Winner – 3D Printed Wooden Amplifier

150704 Phone Amp

It was a while ago now that I first 3D printed a phone amplifier and stand, sharing my design on Thingiverse (see the original design and video here). Well after seeing i.Materialise’s new wood material, and a competition to launch it, I just had to bring it back! What could be more cool than a 3D printed wooden amplifier, mixing the old-school with the new-school?

It did take some work to modify the original design to meet the criteria of the wood material, including thicker wall sections and more exaggerated details, and you can see the render I submitted above on the right. The final print from i.Materialise on the left looks awesome, I’m looking forward to hearing it play music when it arrives – I’ll have to post a video comparing the sound of the wood vs. plastic versions, so watch this space.

See the full i.Materialise article, along with the other winning designs here.

– Posted by James Novak

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A Rapid Roundup of RAPID

2015-05-20 RAPID

As mentioned in my last post, I recently returned from the RAPID 3D Printing Conference in Los Angeles and was completely blown away by the amazing talks and exhibitions over 4 days. A must-see event for anyone serious about the world of 3D printing and also 3D scanning. The photo above shows the huge exhibition floor that I easily spent a few hours exploring every day just to soak it all up. Here I’d just like to share a small selection of the things that really amazed and inspired me.

150526 RAPID Keynotes

Two of the keynotes were of course extremely interesting, day 1 featuring Jason Dunn from the well known Made in Space program. Yes, the guys responsible for sending and operating the first 3D printer on the International Space Station! As a bit of a space nerd, who spent my first day before the conference visiting the retired Endeavour Space Shuttle, this talk was extremely inspiring. Just hearing about the extreme lengths they went through to design and test their printer, and receive approvals from an extremely conservative NASA, was a real insight into the challenges we face when we think about missions to Mars and beyond. For example did you know that it currently costs $10,000 to send just 1kg of material into space? Or that an astronauts time on board the International Space Station costs $40,000 per hour! So asking an astronaut to remove a simple 3D print can turn into a very costly process!

As always Terry Wohlers provided an insight into the current state of the 3D printing industry, and a vision for what to expect over the coming years. Beyond the stats that formulate part of the annual Wohlers Report, something that really stood out to me was that Airbus currently employ 35 people full-time dedicated to additive manufacturing. In just 3 years time (2018) they will be producing 30 tonnes of parts manufactured using 3D printing technology. 30 tonnes!!! That’s a lot of metal and plastic printers, and a lot of raw material being bought up by just one company. For those people still thinking 3D printing is only a prototyping technology, it’s time to wake up!

2015-05-20 StratasysWith 3 days of presentations, there was of course something for everyone during the event. I took this photo during a presentation from 2 guys at Stratasys who have completely 3D printed functional skis and a snowboard. They have used a variety of internal cell structures to increase strength, as well as using a material called ULTEM 9085 which runs through the Fortus machines and provides extremely high strength and stiffness. Definitely a material I’d like to get my hands on, and hopefully possible to run through our Fortus 250mc at Griffith University.

By far the most crowded room I squeezed into was a presentation by Greg Mark, the CEO of MarkForged. If you haven’t heard of this company, look them up – their Mark One printer can print with continuous strands of carbon fiber and kevlar, all for under $5000. Judging by the crowd, and having the chance to spend 5 minutes talking with Greg on the exhibition floor, I think it’s pretty clear that everyone is excited by this company. The parts I played with, including a surfboard fin and motorcycle brake lever, were incredibly strong, and only featured a handful of layers of carbon fiber within the 3D printed parts. The Mark One is certainly on top of my wishlist, especially with my previous attempts of 3D printing fins for my kiteboard.

2015-05-21 RAPID

Despite all of this, by far the best part of RAPID was the show floor. Not only was there a diverse range of companies, from the big players like 3D Systems and Materialise down to newer start-ups, but every booth had a diverse range of 3D printed products, the sorts of products I’ve only seen written about online. This included the first functional 3D printed motorcycle, the New Balance custom track shoes, numerous 3D printed medical devices and prosthetics, piles of crazy lattice structures in metals and plastics, fashion, furniture… The list is endless! Hence why my brain hurt by the end of each day! But what was great was the ability to get up close to these products, touch them, question them, and discuss them with people that were involved in creating them.

2015-05-19 Nervous

A personal highlight was of course seeing some pieces by Jessica Rosenkrantz (aka Nervous System) who I have been following for some time. You might recall a recent print of a bracelet I did from a downloaded Thingiverse file from Nervous System that turned out really well. The complexities of their designs, created using algorithms and coding, are really cutting edge and helped inspire my FIX3D bicycle frame and my new line of PhD research that delves into some similar generative tools.

In terms of some new products that interested me, there was a really interesting PLA material from a company called 3D Fuel in partnership with Algix, which is infused with Algae. This means the material is very quick to break down and compost at the end of its’ life, much faster than traditional PLA. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a sample, but it’s one to keep an eye on as they plan to bring a range of different colours to market soon. Lulzbot also had an impressive display of their 3D printers, with the large TAZ model (print area of 298mm x 275mm x 250mm) priced at $2200. The printer and software is all open source, and they had some great examples of products printed in NinjaFlex, and also a brand new material called n-Vent by Taulman 3D.

This is just a very brief summary of a few of the highlights from RAPID 2015, an event that I hope to attend again next year. I can’t recommend it enough. Hopefully some of these links and companies to watch are useful to those that couldn’t make it. If you’re in Europe, an announcement was made at the conference that SME would be partnering with EUROMOLD later this year to really bring the excitement of RAPID to Europe, so keep an eye out for that.

– Posted by James Novak

My 3D Printed Life

A lot of people look at me with a mixture of excitement and confusion when I tell them what I do for work, probably because it sounds a bit futuristic and weird. And it is! But hopefully this profile video prepared by Griffith University and the Gold Coast City Council will explain things a little better than I can, featuring my FIX3D Bike 3D printed by Materialise. I always get a kick from sharing my knowledge of 3D printing with kids still in school since it is really going to affect their lives in the most exciting ways; hopefully videos like this can inspire them to take up the careers of the future.

Also a huge thank you to everyone at the recent RAPID 3D Printing Conference in Los Angeles hosted by SME for awarding my paper the Dick Aubin Distinguished Paper Award, I am still extremely surprised that out of all the amazing work mine had such an effect! My brain still hurts from soaking up so much information but I will post some photos and some of the exciting things I saw in the next few days, and strongly recommend anyone with a serious interest in 3D printing and 3D scanning attend this event if you get the chance.

– Posted by James Novak

FIX3D on show in Brussels

Making a Difference Main PageContinuing an amazing year, my 3D printed bike ‘FIX3D’ is currently on show at the Materialise exhibition called Making A Difference / A Difference in Making at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, in Brussels. It’s amazing to be featured alongside designers like Iris van Herpen and Patrick Jouin, and see social media go crazy! Within 7 hours the photo of the bike, featured by Designboom on Facebook, has received nearly 6,000 likes and over 1,000 shares! The full Designboom article about the exhibition can be found here.

If you’re in Brussels the exhibition is open until June 7th, so please pop in and let me know how it looks. I’ve only seen a few photos so far, but it looks like a great 3D printing exhibition. Thanks Materialise!

If you’re interested in seeing the latest version of the bike, now using SLS Polyamide, check out my last post here.

– Posted by James Novak

The 3D Printed Bike is Back!

150427 3D BikeLast year was an exciting giant leap into the world of 3D printing when I worked on a 3D printed bike frame for my university Honours project. Materialise were the first to publish my story, and since then it’s been quite hectic (in a good way of course!). Now it’s a new year, I’ve moved into a PhD, and my research has taken new direction; however the interest in this bike seems to be still quite high, and I have just completed a new version of the bike to be permanently exhibited at the Griffith University visitors centre.

Unlike the original frame, which was printed in a single piece by Materialise using SLA technology, this one has been printed in polyamide using SLS from Shapeways (simply due to cost). The SLA frame was a delicate thing to manage, and really showed its limitations over the hot Australian summer when it literally melted whilst stored in my house! So with a new opportunity to print something a little more durable (without costing a giant pile of cash) SLS is the next best option. The limitation with SLS however is the smaller print volume, requiring the frame to be cut into 3 segments and glued together after printing. It certainly feels a bit more durable, although before anyone asks, no this still can’t be ridden! With SLS printing still limited by size, it will be some years before titanium or composite fiber material printers are able to print this in 1 piece… But it will be exciting when it happens πŸ™‚

– Posted by James Novak

Virtual Reality – from Brisbane to Shanghai

150321 VRchat meetingToday I’ve been part of something quite exciting – the first meeting between Virtual Reality (VR) enthusiasts in both Shanghai and Brisbane, and indeed the entire world. How is that possible? And how did I do this from the comfort of my lounge chair?

It’s called VRChat. Basically the live event in Shanghai, attended by around 400 people, was simultaneously broadcast into a virtual meeting space (complete with camp fire and rocket ship!) into which anyone could participate. You don’t even need a VR headset, just a computer will do. Is this the future of Skype and other online communication tools? Essentially you could meet and collaborate with people anywhere in the world within a virtual setting of your choice. Why not plan your project from on top of the Empire State Building? Or catch up with friends and family on a virtual Eiffel Tower? While it’s early days, you can’t help but wonder about the possibilities.

You can find out more about the partnership between the Brisbane and Shanghai VR groups, and the projects they’re collaborating on, through this article (click here). I will have some of my 3D printed headsets (check out the last one made from a 3D scan of my face) at the next Brisbane event on March 28. Visit the group’s website to find out more.

– Posted by James Novak

Personalised Virtual Reality

150227 Custom VRA few days ago I wrote about having used 3D scanning to create a test 3D print that perfectly fits the contours of my face. You can check it out here. The next step has been to prototype a simple design for a virtual reality (VR) headset using the scan data of my face, along with the specific dimensions of my phone. Through some earlier testing of Google Cardboard and a 3D printed Thingiverse VR headset, the biggest problems I found were:

  1. The headsets never comfortably fit my face
  2. The adjustable lenses are very fiddly to adjust and keep in the optimal position for my eyes
  3. My phone never properly fits, requiring additional padding

My idea with this particular design has been to address each of these issues separately through the power of 3D printing. So firstly, the main headset uses the 3D scan data of my face – this could easily use anyone’s face, creating a perfect fit. Secondly, the lenses have been located in the correct position for my eyes, and focal length of the lens used. Again, this could easily be adjusted to suit anyone’s eyes and lens. Thirdly I have created a separate frame to hold the phone which snaps onto the mainΒ  headset. A variety of these could be developed to hold any phone model. In essence, I’m imagining a VR headset that can be customised to suit anyone, and modified as they upgrade their phone using modular components.

2015-02-27 10.10.54While the theory is all good, this particular print isn’t perfect – it’s only the first prototype. There is some distortion in the main headset where the print began to lift off the plate during printing, so modules don’t perfectly fit (this is exacerbated by the fact I had to split parts to fit on my Up! Plus 2 printer and glue them after). The lenses aren’t 100% perfectly located, distorting the image. It’s close, but when you’re dealing with lenses close enough is not good enough! So maybe a small amount of adjustability will need to be built in. The phone is also a little loose in the frame, but this is an easy fix. So plenty of work to go, but at the same time an exciting start! If you want to check it out it will be at the Brisbane Virtual Reality Club‘s next meeting.

– Posted by James Novak

Baby Steps into Virtual Reality

Google CardboardLast night I attended the first Virtual Reality (VR) meetup in Brisbane, rounding out what has been an extremely nerdy week for me! But what an inspirational couple of hours trialing the Oculus Rift (awesome hover board game paired with a Wii Balance Board) and the soon to be released Samsung Gear VR. My interest is definitely coming from the angle of a designer, and what possibilities there may be to improve both the design of a 3D product within a VR environment, and then sharing this with a client or student. The digital revolution encompasses almost every possible industry from business and law to design and technology, and VR seems like another area similar to 3D printing that is growing exponentially across all these disciplines.

So, on a high (or maybe just still dizzy from the hover board!) I’ve taken a tiny little step into this world by purchasing some lenses so I can make my own Google Cardboard device that pairs with my phone (lenses cost $3.75 on Ebay, the cardboard and other bits I already have lying around). Sure it’s not perfect, but there’s nothing wrong with baby steps! And the idea of ‘making’ my own hardware is definitely interesting as I sit next to a 3D printer…. So many ideas!!!

Thanks Lex Van Cooten for organising the event and opening this new world to me. If anyone has their own experiences or tips I’d love to hear them, just leave me a comment πŸ™‚

– Posted by James Novak