My name is Brandon Tunkel and I am currently a senior studying Mechanical Engineering at Penn State.
Business News Daily's list of unusual 3D printed things highlights some of the technologies being developed with 3D printing, but completely ignores the current practical uses of 3D printers. The list talks about printed dinosaurs based on bones and printing food and leather, but the only things they mention that are currently available to the average user were bongs and sex toys.
Many hobbyists use 3D printers to repair broken appliances, such as printing a dial for a washing machine. Soldiers used 3D printers to fix a design flaw on their flashlights. Small fixes such as these are what makes 3D printers useful to everyone, and anyone can make them. While the things on the horizon for 3D printing look pretty amazing, the capabilities right now are still impressive.
The Smartrap mini printer is a much simpler build than our current Open Hybrid Mendel printers. The placement of the electronics and motors is also much more convenient, unlike the z motors in the OHM, which face constant tension. The Smartrap mini also uses much less non-printable materials than the OHM. The only problems I can see are that the parts need to be very precise. If the bearing holders are slightly off, the whole extruder can fall. The bed support is also a slightly odd shape, and might have issue supporting a square bed. Overall I think it would be good to build a Smartrap mini next semester and test it. The build seems very simple and will take very little time once the parts are printed.
The Wallace printer seems like a good alternative to the Smartrap mini. The bed seems like a better design, and some of the intricate parts of the Smartrap are replaced with simpler to print pieces.
This video explains how a group at the University of Illinois created a conductive ink that works in a regular ballpoint pen. If this ink were used with 3D printers, it would create new opportunities in electronics. A 3D printer loaded with conductive ink would be able to print pre-designed circuit boards on any type of surface. This would allow for easy open-source electronics; the only materials required would be basic electrical components such as resistors, diodes and capacitors. The only problem is that the current conductive ink seems difficult and costly to manufacture.
If this technology were put to use, we could integrate the leads for the motors, end stops and other electrical printer components into the PLA parts, and use the ink to create leads to the micro-controller.
OpenSCAD can create and manipulate basic shapes such as cubes, spheres and cylinders much easier than SolidWorks can. SolidWorks is much more suited for unique shapes that are not composed of simple cubes, spheres or rectangles. The sketching feature of SolidWorks allows for extrusions of any drawing, which is much more difficult in OpenSCAD. OpenSCAD is a great alternative to SolidWorks, but I most likely would not use it very much. I am too used to SolidWorks extrusion methods, and the code based interface of OpenSCAD is very different. The method of extruding from a picture is very useful and I may use it. It would be great for things like magnets or picture frames, things that take a 2D picture but add thickness.
The most frustrating thing I have come across while working with the 3D printers has been ensuring proper extrusion. Between the thermocouples/thermistors not working or the idler and gears being misplaced, there are so many problems that can arise in the extruder. These problems also allow a print to begin with no problem, until the extrusion becomes intermittent and the layer is ruined. Electronics and mechanics are much easier to diagnose and fix in the printer, but the extruder just has so many little things that can cause issues.
Currently, the white printer's thermistor seems to not work, so we will replace it with a thermocouple and see if that fixes the problem. The gold printer is extruding intermittently during fills, likely due to the idler not being tight enough. I will take a look at the printer the next time I am able and fix that issue.
Jeffrey R. Immelt is the current CEO of GE, and Terry Gou is the founder and chairman of Foxconn. These two industry leaders have very different opinions on 3D printing.
Immelt stated he was interested in 3D printing because it makes an object from the ground up, with little waste. GE is using 3D printed parts in their newest jet engines. Immelt believes manufacturing will see a huge growth and this growth is the key to increasing productivity. 3D printing is very suited for GE's business. The company makes many different products and many are very complex, such as the jet engine. 3D printing allows some of these complex parts to be easily replicated for low costs. While the amount of parts made is not large, the amount of jet engines sold will not be large either, so the 3D printed parts do not limit production.
On the other hand, Terry Gou has stated that 3D printing is a "gimmick". He reasons that 3D printing is not suitable for mass production, and thus unimportant for commercial business. Gou likely sees 3D printing in a negative way due to its current lack of high production. Foxconn develops electronics in bulk, at a rate that 3D printing could not match in its current state. When lead times for 3D printed parts decreases dramatically, Gou may be proven wrong and 3D printers may be suitable for mass production.
This blog post talks about designing a 3D printed coffee grinder. This idea is very interesting in that it allows users to create a very customized object that is normally mass produced and unoriginal. The only problem with this is that a coffee grinder is a simple and relatively cheap thing to buy. 3D printing the parts and assembling the 3D printed grinder is significantly more difficult than the added cost of buying a new grinder.
Another article shows the same designer's, Jesse Howard, coffee maker. As production increase (1 to 10, 10 to 100), Jesse shows what materials will be obtained from where. As the amount of coffee makers built increases, the cost generally decreases and less parts are recycled or self made. This trend shows that mass produced items really on large scale suppliers to create identical products. Jesse's pictures are slightly over-elaborated, because larger scale production can still make use of self made objects, but the production time would increase.
The first project on the AMRI website is the development of an open source selective laser sintering 3D printer. This project is particular exciting because of the current high cost of laser sintering machines. An open source device would significantly drop the cost of laser sintering printers as well as increase their popularity. These printers can also use a wider range of materials than traditional RepRap machines. If a material can be turned into powder and fused with a high power laser, selective laser sintering can be used.
The second project consists of improving inkjet printing heads to print bacteria using a 3D printer.
A digital light projection 3D printer is the third project. The printer uses a UV projector to harden layers of liquid polymer into a shape.
The final project is the development of a CellStruder that can extrude precise amounts of liquid for cell printing.
Other words that could be used are Prototyping, Modeling (the computer kind), Maintenance and Refine.
RaIDER 3DP - Research and Innovation in Design, Education, and Refining of 3D Printers.
Current 3D printers have many limitations, especially the OpenMendel Hybrids used in our class. Modifications are constantly being implemented to improve the performance, but the printer in its current form requires a reasonably flat printing bed to produce anything of value. This article presents a new 3D printer being developed in the Netherlands at the Delft University of Technology. The device is essentially a 3D printer mounted on a robot arm that move and rotate in different directions.
This printer prototype allows prints to be printed on curved or non-flat surfaces by using a laser scanner to ensure the printing tip is perpendicular to the printing surface. The moving arm also allows prints to finish much quicker, as the arm can move in more complex ways than a normal 3D printer. These features allow this printer to print on existing objects as well.
These innovations greatly improve the already impressive abilities of 3D printers, but the addition of the arm makes the construction very complex and the cost incredibly high. There are also some comments in the article that exaggerate the capabilities of this new printer. The printer head can only print in straight lines, so the improvements to time are not as significant as possible. The article discusses fixing tears and other repairs using the printer, but this will not always be possible as the printer requires existing material to print on top of.
After reading Matt's blog post, I realized that even if an .STL is protected under copyright, if the printed object is useful it is not copyright protected. I remember seeing something about this in the article, but Matt did a good job clarifying it in his post.
Quinn talked about some of the negatives that could result from licensing in his blog. I never thought about licensing from a business standpoint, where it could hurt a companies profits or sales by allowing modifications through a license. I considered restrictive licenses to be negatives, but sometimes they are necessary to protect businesses.
Copyrights and Patents
Some of the objects I found for the first blog post definitely have patentable elements. The car model has elements from an actual Citroen car, something that will have patents and be copyrighted that could be infringed. The marker model comes from the video game Dead Space, so it also is copyrighted by EA, the company that owns the Dead Space franchise. The Raspberry Pi logo found on the case is another object that could be copyrighted. The gear bearing is a unique case where it likely has no copyrights or patents, but because it is a technical creation, the designer could file for a patent.
The F/A 18 model on Austin Tokarz's blog page is another model that may infringe upon a patent. The original designers of the F/A 18 likely filed patents for any unique designs in the plane, as well as for the plane itself, and they may have copyrighted the image of the plane. Another model that could have a copyright issue is Quinn Carpenter's Yoda head. Yoda is protected under copyright now owned by Disney.
According to this article, licensing non-copyrightable files can provide two benefits. First, it can future-proof your file from any changes in copyright laws. If a license is attached, then the allowed usage of the file is already decided, even if that file eventually gains a copyright. A license also allows the creator to state their intentions with the file, whether it is to provide open access or to limit access. Unfortunately, licenses can potentially restrict legal uses of files as well.
The author of the article may be seen as naive because he neglects to mention that the copyright of the Penrose Triangle does not necessarily belong to Ulrich Schwanitz, even though he created a real one. The author never mentions the original creation of the optical illusion or if it is even copyrighted.
Reprap and Arduino
In this keynote, the business models and overall strategies of the RepRap and Arduino projects are explained. These two projects are unique in that they both generate revenue in a very non-traditional way.
RepRap is a project devoted to creating self replicating 3D printers and providing all the hardware and software for free. All the parts and plans for the printers are posted online and the only cost comes from buying electronics and assembly parts, such as rods and screws that cannot be printed. This model does not generate money through sales, like a normal product would, instead it provides the data required to make a product, and the user supplies the cost, in the form of plastic filament. RepRap also allows companies to create their own modifications to existing printers and sell them for profit. This model is similar to many Linux environments. The Linux operating system is open source, but some developers create unique IDEs and sell them. While this idea is a refreshing new method compared to other, stale business models, some problems appear. Because modifications are so easily made and so many users have access, new designs will constantly appear. While this can be a good thing, it also means that many variants develop and it is nearly impossible to determine the merits of one over the other.
Arduino on the other hand does not sell an actual product. They created a platform for electronic prototyping through a microcontroller and software, but Arduino does not create the microcontrollers. Instead they released open source hardware for the official boards and allowed manufactures to make their own. Other companies can create and modify Arduino boards, while Arduino makes money on the intellectual property of the project. This model allows developers to use Arduino to create and sell anything, while still supporting the project. Google's Android operating system has a similar business strategy, although Google also has their own version of Android. Phone manufactures create their own modifications to the Google OS and release phones with their unique Android version, and Google makes money from the IP of Android. Again, this model creates many product variants. Looking at Android, every phone maker has their own Android with not enough incentive to incorporate the best features from all the different versions.
Classmate's Blog Posts
I think the layout of Abbie's wiki page, found here is very well done. Her first blog post is also very good. She gives a lot of information on why she picked each object, not just a single sentence. The only issue is the text begins to not line up with the picture thumbnails at the bottom of the post, but that is a very minor problem.
Leo's second blog post is a very interesting read. He explains the 3D Hubs concept very well, and also explains how it may impact the future of 3D printing. I was especially intrigued by the idea of a private owner using his or her 3D printer commercially for a small profit. Leo's first post is unfortunately missing thumbnails of the objects, which I think would add to the post. I also think placing the links in each section instead of all at the end would be a better design choice.
3D Printing DRM
With the spreading popularity of 3D printing, another idea is also gaining traction, DRM on 3D printers. DRM, or digital rights management, is a method of restricting devices in an attempt to protect intellectual property, or IP. The music and video games industry introduced many forms of DRM, usually methods that limited the functionality of the device accessing the game or song. This idea of restricting users from easily accessing their data has been called "defective by design," with large anti-DRM groups calling for the removal of all DRM services. While some claim that digital piracy and other illicit file sharing is hindered by DRM, nearly every previous method of DRM has been negated by clever hackers, and only one needs to solve the DRM to make it ineffective.
DRM has now turned towards 3D printing. New companies are starting up with plans to impose DRM restrictions on 3D printers. Authentise is a company with a plan for a streaming DRM method called SendShapes that prevents users from ever storing 3D models on their own machines. Nathan Myhrvold now holds a patent for 3D printers that requires online checks before every print. This movement towards DRM controlled printers greatly limits the capabilities that 3D printers could normally have.
Large companies are using DRM to stop production on 3D models of their IP. Recently, the video game company Square Enix sent a cease and desist to small 3D printing shop Shapeways to stop selling 3D printed figures from their Final Fantasy VII game. HBO shut down sales of a 3D printed Game of Thrones themed Iphone dock. With more and more 3D models ready for printing, more companies are likely to start trying to control the abilities of printers to protect their properties and sales.
A: Something amazing and beautifulFor a gear set to work properly, the gears and bearing must fit nearly perfectly. A 3D printer can consistently create a working gear set thanks to this design, something I consider amazing. Gear Bearing
B: Something funny or strangeCompared to the some of the highly detailed car models found on Thingiverse, this simplistic car model seems slightly strange. The model uses many elements from the Citroen 2CV, but the creator uses his own interpretations of the car to create his or her own creation. 2CV Car
C: Something uselessWhile this model may look interesting, it has no real purpose or use beyond owning. The model comes from the game series Dead Space. Marker
D: Something usefulWhat is more useful than a hand held tool? This model is a fully working adjustable wrench made entirely out of PLA. The wrench is printed all in one piece and the only assembly step is to remove the internal support. Wrench
E: Raspberry Pi case
Out of the many cases found on Thingiverse, I liked this case the most. The alternate top has the Raspberry Pi logo on it, which also allows for some airflow onto the circuit board. The port openings also seem to fit very nicely with the board, and the case itself is still very compact. The original case has a different top than what I found. Raspberry Pi top
With the growing popularity of 3D printing and the size of the Thingiverse community, I am not surprised at the amount of things that can be 3D printed. What is more impressive is the amount of models created than cannot yet be printed, although that may soon change.