Making a Syracuse University Economics Class Accessible Using Gigabot

Working in the 3D printing industry, one can become accustomed to consistently being surprised and impressed by new use cases of the technology. But every so often an application of Gigabot comes around that truly stands out, both as a demonstration of the power of the technology to do good as well as testament to a user thinking out of the box.

This particular story from Syracuse University does just that.

Watch Part 3 of their story to see this creative, inspirational use of their Gigabot to aid a student.


Syracuse University 3D Printing Projects

The Syracuse University Makerspace has quite a few 3D printers on hand – from super small wood-frame models, to a shelving tower of Makerbots, to their Gigabot (which, spoiler alert, now has a partner as of this year).

While they got Gigabot for the build volume – it was larger than anything else out there in their price range –what they realized is that its large bed could be beneficial for more than just really big prints. It can also function as a mini factory, cranking out dozens of smaller prints at a time. So while they have pushed their bot to long hours – John talks about one unusual print request they got from a visiting artist – they have also managed their heavy print workload in part thanks to being able to pack the bed full of smaller prints.

Watch the second video in the Syracuse series to hear about some notable projects that Syracuse University’s Gigabot has been a part of.


From Music to Making: The Syracuse University Makerspace Story

On May 4, 1985, a live music venue in Upstate New York called the Jabberwocky closed its doors for the last time. From 1969 to 1985, big names like James Brown and Talking Heads traveled through and played shows for packed crowds made up of mostly students from Syracuse University.

But the space wasn’t done for good. In 2014, the doors of the old Jabberwocky opened again, not as a club but as a makerspace. (The space also served as a computer lab in between its time as a music venue and now). The Syracuse Information Technology and Services (ITS) Makerspace is home to a host of machinery, from CNC to commercial-grade embroidery, and of course 3D printing. From music to making, the creative energy in the room is strong.

One person who has bridged the gap between the two worlds is John Mangicaro, a musician who once played on the stage of the Jabberwocky and now runs the makerspace as the Instructional Technology Senior Engineer.

In the first video in this multi-part story series, John takes us through the different services and machinery that the makerspace offers and recounts the story of one student who used the equipment to get a business idea off the ground.

Groundbreaking Veterinary Cancer Treatment with Texas A&M

This is a two-part video story. Part one is below, part two is at the bottom of the post, and touches on the other ways Dr. Deveau put Gigabot to work at the University.

Texas A&M’s Veterinary School is training the vets of the future, and they have the tools to prove it.

Dr. Michael Deveau, Radiation Oncologist and Clinical Associate Professor at the University, began following the news of emerging 3D printing in the veterinary space several years ago. He saw a potential for the technology in his practice both as a teaching tool and surgical aide, but what originally piqued his interest was something a little off the beaten path.

It was the plight of a small dog named Cootie that ultimately fueled the university’s acquisition of Gigabot.

Cootie and her desperate owner traveled from New Jersey to Texas, hoping to get her on an experimental trial for her Cutaneous Lymphoma, a rare type of cancer that affects the skin. The treatment employed in humans had been deemed impossible to clinically implement in the veterinary field, meaning a death sentence for animals affected with the disease. With the barrier protecting their body from the outside world compromised, animals either succumb to infection or have a loss of quality of life to such a point that their owners elect euthanasia.

Dr. Deveau had a different plan in mind for Cootie.

Employing Gigabot, he set about using 3D printing in a fashion never before employed in the veterinary field. He’s eager to point out that this was only one patient, but the results they achieved were nothing short of astounding.

Dr. Deveau hopes that the technique he’s developed can be adopted by other treatment centers around the world to address those animals diagnosed each year with this previously untreatable condition.



Read more about small animal oncology at Texas A&M:

For information Texas A&M’s Veterinary Medicine department:

The Red Hook Regatta

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in September, deep in the industrial Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, far from any subway stop, hundreds of people gathered at the water. They were there to watch an event – the only of its kind in the world – called the Red Hook Regatta. It’s currently the world’s only 3D printed boat race, and this year’s second annual drew a cheering crowd that pushed five hundred.

The event was started by David Sheinkopf, who heads the Tech Department at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works. The race itself is part of a collaboration between Pioneer Works and the Red Hook Initiative, both nonprofits in Red Hook that blend art, education, and technology. They hatched the idea for the race with the goal of honoring the neighborhood’s shipping history with a boat race that could function as both an educational tool and a community unifier. Capitalizing on the buzz of 3D printing as well as the technology’s utility as a boat-constructor, a 3D printed, remote-controlled boat race was born.

Working with the Red Hook Initiative’s Digital Stewards, a group of 18-24 year-olds applying teachings in digital media and technology to civic journalism projects, the race began to take shape. Over the course of several weeks, the stewards designed their boats, learning the power and complexity of CAD software, culminating in printing their boats on Gigabot.

On race day, hundreds of spectators gathered to watch the boat captains navigate their creations through the waters of Brooklyn’s Valentino Pier, dozens of 3D printed boats paying homage to what was one of the nation’s primary shipping ports in the 19th century.

This is the story of the Red Hook Regatta.


Pioneer Works:

Red Hook Regatta info:

Read Engadget’s account of the 2016 Red Hook Regatta:





Books & Bots: The Lab in the Library

Clear Lake City, a community in the Bay Area of Greater Houston, is a name you might not immediately recognize, but it’s the site of a couple things you probably will.

Most notably the home of the historic NASA Johnson Space Center, its Mission Control can be picked out in famous scenes from the 1969 moon landing or movies like Apollo 13 and The Martian. It’s the Houston in “Houston, we have a problem.”

Also not to be forgotten in Clear Lake’s list of places you’d know is our very own office.

Just down the street from the re:3D Houston office is another place putting Clear Lake on the map for technological innovation, one which you might not expect: the Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library.

“This all started back in 2013 when we were notified that the library was named in a will: Mr. Jocelyn H. Lee’s, whose name is on the lab.”

Jim Johnson, Branch Manager of the library, explains how there came to be a tech innovation lab — complete with laser cutter and multiple 3D printers — in the middle of a library in Clear Lake.

“We had no expectation as to how much he might have left us. Once we did find out, I fell out of my chair. It was about $134,000.”



Evolving to Survive

The library as an institution has defied odds in the face of technology. Fighting the battle against obsolescence, libraries have made it through multiple threats to their livelihood, their survival owed to the nimbleness of their leadership.

“Largely because of technology, libraries, especially public libraries, have had to constantly adapt,” Jim explains. “Once computers became more prevalent and the internet started making headway, libraries as a rule had to adapt in order to stay alive, and not merely just for the sake of staying relevant, but staying relevant to what’s important to people in the way that they acquire information.”

The unexpected and extremely generous donation was an opportunity for the library to do just that.

“We started looking at some trends out there in public libraries around the country and found that makerspaces were beginning to catch interest in communities. Being such a strong engineering community in Houston — from aerospace to chemical — we thought that we probably had the space here to do that kind of thing. We didn’t really see how we could lose if we did it right.”

So they got to work, repurposing the library’s Quiet Room — “It’s hard to imagine a quiet room being needed in a library,” Jim adds — to accommodate some heavier machinery than most libraries are used to having. Next on the list was finding the right person to head the lab.


From Tinkering to Training

 “I was a stay-at-home dad before this.”

Patrick Ferrell was the man brought on for the job of Innovation Lab Trainer. “Before a year ago, the library was a place I brought the kids for storytime. I had never touched a 3D printer until after I found out I got this job.”


A natural tinkerer and hobbyist, Patrick’s professional background in mechanical engineering and physics lent itself well to what the library was looking to do. He now organizes and leads classes on everything from basic circuits and programming to robotics and structure-building with marshmallows and spaghetti.

“Whatever it looks like we need to do in order to cater to the audience we have,” he explains. “Since we’re the only space like this in the county system — and all of Southeast Texas as far as I know — I have a fair bit of latitude and freedom in what kind of classes we offer. Whatever I think looks like fun is what we do. If other people think it looks like fun too, then they come in and we keep offering it.”

His tactics have been working. As Jim put it, “Any success that the space has had is really largely due to Patrick’s influence.”

Walk into the lab and you’ll see what it’s all about. The walls are lined with eye-catching machinery and class creations. A “Cardboardosaurus” T-rex head hangs above their Gigabot in one corner; in another is an outer-space-themed piece of art made entirely using filament from abandoned and failed 3D prints, the masterpiece of one very creative library shelving assistant. Tribute to the original tech influence of the area you can find several NASA-themed 3D prints around the room, among them a several-foot-tall rocket and a model of the Orion space capsule. The laser cutter was my personal favorite — intricate wood, paper, and cardboard portraits adorned the wall next to the machine — proving that two-dimensions can still be cool.





Trend-Following to Trend-Setting

The recent boom in interest in desktop 3D printers allowed the library to tap into the trend and retain its relevancy in the community by getting several printers for the lab.

With a Gigabot in addition to two desktop-sized Makerbot Replicators, they also have the advantage of boasting a print volume unmatched by many local makerspaces. Because of this, they often get called on when a project has hit the size ceiling at another facility.

One of Patrick’s favorite projects so far was one by a local Houston teenager, Nicholas. He had been working with Techno Chaos, a local makerspace, the director of which knew that the library had a Gigabot.

“The director, Mike, called me up and said, ‘I’ve got this kid who’s designed a Freddy Fazbear costume and we’ve printed it on the MakerBot, but he wants to make it full-size. Do you think you could help him?’”

It was the longest print the library had taken on at the time.

“Just the head of the costume was a 44 hour print. But Nicholas was passionate about the project, and his persistence and perseverance enabled him to complete the entire thing successfully.”

What’s made it all worth it for Patrick is seeing success stories like Nicholas’s. “His parents would come in and say, ‘It’s good to see him excited about this kind of thing.’ Finding some outlet for him to be creative in that way was really great. Seeing him so excited, that’s what made it all so rewarding for me.”

And the sentiment is catching.

Patrick told the story of how Nicholas displayed his large-scale print at his booth at the local maker faire. “The director of the Harris County Public Library system was really impressed with his project. When it came time for budget talks, Nicholas and his dad went before the county commissioner’s court to say, ‘This is why libraries are important. This gives our son a place to go to use tools like this.’ The commissioners then asked, ‘How can I get one of these in my precinct?’ They see someone like Nicholas who’s passionate about this, excited about it, and they want to give more young people access to it.”


Challenges on the Front Lines of Innovation

Jim and Patrick have seen firsthand what doors the Innovation Lab has opened for the local community, and they understand the value that technologies like 3D printers can bring to the right people.

“Schools are starting to have the smaller printers, so if you’re doing a school project, that’s great,” Patrick explains. “But if you’re doing a personal project, then you’re kind of out of luck. You’re either sending your file off to Shapeways and paying outrageous amounts, or you have to find someone on 3D Hubs, but it’s really hard to find somewhere that can print at the scale of what’s possible on Gigabot.”

On top of large-scale printing, there is another big selling point that sets the Innovation Lab apart from similar spaces in the area and around the country.

“What’s special about our makerspace is that we don’t charge dues or membership fees,” says Patrick. “The only thing you’re paying for is the material you use.”

The fact that the space remains open and accessible to the community is a core tenet of the library. The creative potential there is seemingly limitless — the machinery they have on hand coupled with its accessibility is a recipe for unbridled innovation. But being the first to tread through this territory means the library is crossing bridges as they go; the excitement of being on the front lines of innovation comes hand-in-hand with its challenges.

One thing they’ve encountered is the gap between the public’s general expectation of 3D printing and the reality of the technology.

“I don’t know, you mean I have to design it myself? Can’t you just design it for me? I have a picture, can’t we use that? What if I sketch it out on a piece of paper? I found this picture on the internet, is that good enough?” Patrick runs through the common questions he gets from some people when they first come in to 3D print. “Once we get over that hurdle, then people are more interested and they’ll start printing.”

Another thing they struggle with is demand for large-scale 3D printing, due in part to the gimmicky phase that desktop 3D printing is going through.

“Many people who come in are printing little trinkets. It satisfies the ‘Hey look, I 3D printed something’ desire, and they don’t need to go further,” says Patrick.

People are still figuring out how they can use 3D printing to make something practical. The intent in creating Gigabot was to serve just that purpose: a 3D printer at a scale large enough to print practical, real-world objects rather than just small trinkets.

Patrick speculates that the intimidation factor of the sheer size of a large-scale 3D printer adds to this tendency to avoid Gigabot in favor of their desktop printers. With a steep learning curve for 3D printing in general, expanding the build volume several orders of magnitude certainly can complicate things.

This is something that may prove to be the biggest challenge for libraries looking to open internal makerspaces: how do you tap into and attract the group of people who have a genuine need and use for these technologies? A long-term sustainable plan may not be able to rely on a stream of one-time visitors only there to print their name on a keychain and check a box on their bucket list, not to return again.

What spaces like this need are superusers, people who will return week after week, month after month, because they have a practical use for the machinery.



Lessons Learned for Libraries

 At re:3D, we talk to a lot of people — inventors, entrepreneurs, tinkerers — with a clear use for large-scale 3D printing, but a lack of a budget with which to get one. To have access to a space where the only cost is a material fee would be the difference between bringing a product to market and never having the idea leave the drawing board.

A big reason 3D printing has flourished as a tool for businesses is its knack for prototyping. Companies can eliminate the need for third-party designers and injection mold do-overs, saving sizable chunks of time and money in the design and prototyping process. With a 3D printer, you could have a prototype made for as much money as it costs to do a few loads of laundry at the laundromat, in nearly the same amount of time. As Patrick explains, “Gigabot is great for designing a prototype which you want to market or show off to investors.”

Because of this, referrals have been a boon to the library, allowing them to offer their equipment to exactly these kinds of people: the garage entrepreneurs with plenty of ideas but not a lot of ways to make them a reality. Local makerspaces like the one that referred Nicholas — as well as the Houston Inventor’s Association, which also sends people their way who want to print big prototypes — have started to get the word out to their user bases.

In the meantime, the library is forging their own path in this new era of how communities interact with their local libraries. Jim is walking proof of the open and innovative mindset that must come with the librarian territory.

“I think that libraries are more about information and knowledge — a place to keep it and a place to use it — and I think makerspaces are a place to use information that you acquire. This is part of the reason why I think this is an excellent fit for libraries and allows them to remain relevant, not just for the sake of staying relevant, but as a practical place to learn something by doing. I think that hopefully, if other libraries catch on to this, you can easily have libraries remaining relevant not only as a place to absorb and acquire information, but also to use it in a practical way.

This has changed my perspective on libraries being only about books.




Do you or someone you know live in the area?  Go check out the Jocelyn H. Lee Innovation Lab on the second floor of the Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library.

See more photos of the lab

Visit their website

Check their facebook page for posts about classes

Read more about their lab offerings

Gigabot in the Classroom: Phoenix Charter School

Our head of sales, Morgan, recently caught up with CJ Bryant, the Advanced Technologies Teacher and Coordinator for Phoenix Charter School, a 190 student high school in rural Oregon. Their program features Gigabot and has quickly become a hot item at the school.  CJ tells the story below.

I’ve been here for about nine years. I started off as the transitions teacher, gearing students to be job- or college-ready when they graduated. It was about making sure that they wanted to go to college and had all the necessary things completed to do so.  Then our technology coordinator left, and I moved into that position.  I was teaching a few technology classes, but quite frankly, Microsoft Office is really boring to teach.

I talked to our Executive Director about getting a virtual reality simulator.  We taught the class as a computer-based graphics and a programming class, and then you’re also designing buildings, which is geometry. Then about four years ago, when drones were in their infancy, I went to our Executive Director and said, “This is really cutting edge stuff.  Soon there’s going to be hundreds or thousands of these things around; we could teach students to do useful things with them.”  We were ahead of the curve.

Being in western Oregon, our school has long-standing partnerships with the US Forest Service, and before I knew it, our quad rotor was in the woods with agency staff and students to learn if we could assist with tree vole nest surveys high up in the tree canopy.  That experiment led to changes we needed to make in our quad rotor: it needed to be bigger, faster, smoother, and more stable.  We thought, “If we had a 3D printer, we could print a new body and use all the components that we have.”  I went to a couple different teacher workshops, and they had all these really small 3D printers, and to me, that was useless.  I don’t want to make miniature chess pieces, I want to do something useful.  I saw the Gigabot and went, “That’s it! Two feet cubed?  That’s what I want.”

View More:

In Oregon, charter schools get about 64 cents on the dollar for every dollar that public schools get.  We have a lot less per student.  But we are fortunate to have a 30 year reputation that has built up many generous community donors, and our staff writes lots of grants.  I wrote up a proposal for the Executive Director, listed all the things Gigabot would enable us to do, and we got it.  One of the reasons we get some of the grants we get is that we’ve shown a pattern of success and increasing use of different technologies in learning, service, and employment — it’s a virtuous cycle.  When you show what you’ve done and you’re able to demonstrate that over and over again, that opens the doors to more support.

For us, Gigabot was the gateway technology.  The first piece of technology we had was the VR simulator.  Next was the quadcopter.  When we wanted to expand the size of our quadcopter, we got Gigabot.  Since Gigabot we’ve gotten a CNC vinyl cutter, a large-format 2D printer for blueprints and posters, and we’ve built a vacuum former.  Our next piece will be a CNC laser cutter.  There’s not much we can’t do right now.

What we’re doing here has opened doors for our students that I never expected.  We are building partnerships with different businesses. The Fixed Base Operator at our local airport, a trailer manufacturer, a metal fabrication shop, as well as local startup businesses are coming to us looking for students who can use AutoCAD and run a CNC machine or a 3D printer. The owner of a local trailer manufacturing company cannot find employees who can operate the high-tech equipment — there is one person in his shop who can run their CNC plasma cutter.  One.  Our CNC vinyl cutter works on the exact same principles and uses the same design software, so any of my students could go and run his process.


The most exciting thing I think we’ve done was when the symphony had a fundraiser at the school, the culinary arts department came to us wanting us to make chocolate molds for the fundraiser dessert.  We printed out musical notes on Gigabot, and students built a vacuum former so we could make the molds in-house.  It was a learning process.  When we can do things like build a vacuum former, now we’ve taken what we can do with our Gigabot to the next level.

We call this project-based learning.  Kids may be sitting in an algebra class thinking, “What would I ever need this for?”  Then they come to my class to create something and go “Whoa, how did you do that?”  In teaching them the math behind it, it clicks — this is what the math is for.  What we are doing is using a real-world application to teach math.  It’s far more engaging.

To get into teacher lingo: every state has standards that students have to meet.  Rather than teaching standards using a textbook, worksheets, and tests, I cover the same standards with projects. Students can check off several standards in one project.  Do the students know that they’re polishing off standards?  Not so much.  When do they find out?  When they go through the list that they need in order to graduate, and they realize they’ve already checked all the boxes. Project-based learning has several distinct advantages, the largest being that students can take you step-by-step through their project.  This ownership of their project makes education real, relevant, and lasting.

We are a charter school, and our target is to help with the community’s at-risk students — students at risk of not succeeding academically for whatever the reason.  We have students who have not had success in any of the other schools in the county.  What we do is teach them to be successful, to create that pattern of success.  By the end of it, you’ve got juniors and seniors who are taking community college classes at the same time that they’re here. 75% of the students who graduate here go up to the community college and enroll.

This is enabling them to be successful.  The job readiness skills they learn, the communication skills, the attention to detail, following instructions.  The process is entertaining for us, it’s fun for them, and project outcomes make a meaningful difference in our school and community.


One of my students asked me why we got the Gigabot.  I told him, “Think outside of the box for 30 seconds.  Now I want you to trample the box, because we’re never going back. Look at it.  What if we expanded it to the size of our classroom?  What could we print at that scale?”.  He just froze in his tracks.  That’s why we got the Gigabot.  What if we could take that giant printer down to New Orleans to the 9th District to people who still don’t have houses, and we print — using 5000 lb spools of filament the size of your arm — a house, complete with the conduit and the drain lines and everything, in 4 days?

The student said, “But nobody is doing that!”

Exactly!  Why would we want to do something that everyone else is doing?  It’s been paramount to getting students to think outside the box, to think about needs that need to be met, and where to go to solve big problems on a big scale.

I truly believe that we’re still in the infancy of 3D printing.  3D printing is still a toddler. What we can do with a 3D printer is going to so quickly expand, I think the size of it is going to be huge.

What Gigabot has done is much bigger than 3D printing, and that is releasing the imagination of students.  Inspiring them to genuinely learn, solve problems, and not just do worksheets and take tests.

I feel my job as a teacher is not asking students what they want to be when they grow up or what job they see themselves doing; now I focus my students on problems they want to solve.  What is the change you want to make, whose lives do you want to impact?  If you could create anything, what would you create first, and why? Tools like the Gigabot allow students to enter this mindset confidently. This makes my job the best in the world.


Spotlight on Gigabot @ The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago

I mentioned before that I interned at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago over the summer. The Field got its Gigabot in December, 2013. The Field’s Gigabot can be found in the Regenstein Laboratory, which is nestled within the bowels of the Traveling the Pacific exhibition. A huge glass window connects this realm of science to the world of museum-goers. This was where the party was at during my summer internship.

How was the Gigabot put together in the Regenstein?

We made this cool video of our team doing a Gigabot Assembly!

Where is the Regenstein?

“Start at the palm tree, go past the volcano, cross the coral atoll, sneak along one side of the genuine Micronesian canoe, and there you are.”

CT Scans to Gigabot

At the Field, a CT (computed tomography) Scan is one starting point for 3D printing. I’ve seen CT scans of a variety of human and animal mummies, historical musical instruments, and more. The CT scan then must be segmented (I did some of this!). This means that someone needs to work with the scan in a computer program to distinguish all the various material components of the object. For example, I had to separate bone from different layers of wrappings into separate regions of interest in a mummy cat.

The Field also gets creative with 3D models before any printing happens. For example, in the “Opening the Vaults” Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair” exhibit there was a giant touch screen table that showed an interactive 3D model of a mummy. Museum-goers can manipulate the mummy to swivel in any direction, unwrap the mummy, and reveal its cross-sectional layers.

In the exhibit, “The Machine Inside: Biomechanics,” there is a life size cheetah frozen in mid-run. The Biomechanics exhibit that travels internationally, however, uses a cutaway cheetah that was made using a 3D printed skeleton. The skeleton is a model based on photogrammetry of the cheetah taxidermy in the Field Biomechanics exhibit and a CT scan of a preserved cheetah body. Moving a real cheetah body around all over the world involves high risks of damaging it, but using a 3D model is much safer and more cost-efficient. The cheetah bones could be printed on site at these various locations. Gigabot was used to make smaller test prints of the cheetah bones back at home in the Field. Check out the photos below to see examples of final prints of the cheetah bones used in exhibits, and for additional information, visit and

3D Photogrammetry to Gigabot

3D Photogrammetry is the precise art of taking still photos–many photos from many different angles—of an object, and then combining these photos to create a 3D computer model of said object, which then can be printed out in 3D. I helped Regenstein Conservator JP Brown take hundreds of photos of a tiny wood-boring bivalve in the round at 10 degree increments. The lighting had to be just right—we tried dozens of various lighting setups in order to find out how much detail the 3D photogrammetry technique can produce.

A practice print of the shell in question:



Xbox Kinect Sensor to Gigabot

The clever people at the Regenstein also adapted an Xbox Kinect Sensor, which can sense movements of video game players, into a tool for generating 3D scans. Say, for example, I desired a 3D self-portrait of myself with which to admire my strikingly good looks. I would sit on the Regenstein’s very own makeshift spinning stool (it has its own motor and foot pedal and everything) while the sensor scanned all 360 degrees of my head. Voila! There is now a 3D computer model of my head, which can be now printed.

Jp heads


More Examples of Field Museum 3D Printed Projects

– replication of a proxy of a Chinese oracle bone for mount makers

– reproduction of Chinese Mingqi horse

– replication of skulls of animals

– production of 3D designs for education workshops

– reproduction of scans of ceramics from mummies.

(Thank you Regenstein Conservator JP Brown for sharing this list of projects and, many of the photos!)




Thanks to Gigabot’s size, these bracelets could be mass produced to hand out for educational purposes.

More fun with the Gigabot is available here!

Snapshots from 3D-scanning and printing the Cheetah:

bones in boxes



photogrammetry 1

CT scan mosaic

CT cheetah


[CT scanning the cheetah]

[black and white computer model]

computer model

[Blue and yellow Cura computer model]


[Bones on blue background]

For more information check out this blog

Thanks for reading! Go home and print something now.

Intern: Intern.obj