Gigabot Engineering Updates – February 2020

Over the last few months, our engineering team has made some iterative design changes to both our Gigabot 3+ and Gigabot X 3D Printers.

Parts modified are:

Gigabot 3+

  • 10063  GB3+ Bed Side Plate
  • Z-Axis Stepper Motors
  • 11907 GB3+ Acme Flange Nut Cup
  • 11093 GB3+ X/Y Upright

Gigabot X

  • 11377 GBX Stepper Driver

 

View the video below to find out how they’ve changed!

Gigabot 3+ Updates for Fall 2019

re:3D’s Research and Development team never stands still, and while we’re developing the next generation of your Gigabot® and Gigabot® X 3D Printers, we’re continually looking for ways to refine the current iteration’s user experience, precision, and quality. As of October 1, 2019, all new Gigabot®3+ 3D printers ship with the below enhancements. Current Gigabot® owners can order these as replacement parts that are fully compatible with previous versions.

Major Changes

LED Light Cover

To enhance user comfort and safety, we’ve created a full length 3D printed cover that fits over the top of the front-mounted LED light strip.

Printed Extruder indicators and part numbers

Our Unibody Extruder design, which was released this past spring, as well as our Filament Detection units now features numerical hot end indicator labels for a visual aid for filament loading. Additionally, these and many other 3D printed parts now include part and revision numbers. Not sure what a part is called? Search our store using the part number or share the part number with customer support to help streamline troubleshooting communication.

FIRMWARE RELEASE VERSION 4.2.3

Our newest iteration of Gigabot®3+ firmware has been posted at re3d.zendesk.com along with instructions for how to flash your firmware. This firmware update includes the following changes:

  • Increased electrical current to X and Y motors to prevent layer shifts.
  • Decreased filament feed rate during the Filament Change routine for easier purging.
  • Minor Bug Fixes

Fit and Strength Adjustments for Polycarbonate 3D Printed Parts

The following parts have had material added for improved strength and durability:

  • 10870 Extruder Tensioner Left 
  • 10871 Extruder Tensioner Right 

The below parts have had their designs modified for better fit or print quality:

  • 11157 Gigabox Magnet Bracket 1 
  • 11245 Gigabox Magnet Bracket 3
  • 11158 Gigabox Magnet Bracket 4
  • 11159 Gigabox Y Support Magnet Bracket
  • 11238 Gigabox Enclosure Corner Cap
  • 10511 XY Upright Cover
  • 11251 Filament Detection Cover Right
  • 11252 Filament Detection Cover Left
  • 10599 Filament Tube Connector

We’ve upped the durability and longevity of our head cable and added 3D printed wire separators inside the cable carrier to protect the electrical wiring as it rolls and unrolls during normal Gigabot® operation.

Under the category of non-3D printed parts, we’ve thickened our bed plates to improve strength and rigidity. The square, left and right leveling blocks attached to the bed frame have had fit adjustments. We’ve also adjusted hole spacing for Gigabox Enclosure panels and split the top panel on the Gigabox Enclosure into two pieces. This improves manufacturing quality as well as increases modularity, as one piece can now be removed for venting or other customizations.

Do you have an improvement or a design change you’d like to see for this or future versions of Gigabot®? Fill out our New Feature Request form and share your ideas with us!

Charlotte craff

Blog Post Author

Saying ‘I Do!’ To 3D Printing For A Wedding

It’s that lovely time of year again where love is all amongst us as weddings are galore! More than a handful of our teammates have utilized the power of 3D printing with Gigabot to create wedding decor that reduces costs while optimizing creative expression & personalization… so we thought we’d share their applications in hopes to inspire 3D printing for your special day.

4 Ways To Utilize 3D Printing For A Wedding (& Why You Should)

3D Printed Wall Decor Lighting Up The Dance Floor 

Jeric 3D printed and assembled an LED sign for his sister’s wedding. The printed parts took 14 hours in total to make using a combination of PLA & PETG – PETG for the front, translucent part of the sign and PLA for everything else. He used super glue and hot glue to hold everything together. He also installed LEDs throughout the inside – the LEDs are RGB and have a transmitter connected, so they can use a remote to control the color and light-up patterns. Check out the photos from the full build process in this album.

Why use 3D printing?

“3D printing gave me amazing flexibility in the design, but also let me quickly build a functional 3D design.”
Jeric Bautista

The 3D Printed Icing On Top of the Cake: 3D Printed Wedding Toppers

Alessandra designed & 3D printed ‘Mr&Mrs’ wedding cake toppers and table decorations for Samantha Snabes’ sister’s wedding. They took about 1 hour to design and model for each print and the wedding cake topper took approximately 1 hour to print while the table decoration took about 43 hours to print using silver PLA. The prints were then spraypainted with gold. 

Why use 3D printing?

"Weddings are expensive but custom wedding items are extremely expensive. With 3D printing, you can literally shape your dreams without having to go bankrupt. Time-wise, I was able to get a specific picture from the customer's Pinterest and generate a 3D model under 1 hour. Even if one of the models takes 43 hours to print, you can leave Gigabot in charge while you go home, watch series and take a nap, so you virtually save those 43 hours of possible manual work.”
Alessandra Montano
3D Printed Wedding Cake Topper

A Trove of Treasures In A 3D Printed Chest: 3D Printing Gifts

Mike B. 3D printed a Zelda treasure chest for a Zelda themed wedding. The chest had a slot at the top to drop in gift cards. He also 3D scans newlyweds when he goes to weddings and ships them print-outs of themselves a few months later. For the Zelda treasure chest, he used hinges from the hardware store, a bit of Bondo to give a wood texture, acrylic paint, and a clear coat. The design took 2 hours, and Mike kept changing it to look more authentic to the game. The portraits were printed in white PLA and scanned with a Structure Sensor. Scans were cleaned up a bit in MeshMixer.

Why use 3D printing?

"For many fabricated items, the materials inform the design but with 3D printing, you can make virtually anything if you can model it. A treasure chest would traditionally be made with wood and metal. You can mimic lots of different fabrication methods all with the same two tools, a CAD program, and a Gigabot. The Zelda treasure chest needed to look cartoony so in this case, it was actually easier to prime/paint than a metal/wood fabrication would have been. 3D printing is indispensable for prop design! For the scans, someone would have had to sculpt them; this was more of a portrait captured at the moment which I think is special.”
Mike Battaglia

3D Printed Accessories: A Life-Sized Diamond Isn’t Tough

Tammie 3D printed a diamond to be a light within a large diamond ring to further accessorize the wedding. She used natural PLA and it took 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the print using Gigabot and didn’t do any post-processing work on the prints.

Why use 3D printing?

“I would have never found a diamond this large to display for the day! Thankfully for the size of Gigabot and the versatility of 3D printing, it was made possible.”
Tammie Vargas

There you have it! Four special 3D printing applications for very special days. We’d love to know – what have you printed for weddings & special occasions? Don’t hesitate to share on our forum! Until then…happy printing ever after 🙂

Cat George

Blog Post Author

D&D Helps Kids Level Up Their Social Skills

“But will you guys be mad at me if I don’t?”

That earnest and open-hearted question was posed by a student participating in D&D@CLCE, an after-school skills group at Clear Lake City Elementary School (CLCE) in Houston, TX. They were role-playing a situation with a difficult choice: should I give up something I own and care about in order for the whole group to benefit? As the student contemplated his decision, his peers, in turn, responded with how they felt. This form of social skills group therapy has been around a long time, aiding those who struggle socially to learn and develop those skills in a safe and moderated group setting. Kari Euker, the Counselor at CLCE debuted a program this year to combine skills training with the tabletop fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Those unfamiliar with D&D may have seen it recently reflected in pop culture on the TV shows Stranger Things or The Big Bang Theory. In a nutshell, one plays by gathering a group of people who then create characters with certain sets of skills, be they wizards or rogues or fighters, and together they explore an imaginary world narrated by the game’s lead storyteller and referee, the dungeon master. It’s improvisational storytelling on steroids.

In the case of the student’s conundrum, he wasn’t mulling over the consequences of keeping a football to himself in the schoolyard, he was trying to decide whether to give up a sparkling magic crystal by placing it on a wall with crystals belonging to the rest of his adventuring party. If he placed his crystal, the wall would absorb the crystals and open a portal leading the team onto a new escapade. If he kept it to himself, the magic wouldn’t take hold, the team would be stuck, but he’d still have that beautiful crystal. What to do?

Ms. Euker didn’t discover D&D on her own. It was her high-school aged son Christopher and his friends who caught her on to the idea. Christopher’s enthusiasm for D&D opened Ms. Euker to the possibility that D&D could provide a fun and imaginative setting in which to practice life skills in a low consequence environment. As she wasn’t an expert in playing the game, they worked together using the older boys’ experience with D&D and Ms. Euker’s knowledge of skills training to craft artful scenarios where the CLCE students could flex those social skills muscles. The older boys served as dungeon masters, the younger kids were the explorers, and Ms. Euker was there to facilitate each session. What they discovered is that the fantasy elements of their role-playing helped the kids contemplate the consequences of their actions from a safe distance and therefore allowed for critical thinking and deep conversations that are hard to achieve in real-life scenarios.

Ms. Euker approached re:3D about helping the students’ characters come to life, and re:3D was more than happy to support the team’s innovative problem-solving. In D&D, dungeon masters will often use real maps and tokens to help keep track of where adventurers and their foes exist in relationship to each other. The students designed minifigures in Hero Forge, selecting the race, armor, weapons and accessories that best fit their whimsical characters. re:3D took those 3D models, and with a little bit of slicing manipulation and custom supports, printed out the whole group of minifigures in one batch.

Though we at re:3D are known to Dream Big, Print HUGE, in this instance we made an exception. Utilizing Gigabot’s highest resolution of 0.1510 mm layer height, we printed these tiny 48 mm tall figures, miniscule accessories and all, with PLA and water soluble PVA supports. After an overnight bath, these creative creations were ready to join the fray.

The older boys were so invested in this project that they took the time to paint the minifigures by hand, and the CLCE students were thrilled to see their hard work rewarded with a physical representation of the character they built from their imagination. And the kid who was hesitant to give up his treasured crystal? He listened to his peers and then chose to add the crystal to the wall. Away they journeyed, onward to the next adventure.

*This project was supported through re:3D Houston’s Community Engagement Team. Are you a school or non-profit with a passion to explore 3D printing? Reach out to us at discover@re3d.org to schedule a tour or workshop!*

Charlotte craff

Blog Post Author

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.

Mike Strong

Blog Post Author

3D Printing Sustainable Energy Solutions After Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria left nearly all people in Puerto Rico without power for months, some places never to have access again and others on a minimum of a five-year timeline before reconnecting to the grid. It also exposed an even deeper problem – the lack of renewable energy alternatives fueling the island with less than 1% of all power coming from renewable sources. A particularly troubling statistic considering Puerto Rico is a place that sees sun and wind all year round. A problem that manifested itself as people waited in 18-22 hour lines at gas stations for Diesel fuel for their generators, cars, and homes to reboot their energy essentials. And for those without generators, lack of power meant lack of refrigeration for necessities like insulin, a major contributor to the 3,000 casualties of Hurricane Maria. The only silver lining is that this tragedy has motivated new renewable energy legislation in Puerto Rico announced this week.

Our team in Puerto Rico decided that Gigabot and 3D printing could get started on making a dent on this problem and set out to 3D print a portable wind turbine with the gusto to charge a cellphone. re:3D hired local maker we met through the Parallel 18 community, a 3D printing enthusiast, founder of MadEra and former Ice Blast HVAC technician, Jean-Yves Auguste Chapiteau, with the knowledge and the know-how to design and 3D print a solution to this challenge.

An Initial Drawing of the 3D Printed Wind Turbine

After 5 months, this 3D printable wind turbine takes 200 hours to print with PLA and costs $200-300 including the electrical components, a cost that is 70-80% less than similar sized turbines on the market. Not to mention, it’s designed for easy installation, it doesn’t require maintenance, and its unique vertical axis design optimizes for capturing omnidirectional wind flow and unpredictable wind patterns common to Puerto Rico. It has the power the power up things such as a tablet, cell phone, and small devices.

This 3D printed wind turbine takes 200 hours to print with PLA and costs $200-300 including the electrical components, a cost that is 70-80% less than similar sized turbines on the market.

While still portable, Gigabot’s large format, human-scale 3D printing capabilities expanded this wind turbine’s boundaries of what was possible to be created and empowered the creation of a bigger, more powerful wind turbine.

Watch the wind turbine in action!

Compared to his past experience 3D printing with desktop printers, Jean shared it was an impactful difference to print with such bigger parameters which led to bigger opportunities to 3D print not just a bigger solution, but a better solution for a difficult problem. But as Jean says, “There’s no difficult job if you have the right tools”.

“There’s no difficult job if you have the right tools”.
Jean Auguste Chapiteau

Cat George

Blog Post Author

Convening Global Community: Thank You CES 2019

CES 2019 was jam-packed with activities and innovations that sprawled throughout Las Vegas with over 180,000 attendees, exhibitors, and speakers. The conference and exhibition activates across giant venues in Las Vegas including The Venetian, Sands Expo Center including startup innovation arena Eureka Park, and the Las Vegas Convention Center. Companies and innovators on the spectrum of industries and size exhibited their latest work, from life-size drone helicopters, robots beating humans in ping pong, pretty much anything “smart” you can imagine or yours truly, showing our large scale 3D printer printing from plastic waste. We posted some insights on our schedule and first day at CES and here is the remainder of our insights, adventures, and recap of our first CES experience. All in all, CES was about convening community from around the world to showcase and connect over their latest innovations and we wanted to write a recap and thank you note to our community who have supported ours.

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Gigabot X @ CES

Our debut at CES 2019 wouldn’t have been possible without instrumental partners who gave us platforms to exhibit our new technology, Gigabot X. Gigabot X is a large scale (or large format if you prefer), affordable 3D printer printing from pellet or flake plastic. Pellet printing in and of itself drastically lowers the cost to 3D printing 10 times and prints up to 13 times faster than other printers. Even more so, after various peer-reviewed research with Michigan Technological University – Gigabot X has been validated printing from multiple types of plastic waste in pellet and flake form. To showcase these developments almost exactly a year after we won the WeWork Creator Award and received funding from the NSF SBIR Phase I grant as well as launched Gigabot X on Kickstarter, it was a huge privilege to have our hard work on display to the global community who convenes at CES – meeting industry leaders, makers, fellow creators, and enthusiasts from all over.

3D printing Caribbean coral on Gigabot X at CES

We also exhibited some Gigabot X and Gigabot  prints such as 3D printed coral (straight from 3D scans of the Caribbean), a skateboard 3D printed from recycled plastic, vases, trashcans, architectural pieces, our infill educational tool, 3D printed medical devices, coffee picking baskets, prosthetics, replacement parts and more real-world examples of the innovations around the world, across industry, all with the commonality of solving problems utilizing Gigabot and 3D printing technology . While we’re putting the final touches on Gigabot X before it’s commercially available, the positive feedback, inquiries, and pre-orders of Gigabot X were a major accomplishment of our time during CES. However, as a community-driven organization, this latest accomplishment wouldn’t have been made possible without a world of supporters (yourself included) and some of the major supporters who have gotten us to where we are today. This gratitude was proudly broadcasted across Gigabot X’s headboard (see below photo). Beyond that, we wanted to write a recap and thank you note to CES and those who made it possible for us to be at CES, get to CES and showcase our vision.

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Gigabot prints at the U.S. Government Startup Connection booth

Thanks to National Science Foundation, Small Business Innovation Research, and Small Business Association not only for making the NSF SBIR grants available like the Phase 1 grant that helped make Gigabot X a reality but also for the support and partnership to showcase Gigabot X at the U.S. Government Startup connection booth in Eureka Park and ongoing support. We also got to meet other amazing organizations co-exhibiting in the U.S. Government Startup Connection booth like Ampaire on a mission to provide the world with all-electric powered commercial flights that are affordable, quiet and environmentally conscious, and Hivemapper, Learn With Socrates, and Gen X Comm. Despite the government shutdown which created some curveballs, our partners at NSF and SBIR were integral to our CES presence and getting to debut Gigabot X to the community. Thanks to USPTO for being there!

Gigabot X's headboard thanking WeWork, Bunker Labs, MassChallenge, Alice, Chase, SBA, SBIR, Unreasonable, USAA, Startup Chile, PRSTR Trust, Parallel18, NSF, America Makes, Kickstarter & others who made it possible!

Connecting with WeWork and their Senior Construction Partner, Brian Ringley, at CES was another major milestone. The one year anniversary from when we won the $1M WeWork Global Creator Award occurred during CES and on the same day at CES, Brian met his new Gigabot X heading his way, one of the first to be delivered to Kickstarter backers from the successful launch last year. It was an amazing time to connect with Brian and celebrate this full circle collaboration: from winning the WeWork Creator Award to launching the Gigabot X prototype on Kickstarter to working together on Gigabot X’s the evolution from a beta bot to delivering it in person on perhaps one of the biggest platforms and convenings for electronics. We also got some great snapshots with Brian’s first print and his kickflips on our 3D printed skateboard from recycled plastic!

Samantha XTC3
Samantha Snabes pitches at the Extreme Tech Challenge Finals

Taking the stage as a top 10 finalist in Richard Branson’s Extreme Tech Challenge was another major highlight of our CES experience. We have so much gratitude and admiration for Richard Branson, the other companies in this competition, the judges who gave us feedback, and the team from Extreme Tech and Actai who have supported us along the way. Making the top 10 of this global competition was a huge honor for us and we extend a huge congratulations to the top 3 winners from Lynq, Elevian, and Active Protective who won a trip to Necker Island as well as other semi finalists who received a surprise invite to Necker along with us! We look forward to future collaborations with this community and grateful for the stage and the setting to share our vision and demo Gigabot X.

Judges: Dave Hagan, CTA; Lisa Andrews, Ignite Alliance; Veronica Serra, Pacific Investimentos & Innova Capital; Shankar Chandra, Samsung Catalyst Fund; Larry O'Connor, OWC. #XTC2019 Companies: re:3D, Last of Ours, We Walk, Liven, Nyx Technologies, Active Protective, Elevian, Lynq, Einride, Bitlumens, Civic Eagle

Techstars likewise gave us a great platform on their #StartupStage to share our innovations in the robotics pitch competition in Eureka Park. After being selected as a top 10 from a number of applicants, we competed with a 60 second pitch and were humbled to take home 1st place and meet creators of cutting edge robotics and judges from Misty Robotics and Lynq.

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re:3D wins 1st prize at Techstars Robotics Pitch Competition!

If you know our story, you know it begins with Kickstarter – and Kickstarter continues to be a key community partner and powerful platform that supports us as we launch new evolutions of the Gigabot family such as Gigabot X last year to its first beta users. We were grateful to meet with the Kickstarter team, like Clarissa, and community at some amazing meetups after hours with a global network of creators and partners like Hackster and Dragon Innovation.

We are forever grateful for our friends and supporters who have gotten to where we are today! Arguably one of the proudest highlights of CES was reuniting with one of the first Gigabot owners, Doug Mockett of Mockett, who came to say hi to us at CES from California. Still to this day, their two Gigabots run around the clock and they lovingly call them their “workhorses”. We met up with some other customers (like one using Gigabot to 3D print entire life size inventory robots) and even suppliers like LDO Motors.

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Startup Chile fellow entrepreneurs Waverly Labs exhibits at CES

We got to catch up with friends from former accelerators like Waverly Labs from Startup Chile, our first accelerator we joined when we launched in 2013. We met up with one of our mentors from Parallel 18, Alicia Syrett. We also said hi to fellow Unreasonable Impact alumni on a mission to create solutions and jobs in the green economy such as the teams from Heatworks and Breezometer exhibiting in Sands Halls.

We spent one morning getting to tour the local Afwerx office in Las Vegas, an organization creating innovative and crowdsourced solutions for the most critical problems affecting those in our Air Force and an organization especially close to our heart with two teammates Samantha and Kara actively involved in the military and Air Force. We also got to see our partners at IEEE and Finn Partners at an evening event, some great partners who share aligned values with their mission to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

A huge thank you as well to partners and press who acknowledged us in their pieces, we can’t say enough how grateful we are for your recognition. Alice’s Elizabeth Gore included us in an Inc article with a major announcement on the bright future of diversity in tech, Jean Baptiste Su noted us in Forbes top 22 innovative technology startups to watch at CES and Beau Jackson’s 3D printing round-up at CES in 3D Printing Industry gave us a nod. Thanks for these platforms and writers for sharing our story! We hope to continue to share more on our developments, diversity, and problem solvers around the world breaking limitations with 3D printing.

Read Elizabeth Gore's Inc article
Read Elizabeth Gore's Inc article
Read Jean Baptiste Su's Forbes article

We are so grateful to CES for giving us a big platform to jump off of in 2019 as we dive into a year filled with new innovations, stories and leaps forward toward a world empowered by sustainable and locally driven manufacturing. Thank you and stay tuned for some more updates and footage coming your way. Don’t forget: #ReduceReuseRe3D

p.s. If you were following our road trip to CES and are curious about the adventures of re:3D after official CES festivities, we packed up Gigabot X in our beloved Uhaul and headed back to Texas the way we came: 1,500 mile road trip. We traversed from Las Vegas to Tucson, then on to El Paso where w dropped off a Gigabot at the University of Texas El Paso's W.M. Keck Center for (extremely rad) 3D Innovation in partnership with America Makes. We then took a break to rock climb at McKelligan Canyon in El Paso before heading back to Houston, Austin & San Antonio.

Cat George

Blog Post Author

Monumental Sculpture Bronze Casting with Deep in the Heart

It’s a sweltering, sunny July day in the small Texas town of Bastrop, and two men in what appear to be suits that you might wear to descend into a volcano are pouring what looks like lava from a cauldron.

I’m at Deep in the Heart, the largest fine art foundry in Texas, and I’m witnessing a bronze pour.

Clint Howard bought the foundry in 1999 and has grown it from five employees and 1,200 square feet to a team of 34 and about 22,000 square feet. “We’re like a publishing house,” he explains. They work with 165 artists around the world and turn their work into bronze or stainless steel monumental sculpture.

The bronze casting process – called lost-wax casting – is a 5,000+ year old art still being done in the same fashion as it was millennia ago.

“It’s a five generation process,” Clint explains. They start by creating the original sculpture, then making a mold on that sculpture, and then making a wax copy of the sculpture. A ceramic mold is made on the wax copy and flash-fired at 1,700 degrees to melt the wax out – hence the name lost-wax casting. With the wax gone, they’re left with a ceramic vessel that they can pour molten metal into, leaving them with the final sculpture.

Ten years ago, Clint decided that the business needed to start embracing technology.

“At the time, my focus was on 3D laser scanning and CNC milling,” he explains. “We got into the industry by buying a scanner and a huge CNC mill.” They would scan the sculpture and mill it piece by piece out of styrofoam.

“We did a lot of work for a lot of different artists in this technique,” he recounts, but, as he explained, “you still have to sculpt the whole piece full-size.” Clint describes the process as a huge “paint by numbers.” The styrofoam model gives them the outline and where the detail should be, but they still have to do all the fingerprint detail by hand with clay on top of the styrofoam form.

3D printing really wasn’t on their radar, Clint explains, until several years later.

Life Sized Dinosaurs

Clint got the fateful phone call four years ago from a dinosaur museum in Australia with a project proposal. “They wanted us to produce a herd of dinosaurs and they wanted to prove that it could be done all digitally,” Clint recounts.

The sculptures of the dinosaurs had been modeled in CAD, and the museum wanted Deep in the Heart to 3D print them in a material that could be direct-cast, circumventing “a whole lot of steps” in the casting process, in Clint’s words.

“Of course we had no idea what they were talking about or even where to start,” says Clint, “but they had done the research.” The museum had found Gigabot through Kickstarter and thought it would be an ideal fit given the proximity of the re:3D office to the foundry. “They basically said, ‘We want to do this – how many dinosaurs will this much money get us?’”

Deep in the Heart got their first Gigabot and quickly started experimenting how to best integrate 3D prints into their casting process. They ended up with 14 life-size dinosaurs – a nine-foot-tall, 13-foot-long velociraptor chasing a herd of smaller dinos – which now reside outside the Australian Age of Dinosaurs in Queensland, Australia.

The cost-savings of the project using the new 3D printing method were dramatic.

“To get 14 dinosaurs produced and installed for, let’s say, $120,000,” Clint says, “to do that traditionally – to have sculpted them full scale, to have molded them full-scale, and gone through the traditional lost-wax casting – we would’ve gone triple budget.”

"Unforeseen Benefits"

The dinosaur project was four years ago now, and Clint has since added two more Gigabots to their arsenal. “We bought the second one almost immediately and eventually decided we needed a third one,” he recounts.

Deep in the Heart’s specialty is monumental sculpture: their business is making really large pieces of art. “By having three [Gigabots],” Clint explains, “I can be printing three simultaneously, run them 24 hours a day, and it allows us the capacity to move a bigger piece through quicker.” They could do the job with one machine, he explains, but they want to move faster.

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The benefits of incorporating 3D prints into their casting process have been unexpected and multitudinous.

“One of the unforeseen benefits of 3D printing that I really didn’t expect in the beginning is the consistency and thickness that we can generate in the computer is far superior to anything that we can do by by hand,” Clint muses.

The traditional method is less precise: pouring molten wax into a mold and pouring it out, or painting liquid wax onto the surface of a mold. “We’re trying to gauge that thickness by experience; which direction the wind’s blowing that day,” Clint remarks. “I mean, we’re trying and we can get fairly close, but we have variances within our thicknesses.”

This means they’re often using more bronze in a sculpture than is actually necessary – yielding costlier pieces – simply because the wax mold is made by the imperfect human hand.

Replace the wax mold with a 3D printed one, and the thickness is now precisely and uniformly set in the computer. “It’s going to be exactly that consistency through every fold, every detail,” says Clint.

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“That really allows us to control our costs,” he comments. It also unexpectedly increased the quality of their casting, because with the 3D prints – as opposed to wax molds – “there’s no movement.”

“Wax is innately flexible,” Clint explains. Large sculptures are cast in many different sections – the massive buffalo they’re currently working on will be 30 or 40 separate pieces – and “each of those sections has the potential to warp slightly.” That means they’re often hammering and muscling the different pieces into alignment when it comes to assembling the final sculpture.

“With the 3D prints, they don’t move. At all.” Clint estimates that the assembly time of a monument that’s been 3D printed is about half that of one cast using wax molds.

The Rule of Three

“Most of the time when a commissioning party is asking for a monument to be made, they’re asking it to be a unique one-of-a-kind,” says Clint.

He explains that 99% of large sculptures out there start their life as a maquette – a miniature version of the big one. “That small maquette is where all the design work happens. It’s where all the artistic creativity happens.” The full-size sculpture is then just a mathematical formula of duplicating the miniature.

“Where 3D printing comes into play,” he explains, “is you don’t have to sculpt it big.”

They can take the small model, whether they sculpted it traditionally and then 3D scanned it, or whether they modeled it directly in the computer using CAD software, and they can print that model full-scale. This cuts out multiple parts of the process: they no longer have to sculpt full-scale, rubber mold full-scale, or make a a full-scale wax copy.

“I mean, you can literally just go straight from the printer into the ceramic shell process, and then you can cast.” The PLA material they print with burns out almost identically to wax, he explains.

It’s a huge time, energy, and cost-savings for them as a foundry. And for the artists, as Clint puts it, it allows them to go big faster. “It also allows artists to be more competitive because there’s not all those steps they’re having to pay for.”

Clint describes the cost savings rule of thumb as a “rule of three.” If a certain piece is going to be produced more than three times, “it might be cost-effective to do it the traditional method of actually sculpting the piece full-scale and making a mold on it,” he says.

“But if it’s going to be produced three times or less,” he explains, “the 3D printing route is cheaper.”

Where History and Technology Melt Together

“The cool thing about what we do is there’s always some historical significance,” explains Clint. “There’s always some story. What we’re doing is more than just an object.”

He’s referring specifically to the foundry’s focus at the time of this visit: a piece called The Splash, which is now installed in Dublin, California.

The sculpture pays homage to the role that a natural spring has played in the growth of the city, dating back to a Native American tribe. “The water is a very integral part of the city’s history,” explains Clint. “It’s also a very integral part of the native Americans that still live there, because the whole reason that this area was settled was because of this spring.”

The piece is 150 feet long: a large fluid-looking figure from which seven splashes emanate. Clint walks through the design: a water spirit has skipped a stone, causing these seven splashes. Each splash has a harmonic frequency superimposed into its face, which, Clint explains, is a “very specific part of the story.”

He goes on to recount that in the 1960s or 70s, the only surviving members of the tribe who still spoke the native tongue passed away. The tribe had lost their language.

In the 90s, anthropologists visited the area with wax cylinder recordings taken by anthropologists in the 1910s and 1920s who visited and recorded their language. “Luckily enough,” Clint goes on, “the elders in the community remembered their grandparents speaking the language enough to be able to help the anthropologists pull the language out of all of these recordings.”

Since this visit in the 90s, the tribe has now rediscovered their native language, and the sound waves on the surface of the bronze splashes pay homage to this.

“What we’ve got in all of these splashes is seven generations of members of the tribe saying ‘Thank you’ to the water spirit,” Clint explains. “That harmonic pattern is their voice frequency that was taken by technology, and then visualized in technology, and then superimposed on this sculpted splash in the computer, and then 3D printed so that each one of those splashes has the fingerprint of the voice of a [generation] of this tribe saying thank you.”

The impact of technology is woven throughout the story, from the rediscovery of the tribe’s native language to the creation of the sculpture to commemorate the role of water in the city’s history.

“It’s amazing,” Clint remarks. “Technology allowed it all to be created in the computer. The piece was 100% sculpted in 3D software and the monument has been 100% 3D printed and cast using the technology.”

Blending Old and New

It’s hard not to draw parallels between Clint’s commentary about the future of bronze casting and The Splash piece which his team produced.

The role of technology is steeped in both narratives. It’s been a tool, an enabler, a key to unlock a language and make a commemoration of that feat come to life.

And yet there can be pushback within the industry, resistance to the introduction of new technology that some see as a threat to the art’s centuries-old roots. “It’s a fine line to keep all of the ancient technology and the ancient techniques, and marry them with all this new stuff,” Clint comments.

But the basic process as the industry knows it is not going away, Clint explains.  “We’re still going to have to go through casting the same way,” he says. “What I’m starting to realize in the industry is that the traditional method will probably never die.”

Yes, several steps of the process are replaced by a single 3D print, but the piece still must be sculpted – whether physically or digitally – the bronze still must be poured, the sculpture still assembled and given its artistic hand-touch. The heart of the casting process is still very much there.

“But,” he goes on, “right now, I have probably 6,000 square feet of mold storage. Those molds are susceptible to handling, they’re susceptible to human error, they’re susceptible to just degradation over time.”

He sees a not-so-distance future where molds are obsolete, where a quarter of his floor space suddenly and miraculously becomes free for other use.

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“What the technology is leading me to believe is that very shortly, we’re going to have cloud based servers holding 3D files that represent the mold of the part,” he explains. “And now we can make that part any size we want. We can make it a little tiny miniature for a role playing game, or we can make it a 25-foot-tall monument to go in front of a casino in Vegas.” There’s no need to make a new mold for each varying size of a sculpture – it’s all done digitally – and the only storage space being used is on a hard drive.

Clint’s sights are set on the future, on the next generation of bronze casters.

“The artists that that are coming up and the artists that are going to be doing these monuments in 50 years, they’re all sculpting in the computer right now and they’re playing video games right now and they’re going to embrace that technology and that process.”

Clint has a profound respect for the age-old casting tradition, and he’s also a businessman. It’s his forward-thinking vision and willingness to dive into unknown territory that has helped him grow Deep in the Heart over the last nearly two decades.

“It is an amazing shift, and I definitely think that for the art foundries in the country to stay on top of it, they’re going to have to be embracing this technology and watching what’s happening and paying attention to all of these changes.”

Learn more about Deep in the Heart and their work on their website: http://deepintheheart.net/

Morgan Hamel

Blog Post Author

Skating on Water Bottles

This post is a follow-up to this one on the Gigabot X pellet printer. If you haven’t checked it out or watched the video, start there!

We know you’ve been dying to know what on Earth our Gigabot X pellet printer prototype was printing in the last update video, so we’re here to deliver!

Without further ado, the reveal.

The slick design was dreamt and drawn up by one of the students working on Gigabot X material validation at Michigan Tech University. Our team was really excited about the idea of printing the board using one of our favorite new materials we’ve been testing: recycled PET.

Giving water bottles a second lease on life as a fun, functional object? As Robert put it, “You know, we had to do it.”

We went through a few trials of the board, snapping a couple of the earlier prints due to the design being a little too thin or not printing it with enough infill. We thickened up the design and increased the infill percentage to make the board a little sturdier, leaving us with a roughly six and a half hour, five pound print.

After popping on some trucks and wheels, re:3D Engineer & Resident Skater Jeric Bautista took the board for a spin behind the Houston office.

Jeric gave the board his stamp of approval. “The skateboard was really fun to use,” he said. “It was smooth to ride and the PET made it nice and springy, which is similar to normal skateboards. Seeing firsthand the functionality of recycled plastic was definitely very cool.”
 
Keeping plastic bottles out of landfills by giving them a new life as functional objects? That’s something we can roll with.

Morgan Hamel

Blog Post Author

re:3D Makes Top 16 of Inaugural MassChallenge Texas!

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It’s with a huge amount of excitement, humility, and gratitude to announce that we have made it as one of the top 16 startups of the inaugural MassChallenge Texas! It’s been an incredible journey for our team to date to now be one of the top 16 startups from the 84 participating companies that hailed from 11 different countries across industries of high-tech, social impact, health, life sciences, general consumer products, and clean technology. We’ve been so inspired by the amazing entrepreneurs who make the magic happen of these 84 companies including companies like our fellow #HurricaneStrong Parallel 18 accelerator participants in Puerto Rico, Brands Of.

Other highlights from MassChallenge Texas to date have been receiving one of the People’s Choice Awards at the MassChallenge Texas Startup Showcase. Also, getting the ongoing mentorship and support from the MassChallenge team including getting to hire an amazing intern thanks to MassChallenge as well as receive incredible expertise and connections. These MassChallenge resources of knowledge and talent, exposure, and the inspiring fellow entrepreneurs part of this cohort make us so proud to be part of this community and are integral to where we are today.

Mike B. accepts re:3D’s People’s Choice Award at #MCTX Startup Showcase 2018

During our time at MassChallenge Texas since the program was announced in February, we’ve made huge strides including launching Gigabot X securing beta users around the world with a successful Kickstarter. Gigabot X is a large-scale 3D printer that can print from reclaimed plastic, and as of now is actively printing from FOUR different types of plastic waste. Also, we are geared up to launch the largest 3D printer to date in the re:3D family this fall – Terabot – that boasts a 36″ inch cubed build volume. We’ve also launched a full enclosure called the Gigabox Enclosure for our 3D printers as well as acquired PRINTinZ, one of the first 3rd party accessories that became commercially successful in the build surface market.  We’ve invested in building our applied R&D hub in Puerto Rico where we’ll continue to evolve the use of 3D printing technology in pursuit of a circular economy, decrease dependence on imports, and build a vibrant community of fellow problem solvers reimagining the ways in which we use technology to build a collective future, such as 3D printing hurricane relief and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. We’ve continued to collect stories of impact from our customers in 50+ countries and across industries such as education, manufacturing, research, health science and beyond. And we’ve hired 6 new teammates and are still looking for 20+ more 3D printing enthusiasts to join the re:3D team (check out these positions…and tell your friends!).

All this is to say that since we joined MassChallenge Texas – thanks to the support of this global community and experienced mentorship– we’ve taken flight even faster on the trajectory of our vision.

So after giving a 10-minute pitch and 10-minute Q&A session to a panel of mentors and judges the other week, we have landed where we are humbly today as one of the top 16 startups of this MassChallenge Texas. As if we weren’t already in awe enough of our cohort of 84 companies that comprised the inaugural MassChallenge Texas, this final 16 also includes 3 veteran or military-owned companies along with us, Sempulse and Abraxas Technology (shoutout to you Bunker Labs for the support!). We also join the ranks of 12 Texas-based companies along with – Abraxas Technology, Aquasprouts, Cloud 9, EQO, GrubTubs, Popspots, Sempulse, Tiny House Coffee Roasters, ZPeg, Cloud Dentistry and Novothelium. As well as share industry knowledge and excitement with fellow finalists Partboyz Auto Parts, The Mentor Method, Pay Your Tuition, and Augmenta.

To be amongst these 84 companies and now these top 16, without a doubt, already makes us winners to be considered compatriots of companies at this caliber of innovation and impact who share our values of building companies intent on making this world better off than we found it. That said, today (August 1st) we pitched to another panel of judges in pursuit of a share of the $500,000 equity-free cash prizes to be awarded at the first MassChallenge Texas Awards Ceremony taking place on Wednesday, August 15 in Austin, Texas at Hyatt Regency Austin. At that event on the 15th, we’ll be bringing along Gigabot X to show everyone in person 3D printing from FOUR different types of waste and we’re hoping to earn funds (such as the People’s Choice Award!) to fuel an even faster production of these 3D printers that will use garbage to fuel solutions to big problems. Thank you, MassChallenge. #DreamBigPrintBigger 

Cat, Mike S., Samantha S. & Major Paddy after today’s pitch for the MassChallenge Texas finale!

About MassChallenge: MassChallenge is a global network of zero-equity startup accelerators. Headquartered in the United States with locations in BostonIsraelMexicoSwitzerlandTexas, and the UK, MassChallenge is committed to strengthening the global innovation ecosystem by supporting high-potential startups across all industries, from anywhere in the world. To date, more than 1,500 MassChallenge alumni have raised more than $3 billion in funding, generated more than $2 billion in revenue, and created more than 80,000 total jobs. Learn more about MassChallenge at http://www.masschallenge.org.

Cat George

Blog Post Author