3D Printing in Europe

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Hello from Europe! It’s been a few weeks since my last post but that’s because I’ve been traveling around Europe in a part-holiday/part-professional frenzy. Now that I’ve seen quite a lot of 3D printing it’s about time I put together a bit of a summary for you, in case you find yourself looking for some nerdy escapes when you’re next in Europe.

One of the best things I organised was a private tour of the Materialise headquarters in Leuven, Belgium, which you can see photographed above. This is the company responsible for 3D printing my bicycle, and indeed the primary reason for my trip, but more on that shortly. Unfortunately I don’t have any other photos since everything is top secret once you walk through the doors – not surprising since they are responsible for developing many of the latest technologies in the industry. I was shown facilities like the finishing room where prints were manually cleaned and polished for certain projects, the SLS room full of different sized machines printing polyamide, the SLA room where my bike was actually printed, and the MGX display room full of many well-known 3D prints (click on the link to see many of these designs). Very cool to see what actually happens once you upload a design and click the order button on the i.materialise website. The lamps in the right image are called the Tulip Lamp by Peter Jansen.

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I then jumped across the border to Eindhoven in the Netherlands to visit Shapeways, the other large 3D printing company who I regularly use for 3D printing, and have been using since 2010. A totally different vibe! Whereas Materialise are very research-driven and the facility is quite clinical, walking into the Shapeways foyer (pictured above) was similar to what I imagine Google to be like – an open-plan space with communal kitchen and glass-walled offices, music playing, bright colours and a foosball table. Once again when we walked through the “portal” in the middle image photos were not allowed, but we saw some very similar equipment and processes to Materialise. This is a great tour to do since it runs on the last Friday of every month, you don’t need to know someone and arrange a tour yourself – just follow this link to their Meetup site for dates and times. You also get a nice little keyring souvenir (above right image), and can hang around to chat to the team and have some nibbles.

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Surprisingly I came across 3D printing in some very unplanned places – firstly this “Filament Pavilion” at the V&A in London, which will be there until November 6th 2016. Talk about a massive 3D print, this structure is still growing each day! Basically this is a cross between 3D printing and weaving, with a giant robotic arm wrapping filament around preformed hexagonal structures, each time in a different pattern based on sensor data. It certainly shows how this technology can be applied to Architecture, it seems to be quite lightweight and delicate unlike most of the concrete-based 3D prints I’ve normally seen in Architecture which use extrusion and seem very rough both in finish and detail.

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Another museum and some more 3D prints which I was not expecting to see – this time the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. On the left are a couple of the 3D printed ceramic pieces by Olivier Van Herpt, definitely the coolest ceramic prints I’ve come across and quite large in scale. I really like how the layers are actually celebrated in these prints and create a unique textural element to the pieces. Worth looking at the link to his profile for more details about how he created his own ceramic 3D printer. On the right are some full-sized chairs 3D printed by Dirk Vander Kooij, again created with a custom made 3D printer and printed from recycled plastics. It really does seem like 3D printing is everywhere!

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Lastly the main event, the “Making a Difference / A Difference in Making” exhibition by Materialise at the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen, Germany. This exhibition, which includes my 3D printed bicycle, was first held at Bozar, the Center for Fine Arts in Brussles in 2015 but I wasn’t able to attend. So it was awesome to have a second chance to actually get to Europe for this exhibition and attend the opening event. For a 3D printing nerd, there was so much to see! Famous works like Iris Van Herpen’s Escapism dress, Patrick Jouin’s One_Shot stool and Bloom table lamp, The Adidas Futurecraft shoes… And that’s just a small part of the exhibition in these photos. If you can get there before the end of October I highly recommend it, there are so many inspiring examples of 3D printing. Big thanks to the Materialise team for their hard work getting this set up and including my work again, as an Industrial Designer having my work in the Red Dot Museum is certainly going to be a highlight of my career 🙂

Now that my head is full of fresh inspiration, time to head home and ramp up the work on my latest projects. Make sure you subscribe to my blog to keep up with the latest 3D printing experiments and behind the scenes insights.

– Posted by James Novak

Brisbane 3D Printing Forum

151026 3D Print Forum

Normally I never use this blog to promote anything, but with a 2-day 3D printing forum happening in my part of the world in November, I think it’s my duty to put it out there! Normally I have to travel around the world to attend events like RAPID, so it’s great that my university has sponsored one right here in Brisbane, Australia.

If you’re in this part of the world, or can get here, click this link to read the full schedule and register to attend. I will also be showing my latest wearable technology PhD project (you may notice some of my previous work featured in the flyer!), alongside a selection of students from my Human Machine Interfaces class who have spent the semester using Arduino’s and 3D printing to create everything from exo-skeleton hands to wearable posture correction devices.

Key speakers include Dr Lionel Dean from Future Factories who I’m really interested to speak to about his work in computational design, and Professor Olaf Diegel whose 3D printed guitar you are probably familiar with. Should be a great event so I hope to see you there!

– Posted by James Novak

Infinite Possibilities

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These 6 3D prints are the end result of a few weeks of work gearing up for Design Philadelphia, where I will be exhibiting this work along with the interactive tools that created it in the Crane Arts Center. If you look back to the first post on this topic you can see the original renders after experimenting in Grasshopper, or check out the video showing how these models can be customised using 2 Wii Nunchuck controllers, as you will be able to do in the exhibition.

20150827 Fortus PrintsThese prints were produced on a Fortus 250mc 3D printer, and took 94 hours! Why so long? Well the software that drives this printer has limited options, in particular there is no option to modify anything to do with the support material – as a result, it just puts support everywhere! It’s a bit of a waste, but I guess with these commercial printers you trade a lot of flexibility and control for reliability and quality. You can see in this image how the objects are entombed within support, which is removed by dissolving in a special solution. For comparison you can look at the original design of my Shattered Faceted Lightbulb which printed with almost no support material in only 4 hours on my Up! Plus 2.

The other thing you’ll notice is that the final prints are red – this was done with a few light coats of spray paint since we only have one colour of filament for the Fortus 250mc, but I was asked for the prints to be done in red by the exhibition curator. Often painting 3D prints seems to highlight any flaws and make the layers seem more obvious, however this time because of the high quality of the printer this hasn’t happened. Phew! I don’t think most people would even know they’ve been painted rather than printed in red plastic.

I’ll post some photos of the installation next month when Design Philadelphia kicks off.

– Posted by James Novak

Wiiduino – Coming to Design Philadelphia

20150829 Wii Arduino

I just like saying the name… Wiiduino!

My last post showed a video of my experiment modifying and controlling a 3D CAD model using nothing but Wii Nunchuck controllers plugged into an Arduino. Click here to take a look. The image at the top left is the circuit used for that experiment, which is great for prototyping, but definitely looks a bit rough to be part of an exhibition coming up at Design Philadelphia in October. So of course it’s no surprise that 3D printing was my logical next step!

Last year I 3D printed a cool baby NES Nintendo enclosure for a Raspberry Pi B+, and wanted to create a similar enclosure for this project. Firstly I simplified the electronics as much as possible, and stuck the Arduino to a breadboard to create a compact little unit. Next I dusted off the calipers and got stuck into 3D modelling the enclosure around the electronics using Solidworks, ensuring to allow plenty of clearance around the 3 plugs I needed to access – the Micro USB and the 2 Wiichuck adapters. A bit of text and some ventilation holes inspired by the original Wii console, and voila!

Unfortunately the bottom part lifted a little in the corners while printing on an Up! Plus 2 3D printer, which meant the internal dimensions aren’t quite right. I had to file a few millimeters off the top of the plug holes to compensate, but you’d never know. Of course the raised text has been painted to bring it all to life, and there is 1 hidden screw holding it all together.

And with that I officially christen this enclosure Wiiduino, long may you entertain and inspire 🙂

– Posted by James Novak

Parametric CAD Model with Arduino + Wii

As discussed in a recent post about generative design, I’ve been working on an interactive, generative CAD model to be exhibited at Design Philadelphia, in the Crane Arts Center. Well here is a preview of the [nearly] complete CAD model created using Grasshopper and Firefly within Rhino. Using 2 Wii Nunchuck controllers, 2 people can work together to customise the design of a 3D printable light cover in the form of a lightbulb – in essence, CAD modelling has been turned into a game that requires no instruction and is learned through play.

The biggest challenge with this has been getting the signal out of the Wii controllers. While Firefly has built-in Wii Nunchuck compatability, unfortunately I learned the hard way that it is only compatible with genuine Nintendo Wii Nunchuck’s – and I already bought 3rd party ones off Ebay for a fraction of the price. For some reason 3rd party controllers use a slightly different signal/code, and while the Wii console has no problems with this, the Arduino code is a little more particular. Thankfully after an entire day of messing around, ripping apart controllers, tweaking code and swearing, I managed to find a way in! I had to modify some Arduino code and also use the Serial Read tool in Firefly, running the Arduino IDE in the background and listening in to the readings.

As mentioned in the video I am 3D printing 6 examples of what these outputs look like in real life – this model is not just for fun, it is actually designed to create real products suitable for 3D printing, based off a previous design of mine for a Shattered Faceted Lightbulb which you can download for free on both Pinshape and Thingiverse.

Stay tuned for a look at these 6 prints, which have been printing for the last 94 hours on a Fortus 250mc 3D printer. Yes, 94 hours!

– Posted by James Novak

A Game of Generative Design

150824 Lightbulb

A few weeks ago I designed a 3D printable light cover (lampshade) inspired by a shattered lightbulb – you can read more about it and download the STL file for free by clicking here. I’ve been taking the concept a bit further using Grasshopper in Rhino to explore the ability to generatively create endless forms within the exact same bounds, meaning every iteration can be successfully 3D printed. Above are some of the outputs from this experimentation.

These are going to be 3D printed for an upcoming exhibition at Design Philadelphia, along with the complete interactive CAD model which will allow 2 people to work together to customise the lamp design using Wii game controllers, turning the design process into a game-like experience. There’s a bit of work left to go to get this interactive element right, but it will hopefully show how CAD may move from being a complex, time-consuming skill to learn into something much more tactile and interactive for the every-day consumer. There are already a handful of interesting apps surfacing such as the Shape Maker tool from Makerbot, or the 2D to 3D tool from Shapeways, which make creating 3D files as simple as drawing a sketch on paper and taking a photo. But generative tools like I’m working on may be the next generation, allowing far more intricate and complex forms.

What do you think would be useful for non-designers to create 3D CAD files?

– Posted by James Novak