ultimaker

Best Consumer Printer BeeTheFirst by BeeVeryCreative

Best Prosumer Printer BeeTheFirst by BeeVeryCreative (not a mistake – they won both categories).

Best Professional Software Adobe Photoshop CC

Best In Show 3D Hubs

Industry Icon Enrico Dini

Brand of the Year (Sponsored by Things3D) Autodesk

The 3Dprintshow was again another great spectacle of 3Dprinting and I can’t wait for the next one. Like my first ever blog about the 2013 3dprintshow I could go on for ever describing the event, however I will let the photos do the talking…….

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Bring Birds back to the city with 3dprinting and ‘Printednest’.

3dprinting to help birds? We all know how 3dprinting can help people, almost every day there are more news articles explaining how 3dprinting is revolutionising the medical industry. The E-Nable group is making great strides with prosthetic hands and helping disabled people through a community of volunteer 3dprinters who print limbs for people. Now there is a growing 3dprinting community helping nature called ‘Printednest’. photoPrintednest’s aim is to bring nature back to the city with an innovative design for a bird feeder. The bird feeder being 3dprinted of course and in usual 3dprinting fashion the design is spectacular and unique. Rahim Petruska from Printednest, explains the philosophy behind printednest is ‘to show people, how 3D printing can realize any idea, creativity, and connect different professions together.’ The concept truly defines how 3dprinting can innovate and change the course of nature. With the increased urbanisation of towns and cities, the presence of nature within cities is dwindling. This project aims to reverse that by providing feeding stations to entice birds to migrate back to the city. The design, if printed from PLA will biodegrade within a year and by that time you would assume the residents would have ‘fled the nest’. In addition to this all the designs are open source and have been listed on multiple 3dprinting communities such as Thingiverse, 3dfilemarket and Shapeways. The design is also based upon nature as well, the main body of the birdfeeder resembles an egg shape and then the ‘perch’ is based upon a deer’s antlers. Truely unique design with a nice ‘biomimicry’ twist. Printednest state the ‘cornerstone of their philosophy is feedback from users who they consider part of their design team’. They describe it as ‘open cloud design’. Users can download the latest versions of the designs, 3dprint their own bird feeder and then register it on printednests global community. Currently there are 36 bird feeders in 23 cities in 6 countries and they are expanding fast. Even if you don’t have your own 3dprinter you can customise your own bird feeder through their customisation app on their website. You choose the colours and the personalised message, then order and they will 3dprint and dispatch to your address. (Just click the link below to see how it works).

To download the files for free then click the birdfeeder below;


This is a great project to give something back to our society by encouraging nature to return to the cities! You can also donate to printednest through the by clicking the image below.

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Bringing the museum to the classroom through 3dprinting.

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Remember those lessons in school where teachers enthusiastically described topics from a text book?  Photos were the only real way to gauge an understanding of the topic along with a vivid, wandering imagination. Well lessons are changing with schools starting to adopt 3dprinting technology in the classroom. Sometimes in lessons you just did not get the topic, you couldn’t imagine it in your mind and ultimately you did not fully learn about it, this is where 3dprinting can be most powerful. The Smithsonian museum in Washington DC has started scanning in it artefacts and making them available to download for 3dprinting. They are free and anyone can access them (click on the image below). Image the situation, you are a teacher and want to bring a lesson to life with physical replicas of artefacts that relate to your lesson.Screenshot 2014-06-28 13.42.54 Now you can just download and then 3dprint the model. Suddenly a lesson that might have been a bit on the flat side can come to life with actual physical examples for students to study and exam. Maybe you are a parent and your child has been given the homework task to create a presentation on the history of dinosaurs. How impressive would it be to 3dprint of a T-Rex at home and then present it in class?

The best thing about 3dprinting and education is that many museums and organisations are starting to scan in their exhibits and store digital copies of their artefacts. Recently, the Historic Royal Palaces scanned and 3dprinted Henry VIII’s crown and made it available for the public to download through Thingiverse. Image the lesson where elementary school students learn about the infamous royal and then actually get chance to wear his crown in class because the teacher had 3D printed out the model the night before. Learning can now really be enhanced through the integration of 3dprinting into lessons.

More recently, the Science Museum in London opened an exhibition called ‘3d Printing the Future’ with the aim of educating visitors about the benefits of 3dprinting. Museums can sometimes be frustrating places when viewing exhibitions. Everything is always out of touching distance behind glass panels, when really you want to grab hold of the object and get some tactile feedback. Now this is possible by exhibiting 3dprinted replicas of the artefacts and allowing visitors to interact with displays. What’s the worst thing that could happen? A 3dprinted replica breaks, then you can just print another one! I have heard people use the term ‘3dprinting, the future is here’. In this case we can say with ‘3dprinting, the past is here’.

3Dprinting by Philip Cotton


Proud of this award!!!

I have so much to say about this amazing technology that I decided to blog about it. I am a high school technology teacher from Manchester UK who has been teaching 3D printing to my students for the past two years. I won the 3Dprintshow educational excellence award for my work educating high school pupils on 3Dprinting (proudest moment of my career so far). What can I say, it has transformed technology education as I know it. This has the potential to be disruptive beyond the power of the internet, manufacturing will never be the same again and this truly gives power to the designer and lets everyday people realise their design dreams. How can I say this….I have witnessed it in the classroom for the past two years. Creativity has been redefined and suddenly you can go from concept to end result in a matter of minutes.
I am not sure where this blog will lead me but I love an uncharted journey. Thankgod for 3Dprinting, that’s how I will end my first post!!