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Blog #13 May 3rd, 2013

Topics I wished we discussed in greater detail:

Printing a complex system (i.e. systems of interlocking, rotating parts)
Biomedical applications (tissues and organs)
Ways of achieving higher definition prints

I think everything else was fine, except required blogs - but I feel some form of homework is needed and they fulfill that requirement. Quizzes were good also.

Blog #12 April 26th, 2013

Of a dual extruder and filament recycler as goals, I think that the filament recycler is the more important of the two. For one, there are many failed prints and it would be cost-effective to be able to turned failed prints into good prints by recycling the filament and printing again. There is a good amount of filament in the recycling boxes so we already have things to recycle. There doesn't seem to be anything on the level of the RepRap project for a filament recycler, so I think that work in this area would not only benefit us but the community at large. Another perk to the filament recycler is that you could create multi-color filament, kind of like those pens that have more than one color of ink that changes as you write. Prints could be pretty cool with that.

There are plenty of dual extruders out there. While having a dual extruder machine would be cool, why not kill two birds with one stone and create a well-designed filament recycler that the PSU user group will benefit from while giving back to the Open Source community at large?

Blog #11 April 19th, 2013

Having now worked with the OHM RepRap printers for about 4 months now there are a few things that come to mind for improvement:

Adopt the bushing version of the x-axis assembly from the Prusa Mendel to reduce amount of bearings needed (easier replication)
Key all of the connectors to reduce potential for mistakes (much like how the thermo-couples were keyed)
Lower the height of the z-motors like The Wallace to lower the center of mass of the printer, perhaps improving stability (reduce vibrations)
Maybe bushings in addition to the bearings on the extruder could increase stability instead of relying solely on the wiggly bearings
Personally, I dislike that the design uses two z-motors. In an ideal world I would have one z-axis motor mounted on an updated extruder carriage or elsewhere with some clever way of mounting the threaded rod it will traverse.

Blog #10 April 12th, 2013

For Blog #8 I was featured in 6 of 16 blogs - pretty good! This actually surprises me as I really despise writing blogs. As a result my blogs tend to be very short and to the point, but for the reader this is potentially a huge upside. The only advice I would give would be to express yourself honestly. If there is room for criticism or any contrasting then try to be honest, unbiased, and fair in your criticism. Say what you really think as succinctly as possible. I plan on changing nothing blog-wise in order to attain maximum XP, but the print service is something that needs my attention for sure.

Blog #9 March 29th, 2013

I'm glad that AutoDesk is creating more consumer accessible 3d-model-from-image products - or at least I hope it's accessible to the average consumer as the price has not been announced yet. Open Source alternatives - insight3d - do exist, but I have not used the tool and cannot speak to its quality. I don't think that photo based modeling could produce results that are as good as laser-scanning methods so long as the object can be scanned. This is not feasible for extremely large things, however, unless you had an enormous scanner that you could attach to a helicopter for buildings and humongous things like that.

Blog #8 March 22nd, 2013

For this week's blog I will give some opinions about another user's blog from our RepRap class here at Penn State: Matt Rocker!

From Matt's blog #6, one idea that resonates with me is with regard to the University of Virginia's printers. I share the sentiment that although their printers are nicer, they are losing valuable hands on experience building and fixing printers that gives insight into how the machines actually work. Their commercial systems seem like a "set and forget" system and when it breaks you must call the manufacturer, some guy comes and fixes it and hands you a bill opposed to printing the parts yourself and fixing it yourself. However, they must have a different vision of what they want students to get out of the experience.

In Matt's blog #6 with regard to Open versus Closed Source projects he says that Open-Source designs can rival those of Closed-Source but at the cost of time. I believe that with an active community contributing to a quality design, that the lifetime of product development and support for the project is potentially the only downside to Open-Source designs and projects; Most Open-Source projects - do not / can not / will not offer enterprise support like most companies with Closed-Source offerings. The Open-Source and Closed-Source world are not that different if you think about it, the only major trade off is time for money.

Overall I appreciate Matt's concise and to-the-point writing, and being able to put his thoughts into only a few sentences.

Blog #7 March 9th, 2013

Lots of 3D printing projects on Kickstarter as of late, one of which is the 3doodler which is kind of silly since it's just a hand-held extruder. Printers have enough print quality problems on their own when a robot is controlling the extruder, let alone the hands of potentially untalented and uncoordinated humans. One unfortunate situation is that formlabs is being sued by 3D Systems Corp for using their method of stereolithography (using a laser to cure plastic). Not only are they suing formlabs, but also the messenger Kickstarter who provided crowd-sourced funding for the project, which I think is a crock of you-know-what to include Kickstarter in the claim that “immediate and irreparable injury and damage to 3D Systems” by this event. It doesn't seem Kickstarter will have much of a life of a crowd-sourcing platform if it can also be sued if one of its ventures - if you will - can cause it to be liable.

I like Kickstarter as an idea, but I do not like that they skim 10% from the total funds raised, of which they keep 5% (other 5% goes to Amazon for money brokering), and think they could do with less but still make a good profit. The project starters still need to do all of the work, it seems like Kickstarter gets too much for doing too little - but that's what business is about…making the most money you can. So the advantages would be that you can get funding for your project, but must understand that that's not the actual money you will receive and factor that into your costs or raise more money (which could affect hitting your fund raising deadline). It's still overall a positive thing, but it could be better.

Blog #6 February 22nd, 2013

After reading yet another article about the disruption to be caused by the virulent nature of 3D printing, I learned a few things. In summary:

President Obama expressed his hope that 3D printing will revitalize American manufacturing in his State of the Union address last week.
Cornell University Associate Professor Hod Lipson recognizes the pervasiveness of 3D printing.
3D printing allows for manufacturing objects tailored to each customer.
The University of Virginia is working to disseminate 3D printers throughout the K-12 education spectrum to familiarize upcoming generations with the technology.
A house is actually going to be 3D printed by Softkill Design, a London architecture collective as a proof-of-concept.
The cost of printers is in decline, partly thanks to the Chinese.

I don't particularly put much weight on the State of the Union addresses, but there was somewhat of a push towards wind and solar alternative energies that were previously addressed by the President, and I hope that his notions towards 3D printing accelerate the adoption of 3D printing by industry (all areas, really).

I'm also glad that the University of Virginia is altering its ME program to use 3D printers to print designs and mechanisms that often stay on the pages in the textbook, since I am a firm believer that seeing and doing makes things stick a lot more than mere study. Too often in academia are there no such applications that students can tie subject matter to, and this will change that through seeing and doing. Most engineers use CAD so they can now actually see their designs come to life with minimal effort, which might include buying expensive materials otherwise. The only flaw that I can immediately recognize is that if the entirety or majority of fabrication moves to printers, students may not pick up skills they otherwise would have such as machining and working with different materials - whether skills like that are important is definitely subjective matter, however. The big merits the program has are rapid prototyping, ease of visualization, and exposure to this technology.

The University of Virginia is definitely willing to allocate money to their endeavor, so I would think it is unfair to compare their printers to ours. Some interesting things are that while our printers often break, by fixing them we learn how they actually work and how to service them - this is something the students at the University of Virginia may lose if they are using expensive state-of-the-art printers that have near-zero downtime or maintenance. However, such printers are definitely needed for something on such a large scale.

Blog #5 February 15th, 2013

In revisiting blog #1, I've assessed each of the original items I chose for copyrightable or patentable elements. Results:

Banana Slicer: totally utilitarian, cannot be copyrighted.
Cup: the artistic pattern can be severed from the cup and copyrighted, but not the cup itself.
Ford Engine Block: not copyright-able, however I'm sure there's a patent for this.
Oreo Holder: totally utilitarian except for any designs that may be on it that can be severed.
Minion from "Despicable Me": certainly in violation of a work of art (movie).
Low-Polygon Mask: like the faces on the beauty school heads, the exact low-poly design is probably copyright-able, however masks are not.

Some things that others have found are interesting:

Shower Head (Zzl5038): not copyrightable but it could be patentable if it switched to different "modes", the patentable part being how it switches modes.
Human Jaw (MarkKeller22): human anatomy is definitely not copyrightable nor patentable.
Bookshelf (Blacklaser): a bookshelf itself is not copyrightable, but if the bookshelf is also a sculpture or unique design, then the design is copyrightable.
A Vase (Blacklaser): a vase in itself is not copyrightable, but this one has a distinct design that can be separated from the vase object and copyrighted, unless the design was generated by a mathematical formula then I think that would complicate things a little.
A Bike(Djl5217): I think that if the bike is only intended as art (like a figurine), then the bike's design copyrightable - but in general a bike is not.

I would be interested in the licensing of non-copyrightable files for both reasons stated in this article; reason one being that it futureproofs a work against whatever may be in store, and secondly that it is an assurance that a openly-licensed work is ok to use, incorporate, or build upon.

Blog #4 February 8th, 2013

After viewing a very interesting news article about an application of 3D printing that had not crossed my mind, I now realize the improvements in quality of life that can be had through 3D printing. While a printer and materials is not exactly cheap, a labor of love with a printer printing a new hand for your son beats paying $10,000 per finger for a similar solution. There is no doubt that the design of the prosthetic hand will improve over time and will also have a relatively low cost as the boy grows and needs new hands, which would otherwise be potentially cost-prohibitive.

Keeping with the open source nature of things was an open source modeling application called OpenSCAD, being an alternative of sorts to the popular AutoCAD software in the role of generating a 3D model of what will be printed. While the quality of what would be in a closed-source apparatus would probably be higher, at least from what I can tell by the quality of the modeling software, the cost will undoubtedly be astronomically high as well (upwards of $1200 just for modeling software). If they weren't able to print their own parts and instead paid for a service using a closed-source printer the costs would also go up as would the time between their iterations on design; even just iterating would be costly if you're repeatedly printing out parts to try. So I had to do a quick compare and contrast between open and closed source:


Higher Quality (not always)
No time investment by the customer

Costs more (trade money for time)
Moves / iterates at a slower pace (not always)
If it's a commercial product, there's likely a patent somewhere that will be used as a bludgeon in the future


Can be as good as you want it to be (especially with collective community effort)
Disrupts markets

Might be of questionable quality (not always)
Time intensive (not always)

The open source project they used to make the models looks like it has an enormous amount of room for improvement, since it just seems like an average renderer that reads files / schematics that a user writes up. One thing that could be added would be a physics module to apply forces on models to simulate stress and strain. Something huge would be an interactive editor where you could either interactively build a model and generate code describing it or feed it a schematic code, tweak the model in an editor, and have the resulting schematic code changed. A better UI would lend itself to greater usability. Still...very cool.

Blog #3 February 1st, 2013

I think it's great that there are so many applications of 3D priting in other industries. Civil Engineering seems like a gimme with designing structures, at least buildings, though some structures may prove to be especially difficult - like bridges. Biotech is another industry that could obviously see great benefit from the 3D printing of organs for study, trials, and in satisfying the demand for organs for transplants among other things. One Biotech application that caught me a little off guard was the 3D printing of edible meats, which makes sense, but makes me wonder how it might taste; as long as it tastes the same I wouldn't mind eating it. Tying in another industry into the edible part of Biotech is Food Science in general, which could 3D print certain baked goods, desserts (like ice cream cake) and even ice cakes, though the investment seems to be a bit steep for the payoff in this industry. One industry that seems particularly peculiar in its use of 3D printing is fashion - if I wouldn't have seen it I wouldn't have believed it.

Some other great examples of 3D printing in industry:

Industrial Engineering: Creating moving assemblies like chains.
Home and Office: Chairs, desks, tables.
Clothing: Gel/Rubber/Synthetic insoles for shoes.

An interesting thought that entered my mind was that if so many things become automated or fabricated by additive processes with 3D printers, will arts and crafts from skilled human labor reach a super premium? I could definitely see it happening, since there are some things that are the product of creativity, passion and skill that a machine can emulate but not do "for real".

Blog #2 January 25th, 2013

So I've watched "The Mother of All Demos" and am surprised at how close the demonstration depicts functionality used today. Text editing - indenting, lists, copy and paste, etc - is near identical to today. The concept of a file has not really changed nor the information about it like dates for creation and modification. Many of these features have only been refined as time has passed. Considering the time period during which the demo happened it is certainly causes a feeling of being impressed, but it is fleeting as that functionality is so normal in this day. I would imagine those who grew up with touch screens would feel the same versus someone who was around when the technology was introduced - the same with color TV. Having been in the audience I cannot say that I would have recognized the importance of what was being demonstrated given the astronomical cost of computers at the time. As the features were refined and the price dropped I think it would set in that this is going to be a big thing.

In watching another video, I find it most likely that the participants in the "Mother of all Demos" video had the reaction that Prof. Richard Doyle said they did - that there was no way that anyone could come up with what he did - the personalization of the computer - in the day of the mainframe. Prof. Doyle also makes a case for the Open Source movement, the public nature of knowledge, and how intellectual property sort of violates the basic properties of knowledge and how knowledge is shared. The obvious reason for the sharing of information is to better the human race as a whole, and to open up ideas so that they can then be improved on. Our current version of intellectual property protection is very archaic and does not work in the modern age, often stifling great inventions and innovations from ever coming to market because of the selfishness of the property owners. Corporations even start wars with lawyers instead of soldiers over their intellectual property, and use it to bully people around.

Another thing is that some companies like SpaceX have not patented any of their new tech because it basically creates a public blueprint which they worry others will copy (specifically the Chinese). So the why of "why share information" has been addressed, but how is easy to speculate about and hard to form a practical idea of. The current method of Open Sourcing has lead to a lot of great things, and I think that it is good in the interim between now and the (hopefully) eventual reform of the patent system.

Blog #1 January 18th, 2013

Got our printer up and running and started brainstorming different design improvements in order to build another printer based on scarcity of parts, which should be exciting. Thingiverse is a great site with a lot of cool things uploaded by users. Some particularly interesting to me:

Useful awards go to: 1. Banana Slicer 2. A cup As someone who has two dogs who love bananas, a banana slicer would be extremely useful for me to divy up a banana for their snack time. Or for a banana and peanut butter PBJ for myself. The second - a cup - is also very useful to hold whatever; you could even print your own party cups with designs on the side to indicate whose is whose.

Artistic / Beautiful awards go to: A Ford Engine Block Engines are works of art. It was an easy decision for me as someone who admires engines.

Pointless / Useless awards go to: Oreo Holder Interesting, but rather pointless unless it's used for dunking.

Funny / Weird awards go to: A Minion - definitely funny Despicable Me was a funny movie and I love the minions from it, this print is a winner.

Scary / Strange awards go to: Low Polygon Mask It seems a little strange to me.

After reading this article: How Corporations Kill Creativity and watching this video: Charlie Rose interviews a successful Designer I've reflected to think a little about myself. I would a consider myself a tinkerer, starting with building and salvaging computers many years ago until today. I would also consider myself a tinkerer without the time or inclination to tinker since school drains a lot of my willingness to do anything technical. School also kills your creativity like Corporations do, but that's another topic.

I don't know many tinkerers, and if I were to answer yes it would be that I know people who tinker with code; I know only one or two people who tinker with cards and are "fix-its" so to speak. With regards to corporations and tinkering, I think it's quite absurd that if you buy a product that you are not allowed to do whatever you want with it thereafter (like the whole PS3 debacle). I feel if you did not buy a license for something and you own a physical item that you should be able to do whatever you want with it; anything else is wrong to me.

An interesting quote at the end of the article is "...preserving the habitat of the tinkerer is one of the few time-proven ways we as a nation can get back on track", to which I have to say that tinkerers will tinker since that is their nature. We don't have to worry about preserving their environment; enterprising tinkerers will come up with companies and hobbyist tinkerers will have good experience that will help them in whatever their profession may be.

It's nice to see that his newest project with his daughter is a 3D printer because he seems like a very forward-thinking person and that it hints at a good future for 3D printing. I think there's a lot of things to learn from this man in terms of his design principles and his company - putting very different disciplines, backgrounds, and through processes together in order to come up with good ideas. Our current printer group consists of 3 CMPSC majors and an EE major and I wish that we had an ME or otherwise to mix things up a bit in the brainstorming sessions.