Even more exciting than the 3Doodle pen is the possibility to print renewable energy! Shawn Frayne and Alex Hornstein have already had their successful Kickstarter campaign and are currently refining the design of a printer, which could print a solar panel every few seconds. Find out more in their campaign video:
Who said magic wands don't exist? 3Doodler is the first example of what can be considered one!
As the inventors put it: ”If you can scribble, trace, or raise your finger in the air you can use a 3Doodler.” It is a $75 worth a pen, which extracts rapidly cooling plastic (ABS or PLA) allowing for the creation of 3D forms by hand, as opposed to having to use a complicated 3D modelling software. Or in other words, it's bringing the Makers era to an even more affordable dimension and stimulating the creation of ideas of the broad public.
As in every beginning, the technology is not very well developed yet and the pen has very low resolution, but there is most certainly a bright future ahead of it for uses in model-making, jewelry, ornaments, or just a toy for your kid. 3Doodler is still in a Kickstarter funding stage, but from the looks of it (466% funded at $140,000 for only the first day) we might see it on the market very soon!
Here is something that we haven't mentioned before. Recent attention given to the design of first ever '3D Printed house' (at least according to the Dezeen top news headlines) had led me to the other architectural studio with big dreams of using AM in building industry. DUS Architects came up with idea of movable 3D Print Pavilion, which would be able to print another pavilion within its own walls.
Placing such pavilion in any community would respond directly to individual needs of community. Powered by the miniature wind turbines installed on the external facade pavilion would be able to create objects with minimum use of energy and ideally with the scrap material (plastic bottles etc.).
Does 3D Printing stand a chance to become a remedy for affordable and clean temporary housing/ sanitation systems?
You can watch promotional video form the KamerMaker opening party by clicking here.
We just got our first 3D printed object made in the Edinburgh College of Art with the kind assistance of Richard Collins, who is in charge of the Wood workshop there. The model was downloaded for free from the web, (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:23540), and can be seen made above (photo courtesy of Jason Hidalgo). It's an Escher LED lamp head, and the reason we chose it for is that it has quite an elaborate shape so it can easily represent the accuracy and level of detail the machine at our University can provide. But before looking at the results, let's look at the apparatus specifications.
Dimension Elite 3D Printer from Stratasys
Both the Edinburgh College of Art and the Edinburgh University Minto House are equipped with a Dimension Elite 3D printer (part of Stratasys). Full specifications of the machine can be found here: http://www.dimensionprinting.com/3d-printers/printing-productspecs-elite.aspx
It uses single colored ABS plastic as a material, fed in the shape of a wire which is heated beyond its glass transition temperature (105 degrees C) until it becomes liquid and easy to extract through the tiny nozzle. There is also a brown support material (a form of ABS plastic), which covers the object during processing, and is removed afterwards by a Support Cleaning Apparatus.
There is a lot to be said about ABS as a material. Some people prefer and suggest that mainly recycled plastic is used for 3D printing with plastics (widely discussed as part of the 3D4D Challenge and by Dr Phil Reeves - see the 3D4D Challenge tab for more information). It is not considered toxic, but when you operate with ABS it is advisable to be in a well ventilated premise, which maybe means there is some level of toxicity? Even if there isn't, the cost for production of 1 kg of ABS plastic is roughly $25, while the cost for processing 100 kg of sorted plastic waste is $1 (quoting Dr Phil Reeves from his 3D Print Show lecture, Sunday 21st October 2012). However, ABS is quite strong and durable as a material, so depending on the application it can be preferred to recycled plastic. Also Stratasys have developed quite a thorough recycling program, which can be found here: http://www.stratasys.com/Help/Recycle.aspx
Level of Detail
The available resolutions are 0,1778 mm and 0.2540 mm.
We scaled the model down to quite a small format - about 1.7 cm in diameter, and when we tried to process it the software would just give an error and shut itself down. This, we thought, means that it is not possible for the printer to create such a detailed and curved object in that tiny scale. So we scaled it up to 2,55 cm in diameter and it worked perfectly. Two hours later I was holding my object covered half-way through with the brown support material, which will need to be dissolved before I can fully enjoy it (but the top looks just like the photo above!). Unfortunately, the apparatus for support cleaning in ECA does not function at the minute, so I will have to hold my enthusiasm until January 2013.
Support Cleaning Apparatus
How it works: The system removes support material by immersing parts created with Stratasys SST material in a warm bath of water with specific amount of Sodium Hydroxide added. The SCA then circulates the heated water around the parts in the tub. The hot, slightly base solution dissolves the support material without harming the underlying model material. Over time, depending on geometry and the amount of support material, all the support material is dissolved and the part is ready to be removed, dried and used for its intended purpose.
Health and Safety for the SCA
We got familiar with the manual for the cleaning apparatus, in which there were quite a few 'Danger' signs and a thorough table of what can and cannot be done with and around it. Main points which can affect the user are:
- Always wear thermal gloves and safety glasses when working near the unit or when touching any part of the unit
- Always assume that the unit is hot
- Always place the unit on a flat, stable surface
- Always wipe away any cleaning solution spilled near the control panel
- Always stand upright with our head away from the tank when opening the lid to avoid vapours
- Always remove the liquid from the tank before adding large parts to avoid overflow
- Always operate the unit in a well-ventilated location
- Always operate within environmental temperature range of 10 to 30 degree C
- Always clean the unit with mild soap and a sponge or a rag. Rinse tank completely before refilling.
A quick note about health and safety for use of the 3D printer itself - there are no real hazards there. Even though it deals with quite high temperatures, it operates in an enclosed space which cannot be open during processing, hence no personal protective equipment is needed.
Thank you for reading, and happy holidays!
Our favourite two things come in one - prefabs (or more specifically packaged houses) and additive manufacturing. After searching for a gap in the construction industry which could be filled by 3DP, making a broad research for two months and changing our direction several times, we finally decided on a very specific problem to attack - improve prefab housing through structural analysis and optimization and show that 3D printing can make it a success.
The Bridge House in Adelaide, Australia
More specifically, we want to look at a case study of a modern prefab house - a bridge-house in Australia, and discuss what improvements could be made so that the house is more efficient in terms of material use, and at the same time more attractive to the prospective client. This idea came from the fact that all packaged houses ever designed were intended to be mass-produced and they all failed for one reason or another (e.g. the designs of Konrad Wachsman, Buckminster Fuller, Walter Gropius, Frank Lloyd Wright etc.) And despite, prefabrication is a central aspect of the construction industry and a good stage for applications of digital technologies.
The idea is not quite ripe yet, but in my head it has two aspects: aesthetics and structural optimization.
Prefab housing is still not widely accepted by society as it tends to be connected in people's minds with post-war and communist temporary houses, which have the aesthetics of a metal container and are usually not very well insulated. 3D printing however, as already discussed, can bring about the easy creation of organic, fluent and aesthetically pleasing shapes. Hence, as part of our project we will try and redesign mainly the V-shaped columns supporting the structure, but also the overall look as well.
Prefabrication is an integral part of all construction projects, but looking into prefab packaged houses, even though there is a lot of successful projects not many of them are mass-produced. As Sergio Duran suggests in his book New Prefab Architecture, prefab housing has barely evolved since its initial invention, and the main improvements the last few years were driven by the rising issue of sustainability.
Namely stemming from the same viewpoint of sustainability, we will try and optimize the V-columns supporting the structure, aiming for a reduction of material, through the creation of a tree-like truss support structure, which will be efficient but difficult to manufacture through the traditional techniques, and here is where additive manufacturing comes in. We have two options for optimization: either write our own code on MATLAB for structural optimization or analyze several different options (again through FE) and compare them manually to say which would be most optimized. We are on a stage of reading the theory now and plan to start the analysis before Christmas.
We sill need to decide on a method of rapid prototyping - shape metal deposition (wire feed) or selective laser melting (powder feed), which will be best in long term for such type of constructions.
Few more weeks down the road....
After a number of discussions with our supervisors Remo and Pankaj, and our second reader Dr Jin Sun, we all agreed the goals we set initially were too high, and more appropriate for a Ph.D dissertation. We struggled a bit to narrow down the research so that it can be more realistic, not to make the work impossibly difficult but at the same time try and make a lot and keep the subject interesting.
We had to ask ourselves what our final goal is, and for both Greg and I the final goal is to make a career in additive manufacturing technologies. We see this thesis research as the first step for that, i.e. what we want to gain is a deep understanding of what is already possible, what is currently being researched, and how the future of rapid prototyping is forming, so that when we graduate next year we will know where we stand. What the goal of this thesis also is, naturally, to make an improvement in the chosen field. Hence, the conclusions we reached were to focus on one or two specific materials and see how construction elements built out of these materials can become more efficient through 3DP.
First step (and already carried out) - thorough research on theory; contact with professionals to gain a good overview of the field.
Second step (done that too, although the info we get seems to be a bit controversial) - pick two metals - stainless steel and aluminium - and find out the possible scale and material properties for them after processing. (N.B. special thanks to EOS for the brochures on material properties and available machines they sent to us).
Third step (about to start this weekend if we can tear ourselves away from Earthquake Engineering and Architecture; exams are coming after all...) - design a structure (a simple one!) which is widely used in construction and made from the above mentioned two materials; carry out all the analysis for different loading conditions.
Fourth step - carry out Finite Element analysis using ABAQUS to trace the tension lines under different loading scenarios and thus determine how to save material, and(/or?) optimize the structure using an optimization tool through MATLAB. Main thing to look at here, Remo says, is joints - we'll look at the difference between a truss that was made by welding or pinned joints, and a truss printed out as one whole (technology permitting, still can't nail down a concrete possible scale).
Then we'll be able to suggest improvements and implications of 3DP in the construction industry, if we manage to prove that it will be feasible in the first place.
A bit of a turn from the initial plan, but we had to accept the fact we got too excited at first and carried out a very substantial research, too broad for this thesis' goals. It was also great though, as we now have a deep understanding of the current situation in manufacturing.
Wish us luck!