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Devin O'Donnell

School: The Pennsylvania State University

Major: Mechanical Engineering Year: Senior

Devin Photo.jpg


I am a mechanical engineering major at Penn State. I was first introduced into 3-D printing by my materials science professor here. I was thrilled to learn about the existence of this class and have really enjoyed learning and experiencing 3-D printing in it. I am interested in 3-D printing for what it can potentially do to improve social mobility and community development. I am part of the State College RepRap Users Group [1] and was assigned to the Clear Printer [2] this semester. My partner working on clear with me is Karol Kolc. It's been a blast figuring this thing out with him.

Journal Entries:

Remove Filament from Extruder

Replace one of the vertical actuator grip

September 26, 2014: We came in on Friday for two hours and printed out the strut that we need to make our printer work. We accessed the printer on the cart. We spent a bit of time trying to get the stil file into slicer. We didn't realize that G-converter was on the PC and not the Raspberry Pi. We discovered this and tried to use the PC but had troubles. We ended up bypassing this step by using a shortcut in Slic3r. We finally got the printer to run, and completed one attempt at our part. This attempt had major defects in it: the top layers were shifted by a significant amount off from the rest of the part. Photo below. In the meantime I continued working on replacing the vertical actuator joint grip. I successfully replaced the old tubing with the new tubing on one side of the printer.

October 28, 2014: Re-installed extruder tip, reattached wiring for extruder tip, attached

October 30, 2014: Got printer working, printed test part. Things we did to get it to work: Replaced system power supply connector, re-soldered extruder tip power supply, corrected wiring for thermocouple, corrected wiring for extruder motor, adjusted screws to level bed.


Blog 1: What happens when you mash up 3D printing and Amazon’s same-day delivery?

Link to article: [3]

This article was pretty fascinating with respect to the topic of mass customization. I think in my 3-D

printing class one of the first things we bring up is the reality of the limitations of the current state of the

art of 3-D printing, how it’s not ready for mass production , especially for the multi-material products, or

products that could be made with easily with traditional manufacturing methods.

Mass customization, producing products of great variety in small batches, is what I believe on the

horizon. Simple products of a single material or multi-material product that require only basic assembly

will be feasable. The article talked about Amazon being able to respond to demand for a product based

on its popularity using 3-D printers, but frankly I think even that is optimistic. While it would be a huge

game changer to eliminate uncertainty by reducing the time to respond to demand, I think 3-D printing

is going to be doing most of its legwork in market research for the time being.

Manufacturers could set up kiosks or stores across the country or the world where they could try out

selling experimental products of all kinds of variety, constantly streaming in new models from designers

for rapid fabrication and sale. If one of these warehouse/factory hybrids mentioned in the article had an

array of stock components to choose from, designers could implement mass customization by designing

products that used as many stock components as possible while leaving the 3-D printer to produce the

unique parts that make the product what it is. The shell of an electronic device could be printed in

plastic with great variety while using stock electronic components to fill its “guts”. The product could be

printed and assembled at the warehouse/factory for rapid iterations of products. Ergonomics for

electronic medical devices could be tested at a larger scale less expensively. Interactive children’s toys

could be highly customizable, like a high-tech Build-a-Bear.

When you find a product that really works and need to respond to demand, I’ll be that traditional 

manufacturing methods are still the go-to. Having said that, I really liked what the article had to say

about using some sort of hybrid method of advanced logistics and 3-D printing to improve the speed and

reduce cost of shipping products. When used within their limitations, 3-D printers still have the potential

to get small quantities of customizable products places faster than a shipper. Even for individuals, 3-D

printing a product in the place you want it to be might even be cheaper than shipping it in some

instances. Maybe Amazon could set up a service for printing objects at stations across the world at a

cost lower than air shipping the object to that place. This might be true for large objects with a low mass

density. They’d be expensive to ship because of their awkward shape, but cheap to print because they

use little material. This form of “transportation” might even be considered more secure than shipping.

Blog 2: Tapping into the potential of 3D printing to reduce plastic waste

Link to article: [4]

Perpetual Plastic Project: [5]

The article briefly outlines the Perpetual Plastic project, a movement that is attempting to use local

forces to approach the problems of waste reduction worldwide. Additionally it seeks to connect

people’s economic and social needs with their abilities to better themselves. The main tool they are

using to drive the change they hope to accomplish is value currently being lost in today’s plastic life

cycle system. 3-D printing has the potential to be the key to unlock that value.

Looking on Perpetual Plastic Project’s website, one will quickly get a better understanding of the big

picture for this project. They are currently promoting their process at technology fairs and their goal

is to set up stores where people can bring in recyclables and leave with products from a 3-D printer.

Presumably, these shops will allow consumers to obtain products by bringing their own recyclables

and paying a small fee. This process offers a lower price, greater variety, a better conscience, and a

greater feeling of self-sufficiency than buying a product at a store and is leaps and bounds in the

way of incentive over current recycling programs, which require a you to buy your own recycle bins

to give away your valuable product material! Harnessing missed value to drive social change will

likely improve not only the amount or recycling but the overall efficiency of it.

According to PPP, only 10% of the world’s plastic is recycled. Part of this has to do with

manufacturer’s limitations in uses for recycled plastic. Consumers have the potential to find all kinds

of uses for these plastics. Whether destined to fill their own design or a standard one selected from

a website, consumers can take their plastic waste and use nearly all of it. The simplicity and

localness of the process is also radically different from our current plastic recycling system. The fuel

and emissions associated with transporting recycled products through waste management systems

could be reduced. Also consider that recycling plastics is a form of manufacturing and has pollutant

wastes of its own.

Social by-products of your local Perpetual Plastic shop, however, look very good. There is a big

educational opportunity to show the importance of closing the loop on recycling. One of the

downsides of living in urban, industrialized societies is that the materials and products that sustain

our lives are processed far from home and often forgotten about. People (perhaps a school field

trip) could come to these shops and see a commonly used material be repurposed in a clean,

responsible way, right before their eyes. Creativity and STEM careers could be promoted by having a

Perpetual Plastic store nearby. Children might be inspired to take some time to learn computer

aided design knowing that with a bag of plastic bottles and a few bucks they can see it come to life

at the store on the corner. This might lead to more kids wanting to be designers and engineers.

Aside from children, accessibility to 3-D printing will promote creativity in communities,

empowering artists and entrepreneurs.

All of this potential that this project has makes me wonder what it takes to bring it to an American

city. The first one that comes to my mind is Detroit, where I plan to move after graduation. It also

happens to be one of the cities that is reinventing itself after a decline in industry with new

technology and startups, much like my hometown Pittsburgh. There is also a vacuum in its recycling

system that could be filled by a strong incentive based program. Currently the recycling is an

optional service with coupon rewards in Detroit, and the city is trying to improve recycling options

with its organization, “Recycle Here!”. It seems like a place ripe for the Perpetual Plastic Project.

Detroit is up and coming, and I believe Perpetual Plastic Project has a great opportunity to make

their impact there. I’m just curious as to what barriers exist for PPP or a company with a similar

model to set up shop somewhere. What startup capital is necessary? Is there special cooperation

from the local government required? PPP, after all, claims that their technology has potential to be

disruptive to the current system. Would city hall be upset if part of the recycling business was taken

over by a private industry? Changing the current system may certainly cause friction, but for many

proponents of 3-D printing changing the system is exactly what we’re hoping for.

Blog 3: The Next Frontier Is Really Here: 3D Printing And Space Survival

Link to article: [


This article discusses the new Made in Space printer that is currently functional on the international

space station. Made is Space has designed a printer that can work in the microgravity felt in orbit on the

ISS. This project encapsulates the practicality of the 3-D printers for me. Going somewhere where you

are cut off from other means of getting other supplies you make your own. The article talks about all the

possibilities of making all sorts of parts and devices to sustain a mission using these printers, and even

collecting natural resources from Mars to create feedstock. I would love to see astronauts travelling

through space, completely self-reliant, harvesting alien materials to produce satellites, shelters, and


But right now, all we know is that a 3-D printer can make a part in space. We don’t know anything about

the quality of that part, as they still have to take it down to earth for analysis. There’s plenty to learn

from it, since a part produced in space is thought to have different properties that allow it to perform

better in space. I have no idea why that may be true, but I do know that there are a lot of challenges

that keep the self-sustainment dream from becoming a reality.

On the printing side, we have to consider that even on earth, a lot of 3-D printed objects require post

processing from chemical baths or additional machining. If you want to produce components with a high

enough quality to build something as complex as a satellite, you’re going to have to bring this post-

processing machinery with you. Also, not all components of a satellite a currently 3-D printable. Can we

print the glass panel of a solar panel? How about something as complex as a bearing? Even that is a very

basic component. I just don’t think you can take an engineering operation that relies on a global supply

chain can be replaced by a little printer. Not just yet.

On the material harvesting side, mining and refining ore from a planet’s surface seems like a very

intense and dangerous process to do in space. When you are risking your life as much as you already are

in space travel, mixing in some of the world’s most dangerous professions probably isn’t a good idea.

Additionally, the powdered metal used by a powdered metal sintering printer is made by an especially

high end process. So in the end, compacting the process of taking raw or into a highly refined metal

product into a spaceship would be a huge feat, but I would love to see it done.

I don’t mean to be a downer. All that they dream about in this article is conceivable. But I can’t resist

pointing out all the engineering opportunities that lie before us as we continue to gear up for the final


Blog 4: The Rise of 3-D Printed Guns

Link to article: [6]

This article talks about the proliferation of 3-D printable gun designs on the internet, possible security

concerns, and those who may have the ability to change it. I’d first like to address the issue of what

types of threats are actually more are more probable because of these designs.

The article quotes Don Lipson, Director of Cornell University Creative Machines Lab as saying that

teenagers and hobbyists are the greater danger from having access to 3-D printed guns as opposed to

terrorists and criminals. I don’t totally buy that. A 3-D printing hobbyist is a little bit of a conspicuous

suspect for a crime with a 3-D printed gun. True these guns are “untraceable” but 3-D printers are not.

We have all heard stories about people getting unsuspected visits from police for having an odd

combination of internet searches. If authorities need to narrow down suspects from a 3-D printed gun

related shooting, I don’t think it will take them long to get on the trail.

The main reason I don’t think that these guns don’t make a big difference for empowering average

citizens is that there are already ways to acquire unregulated weapons, and ones with much greater

firepower at that. Gun shows already provide any imaginable legal firearm to anyone with no

background check. There is a certain novelty and awe at the ability to build a firearm in your home that

the government “doesn’t know about”, but if you ever attempt anything dangerous with your relatively

pathetic firearm, they have your number.

Criminals and terrorists on the other hand probably have a lot of incentive in my mind to print and use

3-D printed guns because they are undetectable by metal detectors. Everything I said above about the

government tracking printed guns goes for them too, but these people are already willing to take great

risks with the law and presumably have other resources to cover their tracks. Sadly having access to an

all plastic gun could open up new doors for dangerous attacks.

The article states that probably the entity most capable of stopping the spread of 3-D printed guns is 3-D

printing companies like MakerBot. I agree with them. MakerBot could require all users to only use

approved designs from their website. Unfortunately MakerBot has little incentive to impose this

restriction because that would prohibit users from printing their designs and remove a huge selling

feature from their product. Alernatively users could submit their own designs to MakerBot for approval,

but creating this regulatory system could be costly, and probably wouldn’t be effective. How can one be

sure that a design is not a gun or a part of a gun? Must you track a user’s history of parts to ensure they

haven’t been slowly accumulating the parts for a gun design that you don’t know about? It just doesn’t

seem feasible. Even if MakerBot created a system at worked, other 3-D printers, especially open source

ones, could be used to make guns.

Blog 5: Copy Protection for 3-D Printing Aims to Prevent a Piracy Plague

Link to article: [


What I find really interesting about this article is that it reveals the kind of concessions the designers of

protection systems like Authentise are making to allow the sale of 3-D designs over the more plausible

to average people. In order to make a software than can be easily downloaded by the average consumer

for printing bought objects from their 3-D printer, it can’t be some unbreakable security system. The

main idea behind SendShapes is that it feeds the specific movement instructions to the printer as the

printer is working. I assume this is analogous to feeding the G-code directly to our RepRaps. The printer

would be receiving streamed instructions through Authentise’s SendShapes program. It is pretty

conceivable how this system could be beaten.

If there was a way to break into the system to record the commands as they were being sent to the

printer, or even record the printer’s movements through some external apparatus while the print was

taking place, an approximation of the design file could be constructed. There would definitely be some

error, since the printer commands and printer movements are themselves approximations of the

“perfect” design that exists in the CAD model, one could definitely get a near replica of the original


This process would take a fairly high level of technical skill to accomplish, however, and just like you and

I probably can’t hack Netflix and steal movies, we probably couldn’t get around SendShapes either. As

the article implied, it seems like a good solution for selling 3-D prints to people of average technical skill

and sufficient conscience.

An additional advantage, as the article mentioned, is the peace of mind that comes from buying a

product file that is secured. If your buying something protected, you can infer that it’s worth protecting,

as is therefore the real thing. This is probably more critical for printing parts to use is a functioning

device, like an appliance or vehicle.

All of this talk about security technology would be irrelevant if it weren’t becoming such a giant issue. As

far as I can tell, companies have a lot to lose here to piracy. It is already difficult as it is to control the

illegal spreading of digital media. 3-D printing has the ability to take digital information and add value to

it by materializing it as a physical product. The more value added to stolen information, the more value

the rightful owner of that intellectual property is missing out on. This is probably why more stringent

security systems are being developed to protect higher profile 3-D models. The article links to another,

“Nathan Myhrvold's Cunning Plan to Prevent 3-D Printer Piracy”.

Myhrvold has been awarded a patent for a high security technology that provide digital rights

management for 3-D printing. This is the technology that appears to be in contention to be the one that

regulates a design store for MakerBot. This was probably that position that Authentise had been hoping

to be in, but because of the size of Myhrvold’s company and the buzz around his patent, I think he is

more likely to fill the position, if it is filled at all. Right now MakerBot provides its designs for free, but

it’s gone from open source to closed source before. The designs for MakerBot’s printers used to be open

source before the company decided to really start making money, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they

implemented Myhrvold’s technology to allow MakerBot printers to only print designs that consumers

have paid for from their website. I think this iPod/iTunes model is perfectly fine for the 3-D printing

community, though.

As mentioned in the second article, some people fear that controlling designs so much will harm 3-D

printing’s progress because it takes power away from individuals who could make improvements and

discoveries. This is understandable, but MakerBot stopped being helpful in this area a long time ago.

There are other platforms like RepRap that cater to tinkerers and collaborators. For the 3-D printing to

become a common household item, it has to be commercialized.

I also think that this digital rights management technology could encourage designers to participate 

more in the 3-D printing community knowing that their work will be protected. Purists may lament when

a new technology becomes more commercialized, but as long as other printer platforms exists,

enthusiasts will have their own outlets, and corporations will have more funds to invest in their own


Blog 6: 3d Printing, clothes & Sensors : for US soldiers

Link to article: [7]

This page introduced a whole line of applications of 3D printing that makes you consider many creative

possibilities. Towards the end of the article the focus got a little scattered, but I’ll focus first on the

clothing and sensors.

The army’s ability to print clothes could make for some very cool products. I bet it gives them the ability

to reinforce traditional looking uniforms with interwoven armor or heat resisting material, as the article

mentioned ballistic clothing. Ballistic clothing is basically clothing that looks more or less normal but has

bulletproof protection capabilities. This will hopefully add an extra layer of safety to U.S. servicemen.

Even when they are lounging around a base in their normal uniforms, they could have extra protection

in the case of a surprise attack. As the article mentioned, 3D printers are being used to create sensors

for the army, so while they’re at it, they can introduce sensors into the clothing too. Sensors in uniforms

could measure the vitals of the soldier or collect data about the soldiers surroundings while they are in

the field. Maybe with the added control over the production process, they can make uniforms more

comfortable as well as functional. The article said they can reduce friction and heat, so the future of U.S.

uniforms could be some combination of UnderArmor, vital measurement system, and bulletproof super

suit. In constructing vest-like body armor, they could make armor lighter and more form fitting, perhaps

printing out armor that fits individual soldiers perfectly.

Beyond military uses, the article also includes a video of how 3D printing is being used in the fashion

world. I always get excited when 3D printing gets used by artistic types. When I see a different crowd of

people than the engineering crowd get interested in 3D printing, it makes me feel like what I work on is

appreciated by society, even if not everyone cares how it works. What really stuck out most about the

fashion products created by Dr. van Vuuren was that they were claimed to be made possible by 3D

printing alone. This can be seen in the complexity of some of her wild designs: . They are intricate, colorful, and have a funny futuristic look about

them that makes them look they came from a 3-D printer, but don’t look cheesy for it (ok I’m done

being a fashion dilettante). The other component of these products brought to us by the technology of

3-D printing is that they were designed and produced across three continents. Because design files used

by printers are all digital and can be shared easily, we are seeing the unprecedented collaboration that

we knew would be made possible by 3-D printing.

The fact that 3D printing encourages work across borders makes me wonder what will change in terms

of what people think about where products come from. For some products the place where a product

comes from is an essential part of the product’s marketing. Some fashion designs selling points might be

that they come from Paris. Now designs can come from any combination of places and be anyplace in an

instant. It’s not going to be restrained to space-age, plastic-like dresses either. 3-D printers are being

used to make clothes with a variety of materials as we mentioned above. 3-D printing could become

very popular with designers, and I’m sure they’ll find a way to use the international collaborative

potential of the technology to their advantage in marketing. International collaboration and diversity are

becoming more important to the public, and I bet someone could work a social justice component into

their line of 3-D printed clothing. Countries or people groups that don’t get their voice heard often could

make their fashion designs more visible through digital sharing.

Blog 7: NASA Is Building the World's First 3D-Printed Satellite Camera

Link to article: [8]

The main thing I got out of this article is the ability to use a single material for more parts in an object

from 3-D printing. The article did touch a little on cost reduction and time saving, but that’s commonly

known about 3-D printing technology. For one thing I think that it’s good that the technique is being

tested in advance on the satellite, mainly because I expect there to be a lot of complications.

The limitations of aluminum is the biggest constraining factor in the process, and if this project can

unlock more possibilities of the versatility of a single material. Using a 3-D printer as the singular tool to

create highly engineered products will become more viable for all sorts of applications. I’ve posted

before about the intensive post-processing required for many highly engineered products that are

created with the aid of a 3-D printer. One example is that Budinoff’s second project requires placing the

would be aluminum mirror in a heated chamber at 15000 psi. This cannot be easily overlooked. If people

wanted to bring the technology into space, a chamber that could do this would be a pretty big deal. But

on the plus side, being able to create an aluminum mirror with the same powdered aluminum that you

are using for the frame of an object brings 3-D printing technology one step closer to being self-

sufficient in creating complex products.

I hope Budinoff is able to prove that 3-D printed craft will fly. I think that it is very likely, but I’m most

interested in seeing how much of the project was from 3-D printing, and what was from post-processing.

I’m starting to treat the term “3-D printed” like I treat the word “organic”. You hear it and think, “Good,

things are getting better than before” but then you have to question, “Has anyone really made rules for

what that means?”

Blog 8: Food is the Next Frontier of 3-D Printing

Link to article: [9]

I’m not going to lie, when I first saw the title of this article, the second thought I had after, “Wow, that’s

really cool and new!” was, “Could this be gross?” My mind raced to some kind of food synthesizer from

a futuristic movie: . Right now, thankfully, people

acknowledge that the technology is not at all ready to attempt to make something as complex as a

hamburger. I’m totally down for 3-D printed chocolate, basically because chocolate is supposed to get

squirted out of a tube, but when someone says 3-D food is on the way because, “…at the end of the day

it’s just atoms and molecules….”, welllllll that’s a lot of simplification and a bit of a logic jump. If

engineers could control atoms and molecules at a fundamental level with “engineering magic” I would

have no problem with that statement, but realistically how are we doing at synthesizing biological

materials from abiotic materials, and also with a 3-D printer? Really the more exciting technology would

be the ability to synthesize lettuce and beef, not 3-D printing. Just imagine a 3-D printer laying down a

piece of lettuce, molecule by molecule, cell by cell, on top of your hamburger in your kitchen. Your

kitchen is a top-secret government lab.

Also the business model to develop this technology is probably not going to materialize because being

able to print a hamburger isn’t helpful. It’s not like bringing McDonald’s into your home, because you

have to have the materials with you. You take the materials that you have, combine them in a process

and make food. Kind of like…cooking. And how is a 3-D printer supposed to compete with cooking?

Cooking involves shifting, flipping, kneading, whisking, searing, etc. 3-D printing can only do one thing:

lay one layer on top of the other.

I thought it was interesting that when Kyttanen was questioned about how 3-D printing food differed

from other sectors, he took the opportunity to talk about creative freedom. Kyttanen is the creative

director for 3D Systems, the giant in the industry notorious for filing lawsuits against smaller companies

and startups with new ideas. He went on about how you can’t copyright food and how wonderful that is,

but 3-D systems has done anything in its power to eliminate FormLabs, a small new company with a

great product, with repeated lawsuits over patent “infringements”. It has bought up previously open-

source company MakerBot. I don’t really see them as a pioneer in improving information sharing to

further 3-D printing. I’m glad that there are big companies willing to invest in 3-D printing research, but I

think that companies should respond to patents on 3-D printing the same way Henry Ford did when

someone else patented the automobile. The response is basically: “No I won’t be intimidated by your

patent. This invention is too basic and central of a technology to be considered patentable.” Cars

revolutionized America, and so will 3-D printing. We need to find a way to let technology move forward

more freely. To me, this interview was a PR stunt meant to flout 3D Systems affinity for creative

freedom over a pie-in-the-sky topic (and why not bring printers on airplanes?) that doesn’t look like it

will be relevant anytime soon.

That being said, I hate to end on a bad note. One thing that I truly did like about what Kyttanen had to

say was that 3-D printing in fact is currently very useful in the world of chocolates and pastries. This is a

phenomenal place for 3-D printing to flourish because of the intricacy of designs that artists use in

creating these legitimately printable sweets. Like I said elsewhere, I love it when the art world gets

involved in 3-D printing because there is something satisfying the making a product that can be

appreciated by an extremely left-brained person. You can geek out about technology with your

engineering buddies, but when you create a product that an artist can look at and say: “I can now create

things in my craft that I never could have before”, you have something special. You enhance their

abilities with a tool that they don’t understand, and they go and create something that you could never

conceive. As engineers we need to look for ways to engage in society, and I think this kind of dynamic is

very rewarding.

Blog 9: Nursing homes in Germany serve 3D-printed food

Link to article: [10]

Although I spent a previous blog post trying to rip apart Janne Kytannen over his ideas about 3-D printed

food, this is an idea that I actually love. In the limited but wonderful use that it is applied, 3-D printing

appears to have the potential with its current state of the art to significantly improve the quality of life

for people in our society. The realistic technology of using a paste does not mimic the texture of real

food, but does its job perfectly because the texture of real food is what needs to be overcome to feed

elderly residents. The fact that a 3-D printer can be used to create easily foods that look and taste like

the originals is truly wonderful, and I am really happy that it can be made available to people in nursing


It’s also pretty amazing that the technique is as prevalent as it is in Germany, with over 1,000 nursing

homes. I suppose that some of this is because there has been support from the European Union to

establish PERFORMANCE. Maybe that’s what it takes to improve the quality of life for the elderly, but I

just hope that in some way either from private industry or government healthcare funding this

technology will be used more worldwide, including America. Being in a nursing home seems like it can

really be a drag and anything we can do to show our elderly respect by giving them enjoyable meals is

the right thing to do in my opinion.

Of course some of the obstacles are cost and the time that it takes to use the printers with fresh

ingredients, but I think it’s worth it, and an economies of scale would bring down the price as the

technology becomes more widespread. A good way to increase the prevalence of a technology is to find

numerous uses for it. 3-D printed paste foods could be adopted in hospitals to create food for patients

who are having trouble eating solids. That could be a great way to introduce it to the healthcare industry

to make it more accessible to nursing homes. It could be adopted as a household appliance to make an

upscale type of baby food or for when you get sick at home. Maybe if this technology was sold at a high-

end baby store like Bellini, people would be more aware of the technology and get similar ideas about

spreading it to nursing homes. Hopefully there is some way to make better meals more accessible to seniors.