Pitching for a Circular Economy: Why We Went to Hello Tomorrow in Paris

With the momentum of the Bunker Austin win behind us, Matthew & I flew to Paris and grudgingly paid the shipping for Gigabot to meet us in the gamble that either we would either 1) Get a selfie with Mr. Bloomberg (and much needed press) 2) meet someone willing to cover the bond & buy the ‘bot in France, or 3) we’d win our pitching track & return net positive.

It was a huge risk that our company really couldn’t afford in addition to our discounted flights and a shared hotel room (thankfully Matthew has a very supportive girlfriend with access to deals!). But as Matthew & I firmly believe printing from reclaimed plastics takes an ecosystem of problem solvers, which frankly needs more support, we felt that we had to attend once we were notified that we were pitching finalists.

We also were also intrigued by the premise of Hello Tomorrow, which unites technologists, academics, and corporations to solve the grand challenges facing humanity. 3D printing from trash appeared to be a perfect fit, and Gigabot had to be there. With the promise that we would print a kickass logo during the event, the incredibly kind Hello Tomorrow staff agreed to find space for Gigabot.

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Matthew arrived in Paris first from Houston, and greeted the oversized crate while I gave a talk on the social potential of 3D printing at Singularity University in effort to be considered as a speaker and then flew out from San Francisco.

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As we had witnessed at other events this winter, Gigabot arrived in perfect condition & was up & printing without any calibration. Jet lagged but determined to give it our all, we stayed up late practicing for the pitch competition the next day.

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The day kicked off with an outstanding keynote by Imogen Heap, who demoed her novel gloves to give more dimension to sound. Afterwards, we were humbled when she visited Gigabot and mused with us re: the intersections of community, technology & creativity. We (err….I) shamelessly asked to take a pic in return for a print.

Matthew unfortunately had caught a terrible cold from the travel & lost his voice, but powered through the day, ensuring Gigabot was tended to, I ate some food and we were set up for success at the competition.  We weren’t the only team committed to (or perhaps delusional about) our cause. The other startups were just as hungry to further their passion by building connections with other attendees, and meet corporations in order to foster partnerships. Even the Hello Tomorrow staff exemplified commitment to curating an ecosystem of problem solvers & pioneers, with a teammate receiving a Hello Tomorrow tattoo on stage live!

After witnessing one of the other finalists, Tridom, bring their impressively large robot to the stage, we seized the opportunity to roll Gigabot over as well, leaving the poor Hello Tomorrow staff with little space, and lengthy power chords to manage. However it was worth the inconvenience as our respective machines found love at first print & the selfies of Gigabot & Madeline were adorable.

Tensions mounted as each co-founder took the stage and presented the benefits our ideas offer society. The competition was fierce. Each company had significant traction, an impressive technology, and solid teams. Further adding to my nervousness was the realization that not only was this strongest cohort we had ever pitched against, but the judges were tough!  With Matthew manning Gigabot, I stumbled through slides & questioning. The judges challenged the market for 3D printing as whole as well as the profitability of printing from waste & thus eliminating the feedstock from what largely is a blade & razor model today. While I could certainly have done better, I did my best to build upon lessons learned from Atech in Aruba. I shared the promise of the growing industrial 3D printer segment, the opportunities to increase the market by enabling more people to fabricate onsite, and upside that direct drive pellet extrusion expands the library of printable materials while decreasing print times. Stepping off the stage I was sweaty, shaky, and confident we had lost. I apologized to Matthew, congratulated the team I thought had won and set our sights on the meetings we had arranged with L’Oreal, Michelin, and Airbus.

The afternoon flew by. We gave out all of the flyers we brought, and pitched several blue chip companies to give us access to their post-manufacturing waste. Gigabot had a blast 3D printing Hello Tomorrow logos for the staff & we found that while we likely hadn’t won our track, an unexpected gain from the event was that we had found our tribe.

The attendees were just like us: problem solvers spanning hard science, technology & impact. We met nonprofits such Claire from MSF (Doctors Without Borders) and academics from around the world that challenged us with their questions & feedback. Aside from the criticism we fielded from the pitch judges, we found the Hello Tomorrow community truly understood our vision & was incredibly supportive. Our only regret from the event was not having more time & resources to stay in Europe with Gigabot to follow-up on the multiple insightful conversations we had (or in Matthew’s case had pantomimed).

Tired, but encouraged & full of great French cuisine we caught a few more hours of sleep and dug out any remaining flyers we could scrounge up for a possible meeting with Mr. Bloomberg the following morning. We also stole an hour to sample French food- my taste buds were blown away!

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Meeting the former mayor of NY turned out to be a challenge as he was a popular man, and despite our best efforts we were unable to wrangle a selfie. We did however manage to meet a number of amazing people and took the time to visit the other exhibit booths. Before we knew it, the time had come to join the audience at the big stage and learn who had won the event.

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Coincidentally Matthew & I ended up sitting next to the team from Haelexia, which I was convinced had won. We argued about who was about to take home 15K euros until the programming began, and our track was announced first. To my utter surprise our name was called, and I wished I had taken the time to touch up my makeup, & brush my exhibit – day hair & coffee stained teeth while stumbling over legs and the sea of people between us & the stage.

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I arrived on stage with watery eyes and speechless as we received a hug & trophy from Airbus. You can imagine my consternation when I was then handed a microphone and told we had the next two minutes to pitch two rows of judges for 100K. Feeling ill prepared, I gave everything I had left in an enthusiastic and emotional appeal. While 15K would fund our prototype within a year, 100K could bring what we see as inherently right to commercialization. I did my best and knew that while willing the Grand Prize was a long shot, I was humbled to share our passion with such an amazing group. I also secretly hoped that Michael Bloomberg was watching from the sidelines and would offer our much sought after selfie.

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The best part of the night however, was backstage. As each other track winner joined us, we were blown away by their technologies and the awesomeness of each team. We also noted a curious fact: half of the track winners were pitched by females and/or also came from gender co-lead teams like us. We quickly assembled a cheering squad to celebrate the other winners as they joined us backstage and sponsor Chivas ensured there were plenty of drinks for the multiple toasts that ensued.

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After all had joined, we headed out to join a big band for the announcement of the Grand Prize winner, Lilium. Although the money would have provided what we desperately need to scale our vision to 3D print from waste globally, we were thrilled for their team!

We joined Gigabot & all for the after party and then rushed to pack up Gigabot before security threw us out.

The next day we caught a train and headed outside of Paris to meet a local Gigabot owner. At re:3D we try to visit customers when on the road as it not only provides valuable business intelligence but also is an incredibly rewarding opportunity to connect with the customers personally. We had a blast, and were super honored when they blessed us with a guided tour of the city on the way home and drove us to the Eiffel Tower. We couldn’t go up the monument due to the tools in our backpack, but we were fortunate to walk around the legs and stare into the impressive infrastructure for several minutes.

After pausing to reflect on the engineering & creativity above us, we grabbed dinner & prepped to leave.

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On the flight home my mind was filled with lights, relationships, and next steps. To all who made Hello Tomorrow and my first trip to France a success: thank you. Thank you for believing in bootstrapped underdogs, and for giving us a platform & resources to make the impossible slightly more tangible!

Happy Printing!

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Samantha snabes

Blog Post Author

@samanthasnabes

samantha@re3d.org

Material Testing & Heat Treating Natureworks PLA 3D850

The notes below reflect our new open-source filament testing protocol. After evaluating the printability of Coex PLA Prime/PLA 3D850 on Gigabot, I decided to experiment with a heat treatment process.  

Manufacturer:  Coex    

Filament Name:  PLA Prime

Color Tested:  Natural

Date Received: 6/10/2016

Date Tested: 6/16/2016

Ease of use:   Excellent

Appearance:  Clearer than regular PLA

Size consistency: Great

Color consistency: Great

Odor: None

Manufacturer’s recommendations

  • Speed: none given mm/s
  • Temperature: has a higher MFI so should be able to print slightly cooler than regular PLA C
  • Infill %: any
  • Layer Height: tested at 0.3175mm
  • Printer Used: GB # 004
  • Print temperature used: 200 C (nozzle) /55C (bed)
  • Speed used: 60 mm/s
  • Layer Height:0.3175 mm
  • Infill: 15%
  • Odor: none
  • Type(s) of print surface used: Print n Z

FINDINGS

Bed adhesion (1: terrible-5: fabulous!)

   5

Stringing (1: lots -5: none!)

   4

Shrinkage (1: lots-5: none!)

   4: None!

Interlayer adhesion (1: terrible-5: fabulous!)

   4: Perfect!

The technical datasheet for the pellets that the filament is derived from can be found here.

I suspect that most, if not all the temperature resistant PLA uses the 3D850 as its base. There is very little information out there for recommended heat treat methods.

Here are a couple pictures from a recent experiment I did with Natureworks PLA 3D850 that claims increased crystallization with heat treat. I used a wall oven to heat treat the parts at 200F but please note that I did not verify with a second thermometer.

The three parts on the top row are not heat treated and the three on the bottom row are heat treated at 200F for 15 minutes. I placed the parts into a cold oven and let the oven heat to temp and maintained temp for 15 minutes then removed the parts to air cool. The color change and warping happened while the parts were in the oven not after they were removed.The top two parts were made with one perimeter (0.48mm width). The center two are two perimeters and the bottom two have three perimeters. Interestingly enough the part with two perimeters warped the least. I also heat treated a couple objects with more structural integrity and found little to no warping (small 5″ Moai statue and the re3D logo placard).

I think the next steps are to control the rate of heating to see if the amount of warping can be reduced. Would love to hear other’s experience with heat treating the PLA 3D850.

Further information about annealing PLA is here: http://www.4spepro.org/view.php?article=005392-2014-03-28
 
Quesions or Comments?
  • Share your thoughts on the materials section of our forum:
    • https://re3d.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/206087383-Natureworks-3D850
 
Happy Printing!

Matthew Fiedler

Blog Post Author

Designing a Transformer Toy

The great thing about designing a huge 3D printer is being able to support your friends & family bringing their ideas to life. Below, Nathan, the nephew of Chief Hacker describes how he designed this awesome transformer toy that was printed on Gigabot in one print job.

This transforming robot was based on transformers kids toys. I had played a lot with Transformers toys in the past and desired to make my own design. The concept of pieces held together by elastic was inspired by some transforming wood toys that I had seen on the internet. Before making this design I had experimented with making robots figures similar in concept out of cardboard and rubber bands.

~Happy Printing!

Nathan aka na gr

Blog Post Author

3D Printing A Superman Hood Emblem

Intern Jacob Lehmann shares on his recent DIY solution to personalize his aging Beetle.

My 3D printed Superman Hood Emblem

By: Jacob Lehmann

I work at re:3D and my job is to figure out and test cool and unique ways to use our 3d printers. I have 2003 VW beetle (and I love it) but some of the aesthetics have been worn and aged poorly over the years. So I had the idea to custom print a rear hood ornament. My amazing bosses thought this was a great idea and helped me to design and realize this idea.

It was hard to pick what exactly I wanted to make for my car. After running through tons of ideas I finally decided that because of the deep sienna blue of my vehicle that a superman logo would look amazing on it. This is a picture of my car after I peeled off the old rusty and broken VW emblem.

First I designed the hood emblem in a free Cad software called Onshape. You can access the tool at this link: https://www.onshape.com/ if you are interested. 

After slicing the file for printing, we put it on the Gigabot and watched it come to life!

And then we tested it on my car.  After looking at it closely, I decided I wasn’t happy with the size and printed a second to fill up the space better.

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Before we started we knew that the final solution wasn’t going to be in PLA.  In the Texas summer sun, thermoplastics such as PLA warp when left in a car, let alone on the boiling hood. Although this material is perfect for 3d printing because it melts at roughly 190+ Celsius, that very feature makes it hard to use outdoors, inside of engines, or pretty much anywhere that gets hot.

Thankfully our friends at Deep in the Heart Art Foundry (who own some of our Gigabots and use them in their lost wax casting) were more than happy to help us cast an alternative. We originally wanted to cast the piece in bronze and patina it, but they suggested that it would look better and be much lighter to cast it in Stainless steel. You can check out some of their amazing works of art here http://www.deepintheheart.net/. Here is the piece once we got it back (with a little bit of polishing).

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And after I finished polishing and sanding the piece.

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Here is the finished stainless steel piece next to the smaller PLA prototype.

Now all that was left to do was mount it on my vehicle. After cleaning the surface of my rear hood and the backside of the piece with some alcohol, and removing all the dust and grime, I placed some 3m double-sided tape on my car. NOTE: my bosses were concerned for my and other driver’s safety and have since purchased industrial epoxy.

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And finally, the beautiful hood emblem is complete and placed on my car. Now I can drive around fighting DC supervillains as much as I want.

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Happy printing!

Jacob Lehmann

Blog Post Author

@jacobelehmann

You’re Invited: 3D Printing @ Sea!

Recently, one of our customers (and owner of Cruise Planners) invited us to support a 3D printing cruise. We are honored to participate and can’t wait to spend three days with you during this exclusive experience!

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About the Event

3D at Sea is the first of it’s kind 3D Printing Workshop and Seminar at Sea. This Workshop will feature 3D Printing Experts both teaching and speaking on a variety of relevant topics. There will also be opportunities for community impact work in Cozumel, in addition to general fun and networking!

Whose Invited

Anyone with a passion for 3D printing is welcome to join us on the Carnival Liberty out of Galveston on 10/8/16! Pam, the organizer, is also accepting applications to speak or teach a class until May 5th. You can share your interest on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/3datsea/  or email Pam directly at: pam.stewart@cruiseplanners.com.

See you soon?!

Samantha snabes

Blog Post Author

re:3D & SXSW 2016!

It’s almost here!  That time of year where Austin embraces global creatives during the two week whirlwind we call SXSW.  We love being so close to the action and can’t wait to see you out and about. If you’re in the area, please stop by any of the events below to say hi!

SXSW Create

  • Dates/times: March 11-13th, 11am-6pm
  • Location: Palmer Events Center
  • Cost: Free!!
  • Website: SX Create, They also have a  SX Create Facebook event as a handy way to share the event.
  • Description: Exciting hands-on pavilion as well as a number of wonderful STEM sessions. Gigabot Generation 3.0 and OpenGb will be printing live for onlookers while the re:3D team gives high-fives.
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News & Schmooze: A SXSW Media Mixer for Startups and Investors

  • Dates/times: March 11, 5:30pm
  • Location: Capital Factory
  • Description: We’re bringing Gigabot to print live at this invite only event hosted by our friends at Own Local! The re:3D gang will be out in full force while Jeric presents our mission and product!

Capital Factory - “Austin Goes Global” Pitch

  • Dates/times: March 11, 3-5pm
  • Location: The Hilton Startup Village
  • Website: http://schedule.sxsw.com/2016/events/event_PP58415
  • Description: Capital Factory will spotlight several startup and early stage companies already having big impact across borders, and several more on the threshold pondering what to do next…where to go…how to do it?  In this conversation Katy will share re:3D’s reach.

IEEE Tech for Humanity Official SXSW Party 2016 

  • Dates/times: March 13th, 8-10 pm
  • Location- The Driskill
  • Website: http://www.cvent.com/events/ieee-tech-for-humanity-official-sxsw-party-2016/event-summary-fcfd9489c2a54a739252ae5356e427ce.aspx
  • Description-Party like an engineer with IEEE and world-renowned technologists & body computing brainiacs! Join us at The Driskill with Gigabot and the re:3D team to let loose with a few drinks at the open bar and enjoy great music!

SXSW Hardware House - Hardware on Kickstarter

  • Dates/times: March 14, 9:30-10:30am
  • Location: Courtyard Marriot
  • Website: http://schedule.sxsw.com/2016/events/event_PP58037
  • Description: The exhilaration of the pitch isn’t just for Venture Capitalists anymore! Consumers, geeks and fans are tuning in each week for shows like Shark Tank (and others). How do inventors take a great idea to the airwaves and stay on task to become a great company? What are the pros and cons? Why are so many people watching and how do you capitalize on it? In this session Katy will explore how hardware innovation and entrepreneurship is being showcased and celebrated on prime time and how to make the most of it if you decide to go on the air.

Hubs/RE:3D / Draught House Pub 3D Printing Meetup

  • Dates/Times: March 14th 12-2pm
  • Location: The Draught House Pub
  • Description: Come meet Hubs, re:3D communities and other 3D printing enthusiasts in a laid back environment on March 14th! This is a great opportunity to share your love of 3D Printing and see 3D Printers live. Feel free to bring your best prints and ideas!
  • Want more? After March 14th Gigabot and the team are super flexible if you’d like to request their presence:)
  • Email: info@re3d.org

Samantha snabes

Blog Post Author

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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 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.

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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

Morgan Hamel

Blog Post Author

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.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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Morgan Hamel

Blog Post Author

re: thinking Buoyancy – Hanging 10 on a 4pc PLA Surfboard

The Big Idea

Like most start-ups intent on exploring the intersection of tech and sheer awesomeness, the vision to 3D print a surfboard was cast over beer, at a co-working space (Capital Factory), subsequent to a lack of sleep. Disregard the fact the nobody physically present at our Q2 re:treat had actually surfed, we were still proudly penny-pinching, and had few Gigabots available for extended personal print marathons. Instead, Marketing Co-Leads Katy and I corroborated with our Gigabot Ambassadors Rebecca, Morgan and Todd to develop a list of “use cases” to demonstrate functional 3D printing to be executed by a cadre of summer interns. Buoyancy made the shortlist, and a surfboard was an obvious case study.

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Q2 re:treat with @Marvin_3D

Our leadership team cultivated job descriptions, which Katy hosted under a tab she designed at re3d.org/careers. The response to our unpaid internship postings were higher than anticipated, and ultimately we selected Akshay as our 2015 Design Intern focused on 3D Printing a surfboard. Despite still being in High School, his confidence, professionalism and experience modeling through his high school FIRST Robotics team convinced me he was up for the challenge. He also had a glowing recommendation from his coach Norman.

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Brainstorming over Amy's Ice Cream w/Matthew, Annabelle & Akshay

The Design

Within just a couple weeks of on-boarding and conducting research on surfboard 3D printing, Akshay presented his concept. He had identified others who had been successful including a Father & Son, as well as professional 3D printed surfboard companies. Those that have gone before had done an amazing job curating surfboard designs that truly exhibit the benefits of 3D printing, whether it be enabling custom designs or geometries not easily produced in traditional manufacturing. However, due to the small volume of many affordable printers, we noticed multiple parts were required to later be stitched together like a jigsaw puzzle or they depended on expensive SLS printers to produce a monocoque body.

Endless Sinter SLS Surfboards
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ABS Jigsaw Surfboard

Knowing that we had the benefit of leveraging one of the largest affordable industrial printers at our disposal, we set out with Akshay to investigate if we could make a FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) design in the fewest pieces possible. We also wanted to challenge notions of material strength. Akshay’ s research unveiled that our desktop 3D printing peers used ABS, a plastic despised by many for its stinky smell during printing, but stronger than it’s as readily accessible counterpart PLA. Being bootstrapped, we work from a small office, so we decided to use PLA to print our board to see if the sweet smelling, accessible filament could support the weight of a human in the ocean repeatedly, thus challenging the assumptions of PLA’s limited value in functional, life-sized 3D prints. You see, we didn’t choose PLA because we thought it SHOULD be the material of choice, rather we wondered if it  COULD be used in a functional application.

And if it worked (even limitedly), we wondered…..what other applications would you and other members of the open-source community cultivate that could expand on our buoyancy experiment?

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Akshay dialed into Katy's Design Tag

To develop the initial concept, Akshay paired up with our Summer Stand-up Paddleboard Design Intern Evan, who was also exploring the possibility of supporting a load on water.  During Katy’s Thursday Design meetings they evaluated each other’s models in Solidworks, discussed stress points, and analyzed the best way to join components. They also ran a series of experiments to deduce not only if PLA floated, but also if it could be water tight. While they initially pursued similar concepts involving a series of rods conjoining dense pieces, they later opted for separate methods. The stand-up paddleboard included a series of hollow segments, filled with Great Stuff, bound with Gorilla Glue, and fiber wrapped.  The surfboard, Akshay decided, would be four, 6% honeycomb-filled segments held together by a series of 50% infill 3D printed bricks. Like Evan, his instrument of choice for sealant included copious amounts of Gorilla Glue.

This was our first foray into a “formalized” summer intern program and the weeks flew by. We learned a ton about setting deadlines, procurement delays, accounting for R&D or marketing inventory in our budgeting & bookkeeping, and how to better mitigate bottlenecks in Gigabot availability for multiple, multi-day crazy prints.

As June turned to July, the scaled-models and sketches transformed to full-scale experiments. Katy’s design meetings became increasingly important as the group collected feedback from the team and data from real-world tests which influenced model adjustments.

Fin Design

Throughout the summer, the surfboard fin underwent as significant an evolution as our scaling team using input from experts, the open source community, and our own failures. Askhay’s first design included two tabs to be glued into the frame, which floated and appeared to have the infill & form required to be successful based on our initial tests. However, after delving into the minutia of surfboard design, Akshay discovered that most fins are supported via a T-slot in the surfboard body. For this reason, he later designed a fin to be inserted into a groove. Unfortunately, we later learned we needed screws holes on either side to mount into the T- nuts. Mike responded to the challenge and mocked the final design, which included the re:3D logo as well as fixtures for the screws to mount into Akshay’s conceived T-nut slot. Mike also suggested that the fin be printed in black to complement Akshay’s silver board.

Final Construction

By the time the 1.5 long week print was ready for the final piece, July had morphed into August and Akshay had to return to high school.  A couple of weeks into September we attempted to resume the project and he modeled the 4th piece using feedback I relayed remotely. Despite my best efforts, the measurements provided were a little off and the 4th piece wouldn’t align. Both Jeric and Mike supported a redesign and during a long weekend, Mike ultimately generated the final component to Akshay’s vision as well as some much needed “deckholes” our research revealed was required for a surfboard leash, which we purchased from SUP ATX as we figured the extra length on stand-up paddleboard leashes offered might be needed later. With the body complete, we encountered a new set of challenges. During a commute between our Houston and Austin offices, our almost finished 3d printed surfboard took a tumble on our high-strength 3D printed bicycle designed by Patrick, leaving a rather impressive hole. Determined to make it work, I filled the  crevice with silicon prior to using Bondo to level the uneven Gorilla Glue texture.

Jeric did a stellar job capturing a time-lapse of the final piece!

The Test

While touring an untested BETA experiment 7000 miles might sound crazy, for our team it made perfect sense. We had won 2nd place at Websummit last year for pitching our vision to 3D print from trash and 1st at their US event, Collision which granted us free passes for our team to return to Ireland. It therefore seemed natural to transport a untested ambitious print across the sea in front of thousands of media & startups in the name of challenging assumptions around 3D printing.  Upon reflection on the flight to Ireland, it became evident that our success to date and win at Collision, was truly a testament to community support. For this reason, we decided it would be an honor to recruit as many stickers as possible from Web Summit attendees willing to affix their brand to our untested experiment. We humbly collected 150+ logos, including StickerMule, a popular vendor.

Shaun the Sheep

If you followed us or Web Summit/Surf Summit on social media in the past month, you might be a little confused by the multiple references to sheep, Shaun, Gigabot, Irish shepherdesses, and surfing sheep.

The idea to 3D Print Shaun the Sheep was conceived by a female Sheppard & blanket maker named Suzanna of Zwartbles Ireland. Suzanna maintains an active community via social media (@ZwartblesIE) and during our flight over suggested #Gigabot could #3dprint a #sheep in #ireland. The initial Tweet inspired a lively conversation and I found myself Googling open-source sheep stls while flying past Iceland. When Katy & I landed, Matthew suggested this Wooly Sheep by pmoews  to test out on Gigabot, which had been created using a 123D Catch, now ReCap Pro, scan of a garden ornament. Three days of continuous sheep printing and ewe puns soon began. Katy christened the first small-scale sheep as Dolly before making a larger 14 hour sheep. The downside of running large prints is that Gigabot has to work throughout the night. The 3rd shift security team had the pleasure of watching our biggest sheep complete and informed us one morning that they had named him Shaun. It wasn’t until later the next day that we learned Shaun referred to a popular show titled Shaun the Sheep. Shaun quickly garnered a small fan club, and we decided to take him to Sligo, Ireland for Surf Summit as the prize for the 1st surfer to successfully catch a wave on the surfboard.

Surf Summit: The Moment of Truth

As soon as Web Summit concluded, we crated Gigabot for the return to Texas, them scrambled to pack our bags, the surfboard, and sheep for the bus ride to Sligo, the host of Surf Summit. Surf Summit is an incredible post-summit event to cultivate friendships while experiencing the Irish countryside. As the video reveals, it was a breathtaking experience- our only regret being Matthew couldn’t attend in leu of a customer he committed to visiting in the UK. As complete surf novices, Surf Summit provided the perfect proving group for the surfboard test as several surf pros were in attendance to share their experience & wet suits!

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Shaun, Katy, the surfboard & I board the bus

Prior to surfing, we attended the kickoff festivities and allowed Shaun to circulate with the attendees before (he hoped) he would be gifted to a deserving surfer.

Session 1

The next morning we loaded the board, attached the fin, crossed our fingers for good luck and took off to Streedagh Beach. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a team of instructors from Surf World Bundoran, who helped us wax the board and taught birthday girl Katy & I to surf for our first time. The experience was unforgettable.

As our lesson concluded, SurfWorld Instructor Tony volunteered to take our stickered print out on the water. We grabbed our cameras and huddled with our new start-up friends from The Outdoor Journal to capture a mini photo shoot before take-off. The tension was palpable and we all lingered a moment discussing the project, for fear that the board was soon break or worse, sink, taking with it the evidence of so many peers who had supported the endeavor.

Tony proceeded with caution, first testing the buoyancy in shallow waters near the beach, then gradually paddling out further. After a few minutes, he headed out to see if he could catch a break. It wasn’t long before a series of rolling waves emerged and, as luck would have it, he was able to ride one in!

After Tony broke the seal, two other brave instructors also offered to take the surfboard out, despite loosing a fin!

Session 2

Wanting to optimize our wave catching, we headed back to the hotel, then caught a cab to Strandhill beach to join another surf instruction course after lunch. There we met the crew at iSurfIreland who agreed to try her out and broke personal records in distance traveled (which complicated picture taking)! Four surfers tested the board, and gave us valuable improvement ideas.

Feedback

In total 7 instructors braved the board. The advice we received was pretty consistent:

  • The current board is too thick
    • In the future it should be thinner and consideration should be given to reducing weight
  • The curve is not ideal
    • The board should bow more at the top
  • We could have better leveraged the benefit of 3D printing
    • The current design mirrors current manufacturing aesthetics and could have been sexier
    • Surfers appreciate custom features (holds for cameras, grips, personalized lettering)
  • The absence of a durable fin made it hard to maneuver
    • I should have printed the fin flat so it couldn’t delaminate, and/or used honeycomb for more density
  • A three or multiple fin design would be ideal
    • Ours had only a single fin
  • Stickers made the board more slick, albeit cool!
  • Everyone seems optimistic that 3D printed has great potential in watersports, especially wakeboards and body boards
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Photo by Katy Jeremko

One Month Later

Currently the surfboard resides in our Austin office. What began as an idea, transformed into a internship, that took us 7000mi and introduced us to new friends around the world. As we reflect on the people we met through Akshay, sheep printing, sticker collecting, and trial by water we are struck by the creativity & vision that the community shared. We hope this is the first of many use cases that will expand our perspective on what is possible through affordable, life – size 3D printing. We welcome your ideas on where we go from here!

Happy Printing,

Samantha snabes

Blog Post Author

~Special Thanks to: our Intern Akshay, Coach Norman, Mike Battaglia, Jeric Bautista, the makers of Gorilla Glue, SUP ATX, WakeBoard Graphics Austin, Sail & Ski Austin, to the ENTIRE Web Summit/ Surf Summit Staff, all the StartUps that shared their stickers, The Outdoor Journal, The city of Sligo, IDA Ireland for the rad T shirts, isurfIreland, Surf World, and our staff who all had a hand in this crazy adventure!

~~We're still catching up on post-summit sleep. It's possible I missed a credit or left a typo. Feel free to submit additional pictures, corrections, comments, or questions to @samanthasnabes

My Great Big Gigabot Summer at re:3D

While applying for summer internships last spring, I did not imagine I would be as involved or as integrated into the company team as I was during my time at re:3D. This past summer, I got to explore and expand upon some of my own passions while taking on the role as the project lead for re:3D’s Great Big Gigabot Giveaway.

As I read the job description for film/social media intern position, I was excited that I would be able further explore my interest in creating videos. This is exactly what I did! This summer I worked with a video editing software called Adobe Premiere Pro CC for re:3D. Having prior experience with only Apple’s iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, I was eager to learn a more versatile software. My role as a summer intern soon evolved to specifically revolve around the second giveaway competition. re:3D was approaching the milestone of shipping out its 300th Gigabot, and the tradition of celebrating such a memorable moment is to give back to the community by giving away one of their industrial 3D printers to some with a vision to make a difference through 3D printing. You watch this year’s announcement video that I developed to announce the contest here.

I had the opportunity to work closely with Samantha and so many other amazing individuals through helping organize this competition. We recruited several amazing judges and in-kind sponsors, and I was astounded by the amount of support we got to help make this project possible. Even members of Tunapanda, the recipient of last year’s giveaway Gigabot, were happy to judge and sponsor this year’s competition. Check out all of this year’s judges and sponsors here if you haven’t already!

Pre-planning the competition with Jones Dilworth
Pre-planning the competition with JDI

Out of all the things I experienced during my summer at re:3D, my favorite was probably being one of the first to see the applicant submissions for the competition. Even though the applicants were very diverse in their backgrounds and ideas, I realized that they all had one key aspect in common: the passion to positively influence their communities. One thing I wish I could go back and change about the competition structure is the length of the submission period. We had several people with great ideas start their applications, but not as many people complete them. It was awesome to see all the people who put forth the effort to create a video to enter into the contest.  We also were honored to see the story posted on several industry blogs: 3Dprinting Industry, 3Dprint.com, and techfortrade.

The purpose of the Great Big Gigabot Giveaway was to give back to the community by supporting an idea to impact society, and well, the 3D printing community certainly has a far reach. The recipient of the 300th Gigabot is Tochukwu, the man who is behind 3D Nigeria. This project plans to inspire a new generation of makers in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Tochukwu and his team of makers hope to unleash the creative potential of these individuals and create value for consumers.

A big congratulations again to the winner and the runners up, Ability Maker and The Creator Program. You can view the incredible ideas of the entrants in the winner announcement video here or below:

All-in-all, I learned a lot this summer at re:3D from being directly involved on a project I could call my own. More importantly, however, I can definitely say that the best take-away was meeting such extraordinary people and cultivating those relationships. Looking forward to working on another project with re:3D in the future!

Sanchana Vasikaran

Blog Post Author

@v_sanchana