UAV Innovation Taking off at United States Air Force Academy

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Steve Brandt has been flying airplanes for 20 years. F15s and F16s, mostly, with ten years as a test pilot flying new systems for the Air Force.

Given his history, it’s curious to hear him describe the latest tenure of his career. “I always like to say I’ve flown more first flights since I’ve been here in [four] years than I ever flew actually flying airplanes,” he says, “because just about every airplane we build has never been flown before.”

Brandt leads the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Research at the United States Air Force Academy. The elite institution – perched idyllically in the mountains ten miles outside Colorado Springs – is home to just over four thousand cadets pursuing degrees ranging from business to engineering. They will also graduate as Second Lieutenants in the Air Force.

The experience cadets go through at the USAFA, Brandt underscores, is unparalleled – even among the ranks of engineering behemoths like MIT or Ohio State. “There’s probably not another undergraduate senior in college that gets this kind of experience,” he says. “The Department of Aeronautics here is definitely the most well-equipped aeronautics lab in the country, especially at the undergraduate level.”

The Academy is home to impressive manufacturing labs, multiple levels of wind tunnels – from lower-speed options all the way up to supersonic (Mach 4.5, or four-and-a-half times the speed of sound, or 3,425.43 miles per hour) – a huge airspace for flying, and a long list of faculty and researchers to mentor cadets through their studies.

Cadets march their way through the Aeronautics Major, which culminates in conducting a capstone project of designing, building, and flying an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, under Brandt’s watch.

The aircraft that the cadets build and fly are not the balsa wood models of your childhood. They boast wingspans ranging from two feet to over five, retractable landing gear, jet and electric fan motors, and autopilot systems. They take off down runways, shoot off bungee cord launchers, and are released off the top of trucks while driving. 

“Everything we do here in the design of the airplanes is not normal,” says Brandt. “It’s abnormal.”

The aeronautics workshop is brimming with bodies of aircraft – spilling out of workshops and lining hallways and filling shelves up to the ceiling – that don’t exist in the real world…yet. “We’re doing cutting edge things. We’re trying to make airplanes do things that haven’t been done before,” Brandt explains. “When everything’s not normal, 3D printing is the solution, in so many ways.”

Designing One-of-a-Kind Aircraft

Lieutenant Colonel Judson Babcock is an assistant professor at the Academy currently teaching the senior capstone aircraft design course. This, he explains, is where students take on a project from a customer like the Air Force Research Lab and have the challenge of creating an entirely new, unique aircraft to meet a specific set of needs.

One such undertaking is a personnel recovery system: an airplane designed to rescue a fallen soldier from enemy territory using a retractable capsule released from the nose of the vehicle midair. Another is a supersonic air refueling tanker: a stealthy, high-speed craft capable of zipping into enemy airspace above the speed of sound, slowing down to refuel fighter jets mid-flight, and buzzing back to safety.

In the past, Babcock explains, UAV construction at the Academy typically happened in the mediums of balsa wood and foam. But with the unusual vehicles they’re making, traditional fabrication techniques are not always ideal. “Indeed, our students are making aircraft that have never flown before,” he says. “They’re unique shapes, unique designs, and unique structures.” All qualities, he explains, that render them “difficult to construct by hand.”

Pushing the envelope as they are, the Academy works to stay staying cutting edge with their facilities and technology. It was several years ago that 3D printing blipped on their radar.

Brandt and his colleagues in the aeronautics and mechanical engineering departments were researching methods that could increase their efficiency and accuracy in the aircraft design process. “Pretty much everything we design has got uniqueness to it,” he explains. “We can’t go buy something off the shelf.”

Brandt was aggressive about bringing 3D printing to the Academy for the technology’s ability to manufacture parts quickly and accurately: the technology could give them the ability to create these unique components in-house for rapid prototyping of aircraft.

“The value added to being able to print the parts over anything else is that there’s detail that can be made without flaw,” he says. “I can build holes exactly where I want the holes to be for a motor mount; I don’t have to machine it out of a piece of aluminum and spend a lot of hours and it be a lot heavier than it needs to be.”

As the Academy set its sights on bigger planes – “things that are two, three feet in breadth, and two, three feet tall,” Brandt recalls – he began looking for a printer with a build plate to match.

“I found the Gigabot, and it was the only big printer that I could find that had the volume that we started to think towards,” he recounts. Brandt saw a large-scale 3D printer as their ticket to print bigger sections of sizable aircraft with ease. Rather than having to break a component into multiple pieces to fit onto a small printer bed and connecting the parts post-printing, they could print entire plane sections in one go.

“When I found [Gigabot], we sat around and said, ‘Should we make this investment?’ One of our machinists said, ‘If we’re going to do it, get the biggest one, because you’re not going to want to print smaller.’”

Incorporating 3D Printing into the Airplane Design Process

The Air Force Academy invested in a Gigabot XLT, and with it, over 14 cubic feet of build volume. The printer purchase has paid off.

“To say that we use our Gigabot all the time is pretty much an understatement,” Brandt laughs. “It runs every day; there are times when it runs non-stop for three weeks.”

They use 3D printing to produce a multitude of parts in a variety of steps throughout the aircraft design process.

The first phase is the wind tunnel. Cadets take the CAD model of their concept craft, print it, and subject it to the rigors of wind tunnel testing to assess its aerodynamics in advance of flight. “We can validate the design in a wind tunnel with a 3D printed model, and then take it to the next scale and validate the fact that what we learned in the wind tunnel is accurate,” explains Brandt.

Once they confirm that the aerodynamics and stability of the aircraft are suitable, they’ll take the same CAD model, scale it up, and construct it with the help of 3D printing. Brandt goes on, “The only way to do that is to be able to develop the same airplane at a larger scale, and that requires a big printer that allows us to print larger parts so the accuracy is there in the design.” The successful scaling-up of a wind tunnel model is really only possible in the age of CAD and 3D printing. A balsa wood or foam model may pass wind tunnel testing only to fail on the runway because its larger, hand-constructed cousin didn’t quite match the geometry of its wind-tunnel brethren. 

Fuselage, tails, motor mounts, landing gear interfaces, control services for wings: all of these unique components are printed and assembled – along with batteries, servo motors, autopilot, and carbon-fiber-wrapped foam – to create a fully-functional aircraft.

“We can take the novel designs that our students create, put them on a 3D printer and assemble them together,” explains Babcock, “and we can have a totally unique design – a new aircraft that the world has never seen before – that hopefully meets the requirements that the customer gave us when we set out on that process.”

The Benefits of 3D Printing in UAV Testing and Design

3D printing is now a staple within the USAFA Aeronautics Department, and with it has come a bevy of benefits.

“We break airplanes a lot,” explains Brandt. These are planes that have never flown before that may take a little practice to get the hang of operating. Babcock echoes the sentiment. “Part of the learning process our students go through is failure,” he says. “Inevitably, when they’re creating an aircraft, something will happen and the aircraft will crash or be damaged in some way.”

Because of this, both Brandt and Babcock stress, the cost of plane production – in the form of both raw materials and labor – is extremely important to the Academy.

“That’s where 3D printing really has an advantage for us,” says Babcock. “Typically it would cost hundreds of dollars to produce scaled models of these aircraft. With 3D printing, we can produce a model on the order of $5 instead of $500. It’s literally 100 times cheaper than other construction methods we have available to us.”

Turnaround time is also of concern. They’ve found that 3D printing allows for quick crash fixes in addition to rapid design iteration in the early development stages.

“It happened this semester with my cadets,” Babcock recounts. “We put their aircraft in the wind tunnel, and it didn’t have the stability that they had predicted before we printed the model. We had to make a design change.” The group went back to the drawing board with their CAD model, made some tweaks, and printed a new prototype for the wind tunnel. The plane was ready for re-testing by the next class and passed with flying colors.

Staying on schedule is crucial not only given the cadets’ looming graduation day, but also for the customers who are ultimately relying on the results of this testing to move forward with a real-world project. Babcock adds, “It’s only because of 3D printing that we’re able to do a rapid turnaround on our design iterations and solve problems fast enough so that we can get to the goal of actually flying a prototype for the customer.”

Once cadets’ planes progress past wind tunnel testing, 3D printing also comes into play as they begin flying outdoors for the first time. The technology allows them to quickly repair crashed crafts and get them swiftly back in the air.

“One of the beauties of having a 3D printer is I can get a part at two in the afternoon, I can slice it, get it on the printer, it can print all night, and by the time the students come back the next day, they have a part in their hand,” says Brandt. “That’s the way the world works today, and that’s what we should be showing them.”

The technology functions as on-demand inventory when they have to mend broken aircraft. Once the CAD file is created, there’s no manual labor, nobody whittling balsa wood into the wee hours. “With 3D printing, we have a repeatable process that is hands-off where we can manufacture the replacement parts we need on an as-needed basis,” Babcock explains. “We don’t need to do a large bulk order of parts in advance; we can print new parts to repair the aircraft as accidents happen.”

A Challenging Atmosphere

“One of the biggest challenges of building airplanes, especially at the scale that we fly them: every single ounce matters.” Brandt explains that cadets have an extra obstacle working against them: they’re flying in a challenging atmosphere – literally.

The Academy sits at 7,200 feet elevation. It’s more difficult to take off and fly an actual airplane in these conditions, let alone a small vehicle that doesn’t have the capacity to carry a large engine. “Developing lift – which is what we need to do – is harder at this altitude,” says Brandt. “It’s a very challenging place to fly, yet we do it pretty successfully over and over.”

“And the speeds?” He smiles. “They’re fast.”

The aircraft they’re building are typically in the range of five to fifteen pounds, cruising at speeds between 30 and 80 knots – roughly 35 to 90 miles per hour. So not only do their designs need to be lightweight, they need to be strong.

3D printing affords them the ability to design and create parts in a way that traditional manufacturing or hand construction often does not, and also to adjust print settings to maximize a component’s efficiency in both volume and weight. “A 3D printed part can meet all of those contours, yet still have the strength that we need to be able to put it on an airplane and have the structure that we need to fly,” says Brandt.

Enabling Innovation with Cutting Edge Technology

3D printing is a relatively recent addition to the arsenal of manufacturing capability at the Academy, yet the headway they’ve made since bringing the technology on board is impressive.

“This capability here has really just been developed over the past four or five years of building airplanes at the volume and scale that we’re doing,” says Brandt. “We used to get three or four – maybe five – airplanes built a semester; maybe two or three of them would fly – maybe.”

Now, he explains, they have the means to significantly increase both the quantity and quality of production. They’ve essentially doubled their numbers – building, by Brandt’s estimates, somewhere between eight and twelve airplanes a semester. “And why can we do that? It’s because we have the design tools and the manufacturing tools to do it.”

It’s a boon not just to the Academy but also their customers – like the AFRL – who rely on their aerospace expertise. “I think the most invigorating thing to me is that we provide – as best as we can – a product to a customer in a very short turnaround time,” says Brandt. “3D printing has enabled us to build airplanes that are what the customer wants. The only way we do it with the level of precision and accuracy that we do it today is because 3D printing has infected it so much.”

Inspiring Future Airmen

At the end of the day, the Air Force Academy is just that: an academy.

Its mission is “to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become leaders of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.” And what better way to do this with the next generation of pilots and flight engineers than with the challenge of designing, building, and flying a unique aircraft that solves a real-world need?

“When you design an airplane, it’s built on a computer screen somewhere,” Brandt muses. “We’re going to take that CAD drawing and turn it into a real airplane. It suddenly jumps off the screen, and now they’re holding a real piece. The fact that we can do that quickly with a 3D printer is amazing.” Babcock has also seen how the technology has impacted the learning process for cadets. “It really makes the world come alive for them.”

When the cadets’ planes finally leave the theoretical realm and go wheels up, “the whole learning loop is closed,” explains Brandt. “All of the learning comes together, and they go, ’Wow, I really do understand how an airplane flies, I understand how it works, and I also understand that – even at this small scale – these things are very complex.’”

The majority of the USAFA graduates will go on to become pilots. This experience of designing and flying scaled-down jets, Brandt explains, “gives them a greater appreciation for how those things operate, and the complexities that they inherently have inside of them.”

As for the “inspire” portion of the equation, Babcock has seen enough cadets go through the process to understand that box is being checked.

“You have to realize these cadets have worked for four years in an extremely demanding environment: extremely rigorous academics combined with extremely rigorous military training and athletic requirements,” he explains. “In their last semester here in this capstone design class, everything comes together, and they design and build an aircraft from scratch that has never existed before to meet a unique customer need.”

Toward the end of the semester is when they first send their designs skyward. “When it actually all comes together and works for the first time, you just see it on the students faces,” explains Babock. “It’s an indescribable feeling where all of their four years [have] come together to reward them with this moment where they’ve actually made an aircraft and flown it. And it actually matters because there’s a customer out there that needs this aircraft to meet a certain requirement. It’s really a special feeling for them.”

Brandt recognizes that the Academy has taken a lot of chances as they plumb the boundaries of what can be done with regards to new aircraft development.

He references back to his statement about the unparalleled educational experience that the USAFA provides, even when compared to other top-tier engineering institutions of the country. “Their level of innovation is not the same as what we do here,” he adds. “We take big risks because we want great return, and we’re willing to take those risks to give the cadets the best experience that they’re supposed to get at the Air Force Academy.”

Brandt and Babcock both reflect on the profound effect that 3D printing has had at the Academy, for cadets as well as the customers for whom they’re creating aircraft.

“In terms of performance and reliability and cost,” says Babcock, “3D printing has changed how we operate around here for the better, because it’s beat all of the previous methods hands down in all of those categories.”

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3D Printed Play Structures and Architectural Models with Rice University

“It is certainly a beautiful campus in which to construct a temporary play structure. It also meant that I would walk by the installation every day on my way to and from work, allowing me to observe the structure over time and learn more about the novel construction system.”

David Costanza, now teaching at Cornell AAP’s Department of Architecture, was a Technology Fellow at Rice University’s School of Architecture at the time of this visit, where he taught for four years.

In Model Object, a Rice seminar that Costanza co-taught with Assistant Professor Andrew Colopy, students explored issues of digital modeling and fabrication through focuses on additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing, and cutting.

Costanza came from MIT where he got his M.Arch and S.MarchS, a postgraduate research degree. He was involved in a number of design and fabrication courses there, including as a teaching assistant for the class “How to Make Almost Anything,” where they were heavily invested in 3D printing. At Rice, one of his undertakings as a technology fellow was to restructure the building technology sequence in the School of Architecture, where he worked to incorporate more contemporary and digital tools for design, representation, and manufacturing.

Thanks to his heavy involvement with 3D printing during his time at MIT, Costanza brought a strong additive manufacturing background with him to Rice. This skillset helped him spearhead the bulking up of Rice’s 3D printer arsenal, where he used each machine as a stepping stone to the next level.

Sizing Up Rice's Printer Arsenal

When Costanza arrived at Rice, the department had one desktop SLA printer. In his first semester teaching Model Object, he and Colopy wrote a grant and were able to buy a series of Ultimakers, or desktop FFF printers. “We then used the work that was produced in that course to write a larger grant, and that allowed us to purchase the Gigabot,” he explains, “to allow the work that we were doing and the research at the smaller scale to scale up with the larger 3D printer.”

Their shift in focus from SLA to FFF was deliberate, Costanza explains.

They considered both SLS and SLA machines, and although the print resolution is high and allows for fine detail, the technology didn’t give them what they were ultimately looking for. “We’re trying to project forward as to how those geometries might be constructed in the real world,” Costanza muses. “The same translation that we have with an architectural scale model also happens at a full-scale on the construction site. So we’re trying to project how building that model might also scale up.”

SLS and SLA technology “works really well at a small-scale,” he explains, “but they don’t really allow for the scaling up of something that might be architectural.” If they were going to be testing complex geometries that would ultimately be building-sized, they wanted to be sure they were doing so using a method that was actually representative of real world construction.

“Because we’re very interested in the full scale here in the Architecture Department, we can really treat [an extruded] model as something that could scale up,” Costanza explains. “The thing that we’re printing on the Ultimaker can scale up to the Gigabot, and the thing on the Gigabot can scale up to a Kuka arm with [an] extruder at the end of a gantry crane.”

In the real world, building construction typically happens through an additive process: concrete is poured, steel is erected, bricks are laid, et cetera. A 3D print created using fused filament fabrication would therefore be a more realistic representation of how that structure would ultimately come to be. “Where the other models – SLS, SLA – would produce objects that were purely representational,” Costanza continues, “by using an [FFF] printer, we could essentially replicate – more or less, at a different scale – something that could happen at an architectural scale.”

The School of Architecture is now home to a Gigabot – as of several years ago – which lives in the department’s dedicated 3D printing room and spends most of its time producing models of buildings.

Now that architects essentially operate in a digital world – conceptualizing and designing buildings on a computer – “that translation from the digital models that we’re producing into a physical object or scale model can be quite complex for some of the geometries,” Costanza explains. “When the Gigabot is used to produce architectural representational scale models, it’s typically to produce geometry that would be otherwise quite difficult to replicate physically, but is quite simple to produce digitally.”

Beyond Architectural Models

Rice’s Gigabot also occasionally gets to spend some time on other real-world endeavors.

One such project was a chair that Costanza produced in collaboration with his Model Object co-teacher, Colopy. Thermoformed from a single piece of rice husk biocomposite, the final piece sports asymmetrical curves that are just as much function as they are form. The back of the chair flexes slightly to the body’s natural contours, the oblique face of the seat is perfectly angled for a natural tuck of one’s feet as it slopes to the floor, and the shape of the chair allows it to nest for packing purposes.

The design of the chair feels natural and obvious – as good design should – but much testing went into settling on its final form.

“As we were manipulating the geometry of the chair, the Gigabot allowed us to produce quick, iterative prototypes of how the chair might look that we could evaluate for its aesthetic qualities, but also even some of its performative qualities,” Costanza recounts.

They could use 3D prints not only to take their vision into the physical realm and allow them to turn the design over in their hands, but also to test its functionality. “To see how the plastic flexes for the back of the chair, let’s say, was something that we could test even out of PLA,” Costanza explains.

Scaled-down iterations of the chair – from palm-sized miniatures to versions big enough for a kid – still adorn one of the workshops in the architecture building. “We built a number of small scale mock-ups, all the way up to a half-scale version of the chair on the Gigabot,” recounts Costanza. “Between each iteration we were able to manipulate the double curvature of the chair, which is what produced the stiffness for the back, or the double curvature of the seat, which allowed for various degrees of comfort.”

End Use 3D Prints in a Real World Structure

Another project of Costanza’s – originally on exhibit at Lawndale Art Center in Houston – now resides on the Rice campus.

“The design of the object is a kind of communal play structure, something that would bring disparate communities together to play, where one interaction by an individual would have repercussions for someone else on the play structure,” explains Costanza. “So it’s sort of a collective bench, or possibly a see-saw made up of a series of hammocks.”

Part furniture piece, part play structure, the design sits roughly 15 feet in diameter, made up of a skeleton of fiberglass pultrusions connected with nodes and wrapped with a webbing of climbing rope. Its asymmetrical upper and lower surfaces prompt loungers to either lay down or sit upright. One design feature in particular lends the structure its name.

“Depending on the number of people that are occupying the structure, it will tip to one side or to the other,” Costanza explains. “So the name of the object is TipTap…It’s really meant to bring people together through coordinated play.”

In this particular piece of work, Gigabot played more than just a prototyping role. TipTap’s structure is made up of linear, off-the-shelf fiberglass pultrusions which were simply cut to length, joined together by a series of “highly intricate, complex nodes.” Enter Gigabot.

“There are 32 nodes. Each node is unique, and they were all printed on the Gigabot,” says Costanza. The nodes operate as a mold for a fiberglass shell structure: first printed, then wrapped with fiberglass tape and an epoxy resin and vacuum bagged, rendering them structurally sound.

The design of TipTap ultimately hinged on Costanza’s ability to use a large-scale 3D printer for the fabrication of the nodes. “I designed the nodes for the TipTap play structure around the scale of the Gigabot,” he explains, “knowing that they would be 3D printed, knowing how long it would take to print those objects, and the kind of scale that I could produce and the quality of those parts.”

He considered the alternatives – machining molds out of foam and fiberglassing the foam, for example – but noted that the other methods available to him would have been more time-consuming and labor-intensive than his 3D printing method.

“So in the end,” he muses, “we probably would have designed a different object if we did not have the Gigabot.”

Sculpting Interdisciplinary Career Paths at Monmouth University’s Art Department

“You’re always going to have the people who are going to say, ‘Oh, what are you gonna do with a fine arts degree?’”

Lauren Haug is a third-year student at Monmouth University pursuing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design, and she’s all-too familiar with the reactions that come with being a student interested in following a passion for art into higher education.

“But when it comes to doing this interdisciplinary stuff, you get to open up so many more avenues that you never thought you’d be able to go into.”

It was at Monmouth that she fell under the tutelage of Kimberly Callas, an Assistant Professor teaching drawing, sculpture, and 3D design at the university, and that Haug’s career visions underwent a stark trajectory change.

Callas is an academically-trained figurative sculptor and social practice artist. Her craft is a very old tradition – she sculpts in clay and casts her work in bronze or concrete. And yet she’s been on the forefront of adopting new technology and finding ways to use it to better her workflow and incorporate it into her teachings.

Her students are reaping the benefits of this as much as she is – graduating with a set of highly-sought after and directly-applicable experience: from CAD and 3D printing to creativity and adaptability.

Fostering Innovation through Interdisciplinary Projects

Callas’s curriculum has been largely influenced by her early experiences working at a makerspace.

“There was a student there who was in engineering, and then there was another student who was a nursing student, and I was there as an artist working,” she recounts. “To me it was really fascinating to work between the fields, and so I wanted that opportunity for my students.”

The interdisciplinary experience stuck with her and has impacted her teachings to this day. “It’s one of the things I really like about 3D printing and emerging technologies, that we can all work together in the space and maybe through touching shoulders we come up with better ideas or innovative ideas,” she says. “I feel like it really does foster innovation; in the arts, being exposed to the other fields, but also the other fields being exposed to the arts.”

Through cross-department projects with her students, Callas encourages the weaving of an artist’s touch into other fields, and vice-versa.

“With the Gigabot, we do a couple of different projects,” she explains. “[The students] have to go out and seek someone in another field that needs a 3D print, or may not even know they need a 3D print yet.” She’s had students work on projects with scientists, anthropologists, mathematicians, and chemists.

“Last semester, I had a student who was able to 3D model and 3D print a molecule that only exists when we make it on this campus,” she recounts. “That was really neat because the students were able to hold the molecule in their hand and look at it, and this is something they’ve been researching for a long time.”

Both Callas and Haug have a particular way of describing the tactile nature of 3D printing. For them, touch is inextricably linked to their craft, and so it’s no wonder that the transmutation of a concept from idea to digital to physical is so meaningful to them. But they also talk about it in a way that extends beyond the art world.

Haug worked on a project with a Monmouth professor to print out DNA in its building-block segments. “Her students will be able to break apart the actual double helix strand and…inspect the pieces that build them and see how they work together, how they link up, and how the actual double helix itself is formed, instead of just being able to look at the page in the textbook,” she explains. From a student’s perspective, Haug describes how this could function as a powerful teaching tool. “I know for myself, personally, when I’m able to feel things and actually look at things from all angles, that it helps me remember.”

Another student of Callas’s took on a project in the anthropology department, 3D printing a mandible from a scan. “It was a newly-discovered mandible that showed that there was this new evolutionary line in humanoids,” she explains. The discovery was so new that it was still just being researched in a lab, but Callas’s student was able to get ahold of a 3D scan that the laboratory had taken. “We were able to 3D print it for our students to look at the mandible and be able to really examine and understand – ‘Why is this significant? What’s important about this?’ – by physically looking at it, which is what they would be doing in the field.”

It’s this sort of mentality that permeates Callas’ teachings: how does this school project translate into future real-world work? How does this degree cross over, post-graduation, into a career? It’s a deliberate, thoughtful, applicable style of teaching that one would hope every student gets the opportunity to experience.

Callas took her students on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Media Lab, where students got a firsthand glimpse of what a post-graduation career path might look like. “The students just saw all kinds of possibilities in 3D printing and digital scanning,” she says.

Haug also describes the profound impact this trip had on her. “We got a little backstage tour of [The Met’s] digital imaging labs,” she recounts. “That’s [now] kind of a loose goal for myself to do work with an anthropological aspect to it, ’cause I think that’s really interesting. I really like working with both past and present, and…bringing them together in a way that everyone can be interested in.”

Adaptation in the Art World

Callas explains that what she’s doing in her classes is more than just teaching her students a software and a machine. Yes, her students come away with CAD and 3D printing experience, but what she’s really trying to impress upon them is a can-do spirit of versatility and flexibility.

“I think one of the things that’s really exciting about the students using the printer…is that sort of entrepreneurial mindset,” she says. “That adaptability is gonna be really important in their work life and going forward. And so 3D printing’s been really important for my students to… understand that this changes all the time and you have to change with it. You have to figure things out yourself, you have to Google it and use YouTube, and that self-direction is really important and I see a lot of growth in them through doing that.”

Callas is speaking from experience.

She got her MFA from the New York Academy of Art and her BFA from the Stamps School of Art at the University of Michigan. She’s been working as an artist in an age-old craft for decades, and yet has nimbly evolved as her field has undergone some major, rapid changes in the last several years.

“It’s been interesting to be able to watch something be introduced to my field of sculpture at this stage that changes it radically,” she says. “I liken 3D printing to when Photoshop was introduced to photography and Illustrator to design work, when everything went onto the computer. Well sculpture hadn’t been on the computer. And so what it’s done to sculpture has been unbelievably fast, so we’re all adapting quickly.”

Where Callas had to evolve efficiently and pick up a new tool midway into her career, she works to give her students a leg up by sending them out into the world well-versed in these new digital tools.

“I try to keep it integrated in every class,” Callas says, of 3D printing. “My big focus is being able to work seamlessly between the handmade and the digital. And I think that that is absolutely necessary for going forward in the world today.”

The old traditions and handmade touches will likely always remain in their own ways, but the injection of digital into the creation process is undeniably beneficial and here to stay. The message under Callas’s teachings seem to be: better to embrace this and prepare for it than to fight it. “I want my students to realize that the digital is going to be a big part of what they do in the studio, even though they still have the dirt and the dust and the plaster dust under their fingernails.”

3D Printing in the Artist’s Workflow

This fusion of digital and handmade permeates not only Callas’s teachings but also her personal work, where she uses the two mediums to complement one another.

“I work back and forth between the digital and the handmade the whole time,” she says. “Uploading drawings, and then uploading scans, printing things, sculpting from prints, sculpting from the models, scanning what I’ve sculpted in clay, going back into the computer, printing that…so it’s a real back-and-forth process.”

Callas has a long history of working in sustainability, something that has heavily shaped the work she does today.

“I realized when I was working in sustainability that people were having a hard time responding to just environmental data,” she explains. “But if it were a stream or something that they fished in as a child, then they would really protect that space. And so I wanted to find those more emotional connections in people, like where are our emotional and more intimate connections to nature and where do those exist?”

She began experimenting with incorporating local flora into her work, forming a body of work around what she called the “Ecological Self.”

This ultimately evolved into her Eco-Portraits, a mask series in which she does a portrait of an individual around a symbol or pattern from nature that’s significant to that person. “I’m looking for that connection, where is that intimate link between them and nature,” she explains. “And then I take a pattern from that…and I combine it with a portrait.’

Where Callas used to work solely in the handmade realm, she’s found immense advantages with bringing new technology into her work.

“Before, I would sculpt from a model to get the individual portrait, and then I would sculpt and dig into the clay the different patterns,” she explains. “The way that 3D printing has helped it is now I can take a scan of my model and I can 3D print their head, and then I sculpt from the head. I still work in the clay, but I’ll be working from a 3D print of the model so they don’t have to sit there that long.”

“The other thing that’s been a huge advantage,” she continues, “is often when I want to get an intricate pattern into the clay and then I make the mold and cast it, some of that pattern gets disturbed and broken [and] needs to be repaired. And so with a 3D print, I’m able to digitally scan in my sculpture, get an intricate pattern without much repair work, and I can just 3D print it rather than cast it.”

There are several different aspects to 3D printing that have proven to be of immense help to Callas in her process of creation. “One is that you can change things really quickly, and so if you’re working digitally and you need to shrink something down or enlarge it or change any part of it, it’s much faster than working in clay,” she explains. “And also then you can get copies really quick. If you have to make a mold of a sculpture, it takes you quite a long time, but I can scan a sculpture in a couple of minutes, and then I can 3D print it very quickly compared to what it takes to cast from a mold. So those are some really big advantages.”

What Photoshop is to photography and Illustrator to design, 3D printing is to the physical, Callas explains. And what more valuable function is there in these programs than the undo button? This is a game-changer to which her field never previously had access.

“Oh, there’s no comparison…it’s so much quicker,” she says. “If I make a mistake or if I just don’t like something, I just undo it. But if I don’t like something in clay, I have to rebuild it, and it takes a long time.”

Callas’s current big project is 3D printing a life-size human sculpture with patterns from nature etched into the form – “almost tattooed into the skin” – representing how place shapes us and can very literally become a part of who we are through what we eat and breathe.

She completed an artist residency at an eco-art residency called Joya in Spain last spring – paid for in part by an Urban Coast Institute Faculty Enrichment Grant – collecting symbols and patterns from the wildlife there, which she will add to the 3D printed figure. She’s currently doing test prints for the body, which she estimates will take somewhere between 10-12 prints and 1,300 hours of print time.

While she still loves working in good old-fashioned clay, Callas can’t deny the time and labor savings that comes with adding a 3D printer to her workflow. “I still love working with clay, there’s something to it,” she says. “But I think some of the advantages which I’m looking forward to [include] emailing my file to the foundry rather than shipping huge molds or carrying them…” She laughs, and says of the artist community, “I think we’re going to end up liking that.”

Callas was recently chosen to be the new Artist-in-Residence for the Urban Coast Institute. During this two year appointment, she will be making 3D printed life size figures that combine ocean science with symbols from the ocean.

Inspiring New Career Paths

There’s no denying the impact that Callas’s teachings have upon her students. The interdisciplinary elements in her classes are opening her students’ eyes to interests and career paths that were previously unconsidered.

“I definitely want to pursue something with a sort of museum aspect to it,” says Haug. “I would really like to work with cataloguing and organizing.” She explains that she’s excited about 3D printing’s ability to increase accessibility to information and open doors to research.

“What inspired me to work with the anthropology professor was when they take fossil scans and they upload them to databases, so people all around the world can just print them out and be able to look at them,” she says. A bone segment that may live in a lab a flight away could instead be printed out in the comfort of one’s own facility in less time than it would take to travel there. “That is just remarkable to me,” she muses. “I want to be involved in that.”

Beyond inspiring her students to think outside the box and consider the possibility of applying their art degree outside the world of art, Callas also gives them the final piece of the puzzle: job postings.

“I’m always collecting job descriptions that include 3D printing and 3D scanning and digital modeling,” Callas says. “One of my students could walk right into a medical position with the scanning and the 3D printing [they learn].”

“If you had told me when I was in middle school that I could possibly work in the medical field, I would have told you, ‘What are you talking about? There’s just no way,’” says Haug. “I didn’t even consider the thought that this could be something that would be so interdisciplinary.”

A 3D printed eco-mask by Kimberly will be available at an upcoming auction at Sotherby’s in New York City, October 15th: https://kimberlycallas.com/take-home-a-nude-at-sotherbys-new-york-october-15th/

See more of Kimberly’s 3D printed pieces of work: https://www.artworkarchive.com/profile/kimberly-callas/collection/3d-prints

NASA Repost: 3D Printing and the Future of Aeronautics

The following articles were originally posted by NASA on nasa.gov. You may recognize a familiar machine in the video at 1:24

August 19, 2019 – 3D Printing and the Future of Aeronautics

Today is National Aviation Day and progress is ongoing in the next evolution of air mobility – all thanks to emerging 3D printing technology.

This image of a full-scale model of Langley Aerodrome No. 8 is being constructed at NASA’s Langley Research Center. The LA-8 model will to contribute to the agency’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) initiative. “It’s definitely a new world with 3-D printing,” said engineering technician Sam James, pictured here. “It’s the future without a doubt.”

About 80 percent of the model is built using 3D printers on center using nylon and polycarbonate, which allows engineers to change the wings, the fuselage and add other sections of the model such as propellers and computer hardware rapidly.

Since 1939, August 19 has been celebrated as National Aviation Day, the legacy of a presidential proclamation first made by Franklin D. Roosevelt to celebrate the birthday of civil aviation pioneer Orville Wright. At NASA, aeronautics is not only part of our name, it is an integral part of our mission. And, this year we’re celebrating National Aviation Day on social media by highlighting some of unique and surprising ways our aeronautics research impacts your daily life. From innovative video games that help those with ADHD to using wind tunnels to test automobiles, ships and wheelchairs, explore all the ways NASA is with you when you fly–and beyond–by following us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

April 25, 2019 – Langley Aerodrome Created to Explore Urban Air Mobility

One of the keys to unlocking the future of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is exploring how different technologies and configurations of aircraft will perform in the urban environment. To start gathering as much data as possible, NASA engineers are moving forward with their newest modular unmanned aerial system, the Langley Aerodrome #8.

“The project is called Advanced Urban Air Mobility Test Beds,” said Dave North, Unmanned Aerial Systems Section Lead. “This is a new effort in aeronautics to look at urban flight, both unmanned flight like package delivery vehicles, all the way up to manned vehicles that may carry six or eight people at a time.”

The new vehicle’s namesake is not just because it was designed and built at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, but in honor of Samuel P. Langley who coined the term aerodrome when he named his series of unmanned aircraft in the late 1890s. Yes, before the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, Langley was flying “drones” over the Potomac River. His Aerodrome #5 flew for 90 seconds over a distance of half a mile.

“It seemed fitting to honor Langley’s work as we explore unmanned systems,” said North.

The LA-8 recently completed its first wind tunnel test in NASA’s 12-foot Low Speed Wind Tunnel here at Langley.

“This is all about getting the data and getting the process down so we can help the private sector accelerate the whole Urban Air Mobility effort,” said North.

A popular concept for urban flights is known as electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL. Put simply, the aircraft can take off like a helicopter, hover, and then transition to fast forward flight like an airplane.

“That hand-off from hovering to forward flight is really difficult from a control standpoint,” said North. “NASA is starting to look at these concepts and how you would fly them in the airspace, and how to help all these private companies get their vehicles certified, air worthy and safe to fly. So we’re building these technology testbeds to investigate those things.”

Collecting as much data as possible in a world where many different styles of urban aircraft are coming to life off the papers they were first designed on is the challenge. To accomplish this task the LA-8 is a modular vehicle that can have almost any part redesigned and swapped out for a different one thanks to computer aided design (CAD) and 3D-printing.

“The focus initially was to build as much of the aircraft as we could using 3D-printers,” said Greg Howland, NASA engineer. “We go straight from the CAD file to getting it printed out. Less hands-on work for the parts.”

Roughly 80% of the LA-8 is made from 3D-printed material allowing these engineers to change the wings, the fuselage and other sections quite rapidly.

“We’ve already figured out a lot of things that we would like to do a little different on the second and third models,” Howland said. “So I’m making changes in the CAD files as we go along, and if you need replacement parts, you can almost just push a button and get a part printed out.”

The continued redesign of the Langley Aerodrome will help NASA focus on making these types of vehicles safer and share that data with the private industry.

“How do you look at off-nominal conditions?” asked North. “Off-nominal meaning, what if you lost a propeller or motor, could you still control the vehicle and get it on the ground safely? Can you fly this in gusty winds? These are areas that we’re building these technology test-beds for.”

The capability to rapidly design, fabricate and test these types of new configurations was developed as part of the Transformative Aeronautics Concepts – Convergent Aeronautics Solutions (TAC-CAS) program. The project is also being funded by the Air Traffic Management – Exploration (ATM-X) and TAC Transformational Tools and Technologies (TAC-TTT) programs.

North said that they expect to have the LA-8 move from wind tunnel tests to flight tests by late August.

David Meade
NASA Langley Research Center

Teaching for STEM Success in High School with a 3D Printing Curriculum

CJ Bryant has done a lot of thinking about success.

“One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is, success is something that can be taught. You don’t wake up in the morning and you’re successful. Somebody teaches you how to be successful.”

He’s in the position of being the shepherd of success for young people who have previously struggled with it in the classroom setting. Bryant is the Technology Coordinator at the Phoenix School in Roseburg, Oregon, a charter school for students who weren’t flourishing academically in the standard high school environment. “All the students here were at risk at one time of academic failure,” he explains.

All this changes when they reach Bryant’s classroom.

A Hands-on Approach

The learning that happens under Bryant’s watch is project-based and hands-on, and, often unbeknownst to the students, supplementing the work they’re doing in other courses.

“This room is 100% mathematics,” he explains.

Bryant’s classroom looks like a hybrid computer lab – machine shop. One half is lined with desks and monitors; the other, filled with equipment: a vinyl cutter, laser cutter, drone, foundry, and 3D printer.

The hands-on approach is Bryant’s way of getting through to students for whom learn-by-doing may click where formulas in a textbook fall short.

“[The students] will come down here after being in a math class and they’ll just be really frustrated,” he explains. “And you’re like, ‘Wait a second, why is geometry bothering you? You’re doing geometry in this CAD drawing. This is geometry.’”

Bryant has found that the real-world approach resonates with students, giving them tangible, tactile applications of the information they’re studying in other classes. “This is where math becomes real and applicable. It’s what makes math real and important. It’s not just some formula on a board that you have to memorize.”

Baby Spoons and Chess Pieces

As the head of the school’s technology program, 3D printing was naturally on Bryant’s radar early-on.

He wanted a workhorse machine that could handle a constant stream of projects from his classroom: both large, singular pieces as well as bulk batches of student projects. He quickly found himself disappointed.

“I started looking for 3D printers and all there were these little tiny ones on the market, and that was useless,” he explains.

He began attending 3D printing meet-ups to gain a better sense of the landscape and hopefully pick up some printer recommendations. “I probably went to five or six workshops on 3D printing, and they would have these tiny little things there,” he lamented. His frustration mounted.

“In the last one I went to I said, ‘Okay, other than baby spoons and chess pieces, what can you make with this?’”

Bryant took his search online and stumbled across the original re:3D Kickstarter page. At that point the campaign was long over, but it led Bryant to re:3D, and thus to Gigabot.

“I went to my boss and I said, ‘We need this.’”

Building a Bot

Bryant’s boss bit, and shortly thereafter his students found themselves elbow-deep in the project of assembling a Gigabot parts kit.

“That was our first fun project with it,” Bryant muses. The learning experience of building the machine from start to finish was incredibly valuable for students, as they came to understand how the components work together on an intimate level.

Their next fun project came from the school’s art teacher, who approached Bryant and asked if he could print a classical face for drawing students to use as a practice model. Bryant and his students downloaded a 3D scan of the Smithsonian’s marble bust of Augustus Caesar and pressed print on their Gigabot.

As their first major print, they were still getting the feel for best print settings, and so the head weighs a hefty several pounds. “It took five, six days,” says Bryant, “but it turned out fantastic.” They learned to dial down the infill on future prints.

From Classroom Success to Real-World Wins

The Phoenix School Gigabot has been kept busy on a wide variety of projects since.

“One of the things that we wanted the 3D printer for was robotics,” explains CJ. He is unimpressed by the robotics kits often sold to high schools. “Everything’s already in there. There’s nothing to imagine: you put the kit together and you end up with the robot that you bought the kit for. I don’t want to do that.”

He wants a challenge for his students, something that pushes their creativity and problem-solving skills. “I want to come up with a task and then design a robot to fit the task,” he says. “With the Gigabot, we can print the arms, we can print the gears…everything we need, we can print. It opens the door to custom-built robotics, so we can design a robot to do whatever we want the robot to do.”

It’s clear what is on the top of Bryant’s mind as he builds his lesson plans. Woven into the fabric of every project in his classroom is the common thread of success; specifically, making sure he sets his students up for it.

Bryant views success as a teachable, stepping stone path that he very deliberately guides students down.

“At one point in time, we had our first big success. We had our ‘Aha!’ moment where we realized, ‘Hey, I can do that,’” he explains. “We learned, we experienced success, and success becomes a ladder to a successful future. You’ve got to start somewhere.”

For Bryant, the first step comes in the form of a 3D printed luggage tag/dog tag. “One of the reasons I have them make this…is most of the skills that they will need to use the CAD program for are wrapped up in this dog tag.” Within the project is a foundation of expertise that his students will continue to build on: a variety of CAD features, uniqueness (each student designs a tag with their own name on it), and operating a 3D printer to bring them to life.

“With our student population, a lot of our students have never experienced success academically before,” he explains. “So you give them a project that they can do. I won’t tell you they can’t fail – they have to work pretty hard at it – but you give them a project and you make sure that they succeed.”

Bryant sets his students up: he has a video tutorial for the students to follow along with as they design, and it’s common to see students helping each other, popping over to others’ computers to lend a hand when needed. At the end of it, each student gets to take home a trophy in the form of their very own personalized, 3D printed name tag.

“Their next project is a bit more difficult,” he explains, “but they have the tools and the recent success to build on.” The carrot in the form of more 3D printed goodies to take home probably doesn’t hurt either.

But Bryant is not interested only in achievement inside the classroom. “We’re interested in not just academic success, we’re interested in student success. It’s the whole piece,” he explains.

The apex of this is the fact that his classroom takes abstract concepts and turns them into concrete, real-world applications. Geometry becomes CAD, which becomes an object a student can hold in their hand, which becomes a job opportunity.

Bryant recalled a recent story: he was talking to the manager of a local business when he mentioned where he worked. “He stopped and he goes, ‘That new girl that works for us. She’s from the Phoenix School.’” Bryant recognized her name, a now-graduated student of his.

“He goes, ‘Man, do you have any more?’”

An Offer for Fellow Educators

Bryant has seen the school’s investment in 3D printing pay off for their students, and he’s learned some lessons along the path to where he is now.

His advice for other teachers looking to convince their schools to make a similar investment?

“Have a direction that you want to go with the 3D printer.” He’s asked teachers from other schools what they would want to do with one, and sometimes gets vague answers along the lines of, “Well, anything. Just think of everything we could print.”

They’re not wrong, he explains, but it helps the acquisition process to have a concrete proposal in place. “Have a direction you want to go with your 3D printer. Make a plan, even if it’s kind of out there a little bit. ‘If we had a 3D printer, we could…’ and fill in the blank.”

Bryant sees CAD and the doors it opens as the 21st century shop class. “We’re getting a whole different group of kids and we’re exposing them to this form of technology, and we’re doing more and more with it in the workplace. Ergo, we need to train the kids.”

He believes in it so much so that he has an offer for any teachers out there seeing his story.

“If you need lesson plans, call me. I’ll give you my lesson plans. You won’t be the first I’ve given them to and you won’t be the last, but I’ll give away my lesson plans for the first year. I think that much of this of this technology. My lesson plans are yours and I’ll talk you through them.”

All the work is worth it, as other educators will likely understand, to see the lightbulb turn on for students who may have previously been feeling their way through school in the dark.

“That’s what keeps this job fun and exciting,” Bryant smiles. The students are often very skeptical when they first enter his classroom, and then something clicks.

“By the time they’ve been in the program for a year or so, it’s, ‘Do you think we could?’ Then they start asking the real important two questions; ‘Why not?’ and ‘What if?’ And that’s the beauty of the 3D printer. I think 3D printing is only limited by our imagination at this point.”

Are you a teacher who would like to take CJ up on his lesson plan offer? Send him an email at cjbryant [at] roseburgphoenix.com

Gigabot X Update

It’s been a long road for Gigabot X up to this point, and in many ways – as the first batch of printers is now shipping out to their owners – the road is just beginning.

re:3D was born in 2013 with the mission of creating a large-scale, affordable 3D printer that could use trash as input material. We quickly realized that these were several huge challenges wrapped into one dream, so we began by breaking it down into chunks.

Starting with the affordable and large-scale aspects, we launched Gigabot on Kickstarter in March of 2013. Several years and Gigabot versions later, we felt ready to take on the second part of the original dream.

We determined that the best method of tackling the challenge of printing using recycled materials was with a pellet printer. This does away with the need to extrude recycled plastic into filament, instead making use of a screw to extrude plastic pellets or flake.

Printing from pellets or flake comes with a host of benefits: it allows for faster printing due to the increased volume of plastic that can be pushed by the screw rather than pulled through by a filament drive gear, the input is an order of magnitude less expensive than extruded filament, and there is a much broader variety of plastic available.

With the support of many – WeWork, the Kickstarter community, Startup Chile, NSF SBIR, Parallel18, USAA, the Puerto Rico Science & Research Trust, America Makes, Hello Tomorrow, Wired/Gentleman Jack, Bunker Labs, MassChallenge, and a DoD SBIR Phase I grant – our team began work on our first pellet printer.

Over the course of three years, we built several iterations of the machine, redesigning tricky components like the extrusion screw, adding features like linear rails, and reworking the design of the pellet hopper and feeding system. What we’ve arrived at is Gigabot X, a pellet printer that has undergone thousands of hours of test printing and is now making the leap into the hands of early Kickstarter backers.

There are several main features of the pellet-printing Gigabot X that differentiate it from its filament-printing Gigabot cousin.

The main is – of course – the extrusion system. An industrial-strength, alloy steel screw drives the pellets with a compression ratio of 1.75:1 for less plastic degradation and better homogeneity within prints. The long barrel is equipped with three heating zones which allow for precise temperature control and material-specific custom profiles. The nozzle is removable and interchangeable, with options of 0.8mm, 1.75mm, and 3.0mm orifices.

To move around Gigabot X’s larger toolhead and to accommodate the larger volume of plastic being pushed through the nozzle, we have outfitted the machine with NEMA 23 stepper motors, in contrast to the NEMA 17 motors on the standard Gigabot. Linear rails replace v-groove wheels to allow for smoother, more precise motion of the bridge. A 8893 cubic centimeter printed polycarbonate hopper sits atop the machine to allow for 24 hours of gravity-fed printing at a time.

On the materials testing side of Gigabot X development, we’ve been so fortunate to partner with Dr. Joshua Pearce from Michigan Tech University. His lab has done an incredible amount of rigorous testing and research on Gigabot X, the data from which allowed us to co-develop two peer-reviewed publications about the optimization of recycled materials for 3D printing and the economic savings of Gigabot X when used as a distributed recycling/manufacturing system.

With the aid of Dr. Pearce and his lab, we’ve tested the following materials: virgin PLA pellets, virgin ABS pellets, recycled PLA regrind from failed prints and support, recycled ABS pellets and flake, recycled Polypropylene pellets, recycled PET pellets, recycled Polycarbonate pellets, recycled PETG regrind from rafts and support material, Taulman 920 pellets, recycled Polystyrene (#6), Cellulose Acetate pellets, and TPU pellets.

We are continuing to test new types of plastics – in addition to recycled and repurposed plastic like water bottles and 3D printed rafts – to refine our printing profiles so that users can enjoy the benefit of pre-configured Gigabot X Simplify3D profiles for a variety of materials. We’ve also launched a forum to share insights with the technical community as we continue testing.

The biggest takeaway we can offer so far is that printing from recycled materials is its own beast, and it’s an imperfect science. Even with pre-loaded Simplify3D profiles, this will be a different printing experience than that of using filament, and users should be ready for more trial and error and setting tweaking.

We continue to look for new sources of waste plastic that we can work to repurpose and test as Gigabot X input material. Our very own Mike Strong took home the top prize at the [Re]Verse Pitch Competition in Austin where we pitched using the scraps of polycarbonate from die cut sheets of ID card manufacturer HID Global with Gigabot X. As we learn more about where the platform has value in circular economies, we’re working to source other clean manufacturing waste like this – in addition to clean consumer waste, like water bottles – for testing with Gigabot X.

If you are a manufacturer willing to share potential waste streams, or have connections that may be valuable as we search for different plastic sources, we want to hear from you! Contact us at info@re3d.org and we can talk trash.

At this point in time, our team is working on finalizing the design of Gigabot X as well as creating Simplify 3D printing profiles for a variety of materials for our Kickstarter backers, who recently started receiving their bots. At this time we are taking a limited number of deposits for the next batch of pellet printers, with delivery later this summer.

We will be selling a number of configurations:

  1. A complete Gigabot X unit. The early release will be $16,950, without an enclosure or additional accessories.
  2. An upgrade kit to convert a standard Gigabot 3D printer from filament extrusion to pellet extrusion. The early release will be $6,000.
  3. Just the pellet extruder on its own. The early release will be $3,000.

We are taking $1,000 deposits for early delivery on the product offerings listed above. If you would like to hold your spot in line for the next round of beta units, please contact us at sales@re3d.org.

Download the Gigabot X PDF

Embracing New Tech in an Old Trade: Firebird 3D

Chad Caswell understands that this is a difficult concept for people to grasp.

“You’re going directly from a very digital process into a very old process where you’re grinding metal and welding and piecing it together.”

Caswell is the founder and owner of Firebird 3D, a company in Troutdale, Oregon which provides technical services to artists in the form of digital sculpting, CNC foam milling, 3D scanning, and of course, 3D printing. He uses these technologies to help artists more easily and affordably cast their work in bronze, a service which he does in conjunction with Firebird Bronze, a full service foundry owned and operated by Rip Caswell, his father.

As a trailblazer in this arena, Caswell understands the thought process of many artists and foundry owners on the topic of technology in the art world.

“I think a lot of people are scared that their jobs – their livelihoods – are going to be obsolete,” he muses. “But I think what foundries and people working in the art industry need to realize is that this is a tool that can make their lives a lot easier, and if they can work with it, they can produce a lot more work a lot more efficiently.”

Caswell has fully embraced the power of technology to transform business, and he understands firsthand that this is not something that poses a threat to his career or the artists with whom he works. “They’re still going to need to cast all these parts as if they’re wax: weld them, gate them, dip them in slurry, build them, and color them, just like they have for the last couple thousand years.”

The Model T Project

It was a particular project that spurred Caswell into the world of 3D printing: the memorialization of a famous Oregon landmark.

“We got the Gigabot when we got our first big project of 3D printing the Model T car, and that’s how we were able to skip the mold on that.”

Prior to 3D printing, Caswell aided artists in taking their work from model to bronze sculpture using a CNC machine. “At the beginning of business, we started off doing foam enlargements where the artists would bring us a maquette – like a small sculpture – and we would 3D scan that and use the CNC machine to enlarge it in foam.”

And although a big advancement from having to sculpt a piece in full by hand, this method came with its downsides. The porous foam still required artists to put clay on top of the form and re-sculpt the details, and then a silicone rubber and hard shell mold had to be made over the entire surface of the piece.

“It’s a very costly and time-consuming process,” explains Caswell. “If it’s a one-of-a-kind piece, you now have a big mold that you’ve paid a lot of money for that’s completely obsolete.”

But this was the standard process for large pieces of work; for smaller ones they turned to a Stratasys Objet Printer. “It hasn’t been used in three years,” says Caswell. “It’s a very, very costly process where it could cost over $1,000 for a liter of this resin, and so you would only do really small things.”

Then came an opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind piece to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first scenic highway in the US: the Historic Columbia River Highway. The 75-mile stretch of road through the Columbia River Gorge was to be memorialized in a statue of its creators – Sam Hill and Sam Lancaster – and the car they first drove on it: a Ford Model T.

Caswell started in the way he traditionally did, sculpting the piece in foam. “We realized how long it was going to take to get all those perfect shapes, and form the tire, and do all that detail work,” he recounts. “Then we had mold makers starting to bid it and the costs were just getting really, really high.”

Rip Caswell came to his son to see if there was another way. “He knew I was doing some 3D printing,” Caswell recounts, “and he said, ‘Can you look into this and see if there’s any way to bypass the mold and just design in the computer and 3D print it.’”

Caswell started by talking to the foundry about the ideal specs of a printer to fit into their casting process. “There’s lots of little printers out there that are inexpensive,” explains Caswell, “but the foundry was saying that the printer should match the slurry tank at the foundry. The volume of that that they can reasonably pour is two foot, by two foot, by two foot.”

A search on the internet led Caswell to a printer that fit the bill.

“I looked around and that’s when I found the big Gigabot that was going to be able to handle our printing volume,” he says. “It’s exact same parameters as the foundry, so anything I print on there I can directly go to the foundry and not have to worry about size issues.”

Their first foray into the world of bronze casting directly from 3D prints was a success. “It worked out perfectly,” says Caswell.  “We were able to directly invest the 3D prints into the bronze. We saved a ton of money and a lot of time.”

Caswell remembers some of the numbers they were quoted by mold makers for the Model T project prior to their Gigabot purchase. “We had a couple people bid the mold, and it could have cost maybe three or four times what it would cost to print it.” And that, he explains, was only for the mold, and not counting the sculpting and original design work that would have been required.

“That would have been very costly and could have taken months of work, whereas the Gigabot was able just to run 24/7 and 3D printed it perfectly, ready to go.”

A Life Size Lion

Caswell has been met with a lot of excitement from his clients about the power of the technology he’s using.

Even if a job doesn’t go through, he says, “they’re excited to know the project can be printed no matter what.” Having the ability to print such large panels for bronze casting has opened the door to big ideas, and Caswell is in the fortunate position of being able to entertain them.

“We have a lot of jobs that come to us, and being able to say the sky’s the limit to our clients is pretty awesome.”

One such job that Caswell has recently taken on is the 3D printing of a life size lion.

He had already done a smaller lion – “about quarter scale,” he says – so he was able to scan that and enlarge it for the new job. This is where 3D printing comes in handy, Caswell explains. “You’re able to take something small or large and blow it up or shrink it down using 3D scanning and 3D printing.”

The piece is notable, Caswell says, “because of how big it is, but how simple the Gigabot made it.”

“The body size is perfect,” he explains. “I 3D printed the entire torso in one section.” The large 3D printed pieces then make it very easy for the foundry to cast and assemble.

The process sans 3D printer would be a lot more laborious, Caswell explains. “If we didn’t have the Gigabot, we would have to mold it out in foam and spend a couple months sculpting it, redoing all that detail that was originally there, and then another couple months molding it.”

And from a time standpoint, it’s night and day. “I 3D printed the lion in three weeks and it’s already ready for casting,” says Caswell.” From there, it’ll probably only take them 12 weeks to finish it. The entire project will take about five months, whereas the old way of sculpting it could take over a year.”

The price difference, he underscores, is also substantial. It’s not a ten or 20 percent savings, it’s more like 50 or 60 percent.

3D Printing: The Future for Artists

“3D printing is definitely the future for future artists,” Caswell muses.

There are so many benefits in several different departments, he explains, from the time savings, to the costs savings, to space savings.

“With 3D printing, we have the ability to digitally store sculptures in the computer.” What this means is that molds that would typically take up valuable floor space can now be stored on a hard drive.

“We can save a lot of space at our foundry which is huge concern because we hold on to all of our clients’ molds all in the same building,” Caswell explains. “Being able to throw away the ones that are being unused and store those files digitally is pretty great.”

Aside from taking up precious real estate, physical molds are also subject to degradation over time.

While it would be great to have molds on hand from a previous sculpture commission if the artist wanted the piece casted again in the future, the quality of that mold after a few years’ time is going to be compromised, and the final piece will take a significant amount of finish work and extra bronze. “Knowing that at any point, I can fly down to where that sculpture is and 3D scan it, come back home and 3D print it on the Gigabot is very reassuring,” says Caswell.

Caswell sees 3D printing as leveling the playing field for artists.

“I think it opens up a huge opportunity for people who are looking to pursue art as a career; being able to start at their computer rather than worrying about renting out a studio or destroying their home with clay,” he explains. “They’re able to work digitally in a clean small workspace, and, with 3D printing, go directly into the foundry.”

Project storage is also just as much a concern for artists as it is for foundries. “A lot of artists have to store their own molds in their house,” says Caswell. “Sometimes they’ll do a big job, and they spent five or ten thousand dollars on those molds. It seems weird to just throw them in the garbage after the projects.”

Much like foundries, many artists thus end up holding onto old molds on the offhand chance they want to cast them again.

A better option, says Caswell? “They can come to me, I can 3D scan it and give them a flash drive they can fit in their pocket, and that’s all they need.”

Learn more about Firebird 3D and the digital services they provide artists: https://www.firebird3d.com/

Check out the foundry portion of the process at Firebird Bronze: http://www.firebirdbronze.com/

HiveCube: Building a Safer Future for Puerto Rico

Note: re:3D does not manufacture HiveCube homes, but rather was part of the prototyping process and helped to 3D print architectural models which HiveCube used for pitching to investors.

Maria Velasco was hunkered down with family on the west coast of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez when Hurricane Maria hit.

“The first 24 hours there was no contact with anything outside of your neighbors.”

She described how, in the immediate aftermath of the storm, they could venture a little further from home each day to assess the damage. Families relied on word of mouth to check the wellbeing of their loved ones; people would drop by to let others know they were alive.

“It’s a humbling experience,” Velasco recounts. “You realize what you need and what you don’t need in life.”

It was this focus on the essentials in a time of crisis that got Velasco and her business partner, Carla Gautier, thinking. Channeling the spirit of resiliency on the island following the disaster, Gautier and Velasco vowed to stay and help rebuild in their own way, to make the future safer for the people of Puerto Rico.

The Beginnings of the Hive

Gautier has a particular skillset that makes her well-suited for the challenge: she’s an architect.

While completing on her Bachelor’s of Science in Architecture in Boston, she spent four months in Berlin, traveling around Europe to study alternative types of architecture for low-income communities. It was on this tour that she was first exposed to structures made from shipping containers. Later, during her Masters of Architecture, she spent time in West Africa – in Benin – studying informal construction and development.

These two exposures later came together to form the foundation of HiveCube.

After completing her master’s, Gautier started working for FEMA, getting an up-close view of the destruction around the island post-Maria. On this assignment, Gautier saw firsthand a major factor that compounded the destruction of the storm: buildings not being up to code.

She and Velasco did some research, discovering that 55% of housing in Puerto Rico is constructed informally. Some areas of the island may not have stood a chance against the force of Maria, but surely structures being built to code and with hurricanes in mind should be a given on the island, the pair mused.

These three experiences in Gautier’s architecture career – her work on low-income housing in Europe, her study of informal construction in West Africa, and her exposure to the prevalence of informal construction on her home turf – came together to form the seed of an idea.

Gautier wanted to bring her knowledge of simplistic yet effective designs for low-income housing from Europe to help people in her homeland, to create affordable housing built to withstand ferocious storms that didn’t compromise on quality or comfort.

The idea for HiveCube began to take shape.

A Jumpstart from Parallel18

Hurricane Maria tested the resiliency of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico stepped up to the challenge.

San Juan-based startup accelerator Parallel18 created a new program post-Maria specifically to harness the energy and drive to bounce back that they saw amongst the population. Called Pre-18, it was a separate entity from their typical accelerator program, where they mentored around 40 companies from Puerto Rico each working in their own way to rebuild and kickstart the economy after the storm. HiveCube was one of the companies accepted.

Something I'm excited about in HiveCube is their team. They have two very energetic, capable founders in Carla and Maria.
Lucas Arzola is the Director of Operations at Parallel18
HiveCube founders Velasco and Gautier with Sebastian Vidal, Executive Director of Parallel18

HiveCube and the other companies of Pre-18 epitomize the buoyant spirit of Puerto Ricans following one of the worst disasters on the island in recent history.

“We had our campaign called ‘El Boricua se las Inventa’ – Puerto Ricans Get Creative,” explains Arzola. “We’ve seen that creativity happen all around us, and HiveCube is just one example of a company that was born from the hurricane and created a solution that now is growing and thriving.”

Companies from the Pre-18 program were then eligible to be selected for the following Parallel18 cohort; HiveCube was one of 16 that made this jump. “We’ve never as many Puerto Rican companies in the Parallel18 cohort as we did in this one,” Arzola muses.

The Pre-18 program was so successful that Parallel18 has decided to make it a regular thing. “It’s going to be an official program we’re going to do once a year,” explains Arzola. “So the idea is that we can do one Pre-18 cohort for every two Parallel18s.”

HiveCube’s extended time with the Parallel18 team super-charged their pace of progress as well as reinforced the value of the accelerator program.

“We’ve seen them evolve and grow significantly in a short amount of time, so it sort of validates our program as well,” says Arzola. “There’s no better validation than just seeing thriving companies that will be able to contribute to Puerto Rico and grow from this point on, because we’re able to support them in this stage where they need help the most. That’s why we do what we do.”

Parallel18 is also where Gigabot enters the HiveCube story.

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The duo was having a tough time pitching investors: their vision was getting distorted along the way, often manifesting in others’ minds as a less-aesthetic, lower-quality “trailer.” But what the two had in mind was so much more – they just couldn’t figure out how to communicate this in a way that resonated with prospective investors.

Gautier and Velasco experienced firsthand the phenomenon of using a 3D printed prototype in lieu of a digital one. The digital renderings on a computer screen or projector weren’t getting them the reactions in meetings that they wanted, but perhaps a physical model could convince people of their vision, they thought.

They used Gigabot to print a basic architectural model of a Hive, and began taking it to meetings with investors and communities working on reconstruction. The physical model excited people in a way that digital drawings and renderings hadn’t.

Suddenly, in Velasco’s words, “everybody wanted to take the meetings, everybody wanted one.”

There was something about being able to turn a physical object over in their hands that clicked with people. The surge in enthusiasm over the model pushed the pair to continue driving forward and make the concept a reality. With the first hurdle crossed, they now had to bring their vision to life.

Building a Hive

HiveCube works with used shipping containers, lending a second life to  structures that would otherwise end up in container graveyards.

They buy a certified-as-seaworthy shipping container, verify that the container is structurally sound, and begin preparing it for its new life. The container is given holes for windows and a door, a fresh coat of paint, and the interior refurbished and outfitted with living fixtures.

The prototype Hive that they constructed for their August launch party is what will become their Basic Model: a two bedroom, one bathroom unit with a kitchen and living room in the center.

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They’re filling a major gap on the island that contributed to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria: creating housing that’s code-compliant but also affordable for the general population.

“We believe in their concept: the fact that they’re bringing an architecture background to what they’re doing and are designing hurricane-resistant homes that can provide accessible housing,” Parallel18’s Arzola explains. “That’s really relevant to one of the big problems that appeared after the hurricane: the fact that the median income in Puerto Rico is low compared to the cost of housing. There is a need for more affordable options in the market.”

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Their goal is to create something that’s more than just a safe shelter. “We’ve been trying to make sure that we build something that’s actually nice to live in, not just something cheap and fast,” Velasco explains. “Something that people would want to own and they’re proud of and that they feel comfortable and safe with.”

The pride for their island shines through HiveCube’s mission to create safe, affordable housing for Puerto Ricans.

As Velasco puts it, “We’re going to try and build something that can actually help the community be stronger, if something like this – God forbid – happens again.”

On December 13th, HiveCube took home the People’s Choice Award at Parallel18’s Generation Five Demo Day, an award bestowed by an audience vote.

“It speaks to how relatable and relevant the solution is to Puerto Rico,” muses Arzola. “So yeah, we’re very proud.”

To stay in the loop with HiveCube’s progress and home releases, sign up for their newsletter at: www.hivecubepr.com
For sales and other inquiries, contact them through their website, Facebook, or Instagram

Hurricane Maria forces Parknet to Pivot, Gigabot Lowers Risk

Antonio Ramos takes a deep breath. “It was really depressing.”

A native Puerto Rican, he was living in San Juan when Hurricane Maria hit. He described the sentiment on the island when the storm was forecasted: Irma had just passed by with little effect, and the general feeling was that Maria would also spare them. The island is used to storms, he explains, and they usually bounced back after big ones in a couple weeks.

But this one turned out to be different.

He remembers seeing the radar images of the vastness of the tempest bearing down on them, their island dwarfed next to it. The dire situation quickly became apparent. Antonio recalls his reaction: “Okay, we’re screwed.”

It wasn’t just Antonio that had to weather the storm – he had a company to tend to as well.

From Capstone Project to Company

Antonio and his cofounder, Alan Lopez, started Parknet when they were still engineering students in university. They used the idea for their Capstone Project, building a controller that could connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi or SIM cards and control a boom barrier or electromagnetic gate – “really anything that could be activated,” Antonio explains.

They approached a local company with their idea, proposing to them that they could reprogram their controller in real time.

“They actually challenged us,” recounts Antonio. “They told us, ‘Hey, that can’t be done.’” The company said the only way to reprogram it was to go into a computer, use their software, and reprogram the whole controller.

Antonio didn’t balk. “I told them, ‘No, we can actually hack your controller.’” The company didn’t budge.

“So, it was a challenge,” says Antonio. “And challenge accepted. Something that we’ve learned is that you never challenge an engineer and say that they can’t do something, because they will do it.”

Six months later, Antonio and Alan demoed for the company their “unhackable” controller working as they had originally pitched. Parknet was born.

Maria's Arrival

Parknet makes cloud-based controlled access systems which provide facility administrators the ability to control access points – think entry doors or parking gates – in real-time, through the use of a web-based app accessible from any device with an internet connection.

Antonio and Alan explored different routes for how to market their system in Puerto Rico.

“At first, we wanted to use it for a parking lot payment system. But we found a bit of resistance here from the parking administrators,” Alan explains. They shifted their focus to gated communities and apartment complexes.

They joined the Generation Four cohort of Puerto Rican incubator program Parallel18 in August. And then, in September, Maria arrived.

“After the hurricane, we had no cell phone communication, we had no Internet, no power. It was really depressing,” Antonio recounts. “Our business needs Internet. It’s an Internet of Things device, so it needs Internet to operate and it needs power. So we were kind of stuck there.”

They pivoted yet again, strategizing how to stay afloat and retain their employees.

“We had to survive,” Antonio says. “The sales cycle for gated communities and apartment complexes can be from four to six months. It takes a lot of time and a lot of meetings and convincing.” But they found that with commercial spaces, the process was faster. “We started selling to co-working places and offices.” One such customer is Parallel18 itself.

Antonio stopped paying himself in order to keep his team on payroll. “We were in survival mode,” he explains. He began working in generator repairs, a service in high demand on the island following Maria.

They weathered the monster storm and its lingering aftermath, and several months later the company was back on its feet. As Parknet started demanding more from Antonio, he wrapped up his generator repair work and went back to it full time.

3D Printing Before Moving to Manufacturing

In the Parallel18 program, Parknet crossed paths with re:3D.

They began using Gigabot to 3D print enclosures for their printed circuit boards, or PCBs. “We can build a box in like, two hours, and we can test it before we send it to the manufacturer,” Antonio explains. “The manufacturer had a minimum of 10 boxes, and if it didn’t work correctly, we were going to waste 10 boxes.”

Once they finalized the enclosure design, they moved to a sheet metal forming process, but they continued to turn back to Gigabot for custom requests. “One of the advantages is that we can offer a customer a custom design,” Antonio says. “If they want a diamond shaped scanner, we can build it for them. If they want it embedded into a gypsum board, we can also do that.”

One Parknet customer in San Juan who has requested a diamond-shaped scanner is El Almacén, a speakeasy-style bar tucked away just off the buzzing square of La Placita.

They’re using Parknet’s technology to text message patrons digital keys and grant them entry to the bar with the swipe of a phone. The door unlocks and the e-key-holder descends into an old-timey themed lounge.

It also gives the bar the marketing opportunity to track and quantify their marketing. They can compare how many people the text message key was sent to and how many people used it, rather than their old method, which was a post on their Facebook page with the password for the night. There is also the location-based aspect of it – if a patron gets within a certain radius of the bar, their phone will remind them that they have a key to the nearby locale.

Moving Forward Post-Maria

It’s just past the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall.

Puerto Rico has recovered fairly well given the incredible destruction of the storm. The land itself looks lush and green, and the people I spoke with are propelled by a resilient spirit and a desire to rebuild and strengthen their island for the future.

Antonio is one of those very people. Parknet came out the other side of Maria arguably a stronger company, with more applications and a wider customer base than he and Alan had originally imagined. It’s been a big cycle for them that has taken them through multiple major pivots in the company’s lifespan.

After the trials of Maria, Parknet is now focused back on gated communities and apartment complexes and is ready to tackle their original vision of parking lots.

Learn more about Parknet: https://site.xubo.io/

Learn more about Parallel18: https://www.parallel18.com/

The Last Lockdown

It’s a disturbing sight. The desk is scratched with graffiti, and a terrified-looking figure cowers underneath – a small girl – with fingers wrapped around one leg of the desk.

The haunting scene is only a statue, but the fear conveyed on the young girl’s face is real. The statistics etched into the surface of the desk say it all: “During the 2017-2018 school year, the US averaged more than one school shooting per week.” “Guns are the third leading cause of death for American children.” “22 kids are shot every day in America.” They go on.

Daniel Crumrine and Sean Leonard are the creative duo behind the jarring sculpture. Both senior creatives in the ad industry in Austin, Texas, the two were spurred on by the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida to put their advertising skills to work for a good cause.

“We were inspired by the youth who were taking charge and making their voices heard,” recounts Crumrine. “They were – and still are – desperate for the issue to remain top of mind. Unfortunately, we knew the issue of gun violence against kids and students would fade from the news cycle after a while until it happened again. This project is our way of drawing – and keeping – attention on the issue.”

The piece is in fact more than just one statue: it’s ten, scattered across the country on their September 15th reveal in cities from Irvine to Parkland.

The statues were strategically placed in districts “represented by members of Congress who receive a significant amount of money from the gun lobby,” explains Crumrine. The timing is no coincidence: it’s back-to-school season and midterm elections will be taking place in just a few weeks.

“We know the gun issue is a sensitive one with strong opinions on both sides and that one stunt or installation won’t solve all our problems,” says Crumrine, “but we want to engage both sides.”

The idea for the piece came about because they wanted to bring attention to an ugly truth that many prefer not to think or talk about.

“Even for parents, it’s difficult to imagine the drills their sons and daughters are being taught in school,” Crumrine says. “So we wanted people to not just conceptualize it, but really see it and feel it.” The drills alone can be a taxing experience for kids, and, as he puts it, “it’s important for that emotion to be relayed to adults.”

They settled on a sculpture for its interactive nature as well as its realism. “A three-dimensional statue forces you to stop and look at it. It’s tactile – you can go up to it and study it, touch it, interact with it,” says Crumrine.

“Another reason we thought this statue was interesting is because it flips what a traditional statue represents,” he says. “Most statues are celebratory or honorary. This captures a moment that should make you uneasy and your stomach a little unsettled. We wanted that emotive reaction.”

Design & Fabrication of the Statues

With the idea born, the pair began making moves to bring the project to fruition.

“After we came up with the idea, we brought on colleagues who could help us bring it to life,” Crumrine recounts. Caleb Sawyer was their go-to 3D modeler, and with a CAD sculpture in hand, they began pitching the idea to organizations within the national gun reform movement.

They immediately got a positive response from Manuel Oliver, whose organization Change the Ref works to raise awareness about mass shootings and reduce the influence of the NRA on the Federal level. Oliver’s son was one of the 17 murdered in Parkland.

The pitch also piqued the interest of Giffords, a prominent gun reform organization started by Gabrielle Giffords, the US Representative from Arizona who survived being shot in the head in an assassination attempt as she met with constituents.

The two uniquely-impacted individuals came together to lend their own touch to the project. “Mr. Oliver collaborated with us to refine the design of the statue and led the push to make it a guerrilla-style national launch, and Giffords funded the project and is bringing it to life,” explains Crumrine.

The actual creation of the statues posed its own set of challenges.

“Our first thought was to do a bronze casting,” says Crumrine. But they quickly discovered that process would be both cost- and time-prohibitive. They looked into other materials, like foam. “What it came down to, ultimately, was what gave us the most realism and what was most cost-effective,” he recounts. “3D printing pretty quickly became the obvious choice.”

They decided on a multimedia approach: they would 3D print the girl and use a real school desk, both finished with a post-processing technique to lend a bronze-casted look to the piece.

The perk of using Gigabot for the project is that the girls could be printed all in one go, with no need to affix different sections post-printing. At a height of about two feet, they fit easily within the build volume of the Gigabot XLT. The ten girls were printed in our Houston office and sent to PBE Exhibits where Adam Fontenault handled the post-processing.

“Our main goal throughout this part of the process was realism, from the size of the statue to the look on her face,” Crumrine says. “We even wanted the faux bronzing to look as realistic as possible. Adam lightly sanded the printed statues and primed them to smooth out any visible print lines. He used a mixture of materials to achieve the lightly-patinated bronze look.”

The result is a statue that looks casted, at a fraction of the price and time it would have taken to go through that process.

“We’re thrilled with the final outcome,” says Crumrine. “She looks very lifelike, and the detail on the print is amazing. The bronze paint brings out additional features and makes the whole statue really pop.”

Prompting Policy Change and Conversation

The installation has gotten some major press following its September debut, making headlines in AdweekThe Washington Post, and CNN, among others. It’s a big step for visibility of the project, whose intent is severalfold.

“The first is to raise awareness of how pervasive the issue of gun violence against children really is and to force people to confront it,” Crumrine explains. “The second goal is to show how art as activism can be a vehicle for positive change. And the third goal is to educate people and motivate them to demand change.”

It’s a hot-button topic with many complicated layers, but Crumrine and Leonard hope that the installation can break through partisan arguments to the ultimate message: keeping kids in school safe from gun violence.

“Inevitably, this issue is loaded with political baggage,” says Crumrine. “But we’re hoping this project can at least focus the conversation around how to keep our nation’s children from being innocent victims.”

The idea is to spark policy change as much as it is to spark conversation.

“We hope we get strong reactions from both sides. We want it to be uncomfortable to see because it’s an uncomfortable thing to talk about,” Crumrine explains. “There will always be people who viscerally accept its message or viscerally reject it. But we want the people in the middle to consider what it’s actually saying.”

And as for the name of the cross-country installation?

“The title of the piece is ‘The Last Lockdown,’ because that’s the ultimate dream outcome,” explains Crumrine. “We want to help create a world where we’ve already seen the last one, but we’re not naïve enough to think it’ll happen overnight. This is hopefully a step in that direction.”

The Last Lockdown statues can be seen in the following ten cities:

Irvine, California

Parkland, Florida

Sarasota, Florida

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Houston, Texas

St. Paul, Minnesota

Las Vegas, Nevada

Denver, Colorado

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Spokane, Washington