Jan 4, 2012
Comments Off on Giving 3D Printing a human touch!

Giving 3D Printing a human touch!


Design Academy Eindhoven graduate, Joon Han Lee has married traditional craftsmanship and 3D printing with the creation of Haptic Intelligensia. A human/robotic hybrid, Haptic Intelligensia allows the user to transform virtual objects into physical representations using tactical feedback.

The apparatus consists of a closed box accessible through a pair of rubber gloves, and a glue gun attached to a haptic computer controlled arm. As with fully automated 3D printing technology, a computer drawn object is created and and algorithm devised, it is here the similarities end.

The glue gun, controlled by the user is then guided via the robotic arm, which alerts the user when they are touching the contours of the virtual object through haptic feedback. Overall control of the glue gun, rests with the user who can decide how much or little glue is to be used along with whether or not to obey the sensory guide.

Resulting objects are therefore entirely dependent on the individual, with no two objects ever the same.  See the video link to view the Haptic Intelligensia in action and to hear from creator Joon Han Lee.



Dec 20, 2011
Comments Off on Christmas Greetings

Christmas Greetings

Dec 20, 2011
Comments Off on Rapid Prototyping helps explore earth’s atmosphere.

Rapid Prototyping helps explore earth’s atmosphere.

Scientists involved in the University of Southampton’s ASTRA (Atmospheric Science Through Robotic Aircraft) Project have created the worlds first air vehicle to be entirely produced  through Rapid Prototyping technology.

The ASTRA project aims at demonstrating how a bespoke high altitude platform suitable for sending atmospheric monitoring equipment into the upper atmosphere could be developed and manufactured within days and at low cost. Currently researchers seeking to measure atmospheric parameters attach radiosondes to weather balloons, which while straight forward to deploy, limit the quantity of data that can be transmitted back to the ground.

Dubbed the ASTRA Atom, the balloon-borne platform has been designed to reach heights of 30km  and will include a tracking system that will allow it to be found after its 5-7 hour flight. This ability to track the Atom will prove crucial to unlocking the data it has accumulated and stored during its flight. Protected by two foam ‘orbits’ designed to  break on landing, absorbing the energy of the impact, the entire 700g structure has been printed on the university’s 3D printer, while the on board data-logging equipment has been built using Microsoft’s rapid electronic prototyping toolkit, .NET Gadgeteer.

Due for launch on the 7th of December at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, strong surface winds have lead to the decision to postpone the ATOM’s maiden flight until early in the new year.  In addition to the ATOM the scientists are working on balloon based gliders with the capacity to gather more data than a radiosonde.

Unmanned aircraft produced entirely with Rapid Prototyping

Unmanned aircraft produced entirely with Rapid Prototyping

Dec 13, 2011
Comments Off on 3D printing in space!

3D printing in space!

Dedicated to providing solutions to manufacturing in outer-space, US start up, Made in Space have recently been selected by NASA to build a 3d printer for the International Space Station.

Co-founder of Made in Space, Jason Dunn told Innovation NewsDaily that the long term goal of the project is for 3D printing to be used to create fully functioning spacecraft. The team estimate that objects “printed in space” would have a reduced structural mass (at least 30% less) than their earth made counterparts, as they would not need to survive the earths gravity or the extreme G-forces of launching into orbit.

Team at Made in Space test 3D printing in partial gravity

Team at Made in Space test 3D printing in partial gravity

To date two successful zero gravity test flights have been completed, with several commercial printers along with the teams own custom printer

design tested during two hours of aircraft dives, meant to simulate microgravity. Based on the results of these early zero-gravity tests, the team at Made in Space have decided to proceed with their own design, for an extrusion printer capable of printing objects in plastic polymers, rather than modifying an existing commercial printer.

Dunn believes that one-third of the space stations $1-billion worth of spare parts could be “built” on the zero gravity printer, with the team also starting to produce their own space-qualified polymers. “When a tool breaks, at the worst they space-station crew calls Houston and says ‘Send us a CAD file for that tool, and they’ll be able to 3D-print it. Ideally one day they will be able to design it themselves”

The project which has already seen success in the form of the worlds first partial gravity 3d printed tool, a small wrench, is eligible to receive up to $125,000 in NASA funding some time next year.

Dec 5, 2011
Comments Off on Scientists print skin, organs and now bone!

Scientists print skin, organs and now bone!

3d printed bone
Doctors will be able to order custom-built bone scaffolds within the next few years

Earlier this year researchers developed 3D printing techniques that can be used to “print” human organs and skin as well as blood vessels necessary to connect them to the recipient, now following four years of research, a team of engineers at the Washington State University have created a new 3D printing material that looks, feels and for the most part acts like bone.

Susmita Bose and her husband Amit Bandyopadhyay have been developing artificial bone-like materials since the late 1990’s, however it was the recent success of in vitro growing of actual bones around artificial scaffolds that attracted attention to the teams work.  Early testing on rats and rabbits have shown promising results with no apparent ill-effects noted.

This breakthrough came when the team discovered that by adding silica and zinc oxide it was possible to strengthen the main ceramic powder, making parts suitable for low load bearing application.  Using a customised printer this new bone-like material is printed in 20 micron layers with the process repeated layer upon layer until completed. The printed parts or scaffolds are then dried cleaned and baked for two hours at 1250C.  While real time application of this technology remains a number of years away, it is anticipated that doctors will be able to send a CT scan of the required body part to a specialist, who will produce a CAD file for 3D printing, once printed the surgeon would implant the “3D printed” transplant enabling surgeons to repair defects or injuries without taking a bone graph from elsewhere or using a synthetic mesh material that can have negative long-term effects.

Currently the team are trying to develop the controlled degradation of this new material. If successful the scaffold would dissolve in the body as the bone tissue grows over it. The future applications of this technology could revolutionise the medical industry particularly in the field of orthopedic procedures, dental work and the delivery of osteoporosis treatments.

Nov 30, 2011
Comments Off on Could Origo’s 3D printer be the last toy your child will ever need?

Could Origo’s 3D printer be the last toy your child will ever need?

Children embrace 3D printing at TEDxKids in Brussels

Easy design interface + 3D Printing = excited and engaged children, creating their own fun

As children our imaginations were often central to our daily activities from crafting rockets and houses out of old boxes to creating characters with play-dough or simply sketching our ideas on paper, anything we could get our tiny hands on could be turned into something amazing, with just a bit of creativity. While many of us have lost this childhood ability, a lucky few have managed to convert this creativity into a career in design. For designers 3D printing has become the modelling tool of choice. Impossible designs can be sketched up on 3D CAD software and converted to physical models within hours with the help of local Rapid Prototyping bureaus or desktop 3D printers.

Nowadays children’s toys are becoming increasingly hi-tech with i-pods, mobiles and games consoles often ranking high on Christmas lists however one feature remains unchanged and that is the natural creativity of children. Enter Origo, a 3D printer  suitable for use by children as young as 10 years old.

Origo Prototype 3D printer

Origo will allow children to print items about the size of a large mug or medium jar in a few hours.

The Origo project was created as part of Artur Tchoukanov’s masters degree and aims to make 3D printing more accessible to people. Research demonstrated that adults found it difficult to grasp the notion of 3D printing as they had lost their childlike ability to create and dream up ideas without inhibition, the decision was clear, Origo’s target audience would be children. In an interview with Develop 3D,Co-founder of Origo, Joris Peels, explained

“kids are still natural makers, they sketch, draw and dream without limits. They lack only the skills to execute their whimsy. Origo was conceived as a tool to let kids make whatever they want. It was aimed at kids because they are the most able to take advantage of 3D printing at home”

Designs are created in 3DTin for printing on Origo

3DTin allows 3D modelling using simple rules like "don't make anything thinner than two blocks"

One of central challenges faced by the project was the need for users of 3D printers to know how to create a 3D model in CAD, a challenge for even the most technically savvy adult let alone a 10 year old. This initial challenge was overcome thanks to the creation of 3DTin, a free online modelling tool that requires no installation and allows for 3D models to be design using individual blocks. Put in the hands of children at TEDxKids in Brussels this software was quickly adopted resulting in the creation of dozens of really cool products and most importantly a bunch of really excited children.

Currently the project is still only in the design stages however the team are hopeful of taking the Origo printer from concept to production in less than eighteen months. Althought I might not have a ten year old of my own, the child in me looks forward to hearing news of a launch date, until then I guess I better start perfecting my 3D Tin design skills.

Nov 25, 2011
Comments Off on Continuum Fashion design first 3D-printed bikini

Continuum Fashion design first 3D-printed bikini


Rapid Prototyping has broken into the fashion world thanks largely to the durability of Selective Laser Sintering materials such as PA Nylon. Previous 3D printed fashion collections such as footwear and dresses have been designed solely as haute couture experimental pieces, unavailable to purchase, however thanks to Consortium Fashion you can now purchase ready to wear SLS fashion in the form of the N12 bikini!

Named after the material its made out of, Nylon 12, the N12 bikini has been made entirely by 3D printing with all fixtures and fastenings snapped together without any sewing. Innately waterproof Nylon 12 was selected as the ideal material, as not only is it strong enough to allow bending even when printed very thin (a minimum wall section of 0.7mm can be achieved) it actually becomes more comfortable to wear when wet.

Designing such a bikini was not as easy as simply entering the shape on a 3D modelling software, designers Jenna Fizel and Mary Haung had to ensure it would be comfortable, cost-effective and printable without leaving too little to the imagination. Designed using Rhino 3D CAD software a unique algorithmic script was specifically written to create the structure of the 3D printed fabric.When speaking on the design Mary Haung stated

“The bikini design fundamentally reflects the beautiful intricacy possible with 3D printing, as well as the technical challenges of creating a flexible surface out of the solid nylon. Thousands of circular plates are connected by thin springs, creating a wholly new material that holds its form as well as being flexible. The layout of the circle pattern was achieved through custom written code that lays out the circles according to the curvature of the surface. In this way, the aesthetic design is completely derived from the structural design”

Bikini printed with Selective Laser Sintering

Bikini printed with Selective Laser Sintering

One of the goals of this particular circle patterning system is to allow for its application to any surface making the N12 bikini just the start. Future adaptation of this technology could allow absolute customization with bespoke articles of clothing created from a 3D body scan.

While the N12 claims  to be the first affordable 3D printed bikini, it will still set you back a little more than your traditional bikini with prices starting off at approximately £160 pounds for the top alone. For those of you with £1000 to spare you can get a bespoke fitted model designed around your body alone.

Nov 17, 2011
Comments Off on Ostrich inspired robot faster than the worlds fastest sprint runner!

Ostrich inspired robot faster than the worlds fastest sprint runner!

Fast Runner

Worlds fastest two-legged robot inspired by nature

From jumping spider-bots, to self flying SLS herring gulls, the animal kingdom provides inspiration for a number of robotic creations, so little wonder scientists have decided to draw inspiration from  one of the fastest creatures on two feet, the ostrich. This robotic project “Fast Runner” is a collaborative project between DARPA (the Defence Advanced Research Projects Authority), MIT and the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IMHC) aimed at creating a fast, light weight bi-pedal search robot that can transverse difficult landscapes.

The decision to base the Fast Runner design on an ostrich lies in the minimal use of energy required for ostriches to maintain a steady speed of 31mph. According to Johnny Godowski (the idea originator behind Fast Runner) “the architecture takes zero energy to carry weight..The legs lock and unlock a lot like a folding table, to support what we imagine will be quite a lot of mass when the prototype is finished… really as much as the legs will hold”

Only one year into the four year research project, stunning results have been demonstrated with 40% of the mechanical design complete, and one full-scale leg machined using Rapid Prototyping techniques. Designs for the rest of the robot’s body have also been prepared, with the final robot projected to weigh only 80 pounds and stand just over four and a half feet tall.

Researchers estimate that the “Fast Runner” will achieve speeds of up to 27 mph, faster than Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man! While these speeds have yet to be confirmed in final testing simulation has shown that the robot can go from a standing position to 20mph in as little as 15 seconds, along with demonstrating an ability to transverse gentle slopes.

The appeal of this project for the DARPA lies in the military applications of Fast Runner as a ground based-drone capable of scouting ahead over rough terrain with no risk to military personnel along with the potential to support troops in war zones through the rapid delivery of supplies.

See the mechanics behind the movement:

Nov 9, 2011
Comments Off on 3D printed spiderbot designed to save lives

3D printed spiderbot designed to save lives

When choosing a form of locomotion for their robotic creations, roboticists often draw on nature to inspire alternatives to the tried and  tested tank like tracks or wheels.  This is exactly where the team at the Fraunhofer institute have turned in the creation of their new eight-legged robot.

Agile and purposeful, the Spider-Bot can transverse hazardous environments and unstable ground. Like its biological counterpart, it keeps four of its eight legs on the ground at any one time, while the remaining four legs turn and ready themselves for the next step ensuring stability.  Despite lacking muscles to stretch their long extremities, a number of spiders can jump, using built up body pressure to force fluid into their limbs to extend them and this principal has been applied to the Spider-Bot through elastic drive bellows that operate pneumatically to bend and extend its artificial limbs.

3D printed spiderbot to assist in search and rescue missions

3D printed spider-bot to assist in search and rescue missions

Despite combining rigid and elastic shapes in a single component the spider-bot has been produced at low cost and with just a few production steps, thanks to the help of Selective Laser Sintering, the process by which thin layers of a fine polyamide powder are applied one at a time in thin layers and melted in place with the aid of a laser beam. The use of SLS allows for complex geometries, inner structures and lightweight components to be produced while keeping the costs and development times of the Spider-Bot low. The lightweight polyamide powder also ensures the end-product is lightweight.

With the Spider-Bot body capable of carrying various measuring devices and sensors it is anticipated that future applications will include an exploratory tool in environments considered too hazardous for humans, or too difficult to get to.

A prototype model of the robot will be on display at Euro Mold 2011  (Frankfurt) later this month.

Oct 31, 2011
Comments Off on Create your own doppelgänger with 3D printing

Create your own doppelgänger with 3D printing

3D printed masks.

3D printed masks have creepy realistic factor

This Halloween if you’re looking for the scariest mask possible, forget about visiting your local costume store for the usual blood and fangs; instead get the team at That’s My Face to print you off a photo-realistic face mask. Become your favourite celebrity, impersonate your worst enemy or simply become your friend’s doppelgänger with a creepily realistic mask of their face.

That’s My Face specialises in patent-pending technologies centred on transforming 2D photos into 3D sculptures and was founded by a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Using online facial analysis and reconstruction you can then adjust your 3D file to view changes in age, gender and race prior to purchasing your 3D mask.

Fortunately the masks are not likely to fool any border guards or security systems, but this technology can be viewed as a proof-of-concept for realistic full-face masks based on photographs. Some commentators have suggested that with a few advancements in materials as well as 3D printing, this technology’s next evolution could take the form of non-permanent cosmetic surgery.

For now thought this technology remains costly, with a life size mask costing around $300. It appears I might have to wait until 3D printing technology makes its way into our homes before I get a mask of my own!