The Role of 3D Printing in Manufacturing and PLM – TV Report

Many industry followers have concluded that the hype around 3D printing is peaking right now. The media coverage is massive, and President Obama even mentioned it in his State of The Union speech.

According to Analyst Gartner Group’s Hype Cycle, which looks the hype surrounding various technology trends, consumer 3D printing is at the very top of “the peak of inflated expectations”, slightly above things like Big Data and Gamification. However, industrial uses of 3D printing have had time to mature quite a bit, reaching what Gartner calls “the slope of enlightenment”.

For example, aircraft manufacturer Airbus now 3D-prints metal parts for its 300-series of aircrafts, including the latest model A350XWB. According to Airbus’s Peter Sander there’s a lot to be gained. Not only are the printed parts up to 50 per cent lighter, they’re also stronger.

In this TV Report, Verdi Ogewell and his team look beyond the hype and interview the people and the companies driving the technology forward.  In this report, you’ll hear from:

  • Greg Mark, who is breaking new ground with his new MarkForg3d printer – the first one in the world to print carbon fiber.
  • Bruce Bradshaw and Jonathan Cobb of Stratasys about the industrial uses of 3D Printing and the development of new materials
  • Kris Iverson of Microsoft about their entry into the 3D Printing market

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3D printing now part of the curriculum at St. Joseph's

PITTSFIELD– It’s Back to the Future, Iron Man and James Bond, rolled into one.

It’s 3D printing — and it’s at St. Joseph’s Central High School.

The advanced technology, which can make plastic figures of just about anything, is now a part of the Pittsfield school’s AP physics class.

Teacher Bridget Gormalley’s students used advanced math formula lessons recently to calculate the center of mass, to design plastic toy figures and print them. The figures had to be able to balance on a finger without falling over.

The students used CAD design computer software for the designs. Gormalley plugged the CAD files into a printer, which uses what she calls “Lego plastic” and boom: the physics class is turned into a toymaking factory.

Taking a bite out moviemaking, each student created their own unique figure. Jongwon Hong modeled a snake. Katie Nugai, Wyatt Porter and Tim Wiles designed a rocket ship attached to the moon. Annie Jeong and Yutang Emily Liu put together a bouncing toy. Tim Jones and Patrick Van der Vennet came up with a dead mouse balancing on a string.

The calculations, complicated for those not familiar with advanced math, are supposed to determine how the figures will balance. But it takes a lot of work.

“It wasn’t really a trial and error thing,” Gormalley said. “It ended up being trial and error.”

Jeong said the project was “really hard” and took about two weeks to finish. The bottom part had to be heavier than the top for it to balance, she said. The top is hollow, she said.

Initially, Jeong and Liu worked on forming an octopus, but after a week they decided it was too difficult. Next, they tried a teddy bear over a few days before settling on a bouncing toy, which almost looks like a flying dish.

Jones said their efforts were delayed due to glitches with the software. Despite the adversity, all of the students successfully completed their projects.

The calculations are done in centimeters, to configure the center of mass for the figures. The printing can take from a half an hour for smaller figures, to several hours for larger ones, Gormalley said.

Gormalley made “a little pitch” to the school’s booster club to purchase the printer at a little more than $800, she said. After successfully incorporating the printer into her physics class,

“This gets us started,” she said of the AP physics project. She would like to incorporate design projects into other science classes as well.

Gormalley also teaches anatomy and biology. She has printed out different body parts to use as models when giving lessons in anatomy, she said.

Gormalley has plans to use the printer in her freshman environmental science class, which will be designing wind turbine blades, she said.

With the costs becoming more affordable, 3D printers are turning up everywhere, printing almost anything imaginable. “Some people are printing chocolate,” Gormalley said.

Principal Amy Gelinas is a fan of what the printers can do for her school of approximately 140 students, which she said has been growing in recent years.

A former science teacher, Gelinas said “it’s nice to be on the cutting edge of technology for such a small school.”

To reach Nathan Mayberg:
or (413) 496-6243

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Tinkerine Ditto Pro Brings 3D Printing to Schools

It’s not hard to find a high-quality 3D printer, but finding one that won’t break the bank is another story. Tinkerine, a 3D printing company from Vancouver, will soon launch its Ditto Pro printer. This apparatus aims to provide all the functionality of a much more expensive machine at a much lower price point, which could be especially helpful to educators.

Tom’s Guide took a look at the Ditto Pro firsthand at SxSW 2014. While Tinkerine cannot yet reveal specs for the device, what we saw looked promising. The printer itself is tall and not too wide, without any extraneous sharp edges. A Tinkerine representative stressed that a sleek design was one of the device’s major selling points.

MORE: Best 3D Printers 2014

The Ditto Pro sports a 7 x 8 x 9 inch removable printing bed, and functions with PLA filament. The device can print any color of filament, although it can only print one color at a time. Beyond that, the Ditto Pro appeared comparable to other similarly sized printers on the market.

The printer will also sport flexible, easy-to-use software. Users can download patterns from the Internet and use Tinkerine’s software to resize and optimize them for the Ditto Pro. Using programs SketchUp or Maya, users can also create and import their own projects.

Tinkerine aims to set the Ditto Pro apart from its competitors in two major ways: its price and its potential usefulness to educators. The printer is currently on track to launch in April, and Tinkerine will announce a final price then. The company is aiming for about $1,900, which is a far cry from $2,500 for a MakerBot 3D printer of comparable size.

Educators in Vancouver have also worked with Tinkerine to use the DittoPro firsthand. Tinkerine believes that partnerships with educators will benefit both the company and the schools in the long run. A 3D printer has obvious applications in arts and engineering classes.

A Tinkerine representative explained that 3D printing has a range of uses in humanities and sciences as well. A history teacher, for example, could print period-specific sculptures or pottery, while a biology teacher could print out entire skeletons of extinct animals.

The 3D printing market is already getting fairly crowded, but one more contender couldn’t hurt, provided that it’s a good one. Expect a formal announcement about the Ditto Pro in April, with shipments to follow over the next few months.

Follow Marshall Honorof @marshallhonorof and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

·         3D Printer Buyer’s Guide 2014

·         10 Great 3D-Printing Projects

·         2014 Best 3D Printers

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New Ann Arbor business brings brings ideas to life with 3-D printing

If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you’d probably miss it.

Tucked away in an obscure, 175-square-foot office space above the Five Guys on South State Street, there is business called Thingsmiths.

The name of the business doesn’t lend itself to identifying the type of work done there, but it stems from the fact that the owner’s great-grandfather was a blacksmith.

“I was thinking about the nature of his business and thinking about this industry, and it will grow to the point that there will be local shops popping up in towns all across the country. There will be these services bureaus in every town in the same way you used to have these neighborhood blacksmiths,” said owner Owen Tien.

“It just kind of made sense to me that, hey, you could really have a neighborhood Thingsmiths,” he said.

While Tien doesn’t use metal to craft ideas into useable objects, he instead uses a high-density plastic material to print three-dimensional objects ranging from phone cases, to dental moldings and even small scale automotive components.

“It’s just so cool. I mean, you come up with this digital idea, and a few hours later it’s sitting there in the machine. The first time I experienced that on my own it was just something simple like an iPhone case, but having gone through the design process then hitting print and seeing it there – at that point I was hooked,” he said.

“Sometimes people come to us with their designs and they’re ready to go and we can print them. Other times they come with an idea that’s sketched out. We have a designer on staff who can have a conversation with the customer and they come up with a (computer-aided design) of it and we’re able to send it to the printer. Depending on the size of the object you can have a print out in a matter of hours.”

Tien said he sort of backed into the business of 3-D printing. He worked in the coffee industry throughout high school and college and ran a coffee shop in his hometown of Midland.

He studied philosophy and business management at Grand Valley State University and had plans do ethics consulting before graduating in 2010.

“I learned the ins and outs of business working at the coffee shop in Midland because I was basically there from day one. After college I wanted to try something entrepreneurial and then I ran across this 3-D printing technology about two years ago. I saw it and I was just blown away,” he said.

He comes from a family of engineers, as both his father and sister work at Dow Chemical, but he had no background himself.

“In terms of learning all this stuff, I spent a lot of time reading and researching and going to industry events. Part of what clued me in as to there was a potential to do this is that I went to a conference in Chicago. It’s the second largest version of this event, and there are only 200 people there. Again, this is the second-largest conference in the entire industry and there are only 200 people,” he said.

Photo gallery: Thingsmiths 3D printingThe final elephant piece will resemble this computer image. Melanie Maxwell | The Ann Arbor News

“So I did some research and saw that a lot of service bureaus were really expensive and they were really geared toward the automotive industry or people who have design degrees.”

He said the fact that no one really knew the potential growth opportunity for the industry really sucked him into it.

The current industry generates about $8 billion annually worldwide – a small number compared to, say, the auto industry, which generates about $500 billion in the U.S. alone each year. Industry leaders guess that in about 10 years it could grow to five times the size it is now, Tien said.

“The growth could be even more exponential. A lot of the guys in the industry are predicting that this could even be a technology that everyone eventually has in their own house. I don’t see it happening because of the technological advances that would need to happen, but it’s possible,” he said.

Tien said he’s able to keep costs down because he buys prosumer machines – a cross between professional grade and consumer grade – and modifies them to fit certain specifications. In doing so, he’s able to pay less money for the equipment and keep customer costs at an affordable level.

The machines still have the capability of high-end machines that are a few years older and that are still being used in many 3-D shops across the country.

“For this truly to be revolutionary and change manufacturing it’s got to be affordable to the average person and that’s really what we’ve targeted,” he said.

“Most of our objects we sell come in between the $20 and $50 price range. It definitely depends on the product and the design time, but we do everything in-house, but they have printers off-site to fill larger orders.”

A lot of business Tien generates is from University of Michigan students, but his client base is varied because of the wide range of products he’s able to print.

Photo gallery: Thingsmiths 3D printingOwen Tien, of ThingSmiths, holds piece he printed using a 3D printer on Feb. 28, 2014. Melanie Maxwell | The Ann Arbor News

“We can do so much. I mean, we’ve made camera parts, replacement gears for different companies that do automotive testing, things for different student projects, we do gifts for people. A good example was when we did a custom iPhone case for a guy for his girlfriend for Valentine’s Day,” he said.

Pricing is determined by a number of factors, including whether the customer has a design of if a designer at Thingsmiths has to create that design for the customer.

“The cost is a flat $5 fee per object then the cost is calculated by the amount of material used,” Tien said.

“If they don’t have a design we can help them come up with one after we negotiate a price, then we fire it off to the machine and the machine builds it up layer by layer, and after some time we have a finished product.”

The software he uses runs off something called an STL file, or Standard Tessellation Language.

“That’s basically a series of triangles. Those triangles give the object volume. This software is able to pinpoint where the extruder or printer needs to be at a given time,” he said.

“Once you have that STL file, it says ‘OK, I need to be at this set of coordinates at this time, extruding this amount of material,’ and so that’s the process.”

Since opening a little over a month ago, Tien said that business has been going well and he hope that trend will continue as he becomes more well-known throughout the community.

“I’ve always really like working with people…and this is kind of like the ultimate way of making a person happy,” he said.

“You take a person’s random idea, maybe it’s sketched out on a napkin, and within a couple days they’re actually able to hold and use that. I mean, that’s pretty powerful and pretty cool, and seeing the result of that is a pretty good feeling.”

The shop is located above Five Guys at 313 S. State St., Suite 301. The shop’s hours vary, so call ahead at 734-707-8148.

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