3D Printing Workshops Galore

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University and school might be winding down for the year, but I’ve been as busy as ever running workshops on 3D printing and attending conferences – the silly season indeed!

I was a mentor at an event called GLO@Logan, a 3-day startup style workshop for teams of year 9 students from high school’s around the Logan area of Queensland. The project briefs looked at the future of health care, and how technology can be used to better enable people suffering from debilitating disease or age-related problems. A huge congratulations to the team from Loganlea State High School (top right image) who won first prize for their mobile app (which they actually created using MIT App Inventor) which was designed for people in wheelchairs to plan their route to restaurants, bringing in Google Street View images and reviews to help them plan their trip and locate wheelchair friendly restaurants. I was very impressed to see that within a couple of hours of the day 2 practical workshop they already had a rough prototype working on a tablet and had divided tasks nicely within their team. It’s very rare to see a group work so well or efficiently at university, so well done!

For some students like those from Flagstone State Community College, this was also their first opportunity to see a 3D printer in action – and they embraced the technology immediately. You can see their prototype in the top middle image which combines 3D printed pieces, Lego Mindstorms EV3 and a mobile phone, the idea being a robotic dog to act as a companion for elderly people including the capacity to make emergency calls should the person fall and injure themselves. Congratulations on winning second place.

I really hope to see some of these students come through the design courses at university, the ideas and prototypes of all groups were as good, if not better, than many I see from university students.

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We also ran a 3D printing workshop at the CILECT Congress 2016 (the International Association of Film and Television Schools Congress), and what really amazed me is that none of the people who attended the session had ever seen or used a 3D printer before! I really thought film and 3D printing went hand-in-hand these days, particularly when you see the work of Legacy Effects in major movies like Iron Man and Robocop which rely heavily on 3D printing. But from the feedback I think the workshop definitely opened everyone’s mind to the potential of the technology, and need for it to be brought into the education of future film makers.

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Most recently Createworld offered the opportunity to meet with educators and practitioners at the intersection of design and technology over 2 days of presentations and workshops, and this was also the first showing of the InMoov robot hand I’ve been building over the last few months (click here to check out the full development of this project). It now has a plywood stand which is great for hiding all the raw electronics. I also used my Wiiduino project from last year to showcase ideas like gamification, visual programming languages and customisation for 3D printing, alongside a few students from my Human Machine Interfaces class and fellow PhD researchers. I look forward to this event growing even bigger next year, it’s early days for this conference but the ideas and projects are very high quality.

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Lastly a sneak peek inside the new 3D printing facility at Deakin University Waurn Ponds campus, where they have everything from desktop through to metal 3D printers and everything in between. The top left image is overlooking just some of the 3D printing facility, with more equipment in other rooms including a Virtual Reality room and labs for building robotics. I was there for the DESTECH conference and was blown away by the facilities, like a kid in a toy store! There are plenty of high-profile research projects coming out of here already so watch this space.

Looking at my calendar over the last month it has been a whirlwind of events, and it’s finally time to sit back, unwind and process it all over a few (or more!) drinks in the lead up to Christmas. 2016 has shown that 3D printing continues to grow and inspire, and I’m finally seeing some positive steps within schools, although there is still a long way to go. My printer has been running pretty constantly between these events so stay tuned for some project updates very soon.

– Posted by James Novak

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Inside 3D Printing Sydney

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I just wanted to quickly put the word out about the Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo happening in a couple of weeks in Sydney. Keynote speakers are Ian Gibson, Head of School at Deakin University, Fred Fischer from Stratasys, and neurosurgeon Paul D’Urso from Epworth Hospital. I’m also excited to be speaking at the conference on a topic called Gamification of CAD: Engaging Consumers Into The Design of 3D Printable Products which will show some of the developments around turning the 3D modeling process into more interactive and game-like experiences that anyone can pick up and understand. I will also be using some examples from my own work which I’ve previously posted here, including the Wiiduino which uses Wii nunchuck controllers to customise a 3D model in Rhino. Should be a lot of fun if the demo works! Come along and say hi 🙂

But as always with these events, I’m most excited to wander the exhibit hall and speak with people about materials, printers and all things nerdy! My last experience at RAPID was just awesome, so much to learn and so many people doing interesting things.

If you’re interested in attending I have a discount code for the 2 day pass, just use the code SPEAKER40 to get 40% off your ticket! You can thank me later. Hope to see you there.

– Posted by James Novak

Wii Nunchuk Controls 3D Printer

Yes it’s as simple as the title says; I can now control the movements of my useless Solidoodle Press (and probably almost any other 3D printer) using a Wii Nunchuk!

Don’t ask me why. It’s more of a personal challenge to see if it could be done, and now that it can, I have a few fun ideas for this. The whole thing was surprisingly simple, and builds upon some previous work where I used Wii Nunchuk’s to customise a 3D CAD model, and of course my work using Rhino CAD software combined with the Grasshopper and Firefly plug-ins. In simple terms, I’ve managed to convert the X and Y signals from the Wii Nunchuk’s joystick into the X and Y G-code commands used by most 3D printers. It’s a little clunky, but at the same time it’s pretty cool to directly control this machine.

With a couple of buttons on the front of the Wii Nunchuk it won’t be hard to add some extra functionality to this, although my intention is certainly not to try printing plastic using this controller, there’s just no real reason to. You will just have to check back in later to see where this experiment goes!

– 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

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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