Trash to Treasure: from Reverse Pitch to ReStore

The dream has been the same, since the beginning of re:3D, to create a 3D printer that could print from trash. There was a problem though, first we had to create a printer (the Gigabot), and then we had to figure out a way to print directly from plastic waste (Gigabot X).

The Gigabot filament fed 3D Printer

So the first part of the dream was to create a large-scale, industrial 3D printer that was open-source and affordable, which is just what we did. The creation and sales of Gigabot has allowed re:3D to become a viable, profitable company. However, as a boot-strapped startup, finding more money, especially for R&D hardware projects was always difficult. But we never stopped believing that we could do it.

Two years ago we had the perfect opportunity to finally fund the creation of our Gigabot X 3D printer. The first was the WeWork Creator Awards, which awarded us the ability to expand our team, our facilities, and our R&D budget. The second was a Phase I SBIR (small business innovation research) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF grant was specifically for the creation of a 3D printer that could print from plastic waste. Subsequently we have received a Phase II award for this project to continue to develop an entire ecosystem to grind, dry, and feed plastic waste into the Gigabot X (GBX) printer that was developed as part of the Phase I grant. The dream was alive! The GBX was real!

The Gigabot X, pellet printer

Reverse Pitch:

Each year, the City of Austin, and specifically the Austin Resource Recovery department hosts an event called Reverse Pitch. Reverse Pitch is unique because it looks for companies within the Austin community who are creating waste that could be put to use in other areas or other businesses. The event starts with the Reverse Pitch, where the companies who are creating waste, pitch their product (trash) to businesses, entrepreneurs, or anyone interested. They talk about the quantities, the types of waste being produced, and any other pertinent information that might be useful.

Next, those who are interested in using one or more of the pitched waste-streams, put together a presentation and create a business model/use case around either creating or augmenting their business using the waste.

This past year one of the companies, HID Global, was pitching plastic polycarbonate (PC) sheets. They were the result of creating ID cards in their factory, and they were producing it in staggering amounts. The challenge was to figure out what we could do with it. I had the opportunity to go up to North Austin and tour the HID Global facility (which is amazing!) and see the process, meet the people, and get to know the waste-stream and company a little bit better. It is really amazing that this billion dollar company would be so warm and welcoming.

PC is a very common 3D printing feedstock. Our filament printing Gigabot prints with PC on a regular basis, in fact we use PC printed parts in all of our Gigabot printers. So I knew that it would be possible to print with this waste stream. Next, the entire process for HID to create their ID cards is done in a ‘clean-room’ environment, so we knew that the waste was extremely clean – another advantage because dirt can cause clogs and other issues in the printing process.

I made the pitch for a line of furniture, home goods, and art pieces to be printed on GBX directly from the HID PC waste. It was an idea that I called, Design: by re:3D. And, we WON! It was extremely exciting to win the pitch competition, and we received $10,000 to jump-start the idea (You can see the video here).

But then the joy turned into nervousness – we needed to divert 2,000 lbs of HID PC from the landfill, and quickly! What were we going to do with all of this stuff?

Serendipitously enough, one of the judges for the Reverse Pitch just so happened to work at the Austin Habitat for Humanity ReStore. We struck up a conversation after the competition, and set up a meeting with their team to discuss the idea of turning trash into treasure, and then selling it at the ReStore.

Talk about a dream scenario!

It has been a lot of work to get to this point, almost a year later! The ReStore allowed us to install a small industrial grinder in their back room, and allowed us to send interns over to spend HOURS grinding away at the 2,000lbs of PC that we had picked-up from HID.

We are so excited to announce that the first pieces of furniture are being displayed and put up for silent auction at the ReStore today! These pieces have been printed from waste plastic, this first batch is from plastic water bottles specifically. As we progress with our technology, and hone in our printer settings we are confident that we will be able to print objects from the diverted PC. We have successfully printed small vases and other objects, and we are going to be moving up to furniture shortly.

We are really looking forward to growing our relationship with the Habitat ReStore. And we are so thankful for the continued support from the City of Austin, the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), and all of the many many more people who have believed in our story and helped us along the way. We look forward to continuing this work, diverting more trash from the landfill, and growing our business and team here in Texas.

On designing this collection:

By Mike Battaglia

When looking around reStore, I was looking for something that would usually be in stock and was an easy shape to design around. For my first piece I settled to design around 2x2s after seeing a bench outside made entirely of them.

The first design relied on glue to keep it together and I ultimately decided that this wasn’t sustainable. To complete the loop, I wanted the chair to be able to be disassembled, ground up, and turned into new feedstock for GBX. The second design had screw holes so that the 2x2s could be fastened and removed/disassembled. I definitely prefer this design but have already moved on to other ideas that will be even easier to assemble.

Lead Designer: Mike B. Assembling Furniture

Designing for GBX requires adding a little bit more tolerance than you would for a regular print. The layers are larger and slightly less consistent. I learned the hard way when realizing that the tolerance I had designed in was not enough, and had to plane down each piece of wood to fit.

Currently I am experimenting with 3D printed molds for pouring reclaimed cement+polycarbonate scrap into to create side tables.

Check out a quick video about the furniture:

What do you think we should make next? Email: info@re3d.org and let us know!

FFF1: Our FFF1rst Polymer Derby

On April 9, 2019 re:3D hosted the first annual FFF1: Polymer Derby!  You may be wracking your brain trying to figure out what we are talking about here, so let me explain:

We challenged each other to a gravity car racing competition.  Quite similar to a Pinewood Derby (in fact we borrowed a pinewood derby track from local Cub Scout Pack 595) – each competitor designed a car, printed it on Gigabot, attached some wheels – and we were off to the races on derby day!

As a distributed team, with competitors in Houston, Austin, Puerto Rico, and New York – we established a rule from the start that you must design your own car  and if you require help with your design (since not everyone is a 3D design wizz) you had to reach out to someone in a different location from your home office.

We thought this was a great opportunity to not only get everyone designing and printing in 3D – but to also make sure that our distributed team members interacted with someone from a different office on something fun that wasn’t just work related.

Almost immediately after announcing the competition, (in mid-January) we had questions, everyone wanted to know the rules, which admittedly didn’t yet exist, and our engineers were particularly interested in finding loopholes in said rules so that they could cheat the system.  I promised the team that I would write-up an entire tome of rules and got to work, we started with the basic size parameters (borrowed from the pinewood derby to fit their track), and then added layer upon layer of bureaucracy and ridiculousness on top of what should be a relatively straightforward idea (I will post rules examples at the very end of this post).

The cars had to:

  • Weigh no more than 5.00 oz
  • Length shall not exceed 7 in
  • Width shall not exceed 2.75 in
  • Car must have 5/16″ clearance underneath
  • Wheels must be unmodified (we gave everyone a standard set of wheels)

Ultimately the designs were up to each individual’s creativity.

Come derby day, there was an amazing diversity in designs.  The track was setup in the front showroom of our Houston HQ.  We had an official weigh-in and measurement period to check that all cars conformed to the rules.  We made up t-shirts to memorialize the day.  And then we started the competition.

Each competitor chose a number from a hat – to get randomly assigned a place on our competition bracket.  We then competed best out of 3 heats, with racers switching sides (there were only 2 racers at a time) after each heat. As the day went on, the biggest determining factor in the fastest cars was the weight.  Any racer that was below 5.00 oz was at a distinct disadvantage, and all of the cars in the quarter-finals and beyond were at the target weight exactly.

When all was said and done we had a winner! Technically we had two winners – the Fastest Car – won the racing piece of the competition.  The Flyest Ride – was voted as the best looking car by all of the competitors.   Congratulations to Samantha (fastest car) and Mitch (flyest ride).

Stay tuned for more Polymer Derby fun, as this will definitely become an annual event at re:3D, and perhaps across the world?!  Sign-up for our newsletter to always be up-to-date on what’s happening at re:3D.

Looking forward to next year's competition!

International Polymer Derby Congress Rules & Regulations (These are just a small sampling of the rules for this competition):

  1. Cars shall be 3D printed – in any material that is currently able to be 3D printed.
  2. The majority of the car shall be printed on an FFF/FDM style 3D printer, but does not have to be printed in one piece.
  3. The car must be free-wheeling, with no starting or propulsion devices

Inspections:

The day of the race, while style voting and race seeding is taking place, race officials will open the Inspection Zone:

  1. Cars will be Inspected individually for conformity to all rules of the IPDC and the Polymer Derby Championship Racing Series (PDCRS).
  2. Each car will be weighed (see weight requirements Sec. 1.2 A-I. above)
  3. Each car will be measured for length, width, ground clearance, and wheel clearance (Sec. 1.2B – I-IV).
  4. Each car will be thoroughly inspected for any potential safety or hazard violations
  5. Each car’s wheels will be gone over with a fine tooth comb, as modification of stock wheels is strictly prohibited (In accordance with Sec. 1.2 C – I & II)
    1. Any car found to have illegal modifications to the wheels is subject to being gleefully smashed with a hammer by a race official (viewer discretion is advised)

Failed Inspections:

  1. Any competitor’s car that is found to not pass inspection will have an opportunity to adjust/fix their vehicle and have it re-inspected. An explanation of why the car failed inspection will be given to each competitor and the racer will have 10 minutes to make the proper adjustments to bring their vehicle into conformity with the race rules.
  2. If the racer fails to bring their car into conformity within 10 minutes, fails to present their car for re-inspection before the 10 minute time period is up, OR fails the inspection for a second time – the car is no longer eligible for the Fastest or Flyest awards (Sec. 8 Subsec I-III.), but is eligible for the Junker award (Sec. 8 Subsec. IV.).
    1. Cars that fail the secondary inspection may still participate in the tournament for fun, but will not be eligible to win.
    2. If you make illegal modifications that go undetected by the judges, but manage to make your first run before judges take notice, you may continue using your illegal car without reprimand. Gamble at your own risk.

Style Voting:

While the fastest car down the track is the ultimate winner – there will be style points given out for the car that looks the best.

  1. Subjective voting will take place by each competitor at the beginning of the competition.
  2. The voters/competitors may use any method of determining the best “looking” car that they see fit.
  3. Each competitor will fill out a secret ballot to determine their favorite car.
  4. Each competitor will vote only once and can not vote for themselves
  5. Bribes for style votes, while not illegal, are harshly discouraged.

Grievances:

Official grievances may be filed.

  1. For a grievance about a particular heat/race the grievance will only be valid if:
    1. Filed within 180 seconds of the race ending, in written form, adhering to the following parameters:
      1. Printed, in landscape orientation, on standard sized paper (8.5”x11”)
      2. Comic sans font
        1. font size = 17.5pt.
      3. The grievance must follow the standard limerick format
        1. Five lines – 2 long, 2 short, 1 long,
        2. Rhyme scheme AABBA
      4. Sent via USPS standard mail, postage paid to:

International Polymer Derby Congress
Department of Rules, Grievances, and Dispute Resolution
re:3D, Inc
1100 Hercules Ave, Suite 220
Houston, TX 77058

Or hand delivered, with a bow/curtsey, directly to the Rules Czarina or Czarina designate for an immediate ruling

Awards:

  1. Fastest: Fastest car to win the final race, wins the Polymer Derby Champion Award
  2. Flyest: Top vote getting car for style wins the “Best-in-Show” – Flyest Car award
  3. Little Miss Fly-Ride Should the top style car and top speed car be one in the same – the title of “Champion of Champions” or “Little Miss Fly-Ride” will be bestowed upon the winner along with lavish praise and an award of at least one but not to exceed 100 cheap beers.
  4. Junker: The “Junker” award goes to any car that fails to make it down the track, or breaks at any point during the competition.  It is quite embarrassing.
  5. Flunker: The “Flunker” award goes to any car that fails the pre-race inspection, and is not eligible to win awards I-III of this section.

The GSA Advantage: Part 1

As a self-identified “knower of totally random facts” I pride myself on the amount of odd pieces of information that happens to be floating around in my brain.  And while I did have some idea about what GSA was; going through the process of getting awarded a GSA Contract for re:3D was one heck of a learning experience.

So lets start simple, what is the GSA?

The General Services Administration (GSA) is an agency within the federal government that helps the government to function.  That is their job in the most basic and simple terms I could come up with.  Government real estate (leasing and management), government acquisition services (procurement and contracting), plus best practices and policy guidance, all of these things fall under the GSA, and I am sure there are loads of other functions that I don’t even know about.

I was most familiar with the GSA through their GSA Auction website.  Do you ever wonder where you can buy an airplane, old refrigerators, and 5 barrels of spent brass shell casings?  Why the answer is simple – bid on it, the GSA is selling!!  GSAAuction.gov sells anything and everything that the federal government and it’s agencies no longer want.  I personally enjoy the listings for old lighthouses, I mean – who doesn’t want to own a lighthouse? My favorite listing by far was the lighthouse for sale (which had multiple bidders!) that had a Coast Guard maintained fog horn which operated a decibels “higher then recommended for the human body” – It would be like music to my ears as I sipped margaritas in my lighthouse cupola.

Why was it important for re:3D to get onto a GSA Contract?

Selling to the federal government is difficult.  We recognized that we had more and more interest from different federal agencies who wanted to purchase Gigabot.  These purchases took a long time, because the government buyer would have to get through a lot of red tape and a lot of different hoops in order to purchase our products.  So in the interest of saving our buyers time, we took on the task of becoming a government contractor and getting on a Multiple Award Schedule.

What is a Multiple Award Schedule?

A Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) is basically a category that government contractors apply to sell in.  For instance, re:3D is in Schedule 36. Schedule 36 is The Office, Imaging, and Document Solutions category, and within each schedule are sub-categories or Special Item Numbers (SIN), in our case SIN: 51.400 – 3D Printing Solutions. So to put it all together, and really test our acronyms – re:3D is a MAS 36 SIN 51.400 GSA Contract Holder – hooray!

What does that mean for me?

The answer to that, as always, is: it depends.

Are you just a person, with no government connections? Then this post is really just informative, and won’t have any real bearing in your day-to-day life, but stay tuned because I will follow-up with an even more in-depth meat and potatoes post about getting a government contract -real edge of your seat reading.

Are you part of a government agency or subcontractor who is allowed to purchase products through GSA? Do you need a Gigabot 3D Printer? Then you’re in luck!

The reason companies are required to go through the GSA contract procedures are numerous, but the most important one for the government is the guarantee that the government buyers are getting the best price possible.  Which means that all pricing of all products is pre-negotiated with your assigned GSA Contracting Officer (Hi, John!).

Contract awardees (that’s us!) are then able to upload their products onto the GSA Advantage website (gsaadvantage.gov), think of it as Amazon for the federal government.  Government buyers can then search for products to purchase, everything from pens, to desks, to 3D Printers can be purchased through the GSA Advantage website.

Through the GSA Advantage we have created Federal Packages, available only through GSA.  These packages include Gigabot (Standard, XL, XLT), the wheeled cart, PrintinZ, Simplify3D, 3 Year Warranty, and CONUS shipping.  Printing HUGE has never been easier to attain for government buyers!

Over the next year we are going to be putting a lot of effort to marketing our products to government buyers.  It isn’t enough just to get onto a Schedule Contract, you actually have to sell if you want to keep your contract.  Our goal is to look for opportunities to speak and exhibit at government-centric events this year, with the hopes of talking to the right people to make some sales!

Look out for part two of my blog about GSA, where we will go a little bit more in depth about the process of getting onto a contract, everything from eOffer, to SIP, to SAM.gov.

Happy Printing!

~Mike

michael.straong@re3d.org

 

Investment Casting with 3D Printing

The following post was written by Todd Ronan. Todd joined the re:3D sales team after hearing a Co-Founder panel discussion on 3D printing & recyclable material at IEEE. From Michigan, parts Northwest, and now Austin (Portland’s si(hip)ster city) he is a Futurist, passionate about evolving technology, dreamer, and enthusiast of fine meade.

The thousand year old lost wax casting process has been revolutionized by the Human-Scale 3D printing of Gigabot

Several re:3D customers have augmented their foundries with Gigabot 3D printers because of the time savings, cost savings, and ability to convert more jobs into happy customers.

In traditional investment casting, a wax model is dipped into a ceramic slurry which is then allowed to dry. The resulting hard ceramic shell is then heated to melt the wax away, leaving a perfect model negative where the wax used to be.

Modern foundries however, have been making the move to 3D printing as a means of creating models for casting. With the ability to use  PLA prints in place of the wax models of old, 3D printing provides a cost efficient alternative method for producing investment casting patterns.

In layman’s terms: hot melted plastic can be printed in any shape, in any size, and allows for a cost efficient alternative to the traditional technique of lost wax casting.

In the past, 3D printers lacked the size to perform life-sized pieces and large format 3D printers, starting at $100K have been cost prohibitive. Enter re:3D’s Gigabot at 1/10th the price. A 3D printer with an 8 cubic foot build space for super-sized 3D printed parts.

Anyone lucky enough to find themselves outside of Austin in Bastrop will notice the beautiful, large bronze pieces of art around the city. These are courtesy of a high-point on the Austin Cultural Map tour, Clint Howard’s Deep In The Heart Art Foundry. Jamie and Clint Howard purchased the foundry in 1999, and have become the premier statuary design and manufacturing business in the state of Texas.

casting2With demand for large pieces the foundry added a Gigabot FDM printer to their arsenal a couple of years ago. Instead of the long curing process associated with wax models, their Gigabot can make any design using standard CAD program, and print HUGE in PLA. It just so happens that PLA burns out just as clean as wax! The cost savings was almost immediate – cutting months and thousand of dollars off traditional casting allowing for increased bandwidth for contract pieces, and substantial revenue increase. With increased demand for printing, Deep in the Heart ordered a second Gigabot printer to keep up with the demand.

Another re:3D satisfied customer: family owned and operated Firebird 3D, located in Troutdale Oregon, recently participated in the Columbia River Highway centennial celebration.  Parts on this Model A (shown below) were Gigabot printed and cast along with this Rip Caswell piece, Devoted Passion, a re-telling of the exploration and creation of this amazingly scenic Pacific Northwest highway.
casting3
At Firebird they still use their traditional processes of wax casting but can use wax filament or PLA to print larger bronze pieces. It burns out, leaving a small amount of ash in the shell mold, which can be removed with washing. 3D printed PLA plastic burns out cleanly and is a more durable and more easily handled than a wax part. Chad Caswell (shown below) checks the layer height of their next print. They are, literally and figuratively burning through filament with a cost savings up to 70% by reducing labor!

casting4

We just got word Deep in the Heart purchased a 3rd Gigabot to help with workflow and high demand, and now has three 8 cubic foot 3d printers printing (money) while their workers sleep.

re:3D urges: Try a FREE print on us. Find out if Lost Wax (minus WAX + PLA) works for you! Please contact Todd@re3D.org for additional info on Gigabot 3D printers and lost wax castings!

IMTS 2016 – My Top Picks

Below is Gigamachinist Steve Johnson’s blog on IMTS 2016:

IMTS 2016 – My Top Picks

by Steve Johnson

A few months ago, IKO International, asked re:3D if we would like to showcase Open Gigabot at their booth at International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2016 in Chicago. It would feature their linear rail system incorporated into our printer design, and would allow us to showcase our 3D printers among some of the world’s top manufacturing companies. Naturally, re:3D was thrilled to accept the opportunity to display at our first IMTS.

I have been running the machine shop at re:3D for just over a year, so my experience with 3D printing is still rather shallow, but my experience in manufacturing spans almost 25 years. And because I have a passion for mechanical design and manufacturing, IMTS is to me what Santa’s Workshop is to a 6 year old child. So when re:3D asked me to represent our team at IMTS, I was nervous and giddy all at once. Joining me to man our booth would be Jeric, an engineer from our team well versed in 3D printing. (and born around the time I entered the manufacturing industry) I was glad I would have his knowledge base to learn from and lean on during our time presenting Gigabot.

imts-1

With only 2 of us at the largest manufacturing show on this big blue marble we call home, it was very difficult to break loose from the re:3D display to visit other booths, and soak up some of the amazing displays being shown throughout the 1.37 million square feet of display space. We might slip out periodically, one at a time, to view a few booths close by, but for booths further away, we would need to arrive a  couple hours before the show opened to the public, so that we could freely view as much as time would allow.

 

imts-4

Over the course of 6 days presenting, we were able to meet hundreds of Gigabot admirers, and also meet several other companies who made a big impression on me in some way or another. These were my top 10 favorite booths from IMTS 2016, and why:

 

10) BobCAD-Cam – There are a lot of companies in the CAD/CAM market. Most, are simple CAM packages which aid the user in creating quick code for simple machine operations, and are reasonably inexpensive. A few, such as Autodesk, CATIA, Mastercam, and ProEngineer have gained a reputation as robust software packages capable of handling the most complex modern machine programming toolpaths in multi-axis environments. These companies also charge a premium price for their packages. And then there is BobCad. The best of both worlds. A high functioning CAD/CAM system at a price even a small business owner can easily manage.

Perhaps I am biased, as I use BobCAD version 28 in our shop at re:3D, to program the machines that make each part for every Gigabot 3D printer we sell. But there is no bias in saying that BobCAD has come a long way, and can compete with the big players in the CAD/CAM market at a price that makes the cost of other software packages seem bloated. And it is a standalone software. Create your solids, straight to code output in one software.

The folks at BobCAD had a relatively small booth in comparison to many of their competitors, but what it lacked in floor space, it made up for in content with a great staff of techs giving demos, and plenty of free swag. No nonsense high end results, and priced for everyone. Enough said.

bobcad-cam-booth-4

9) Autodesk – Autodesk is well known in the manufacturing industry as a leader in design software. So it is probably no wonder that they made my top 10. However, I did not pick their booth on the merit of their software, but rather for the content of their presentation. The Autodesk booth was the first thing you saw as you entered the East building from the skybridge. A massive booth among other software companies, Autodesk designed their area as a presentation stage. And it drew in the crowds all week as they did presentation after presentation on every topic you can think of in regard to manufacturing. (The free beer and coffee may have helped as well) But the one presentation that drew me in the most was a speech and Q&A with none other than Titan Gilroy, owner of Titan American MFG. For me, Titan is a true American success story that exemplifies the spirit of manufacturing excellence, and the drive to constantly improve our process. The desire to continually learn and adapt to an ever changing industry. And Titan shares his motivation and knowledge with the world via Youtube, as well as other appearances such as this. Having Titan speak from their booth was, in my opinion, a wise choice to connect to a broad demographic of manufacturers, big to small, and young to old. I made sure to get a signed poster for our team as well.

imts-autodesk

8) DMG Mori / Mazak – This one was a split decision. Even before heading to IMTS, I had heard that Mazak had something special on the horizon. And upon arrival, I quickly heard that DMG Mori was also following the same path. So a visit to each booth was a must.

I remember back in 1997 I attended a tool show in Houston where I was first exposed to 3D printing. The concept absolutely blew my mind. But as additive manufacturing began to gain more attention, I heard the rumbling and grumbling of people in my industry doubting its validity in the manufacturing environment. As time passed and the technology expanded, people on the manufacturing floor began to fear that 3D printing was progressing so much that they believed it would end the need for machinists, forcing us into an early retirement, and the end of a career field. So my visit to both the Mazak and DMG Mori booths was a calming to all the fears of the past, as I witnessed the first two machines to meld additive manufacturing with subtractive manufacturing. Each company presented a mill center capable of CNC milling combined with 3D metal printing. These two machines are not eliminating machinists, but instead, redefining machining, just as the CNC machine did to conventional manual machining. Barriers are being broken down, and new possibilities are being realized. Parts that were previously impossible to make are now a reality. Material requirements are being decreased. These two booths excited me about the future of our industry, and I left envisioning what will be possible tomorrow.

imts-2
7) Datron – This booth made my list, in spite of my previous bias. I had seen internet postings about this relatively new company, and their milling machines. I quickly formed an uneducated opinion that they were selling snake oil. So, when I visited their booth I was bound and determined to prove to myself that they were selling a toy, not a tool.

I could not have been more wrong. Yes, it hurts a bit to admit I prejudged Datron, but I also feel it is necessary to set the record straight. Here is a new company that took the basics of what a milling machine does, and threw the standard out the window to design something entirely new and fresh. From the 6hp spindle turning 60,000rpms at a feedrate of 866ipm, to the ethanol coolant mister, to the most innovative vacuum chuck I have seen yet, they did not fail to impress me. Add in a huge touch screen control that has no physical keyboard, and a camera based part zero system that makes setups almost instantaneous. Have they created the perfect mill? No. The machines still have a rather short Z stroke, and a very limited tool diameter capability. But what they have created is totally outside the box from traditional mill design. I do think their asking price on these machines is a bit high, but all things considered, I was pleasantly surprised with this company. Way to go Datron. I am now a big fan.

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6) Oak Ridge National Laboratories – When we speak of 3D printing, it is often difficult for people to envision a legitimate use for it. And most people instantly think of the tiny desktop printers that make tiny knick knacks to display. We at re:3D envisioned something bigger. A machine capable of building real world useful items and accessible to the masses. And then there is Oak Ridge National Laboratories. They took that concept to a whole new level. Upon entering their booth my eyes caught not only a Jeep on a completely 3D printed chassis, but a Cobra as well. Both are fully functional full sized vehicles. This was real world implementation of fused filament printing at it’s finest. But then it got better as I saw the office right behind them… which was also 3D printed. Yes, a full sized printed office structure. When you talk about making a big first impression, this should be the litmus for said impression. I am really looking forward to what they do next.

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5) Stratasys – For people involved in additive manufacturing, Stratasys is a household name. They have been making impressive machines for years. Although a bit pricey, they are a solid company with a quality product and great features. At their booth this year, we got a chance to see a new printer utilizing a 4th axis rotary as well as a multi-axis printhead. This platform allows them to print parts without the worry of support material or overhang, and, less importantly, is mesmerizing to watch. Gone is the concept of extruding layers in a single plane.

I am told that they had a printer there that was capable of printing infinite length prints as well. I wish I had seen that and could report on it as well, but I apparently had tunnel vision aimed in on the multi-axis platform the entire time we were in their booth. Sometimes you miss stuff. It is a huge show. Even without seeing that printer, I felt this booth deserved serious props for WOW factor.

4) Fanuc – This one makes the list, not only for the Fanuc booth itself, but also for the massive presence their product had in so many other booths, including the IKO booth we were showing Gigabot in. Yes, if you have been in manufacturing long, you know who Fanuc is. From CNC control systems to robotic arms and delta systems, Fanuc has their hand in everything. Our booth featured a delta style part sorter that used IKO bearings in its assembly. Numerous other booths featured Fanuc robot arms performing various tasks involved with their product. And then there was the Fanuc booth. We witnessed a completely automated production line of mills running swag parts. Robots loading mills for first op, unloading, flipping, and reloading for second op, and then unloading, washing, and delivering parts as a finished product. All aspects of the line were Fanuc products. A fantastic display of the large variety of products they offer. And, of course, I cannot fail to mention the one item that had people talking all week. A massive robotic arm that was holding a brand new Fanuc Yellow Corvette, and manipulating the car all over the back corner of their booth. Yeah, that was a pretty sweet display of dexterity and power.

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3) MachMotion / Solidcam – A teamed up booth much like our own, the Solidcam booth was hosting MachMotion for this show. Solidcam is a machine programming software that runs native in Solidworks, and MachMotion is a control company who has their hands in many projects. For the Solidcam booth, they were showing a MachMotion mill control that ran Solidworks and Solidcam at the control, allowing on floor programming in a design environment. Solidcam was also giving away a pretty nice 4 wheel UTV at their booth, which they refused to draw my name for. But I won’t hold that against them. And MachMotion also had one of their control systems on an engraving machine in another booth that made me geek out for a bit. The MachMotion control allowed us to text the machine from any cellphone, at which point the machine would ask us what text we wanted to engrave. Reply with a line of text, and the machine would process our request by engraving our requested text on an aluminum thumb drive. Custom made swag is always the best swag.

 

2) IKO International – We cannot make this list without giving a shout out to the company who made it possible for us to attend IMTS in the first place. IKO welcomed us into their booth as a display of their linear rail system at work. We shared space with a couple other machines sporting IKO equipment. But the show winner for IKO… the machine that stole the limelight all week long… a simple claw machine built by a couple IKO engineers and salesmen, utilizing IKO ball screw systems. Loaded with IKO swag such as flashlights, notepads, and Rubik’s Cubes, the line to play the IKO claw machine stayed full all week. We may have gotten a bit jealous that it got more visibility than Gigabot, but in reality, we lined up a few times to play as well. Hey, it was fun.

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1) F.I.R.S.T. – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – An organization founded by Dean Kamen, had a huge presence on the C hall, and brought in students from 38 states and several countries to be a part of IMTS. This organization also had several activities planned for the students, which helped inspire these young minds to move forward to become the designers and manufacturers who will shape our future. I have to list them as my number 1 pick, as this organization is building our future, and helping our next generation to dream bigger, and reach beyond the stars. Thank you for all that you do.

 

Happy Printing!

steve@re3d.org

 

Gigabot Shapes Sound at Acoustics First

Acoustics First in Richmond, Virginia, USA

Acoustic Diffusers scatter sound and break up hard, contiguous reflections, allowing the sound energy to spread evenly throughout the space without interfering with the sound being produced.  They are used in many different environments: recording studios, audio mixing spaces, loudspeaker demonstration spaces, high-end home theaters, school concert and rehearsal spaces, churches, music venues, and some of the most renowned listening spaces in the world, which have stringent demands on their acoustic environments.  Our diffusers have been used in all of these and more.

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We have created a streamlined approach to developing diffusers: we have a virtual design and development process which includes the virtual modeling and testing to determine if it’s meeting our specifications.  However, it is invaluable to have a full-scale printed prototype in hand – allowing for real-world evaluation.  This is where the Gigabot comes into play.  It allows us to have designs in our hand at full scale, to verify our virtual development data under real-world observable and testable conditions.  With live prototypes in hand, we can measure the sound direction and intensity being reflected off the surfaces, which tells us if our development processes were successful, even before we go to production.

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We are firm believers in the efficacy of rapid prototyping, and it integrates well in our model of virtualized design, testing, and geometry optimization before manufacturing.

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Our Gigabot has allowed us to reach out further and work on designs that may have been too complicated to realize in any other way, as well as saved us time and money in the design process.

This process has helped the industry immensely, as we can easily prototype and test designs that would have been impractical — if not impossible — to create any other way. This allows for real innovation and process evaluation, which then evolves into designs we can offer to customers worldwide.

-Jim DeGrandis, Acoustics First

Bronze, Full-Scale Dinosaurs using 3D Printed Lost-PLA Casts

Deep in the Heart Foundry in Bastrop, Texas, USA

On Gigabot, we’re currently working on 16 dinosaurs – some up to 40 feet long. We’re directly going from printing finished panels to casting. 3D printing eliminates a lot of steps in the bronze casting process.  Normally the piece is sculpted at full scale, molded, and then cast through the lost wax casting process.

I’ve got our Gigabot running 24 hours a day now. When you’re a small business like us, spending $150k on a high-end 3D printer is a very hard decision to make.  For us, Gigabot was reasonable, we could afford to buy it, and in our situation, it’s putting out the quality level that we need.