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Blog 15 - Extra Blog C - Merits of Course

This class has been hands-down my favorite course of my college career. There's nobody talking at me for two hours, nobody expecting me to regurgitate solutions on a 2-question exam worth 27% of our final grade, and no TA expecting me to mindlessly execute recipes and pump out 10-page lab reports.

In a sense, this is the most "real" course I've taken. Anyone can skip Heat Transfer and gets notes from someone, or fudge numbers numbers on a lab report. You can't pretend to build a 3D printer. When there's 3 other groups (build teams) doing the same project as you, it becomes blindly obvious if you're not pulling your weight.

EDSGN 497D blows away expectations which other classes have miserably failed. Perhaps it's a different set of criteria altogether. I feel like I'm actually doing something the entire time. In fact, I wish it was longer (hence me staying late nearly ever class). I can take pictures and tell everyone how cool this project I'm working on is. If I'm lucky, they've never heard of 3D printing and I get to explain it to them. I bring it up with pride in interviews, and they seem impressed that someone my age has access to that kind of resource and opportunity. I can't say any of that for Organic Chemistry lab, a Fluid Dynamics lecture, or a joke online Film Music class I'm taking just to fulfill a GenEd requirement. Penn State needs to reconsider what they view as "required" in the curriculum, and this hits the nail in the head.

Blog 14- Recycling

The Filabot seems to be the most developed of the three. It allows for a wide range of plastics to be used, including things other than waste filament. Additionally, with a grinder and spool system, it allows for a cleaner process with less manual work. As this video shows, MIT labs have devised a process to grind a milk jug and directly print a cup using the recovered material However, this of course introduces the possibility of things going wrong. The Recyclebot may be a more reasonable endeavor to begin with, as they only tackle a smaller portion of that entire process.

Naturally the principle advantage of using a recycler will be a drop in raw material cost. Currently, if a large object is perfect for 95% of the print and something goes wrong in the last 5 minutes, the entire object is useless and the material is wasted. At a rates of $20/lb (from a company with a monopoly on the product), it would give me some piece of mind knowing that I can pursue making large objects without the fear of wasting the filament. Additionally, the OHM model has undergone several modifications this semester, rendering some already-printed parts obsolete. Rather than throwing them out, this machine will allow us to salvage the material to produce new prints.

After constructing an entire printer, I believe this is certainly doable given a set of instructions. It may be difficult, but there appears to be a small community of people working on the same project that could be used as a support resource. As long as the materials are available, I would be interested in pursuing this project if there was more time.

Blog 13- Other Interest

Prior to taking the course, I saw a TED talk from Contour Crafting explaining how they are harnessing additive manufacturing to print buildings and houses. This allows a house, complete with inlaid plumbing and conduit, to be constructed in less than 20 hours. Additionally, this allows a degree of customization similar to what we can do in class: you can modify the design file to suit your specific needs or desires. As the video explains, NASA is working on applying this technology to build lunar structures such as roads, landing pads, and radiation barriers. The selling point of this company is the ability to offer more architectural flexibility at a lower cost and with less time compared to conventional construction methods.

I've used this as my go-to example when people question the practicality of 3D printing. As cool as 3D printed electronics are, it's much more difficult to visualize and explain. We discussed how some people view the products of the 3D printing industry as a sea of worthless plastic knick-knacks. While there is some validity to that statement, the larger concept of extruding layers of a 3D structure is proving to be practical on so many more levels.!

Blog 12-Models of People

The heads in 312 Hammond were among the cooler things I noticed when I came to class the first day. This was enhanced when I learned we could theoretically scan our own faces and print a model, as Eric did and showed people at the Hackathon. Extending my interest and the interest I saw in others, I believe there is definitely a market for the custom-made prints shown in the article.

At the current price point, I couldn't justify buying a full-color full-body model of myself. For $25 though, I would absolutely get the MakerBot facial scan and print if I'm near a store. I could possibly see my parents making a mantelpiece with full-body prints myself and two younger sisters, similar to the 3 portraits they currently have. Again though, the price is pretty prohibitive of that.

At the moment the full-body scans are limited by technology, in that a scan requires the person to remain still for 15 minutes. As the article mentions, this will likely lead to stiff and uncomfortable poses. Naturally I wouldn't want to own a figurine of myself looking uncomfortable. I believe this will eventually be overcome: after all, when cameras first were being developed the film had to be exposed for roughly the same amount of time, hence an illusion that everyone looked miserable while getting their picture taken in the old days. As this aspect of the technology develops, the time and effort required to produce the product will decrease, perhaps decreasing the price as well. On the plus side, this endeavor is offering a completely new take on capturing a moment. Just as parents keep chronological photo albums of children, perhaps in the future they'll get to-scale 3D models printed.

At the moment this is a rather specialized endeavor with little completion. Again, I imagine the camera industry was similar. If the concept gains traction and becomes widespread many companies will jump at an opportunity to get a slice of the profits. This will lead to a standard in quality, and a lower baseline price as the free market works its magic. If the price drops to $50-$75 for a decently-sized model, I could justify giving one to my parents/grandparents as a gift.

Blog 11-Education

After spending time at the Hackathon, I was blown away by how a particular child responded to the technology. Though he (probably?) didn't know the intricacies, he would point out different parts and seemed to get the gist of how things were being made. It struck me that he'll grow up in a time where this kind of technology is the norm, where as I (at 20 years old) am still impressed at how I have the level of access to this kind of machine. Whereas I joint the class solely to get exposure to the technology, 3D printing could easily hold a more prominent role in the classroom by producing custom toys (for tactile learning), then progressing to teaching children the mechanics behind the process.

It appears the STEMulate Learning initiative has been well thought out: they recognized that a single DIY project won't catch everyone's attention and have created three personalized robot models to expose students to, none of which I can imagine building as a child. The concept of 3D printing isn't that difficult to grasp: A child can likely understand a process of stacking layers to create a larger object. The primary obstacles are the cost of the machine itself and an operator/instructor.

I was caught off-guard when David Warlick mentioned that "this idea of in-house fabrication and its cultural impact may seem a bit far-fetched." Interestingly enough, I'm noticing that this doesn't seem all that far-fetched to me anymore. It seems perfectly acceptable to think that these will indeed produce a significant cultural impact, to the point where a 2nd grader could see little distinction between printing off a TV remote battery cover and printing his book report for English.

As far as disagreements, all seemed pretty reasonable. Though, this Buzz Garwood guy is kind of an ass for making someone stop a print just so he could get his picture. Hopefully that Stratasys printer is better at resuming than our RepRaps.

I do have a small fear that, by integrating the technology at such a young age, they won't be able to appreciate what a development it is. Children may just see it as another thing. I suppose that is a good thing, but there is something to be said about the "cool" factor that drew me to the subject in the first place. Or, maybe I'm just jealous that these kids get an extra decade to play with them than I did.

Blog 10-Future

As I've stated in previous blogs, I believe the fundamental change in the long-haul will be user accessibility. Just as computers used to be reserved for scientists and scholars, I expect I large "dumbing-down" of the software and processes to the point where someone could find a collection set of ready-to-go code files, hit "PRINT," and have their object made. For example, Cubify sells a machine with filament "cartridges" similar to a 2D printer. They offer a store-type model of objects, which you may either have shipped to you as a finished product or BUY this codefile for. Consider these bracelets, already printed by us from Thingiverse, listed with $9 STL files.

That said, I do not expect the base development and hobbyist "community" behind RepRap and OS3DP to go away for quite some time, or the fundamental "open source" spirit behind it to change. With user-accessibility comes restraints that many people will not want to put up with. Some will prefer the freedom to build and modify their own machine, create and share files, and work as a community for the enhancement of the technology.

Blog 9- Libraries

Initially I was hesitant to picture 3D printers in a public setting due to how intricate they are, but the youtube video drew a great parallel with printers and specialty photo printers. Not long ago, it would have seemed absurd to have a printing press or photography lab open to the general public. Yet today we don't think twice about printing a document or photo, so it is not hard to envision a similar trend occurring with user-friendly 3D printers.

On the university level Virginia Tech's Mechanical Engineers came up with the Dream Vendor, a really neat setup and display station for their printers. It prints from an SD card, protects the machines, and allows them to be observed while printing which can draw attention from passerbys. Given the fact that most of our class is MechEs, I think their department would be a suitable place to pilot a printing station such as this before making it a fully-public offering. Unfortunately I am only familiar with the Paterno/Pattee and Davey libraries, neither of which seem appropriate for this. Davey is too small and doesn't offer much work room, and I can't envision this type of work being done in a larger academic library like Paterno/Pattee.

The station should have a decent computer lab nearby (lacking in Paterno/Pattee), preferably designed with CAD in mind (with several widescreen monitors). There are several of these on 3rd floor Hammond, which conveniently hosts the Engineering Library as well. While I have never explored this library, I believe it would hit the target audience pretty effectively provided enough space is available. This would allow for rapid-prototyping, as there are also workshops in operation on the 3rd floor.

The key to making a public-access machine successful, mentioned in the SmartPlanet link, is education. This technology is intimidating to a newcomer: to even printing anything we have to download an STL, modify it in ReplicatorG, generate code through Skienforge, and operate Pronterface to print. While a seasoned user could do this in their sleep, a novice could quickly become overwhelmed by it.

Blog 8- DRM

I'll preface this by stating that patent trolls are the scum of the earth. Intellectual Ventures is exploiting the patent system for profit, stifling the technological development of the country.That said, let us assume this was thought up with some legitimate reason by a gentleman who shouldn't necessarily rot in the fiery pits of hell for eternity. Still, it directly conflicts my vision of the "spirit" of open 3D printing. In previous posts, I noted that it is logical for companies to wish to protect their products and intellectual property. However, DRM has failed before and dumbing down every 3D printer is certainly not the solution here.

It almost seems too late to slap DRM-esque protection on these machines. While this may work for the closed-off, user-friendly commercial models (Makerbots), anyone who has the software and knowledge of to build these should have no trouble continuing on. There is a well-established hub for sharing designs (Thingiverse) as well as rising ones such as the Pirate Bay, one of the largest names in piracy. In a sense, the infrastructure for the community is already fully in place on an international scale.

This isn't to say the broader concept itself is useless. Perhaps it is best that someone can't buy a printer off the shelf, download a gun, and print it out as an untraceable weapon.

Blog 7- Optics

[I am certain I did this one on time, but apparently it did not save. Believe it has something to do with working on blogs 6 & 7 simultaneously in differnt tabs. Regardless, re-done 10/25.]

1. This would advance the applicability of the 3D printing realm past the current state once described as "drowning a sea of useless plastic things." With modern electronics incorporated, the vision of being able to print "anything" in your garage suddenly becomes much more tangible. An advancement such as this opens a whole new set of legal issues regarding patents, copyrights, and design piracy. Large corporations would likely not be intimidated by our passive plastic cups and shower curtain hooks, but when it becomes feasible to make our own objects as an alternative to making a large purchase, they may get more protective.

2. While perhaps possible, the issues would be a matter of precision. Two different materials would be required, therefore we would need dual extruders (currently not available to us) or the ability to stop the print, lay down the light-piping filament, and continue the print. I have never tried doing this, as I have always restarted a print if something went wrong rather than resolve an issue and continue. Though, if the light-piping filament matches a multiple of the diameter of our PLA (and our extruders cooperate) I believe that light-piping is well within our capabilities.

3. Currently our RepRaps use optical sensors which tend are not always cooperative due to alignment issues. It would be interesting to incorporate physical contact switches (printed by RepRaps) into the standard OHM design. Additionally, if we could mount gyro sensors on the extruder and bed we could potentially have the printer giving live feedback to Pronterface so that the print could me more accurately tracked and stopped in an unforeseen emergency.

Blog 6- Bioprinting

1) Currently enrolled in a molecular cell biology course, I've become aware how intricate the structure of our bodies are at the cell level. To replicate these processes with printing technologies is a bold move and will certainly come with challenges. I expect that if this gets large enough, sort of regulatory body will start to oversee it. Given the sensitivity of DNA and genetic code, one is likely to encounter huge problems somewhere along the process of growing organs. Bodies frequently reject natural foreign organs- growing new ones with identical DNA may make this problems disappear or elevate it to new heights. If the FDA puts such a fuss on simply swallowing certain drug molecules, some agency will certainly have a fit over people growing organs in their garage. The level of precision required present a technical barrier, though it appears technical barriers tend to be less hindering than legal/bureaucratic ones.

2) If the "bio-ink" cells are readily available (likely not in 5lb spools) along with any other required modifications, people will gladly tinker around with them and try to exploit their potential. There may be a limit to how much "bio-research" can be effectively performed though. My exposure to Reprap has solely been "tinker" quality, not "cleanly mutate the human genome" quality. Even if we could print a few nice kidneys, finding human guinea pigs to test their effectiveness would prove difficult. On a smaller scale though, it would be interesting to have the opportunity to print different cells and examine how they react to exposure to bacteria or viruses.

Blog 5-Weapons

1) Given the circumstances I would be searching for a new 3D printer provider, which Wilson appears to be doing. Be careful not to spend too much on lawyers/legal fees if the cash supply is dwindling. Ideally they wouldn't need to pay $1000s/year to become licensed, but it may be necessary for them to progress with the project.

2) I previously vouched that the government should keep their nose out of this sector- allow people to make things without DRM-esque hassles. Given this new information though, it is concerning that if the technology got into the wrong hands someone may be able to mass-produce weapons like this for a low cost, and be completely untraceable. Perhaps the accessibility I was so excited about has its drawbacks...

3) I can see similar action being taken against the replication of keys. Currently, you need to have a physical key to copy it, or at least know the depth of the pin settings. Making a fake key requires vigorous, precise filing and is very difficult. With a 3D printer, a new copy could be constructed layer-by-layer from a computer model, which could perhaps come from a 3D scan of a key, or traces of a detailed photograph. Additionally, it could be easily distributed to others. Thus, giving someone access to a key for a small period of time would greatly increase chances of unauthorized access.

Blog 4-

If the rumors are correct, Makerbot appears to be ditching the community aspect of development in favor of closing their software. In doing so, they are making their printer strictly a commercial product. This is already causing backlash from the community including the "Occupy Thingiverse" movement started by Josef Prusa. Prusa is outraged that an industry founded on open collaboration of a community is being exploited for the gain of a single company. Furthermore, Makerbot recently updated their Terms on Thingiverse, making all uploaded models the property of Makerbot. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that someone will step forward to create a "new" Thingiverse: One company claiming ownership over the collective work of a community directly conflicts the "open-source" ideals, even if it is hosted on their website. Whoever slaved over hours of SolidWorks modeling should carry at least some "ownership" of the model, and we should be grateful to those who decide to share it without expectations of profit.

Blog 3-

Q1: I don't believe it's unreasonable to think that, if the technology becomes mainstream enough, some more complex models will be sold for profit and protected under some usage restrictions. This is common with software trials: the program can track how many computers its been installed upon, and how many hours its been running. Once certain conditons have been meet (such as 10 hours of use, or by a certain date), the software will refuse to run. Similarly, a model could "track" how many times its been printed and do some sort of self-destruction that prevents a person from redistributing the file or creating multiple prints. Naturally, people would dedicate themselves to cracking these restrictions and sharing them with the world in a torrent-eque style. I imagine this will not occur for quite some time- I haven't seen a 3D model of tweezers worth patenting.

Q2: I've been collecting vinyl records for the past three years. It started as a little thing I did on the side, but has since become a highly-visible part of who I am. It is the highlight/focus of wherever I live, and makes a great conversation piece. I get a sense of satisfaction from sharing my collection with people and explaining the analog technology to someone who has never had experience with a turntable. I've formed a variety of relationships through my setup, and wouldn't be all that surprised if the trend continues.

Q3: An end to intellectual property is long overdue. It serves little purpose in a growing & evolving world beyond turning a profit for large corporations. Think of all the time and money being wasted in the Apple v. Samsung lawsuit, all of which (in an ideal world) could instead be put into purposeful collaboration to make revolutionary products. Unfortunately, I think Bowyer is a little optimistic about an end to IP. As long as large sums of money are involved, parties will attempt to protect their IP from being used for profit by others. Not to say this won't be thwarted by a dedicated community (music DRM, software, etc), but we have a long way to go before our plastic trinket printers revolutionize the manufacturing industry.

Blog 2-

Q1: I would usually be hesitant to say that a a project like a self-replicating universal constructor is possible, but it's getting difficult to call anything "impossible." Currently our printers can replicate all of their own joints and gears, but not the sturdier supports or more intricate electronics. Assembly is done by humans, but this could be done by robot rather simply. Unfortunately, I do believe we will reach limitations in what can be printed. Digital Cameras, for instance, would require such an intricate process with so many materials that it may not be feasible (unless perhaps a machine was dedicated to producing electronics).

Q2: Bowyer presents a scenario in which a person could own a machine capable of producing anything, making money obsolete. Given access to a machine, feed materials, and necessary models one has no need for any sort of money. While a positive for the consumer, it has the potential to eliminate the demand for production jobs or discourage people from working altogether. These may be instead replaced with people who create 3D models (to sell), or maintain the replicating machines. The economy as we know it would have to undergo a massive revamp to accommodate this technology.

Q3: I currently feel the learning curve is the biggest obstacle to becoming "mainstream." To my knowledge the technology is not yet at the point where a fully-assembled, functional machine can be delivered. Even so, the computer interface required to operate the printer is far from layman-friendly. In the future, I picture a large console with a colorful touchscreen where the user can search databases for a model and have it printed before them. Unfortunately I believe this will hurt the RepRap community- currently all RepRap users are working together to develop the technology. When they day comes that a layman can fully operate this machine on his or her own, the community will cease to grow. The 3D printing industry will ultimately become more commercialized and the hobbyists will either disappear or become hired as specialists to develop the technology.

Blog 1-

Useful: Cross Tweezers: [[1]] It looks like we use these quite a bit in printing. Handy that we can print out another set at will.

Artistic: Bioshock Belt Buckle: [[2]] They put loads of detail into this this, fully converting the official logo into a 3D model. While I doubt a plastic version would make a sturdy buckle, it would be a cool decoration.

Useless: USSR Rocket Key: [[3]] A model of the key which could theoretically activate missiles in the USSR. Would make a neat conversation starter, but has little application otherwise.

Funny: Portal Cake [[4]] I thought it was a lie, but someone took the initiate to make this fabled reward a reality.

Weird: Everything on [[5]]. The fact that a website exists solely for this restores my faith in the world's sense of humor.

Look at me still talking while there's Science to do.