5 Ways 3D Printing Will Benefit Us All

3D printed ring case for iPhone 67.
3D printed ring case for iPhone 6.

Things I Like About 3D Printing Culture

When I first started exploring 3D printing, I learned quickly that the key word describing this technology is “disruptive.” It’s an interesting word, and for someone who likes the comfort of familiarity and stability, it struck an odd chord with me.

Here’s what I think about when I hear “disruption”:

  1. To throw into confusion or disorder.
  2. To interrupt or impede the progress of.
  3. To break apart or alter so as to prevent normal or expected functioning. (From The Free Dictionary)

I don’t like confusion and disorder. I get frustrated when people or events interfere with my progress toward a goal, and I get really, really frustrated when things don’t work as I expect they should.

If one picture frame in a room is tipped ¼”, my eye rushes to the picture, and I can’t rest until I set things “right.” I like to do the same things each morning when I get up, and that includes making my coffee the way I always have and putting it into a cup that works the way it has always worked. In fact, I still have a cup I liked and bought for myself forty-five years ago!

That, I guess, is why I’m not an inventor or a maker. I think inventing and making requires someone with a very special personality, someone who delights in surprises, who takes interruptions and detours as a spur to new questions, who doesn’t get frustrated but instead gets curious, who takes odd or unexpected functioning as opportunities to learn.

So I get that there’s a mindset associated with 3D printing technology that I can admire even though I don’t really share it. I am fascinated and inspired by the innovation I see everywhere, and I’m excited by the ways I expect I will benefit from this inventiveness despite myself.

Here are some other things I like about the 3D printing culture: sharing and collaboration, expressed in the open-source movement and via the internet. I’ve worked in a number of different environments and “industries,” and in all of them, the norm is to protect one’s own interests. Creating a new program or seeking donors? Keep your information to yourself — these are “trade secrets.” Academic discoveries? Mum’s the word. Did you create a new dish that people particularly like? Don’t share it!

This culture of secrecy is understandable but alien to me. It even seems counter-productive in some ways. I may not invent “things,” but I do invent good recipes from time to time. I know that my recipes are built on a foundation of those who came before me, and that’s even more the case now in these days of Pinterest. I also know that no one will make my recipe exactly like me. They may even make it better and share that improvement with me. And most of all, I doubt that anyone who eats in my cafe is going to think, oh, I have that recipe, I think I’ll go home and make it myself instead of eating here.

So I appreciate this 3D printing culture that highlights the benefits of open sharing. Erik de Bruijn of Ultimaker BV says, “It’s important to share what we know, not expecting something back but feeling confident that something will come back. The beauty of community is that we might get something back that we didn’t expect! Or something for which we didn’t even ask!”

Of course there are limits to open sharing. Inventors who choose should be able to protect their inventions. Often they invest resources in the hope of a return on their investment, which can’t happen if someone else goes to market with their idea. The hope of rewards can stimulate innovation and creativity. Still, an environment of sharing is a welcome counter-balance to the environment of heightened secrecy and security awareness that prevails these days.

Ways We Can All Benefit from the 3D Printing Revolution…Maybe Be Part of It

So here are some ways I believe I will benefit from 3D printing even though I am not myself an inventor. I believe we will all benefit:

  1. As people invent and disrupt and explore and discover, many new tools, materials, procedures and “things” will result. One of these inventions or discoveries may be just the one we need to extend our life or the quality of our life. We’re on the verge of creating operating human organs from cells.
  2. Innovations in 3D printing might make familiar but imperfect things and procedures work better. Dental implants are one of those items that occurs to me.
  3. Vastly expanded opportunities for collaboration provided by the internet and idea-sharing on an open source platform will stimulate a different kind of cultural environment, at least in the world of 3D printing. But these kinds of things never stay put. This style of thinking and creating will become part of our general culture.
  4. In Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson wonders, “Can Makers make jobs?” pointing out that as output doubled over the past four decades, manufacturing employment fell by about 30 percent over the same period. For Anderson, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes,” as the Maker movement democratizes manufacturing. We will all benefit from this boost to the economy.
  5. With this new “industrial revolution,” we are poised for an age of discovery. Indeed, we see examples of these discoveries tumbling in every day. People are excited and energized to tinker. It’s great to be alive in an era of creativity and inventiveness in human history. It will infect and stimulate us all. Even me. I can let that picture hang crookedly for awhile until I figure out what caused it to tip.

Here’s a story about how 3D printing can change us all, even those of us who aren’t big on being “disrupted” and don’t consider ourselves inventors.

Last week I picked up a post from 3dprint.com about a “3D Printed Ring Case for iPhone 6” that “gives users a better grip.” The phone case included a large ring on one side that would fit a belt clip.

I used to operate a cafe, and my hands were always buried in some kind of food. Anytime my phone rang or beeped, I had to pull my hands out of whatever I was working on, rinse and dry them, and begin a hunt for my phone. Once I found it, I had to unlock it and find the button to answer. By the time I got the message, it was usually too late. I really would have preferred not to stop at all and just let the phone signal away, but what if it was something really important? And I couldn’t tell if it was or wasn’t until I went through that procedure.

Many times I thought, I wish someone would invent a phone case I could wear as a pendant on a necklace or on my belt in a way easy to remove. I’d like to know who’s on that phone before I go through this whole procedure!

So yesterday I came across that article. Here was my idea, sleek and beautiful and very effective! So you know what? Maybe I’ve been acculturated already! Maybe I, too, am an inventor . . . I just don’t yet have the skills to move myself from idea to actual thing-in-my-hands.

But I can get there, especially as things become easier, which they surely will. Remember MS-DOS?

Boomers, Now Hear This: 3D Printing Is Arriving in Dentistry!

The Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer from Stratasys prints amazingly realistic dental models with multiple materials.
The Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer from Stratasys prints amazingly realistic dental models with multiple materials.

Rock concerts and sugar really did a number on the Boomers, and it seems as though Medicare anticipated our issues. What are the two things most of us need about now that Medicare doesn’t cover? You’ve got it! Hearing aids and dental implants, both costly items.

Hope is on the horizon, though, thanks to 3D printing, which has been part of both the hearing aid industry and the dental industry for a long time, and advances are happening every day in both areas. This post focuses on the most recent advances of 3d printing in the dental industry.

As tempted as I am to contemplate the future when we will be able to grow our teeth in a lab, without the need for porcelain or composite fixtures, I’ll focus on a few recent reports, things that are happening right now, or are about to happen, in dental offices.

In an in-depth report on 3D printing in dentistry from SmartTechPublishing, “3D Printing in Dentistry 2015: A Ten Year Opportunity Forecast and Analysis” we learn that 3D printing is moving more rapidly than many other industry segments toward digital production technologies. 3D printed dental components require “high value parts, with high performance standards, at high volumes.” Other industries are attempting to “bring 3D printing into this scenario for maximum value and competitive advantage, but dentistry is already achieving it.” Significant players reviewed in the report include 3D Systems, Argen, BEGO, Concept Laser, DWS, EnvisionTEC, EOS, Prodways, Solidscape, Stratasys, and others.

According to the report, both polymer and metallic applications are already in use in dentistry for:

  • surgical guides and models
  • casting and tools to aid in traditional techniques, and
  • actual dental restorative components

We’ll look at one illustration of each of these three applications, first surgical guides and models. As Stratasys says3D printers do the hard work and eliminate the bottleneck of manual modeling in dentistry. In the dental industry, modeling is probably the most basic current usage. Combined with oral scanning and CAD/CAM design, 3D printing allows dental labs to move quickly into production phase of stone models.

Stratasys alone offers four printers for dental modeling and component creation, and the most basic model, Objet30 Orthodesk, allows dental labs and offices to create surgical guides as well as models.

Casting and tools. Avi Cohen of Stratasys says that 3D printing has advanced dental techniques from “analogous, manual manipulation of materials to a systematic, digitally verifiable process.” 3D imaging software and 3D printed dental casts allow dental practitioners to engage in a verifiable process, creating products that are more consistent and reliable.

The foundation of 3D printing use in dentistry, though, is digital dentistry, “the use of dental devices and technologies that have computer-controlled or digital components. While traditional dentistry relies on devices like electric drills, stone molds and braces to restore dental structure and health, digital dentistry relies on innovative technologies such as lasers, X-Rays and oral scanners.”

Short of actually making teeth, 3D printers have been important tools in dental offices and labs for years, increasing the efficiency of traditional practices. These printers may “feature lights of lasers that polymerize a liquid or fuse a powder with the computer-guided precision required to produce small objects with intricate details.”

Dental restorative components. If you’ve ever had a crown or an implant, you know that one of the most difficult parts of the process is the wait between preparing your tooth (or space) for a crown or implant and actually getting it. It can take weeks, and in the meantime, you either have an empty space, making you feel like you never want to go out again, or a temporary (bulky and awkward) cover for your tooth.

A limited number of dental offices already make crowns while you wait with technology that has been available for about 30 years. The current process is:

  1. Take a picture with a digital camera  or 3D scanner,
  2. send the digital image through CAD/CAM software,
  3. tweak the result with the aid of the software, and
  4. send it to an in-house milling machine that makes the final crown or implant.

The milling machine uses a block of composite and sculpts the crown or implant out of it. It’s exciting for anyone who has suffered through the wait of the traditional method. The milling method is called CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics).

Only 10% of dentists use a CAD/CAM milling machine, however, even though the technology has been available for such a long time. The learning curve can be steep, and most dentists still prefer to leave the work to skilled technicians in dental labs.

The day is almost here, though, when 3D printers will not only assist in making models, they will actually print your tooth.   The advantage of 3D printing over milling is that it can better manufacture a tooth with all its intricate, individual details. The disadvantage of 3D printing in dentistry has been that it takes more time than milling.

Now, though, researchers are racing to come up with faster 3D printing methods in dentistry. Joseph DeSimone, the CEO of the 3D printing company Carbon3D and a professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, announced at the TED Conference in Vancouver in March, 2015, that a breakthrough technology allows teeth to be printed in 6.5 minutes.

So Boomers: if Medicare won’t cover your tooth replacement, watch for that 6.5 minute tooth to come to a dental office near you.  Take half an hour to get that tooth replacement, and go out to your next night on the town looking like an eighteen year old! But hold on the sugar anyway until they’re further along on 3D printed heart replacements. :-)

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Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson

An Unofficial Book Review

An Unofficial Book Review: Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson

I am very fortunate to come to 3D printing as a “newbie” and have the opportunity to explore the possibilities of this rapidly growing industry — in the words of Avi Reichental of 3D Systems, “exponentially growing.”

Not first and foremost a technology person, I am still able to grasp the concepts of 3D printing and what makes it such an exciting phenomenon. Ideas like empowerment, democratization, customization, open-source sharing and the potential of the amazing creativity of the DIY movement in combination with open-source technology. I am excited by the possibilities, more and more of them realized each and every day.

In Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson, author of the best-selling, The Long Tail, and editor in chief of Wired, explains the sources of this excitement and adds to it as he discusses the potential for 3D printing to jump-start U.S. manufacturing, where employment as a percentage of total working population is at a century-long low.

Anderson presents this vision of the future through two starting images, one from personal experience and one from a more abstract realm, that of science. His personal experience was of his grandfather, a lifelong tinkerer, who developed and patented an early automatic sprinkler system, something much-needed in the California of his time with its hot sun and residents’ insistence on green lawns.

In following the story of his grandfather as Anderson compares that experience to the experience of today’s tinkerers, “Makers,” we begin to understand how profoundly significant the difference is. As Anderson says of today, “any kid with an idea and a laptop can create the seeds of a world-changing company.” Much of the book is devoted to looking at the dimensions of that difference, primarily centered around giving tinkerers a computer and a connection to the Internet.

The other image that tells the story is the scientific one, the transition from bits to atoms. This image describes how we will take what we have discovered in the last ten years about creating, inventing and working together on the Web (bits) and reapply that knowledge to the real world (atoms). Physical objects begin as computer designs, and the designers share the designs online as files. A movement that began in factories and industrial design shops is moving into homes and garages and basements.

Touring this changing landscape with Anderson, I gained some surprising new perspectives. In talking about what revolutions can do, he described the movement from farmland into factories in the city and talked about the improvement in health that industrialization provided despite romantic claims to the contrary. Brick buildings in the cities protected people from damp and disease, and mass-produced cheap cotton clothing and good-quality soap allowed “even the poorest” to have clean clothing and better hygiene. Increased income allowed a better, more varied diet and improved access to healthcare, schools and other shared resources (pp. 36-37).

The productivity enhancements of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions drove worldwide economic growth. They changed everything “from longevity and quality of life to where people live and how many there are of them” (p. 38).

Many view the Information Age as the Third Industrial Revolution. Anderson argues that it was not an industrial revolution until it had a “democratizing and amplifying effect on manufacturing,” similar to the first two revolutions. He says the “Third Industrial Revolution is best seen as the combination of digital manufacturing and personal manufacturing: the industrialization of the Maker Movement.” The digital transformation not only makes existing manufacturing more efficient, it extends manufacturing to a hugely expanded population (p. 41).

The tools of 3D printing, the printers and the laser cutters, are ways to turn bits into atoms. And the process works in reverse too! “Reality capture” starts with an object, scans it and turns it into an image that can be manipulated and modified onscreen.

Piece by piece, Anderson examines the components that have created the specific characteristics of this Third Industrial Revolution: open hardware, building “communities” on open organization models, reinventing the old big factories and the maker movement.

He wonders, “Can Makers make jobs?” pointing out that as output doubled over the past four decades, manufacturing employment fell by about 30 percent over the same period (p. 153). I have watched that happen and experienced repeated calls for “retraining” in the manufacturing world, as jobs went away, never to return.

Anderson also points out that outsourced jobs are becoming more expensive as wages rise dramatically in countries to which we outsource, making them less of a threat.

He observes that the Maker Movement in essence finances itself by sharing designs, letting consumers manipulate and customize them, then pay for the output. In addition, crowd-funding advances the movement, giving it the lateral growth it requires to be a revolution.

Resulting Maker businesses represent the ultimate combination of atoms and bits — all described through the lense of stories about real people and their experiences.

The book is readable, explanatory, even exciting. It puts this newest revolution into the context of history, cultural history and manufacturing history. Its Appendix, “The 21st-Century Workshop,” invites us all, democratically, to join the revolution by providing brief introductions to its main tools.

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UK firm, Dovetailed, creates 3D printed fresh fruits through spherification.
UK firm, Dovetailed, creates 3D printed fresh fruits through spherification.

What can 3D printed food manufacturing learn from McDonald’s?

In a galaxy far, far away from 3D printing

In 1954, Ray Kroc joined the McDonald’s team in California. He was responsible for enlarging the franchise operation. By 1956, there were 14 stores, and sales reached 50 million hamburgers.

By 1958, when I first visited a McDonald’s, sales had reached 100 million. That fact was advertised on a little billboard under the arch — “McDonald’s Hamburgers: over 100 million sold.” By 1960, that billboard read, “over 400 million sold.” 6 years. Exponential growth.

This amazing success was built on a short list of requirements that every franchise met. Kroc’s list, QSC&V (Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value) meshed perfectly with the McDonald’s brothers mass production food techniques and assembly line customer order processing. It was a combination that met the needs of the market at that time.

Can 3D printed food meet the needs of today’s market?

The world has changed in 55 years and with it, what consumers want. A recent report shows that Sales of packaged and processed foods are declining, and customers want more fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.  More and more, people are turning away from processed foods, from industrial “food products.” As supermarkets and fast food operations lose market share (McDonald’s is closing stores for the first time in its history), they are scrambling to respond to this changing market.

Can 3D printed food meet the requirements of this very different market? Let’s think about what those requirements are likely to be.

  • An increasing number of Americans are health conscious. This is likely to mean organic food, food that retains its natural fiber, no food additives and no added sweeteners.
  • More and more Americans want food that is produced and distributed sustainably, and they want to know that those who work along the food supply chain are treated fairly.

3D printed food: healthy, sustainable and affordable?

Natural Machines makes Foodini, "A new generation kitchen appliance that combines technology, food, art and design." From the early 3D printed food visuals, I'd say vegan has it!
Natural Machines makes Foodini, “A new generation kitchen appliance that combines technology, food, art and design.” From the early 3D printed food visuals, I’d say vegan has it!

So I wonder: can 3D printed food become a significant part of today’s food economy?

To answer that question, I devised a checklist. Ray Kroc’s QSC&V (Quality, Service, Cleanliness, Value) checklist was short, and following that example, so is mine. I think it corresponds to the kinds of things an increasing number of us want in our food. Here’s my checklist:

  • Healthy
  • Easy
  • Real
  • Delicious
  • Sustainable

HERDS. Can 3D printed food fill those specs? Can we produce 3D printed food to satisfy today’s market to the extent that it will become a real market force?

I admit, I’m skeptical. For the most part, what I have seen in 3D printed food is ingenious and often attractive, but the best items are highly processed, sugar-laden (confections), and along the lines of fast foods (pizzas). They fail on at least three of five points in my HERDS checklist: healthy, real and sustainable.

3D Printed Food Serves Special Needs

I do see, though, that 3D printed food can serve some important specialized needs, most effective among them so far, food for seniors with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing):

3D printed soft food delivers appetizing nutrition to seniors
3D printed soft food delivers appetizing nutrition to seniors

Softfoods, from TNO, a Dutch non-profit, 3D printed food that is easier for seniors to eat. Typically seniors have to eat unappetizing purees. In Germany, seniors with dysphagia living in nursing homes are likely to receive a beautiful plate of 3D printed soft food.

More making health easier for some, Dovetailed 3D Fruit PrinterThe beautiful custom-designed 3D printed fresh fruits pictured at the top of this page could certainly be a vehicle for important vitamins and minerals that people find it difficult to get from food for a variety of reasons. I think, in particular, of seniors and very young children.

Dovetailed developed a spherification printer that uses fruit juice combined with a gel to create droplets of custom fruit flavors encased in a very thin “skin.” The droplets form into specific programmed shapes.

At the very least, these 3D printed fruits, made of real fruit juice, are healthier snack items than most commercial snacks promoted for children.

Edible Growth by Chloe Rutzerveld
Edible Growth by Chloe Rutzerveld

Healthy, very fresh, real food anywhere, anytime. Dutch food designer Chloé Rutzerveld created cracker-like yeast structures containing seeds and spores that sprout over time. These natural, transportable products certainly make healthy snacks or traveling food at the very least. Nutritionally it’s got to  be superior to airline trays!

While the designer sees it as the future of food in the long run, it’s easy to think of significant ways to use these fresh, natural products in the short run. Certainly it would be easier to print foods like these and distribute them in disaster areas as an alternative to bulky and expensive-to-ship traditional foods.

Use plentiful but unpalatable ingredients. We are familiar with this kind of processing. Isn’t it the basis of cooking? If we looked at many of the foods we eat in their raw form (livers, tongues, flesh), we might not eat them.  Various processes, including cooking, make them not only palatable but delicious to many.  Any mom knows how to sneak healthy items into their kids’ favorite foods, and many are learning that green smoothies are a delicious way to serve up greens to people who might otherwise not eat them.

Similarly, various scientists and technicians are looking at ways to use items that are plentiful but unappetizing so don’t get used, although they might provide excellent nutrition. 3D printing can turn these items into the base ingredient for familiar dishes.

These ideas and innovations, all satisfying our HERDS requirements, tell me that while 3D printing may never replace real food and traditional food preparation at a time when we are hungry for it, it has the potential for a major role in the big food picture as we move toward the future.

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Re-imagining my wardrobe with 3D printing

Hmmm...he looks about as puzzled with what he's wearing as I am looking at him.
Hmmm…he looks about as puzzled with what he’s wearing as I am looking at him.

Dressing disruptively? Not.

This could be a story about dressing disruptively. It could be that, because there are some pretty wild 3D printed fashions out there. But it’s not.

It’s a story about clothes for everyday people, which would certainly include me and, I will guess, you. True, my mother was a fashion model, but I missed that gene. I’ve never been into fashion all that much, and I’m definitely not a disruptive dresser. I like my jeans and t-shirts and clogs, and I disrupt my pattern only under duress.

On the other hand, I do appreciate simple beauty and ingenuity, and when I decided to take a look at 3D printing and fashion, I found some simple, gracefully beautiful items.

I suspect the simplicity was deceptive, but I’ll have to let the Makers speak to that. For now, I’ll tell you a little about what I saw that I liked.

Filigree and 3D printed fashion

In 1968, when it was still possible to do these things, my grandmother visited Damascus, Syria and other Middle Eastern cities. Among the artifacts she brought back was gold and silver filigree jewelry. I was entranced with the beauty of it and wore one of the pieces she gave me for many, many years.


Filigree. While it is also associated with medieval Europe and with Asia, in particular India, filigree brings images of the Middle East to my mind. I see the artisans at work, the shuks, smell the aromas of Middle Eastern food and see the flowing patterns of carpets and fabrics and hand-painted tiles and majolica.

And filigree is what I thought of as I looked at the 3D printed clothing designs of the last two or three years. So much of it is formulated in intricate, repeating patterns, like the tiles of Middle Eastern architecture . . . or the filigree jewelry my grandmother brought back from Damascus.

My favorite 3D print fashion designer, Iris Van Herpen, is known for a style called “Extreme Organicism.” It’s “haute couture built around the concept of magnified, distorted, and abstracted organic forms.” Perhaps that’s why it makes me think of filigree and the Middle East with its combination of repetitive geometric patterns (DNA) and voluptuous, flowing shapes (floral motifs).


And here’s my favorite Iris Van Herpen dress, a “little black dress” but with an amazing difference.


MOMA’s fashion taste apparently runs along the same paths as my own. In December, 2014, they acquired this 4D dress from kinetics as an example of printed fashion. It is beautiful, with that same filigree look to it.


Here’s one more beautiful dress, 3D Printed With The 3Doodler Pen by Fashion House SHIGO. Again, it has the feeling of intricate filigree.


Now for the 3D printed shoes

Iris Van Herpen also designs 3D printed shoes. Some are beautiful, but this particular pair looks a bit . . . lethal.


Getting back to filigree, though, here are some shoes I like better, these beautiful ADAPTIV “shoes” from SOLS that read your body language and react accordingly! When the technology is complete, a system of gyroscopes and sensors will redirect air to the right place in the 3D printed Shapeways shell depending on the current activity of the wearer, increasing comfort and reducing athletic injuries. And it’s a great looking shoe besides, isn’t it?


Perhaps not as elaborate but also very wearable are these XYZ shoes from Earl Stewart. Is this the future of the sneaker? If yes, it’s a happy future.


Now for the guys – 3D printed men’s fashion

Last but not least, here’s one for the guys – a 3D printed bowtie from Monocircus, also with that airy filigree feeling to it but in a more masculine presentation. Less haute, more down-to-earth fun. A very good way to end our quick review of 3D fashion items I like.


Have you seen fashion items you would like to wear?  I hope you’ll tell us about them!

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Does 3D Printing Hold Promise for Detection and Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer?

G-quadruplex: Univ. of Alabama 3D Printing Lab created a groundbreaking DNA sequence that may help in the fight against cancer.
G-quadruplex DNA Sequence: Univ. of Alabama 3D Printing Lab created a groundbreaking DNA sequence that may help in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer: The Facts

Pancreatic cancer has been on my mind a lot recently, so I wanted to get the latest information and find out what hope there might be for improving the prognosis for this deadly disease. This post focuses on what 3D printing, specifically, offers.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth highest cause of cancer deaths, most often affecting people over the age of 65. It is one of the few cancers that is on the increase, and by 2020, it is expected to be the second highest cause of cancer deaths. It is difficult to detect and treat, and often it isn’t detected until it is too late to treat.

Pancreatic cancer is very aggressive. Five years ago, people with Stage IV pancreatic cancer lived a median 6 months. Thanks to breakthrough research, that time frame is extended to 11 months. For all stages, the five year survival rate is an average 5%, for Stage I, only 20%, and for Stage IV, 1%.

With a dismal prognosis like this, it is certainly one of the areas of cancer research that begs for discoveries and solutions.

3D Printing and Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Advances

3D print models. Models help researchers understand cancers better, allowing more targeted and effective treatment.

Dr. Rosalie Sears, Ph.D., a professor of molecular and medical genetics at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, prints models of cancer tumors, exact replicas of patients’ cancerous growths. These models allow testing in real time of how a patient’s tumor will respond to particular treatments. 

Another university, the University of Alabama, announced in February, 2014, the very first 3D printed model of a G-quadruplex DNA sequence, with its molecular structure.

G-quadruplex molecules are nucleic acid sequences and have been described as “a structure in search of a function.” Research has shown that “targeting G-quadruplex sequences with particular compounds can inhibit or stabilize tumors leading to pancreatic cancer.”

The 3D printed live model produced by the University of Alabama has proved “invaluable,” according to Dr. Stephen Ohnmacht of University College in London, a British collaborator in the project. Dr. Vincent Scalfani from the University of Alabama says, “The G-quadruplex 3D model allows us to observe all the symmetry, edges and angles inside of the molecular structure.”

As researchers are able to hold the intricate structure of the DNA in their hands, they are better able to understand it and plan how to target treatment.

3D Bioprinting. One of the most exciting developments in 3D printing that has potential for treating pancreatic and other cancers is Organovo and Autodesk’s alliance to develop “the sophisticated molecular design and simulation software required for engineering living systems.

Organovo’s 3D Bioprinter applies the concept of additive manufacturing to cell biology to convert the cells of a clinical tumor specimen into an accurate model of human tissue. The model will be used to test a promising pancreatic and breast cancer drug, greatly accelerating the test stage.

3D printed device to push chemotherapy drugs directly to tumor. Pancreatic cancer is typically very difficult to diagnose, and often by the time there’s a diagnosis, the tumors are intertwined with major organs and blood vessels.

A group at UNC-Chapel Hill has created “a device that can be customized for each patient via 3-D printing, potentially right in the operating room. It uses electrical fields to push chemotherapy drugs directly to tumors and has the potential to dramatically increase the number of patients eligible for life-saving surgery.”

The technique has been tested successfully on animals, and human testing will begin next year. A paper in the research journal, Science Translational Medicine (February 2015), describes the project.

Tissue engineering and organ regeneration. Possibilities for tissue engineering and organ regeneration are also part of the 3D printing picture of the future.

3D Printing and Pancreatic Cancer Detection Advances

The real solution for difficult, aggressive cancers like pancreatic and lung, however, lies in early detection when there is a possibility for treatment.

Jorge Soto, part of a team of scientists and technologists from Chile, Panama, Mexico, Israel and Greece, reports that this group believes  they have found a reliable and accurate way of detecting several types of cancer at the very early stages through a blood sample.

“The test is performed by detecting a set of very small molecules that circulate freely in our blood called microRNAs…This is a single non-invasive, accurate and affordable test that has the potential to dramatically change how cancer procedures and diagnostics have been done. Since we’re looking for the microRNA patterns in your blood at any given time, you don’t need to know which cancer you’re looking for. You don’t need to have any symptoms. You only need one milliliter of blood and a relatively simple array of tools.”

As Soto says in his Ted Talk, “This entire platform is a working prototype. It uses state-of-the-art molecular biology, a low-cost, 3D-printed device, and data science to try to tackle one of humanity’s toughest challenges.” The design of the 3D printed device is open-source to encourage community input and accelerate advances.

Imagine how many lives can be saved with a simple, effective blood test that allows early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer!

I’m curious, since the open source 3D printed device is already out, and the method is in place to test for several cancers, including pancreatic, so far…why hasn’t this low-cost equipment become part of every doctor’s office or at least every lab and testing become commonplace whenever blood work is done?

Has anyone else seen Jorge Soto’s TedTalk? Have you ever known anyone who might have benefited from earlier testing?

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3D Printing in every classroom, Part III


Jeremy Simon Skypes Sierra and her class.

Jeremy Simon Skypes Sierra and her class.

See Part I here.
See Part II here.

Most Compelling 3D Printing Projects Involve Assistive Technology

We’ve considered the worldwide race to bring 3D printing technology to every classroom, and we’ve considered 3D printing at the administrative level, that is, what the aims, goals and objectives of bringing 3D printing to a U.S. classroom might be. Now it’s time to consider some specific strategies in the classroom, brought to us by people on the frontlines of our educational system, teachers.

These specific projects and lesson plans are resources to select from once you have determined the aims, goals and objectives of your 3D printing program.

I will disclose my bias from the beginning: I find assistive technology projects most compelling, those that have a social assistance value. One of the best examples of this I have seen is the project Jeremy describes in this blog:

The Sierra project was carried out on behalf of e-NABLE (Enabling the Future), a group which just won a $600,000 grant from Google to continue their work of “passionate volunteers” making prosthetic hands for under-served communities. Currently e-NABLE has 55 schools registered as part of their program. Students and whole classes are able to make prosthetic hands for those who need them with support provided via email and Google Hangouts. Kits of hard-to-find non-printed parts are provided at a discount at shop3duniverse.com.

Of equal value is another project Jeremy describes in this blog:

Initial Sketch of Marble Display Stand
Initial Sketch of Marble Display Stand
Finished Marble Display Stand
Finished Marble Display Stand

Why do these projects take my attention? STEM learning is inherent to almost any 3D project; however, the project with Sierra engages a widening group of people in an assistive technology (social assistance) project and, in doing so, not only teaches important values but show kids how they can have a huge impact in making their world a better place.

I can’t imagine anything more empowering for both giver and receiver than the kind of exchange that happens as Sierra not only makes a prosthetic device for someone but engages her whole class in that enterprise.

Not only did this lesson involve powerful values and empowerment, but in bringing a commercial operation into the picture as a philanthropic driver (when shop3duniverse.com spearheaded a campaign to get Sierra a 3D printer), it engaged Sierra and her classmates in an important aspect of philanthropic endeavor.

The Marble Display Stand project is exciting because it was an experiment in taking a 10 year-old’s idea and putting it into his hands in a matter of hours. This impromptu event perfectly embodied a curricular goal of “enabling the deep understanding and problem-solving ability that results from seeing abstract ideas actualized within an age-appropriate meaningful time frame.”

Clearly the excitement that project generated will lead to having that young man learn to use the technology to manufacture his own next idea.

In addition to the project and lesson plan links presented below, you will find ideas in another of Jeremy’s posts in this blog:

Reports from the Frontlines: 3D Printing Projects in Classrooms

Specific Projects

Idea and Design Sharing

Lesson Plans & Curricula

Recommendations from Teachers Who’ve Done It

And Finally, Funding – If Your School District Doesn’t Provide It

Full Circle: 3D Printing Assistive Technology Projects

Bringing this post full-circle, the kids in this teacher’s classroom wanted to 3d print prosthetic hands. Not only are these kinds of assistive technology projects appealing to adults who want to teach important values, values that are key to building a better society, but they are important to kids, who want to be those builders! Kids are naturally inspired by the possibility of helping others.

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GoPro Mouth Mount: Entrepeneur spots a need and uses 3D printing to start a very cool business.


Steve Mara loves to surf. He loves it so much that he moved from the Midwest to San Diego 5 years ago so he could surf every day.

A couple of years ago, Steve noticed a new trend: pro surfers playing with different ways to hold their GoPro cameras while surfing.

Until then, GoPro cameras had been attached to the nose of the surfboard with the camera pointing back at the surfer. This produced fun video clips, but the focus was on the surfer, not what the surfer was seeing and experiencing.

Steve noticed pro surfers rigging their own mouth mounts, sometimes just biting on a piece of plastic or foam they attached to the GoPro. It wasn’t comfortable, but it delivered great surfing shots from inside “the barrel.”

Last summer, Steve talked with some of his engineering friends, who thought it wouldn’t be too difficult or expensive to manufacture a mouth mount. Encouraged, and liking the idea of a challenge, Steve decided to move forward.

His starting point was a silicone scuba mouthpiece attached to the custom mount piece. Another friend drew up a rough design in SolidWorks, and Steve began to search for a place to 3D print a prototype. Brick and mortar print shops in his local area were too expensive, and online possibilities had too long of a turnaround time for an eager entrepreneur who wanted to hold the prototype in his own hands, soon.

Steve has a smart girlfriend, who told him the public library had a free 3D printing lab and didn’t even charge for the filament! Although library policy only allowed people to print items they designed themselves, they allowed Steve to print his friend’s design one time. Although it took two hours to print, the time was well-used since the lab assistant taught Steve about 3D printing and design.

Finally Steve was able to take the printed prototype home and test it with his GoPro. A fast learner (during those two hours waiting in the library 3D printing lab), Steve was able to make some major modifications using several different editing programs. His new prototype used much less filament and considerably less time, about 45 minutes. A couple more tweaks, and it was time to “go pro,” with a professional design and manufacturing.

3D printing a prototype GoPro Mouth Mount.
3D printing a prototype GoPro Mouth Mount.
The finished 3D printed prototype GoPro Mouth Mount.
The finished 3D printed prototype GoPro Mouth Mount.

For the design, Steve turned to oDesk.com and for a modest sum was able to get a professional design with the exact measurements he needed. After 3D printing that design successfully, it was time to manufacture the product. The final product is made from polycarbonate to make it as durable as possible.

And now, with the help of 3D printing for his prototypes, Steve has been able to make his idea a concrete reality. Just 9 months into his business, he has already sold hundreds of mouth mounts!

Check out the videos on Steve’s website, http://hostevie.com/shop/gopro-mouth-mount.html, taken with the GoPro Mouth Mount. Steve’s friends are riding the waves, and you can almost feel the surf as you take an exciting and beautiful ride with them from your armchair!

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Erik de Bruijn of Ultimaker reflects on 3D printing collaboration, sharing and the power of community

Who’s Who in this 3D Printing Conversation

Last week, Jeremy Simon of 3D Universe interviewed Erik de Bruijn of Ultimaker BV. Jeremy and Erik met at an e-NABLE conference at Johns Hopkins University last year, an experience that reflected their common interest in open sharing, collaboration and community.

Erik deBruijn of Ultimaker BV.
Erik de Bruijn of Ultimaker BV.

Erik de Bruijn is a co-founder of Ultimaker BV, launched in 2011. Ultimaker became an established brand in the 3D printing community within its first year, selling its flagship product, “Ultimaker”, to nearly 1000 people worldwide. The Ultimaker is the fastest 3D printer in its segment, printing the largest objects with the greatest detail.

Here’s what the company has to say about itself:

“It all started with a thought. We wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the experience of making. Whether it was a cat dressed as an astronaut or a mechanical masterpiece, we set it as our goal to enable you to make those things. So we built a pioneering device that everyone could use and enjoy. We made it open source so everyone really could pitch in. And we started to grow…We tinkered, tweaked, invented, innovated and reinvented. And so did our community…”

This statement reflects what became a theme of our interview: 3D printing is exciting, but just as exciting are the values the movement embraces. Tinkering, creativity, open sharing, collaboration, community, enabling and empowering: these are words we hear over and over again as 3D printing enthusiasts talk about the world of 3D printing, the world of tomorrow that is opening before us today.

The Interview, Part I: Erik de Bruijn’s Role & Ultimaker, The Product

Ultimaker2, the flagship product.
Ultimaker2, the flagship product.

Jeremy: I’m here today with Erik de Bruijn, one of the founders of Ultimaker. Erik, can you tell us about your role with Ultimaker today?

Erik: We are growing rapidly. It’s great to see so many new, talented people join the company. It is also great to know that although it’s difficult for us to find the right people, we continue to find people who embody the Ultimaker spirit and share the same open source and open hardware ideals we have.

Although my role changes in some ways as we grow, in other ways my role as a founder remains constant, at least at its core: my job is to make sure our mission remains intact and that we can all do something we believe in. It is still very motivating to see people taking their ideas and making them tangible.

While I’m passionate about technology, I’m especially excited about technology as a tool: 3D printing, electronics, how they work together and how they can empower the user.

I learn from the people we’re hiring. I like to connect various ideas and make something neat out of that. I’m able to do that with more and more people as we grow.

It’s also my job to make sure we’re working on interesting concepts and making good products. Our products are the driver in terms of what we can do in innovation.

Jeremy: Speaking of products, others have focused on making a machine that can reproduce itself, along the lines of the RepRap Project. Ultimaker seems more focused on quality. Can you talk with us a little about the commitments that make Ultimaker unique?

Erik: Yes, we are focused on making a printer that’s high quality and reliable, but we do find that many people in the community are using Ultimakers to print upgrades for their Ultimakers!

We also want to make it possible for people without a lot of knowledge to use an Ultimaker. Things like layer thickness, quality control, repeatability and resolution are very important to us. We want to raise the bar for desktop 3D printers. We’re seeing now that our machines are used in medical research, for example, to make scaffolds for biofabrication.

It’s these kinds of applications that, on the one hand, are a testimony to our quality and, on the other hand, push us to increase the quality of the machine and the 3D prints.

The Interview, Part II: Viability of Open Source Business Model in 3D Printing

Jeremy: Ultimaker has always had a commitment to open source. Some argue that it’s difficult to maintain a viable business while giving away designs and maintaining an open source approach. How do you respond to that idea?

Erik: We do have that commitment, and we are viable and we keep growing.

Hopefully people copy from us and contribute something back. We’ve seen a lot of people from the community improve and contribute to Ultimaker. Others have simply copied the machine and are selling these copies. This drives us to keep improving our machine.

Still, it’s really about the kinds of interactions we have. There’s a good feeling about what a community is and a sense of appreciation for why people are in this community. It’s about tinkering and creating and sharing.

It’s important to share what we know, not expecting something back but feeling confident that something will come back. The beauty of community is that we might get something back that we didn’t expect! Or something for which we didn’t even ask!

Publishing design files opens the opportunity for people with diverse skills to look at the designs and contribute. People look at the designs because they’re interested, but they might have a very different take, a diverse approach, and that adds to it.

Most companies look to hire a narrow set of people for R&D. That’s the traditional way but probably not the best way to get an R&D department together.

The kind of community we work in doesn’t have constraints around time or on what we can try. People have full autonomy, and that can lead to a process of creativity, to trying new things and experimenting.

Of course there can be too much freedom as well as too many constraints. Balance is what we want. And so we appreciate different skills and give people free reign — but we also have staff who make sure things are stable, who exercise quality control.

Taken together, stable quality and fast innovation is what makes a company viable. The open approach we take has proven to work well and benefits us and the community.

Jeremy: Erik, you and I met as volunteers with the e-NABLE community – link. Ultimaker has been very supportive of that community, donating printers, software development and more. Can you tell us about Ultimaker’s charitable efforts?

Erik: e-NABLE benefits from the freedom of 3D printing.

All too often, the goal of the medical community is to try to make a product like a prosthetic invisible. With 3D printing, you can decide what a prosthetic should look like. The recipient is in the driver’s seat!

3D printed things, including prosthetics, don’t only have to be useful but also cool and well-liked, or people won’t use them. When a user can make the decisions, it’s more likely they’ll actually use the product.

And if they require changes, that can happen too, because a 3D printed prosthetic is so much less expensive than traditional devices. A 3D printed e-NABLE hand may cost $20. This makes it very affordable for the developing world as well. That’s what I mean by the freedom of 3D printing.

Ultimaker wants to connect with that freedom. We used to develop things on the computer that remained virtual, but it’s great to finally be able to make things physical, to invent something tangible by yourself or with others.

Also, e-NABLE is a community of people helping each other, so their orientation is similar to Ultimaker’s.

The Interview, Part III: 3D Printing in Education


Jeremy: 3D printers are showing up in classrooms around the world. Ultimaker is a popular choice in schools. What are Ultimaker’s goals with regard to education?

Erik: We are doing well in business environments, schools and maker communities. We want to support these sectors because we came from them.

3D printing has been around for 30-35 years. In some ways, these environments are late comers, and yet children are very creative. They’ll catch the schools up fast, and we want to be part of facilitating that.

It’s great for kids to have an idea and make it. Most of us grew up with old idea that we ourselves can’t make anything. The new idea is “imagine, then make.” It’s about dreaming AND doing.

3D printed items in the classroom can make ideas and concepts visible. A 3D printed depth map of Waterloo will let you understand why certain things happened at the battle. A 3D printed crown of an ancient king may let you see just how small people were back then. A 3D printed model of an engine lets you see how crankshafts work.

Especially for kinesthetic learners, 3D printing often makes ideas click much more rapidly than other methods. For experiential learners, 3D printed items in a classroom can also have significant impact. These two learning styles are hardly addressed and taught to in the current educational system.

Imagine just sitting in a chair 30 hours a week with someone rattling off facts and concepts. Now imagine being a kinesthetic or tactile learner for whom touching and interacting with an item deepens understanding. For these kinds of learners, that lecture style of presentation is a very boring thing. 3D printing has a part to play in making concepts tactile and letting kids interact with a physical manifestation of an idea in order to completely understand it.

The Interview, Part IV: 3D Printing, Tinkering, Collaboration & the Power of Community

Jeremy: What is the most exciting experience you’ve had since starting Ultimaker?
Erik: That’s a good question!

Probably one of the most powerful moments was at the e-NABLE conference at Johns Hopkins University. What a great event! All these people were using 3D printers and had been using them in their homes.

It was an amazing experience to see how all those parts for 3D printed hands were brought together. It was even more amazing to watch people assembling prosthetic devices with their children and for their children!

That experience made me feel proud of what we’re doing as a company and as a community.

We have had moments within our own company as well. We feel an Ultimaker spirit with all these different people that have joined us. Of course there are hurdles along the way, technological or interpersonal. The things that can sometimes be difficult are also the things that make it meaningful.

Jeremy: So really what you’re doing is giving people a tool with these 3D printers. They take it from there, seeing what they can create. Have people done things that surprised you or that you weren’t expecting?

Erik: I was just at an Ultimaker event a few days ago, lots of people coming together. A guy called Arjan showed me that he had modified his Ultimaker to add interchangeable print heads for multi-extrusion printing.

This video demonstrates an Ultimaker extension that one user created, a Dual Head Ultimaker2 by UltiArjan.

This process of expanding the capability of a 3D printer is what lets Ultimaker make better printers.

I think it would be ironic if people had a tool that can make almost anything but couldn’t improve on the tool. I like coevolution. We shape the technology, and the technology shapes us.

Something big has changed since open source software became significant. We might not be able to find two people in the same geographical space and with the right set of skills to collaborate, but we can certainly find two on the globe. It’s exciting. It finally gives us the power to collaborate globally and produce locally.

Jeremy: Where do you see consumer level 3D printing going and Ultimaker fitting into that picture?

Erik: We are already in a steep growth curve, but there’s still a lot of growth ahead before we hit the consumer stage. Still, I have to say, it’s in the near future. We tend to overestimate exponential change in the short run and underestimate it in long run.

Certainly we’ll get to a place where we’ll print different kinds of structures and materials with one device.

We’ll see more people tinkering online with a design to make it work for them. We’ll see more products completely manufactured to specification in this way. And collaboration tools will be more powerful too.

At Ultimaker, we want to encourage that collaborative process of tinkering and customizing. This possibility is a great motivator for me. People around the world can invent tools and have manufacturing capability in their homes and work with us. We cannot do it alone as a company — we want to collaborate!

The Interview, Part V: YouMagine

Jeremy: So I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask for hints of upcoming product lines or initiatives . . .

Erik: I’m glad you asked. I’ll mention a couple of things, but I’d like to focus on a project that is near and dear to my heart, YouMagine.

We’re always working to make our machines more user friendly, more capable and more connected. And we’re working toward machines with multi-material capabilities.

The Ultimaker printer is an output device. It has to work well and be capable — but a single focus on a better device is too narrow.

We want to take things to the next level, so we work on lots of things at the same time. It cannot be just “good” hardware if we want our users to succeed. Software and hardware need to work well together. This is where we can make the difference.

We also want to be sure the Ultimaker is compatible with materials we haven’t even tried yet. That doesn’t mean everything will work with it, but you have to have freedom to use cutting edge material. And exciting materials are released almost on a weekly basis.

And there’s YouMagine, a project I created and oversee. YouMagine is an online community of 3D printing enthusiasts who want to work together to share, remix and make better 3D printed things collaboratively. YouMagine facilitates this community, empowers and gives people the tools they need in order to improve, invent and make.

We believe that through collaboration and sharing all of us can make all the things better.

Jeremy: Erik, it seems as though the recurring theme of our conversation is the power of a community, of collaboration and sharing. This is what excites me about 3D printing as well. It’s a new way of thinking and living and creating. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today.

Erik: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

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3D printing in every classroom, Part II

See Part I here.

Sierra is 3D printing a hand in the classroom. Are you considering bringing 3D printing to your classroom? An increasing number of classrooms are choosing the Ultimaker!

WHY we need to get 3D printing into every classroom

Let’s talk about why we should bring 3D printing into every classroom and why it must be a fundamental part of the education of the future, starting today. We can talk about these questions through a mechanism known to any teacher who has ever written a curriculum. We’ll consider some possible aims, goals and objectives of 3D printing in the classroom.

In 3D printing in every classroom Part I, we looked at two paths to bringing 3D printing into schools. In our American culture, we will most likely take the second approach, what I call, “Bottoms Up.” We will generate enough excitement on a national level to stimulate local areas to plan for and fund 3D printing in their schools.

That means for 3D printing in every classroom to become a reality, school districts must think about how this transformative technology can most effectively and comprehensively become part of the project of local education.

For an investment in 3D printing to be effective, planning must include not only amazing projects but a clear idea about why those projects are an essential part of an education in our modern world. What are our district-wide aims, goals and measureable objectives?

Here are some ideas as we begin to lay out worthwhile aims and goals of a program to bring 3D printing into classrooms.


In a provocative book published in the 70s, Growing Up Suburban, Edward A. Wynne argues that the “total environment of the suburban youth—the school, the community, the family, and the workplace—is in need of drastic reform.” Specifically he makes the case that young people in suburban homes are isolated from real world responsibilities, challenges and problem solving. This isolation contributes to alienation and anti-social behaviors.

During my own teacher education, this book had a tremendous impact on me. I believe that 3D printing, as a transformative and disruptive technology, is the right catalyst for generating the profound changes that need to happen in our communities. It can and does provide young people with ways to participate meaningfully in real life challenges and problem solving.

A recent presentation by Avi Reichental of 3D Systems contributes another dimension to shaping an “aim” for 3D printing in education.

In a world where we will have a “ubiquitous 3D lifestyle that will permeate every aspect of our lives,” we aim:

  • To prepare students to live in and participate effectively and meaningfully in a world transformed by 3D printing.


A White House blog post sets a good framework to begin a discussion of goals:

“Although the new technology that is fueling the maker movement gets a lot of attention, more important are the values, dispositions and skills that making fosters, such as creativity, imagination, problem-solving, perseverance, self-efficacy, teamwork, and ‘hard fun.’

“As Steve Jobs observed, describing the impact that having access to a Heathkit (a do-it-yourself electronics kit) had on him, “Things became much more clear that they were the results of human creation not these magical things that just appeared in one’s environment that one had no knowledge of their interiors. It gave a tremendous level of self-confidence that through exploration and learning one could understand seemingly very complex things in one’s environment.”

In an earlier post in this blog Jeremy Simon showed the power for a young person of having an idea and within hours holding it in his or her hand: “He [a ten year old] had an idea, sketched it out, and then we brought that idea into physical form – from his head to the real world in just a few hours.”

Following are goals that suggest themselves from the White House post and the powerful experience of one child that Jeremy Simon described.

Some goals of bringing 3D printing into our classrooms might be:

  • To foster the values, dispositions and skills of creativity, imagination, problem-solving, perseverance, self-efficacy, teamwork and fun.
  • To inspire the self-confidence that comes from exploration and understanding seemingly complex things in one’s environment.
  • To enable the deep understanding and problem-solving ability that results from seeing abstract ideas actualized within an age-appropriately meaningful time frame.


Finally, here are a few measurable objectives, helped by a post from Stratasys. Students will:

  • Develop familiarity with essential tools they will require to build the future.
  • Be exposed to the same cutting-edge technologies they will encounter in their careers.
  • Have opportunities to participate and become accustomed to a different mode of thinking, designing and making.
  • Develop real-world problem solving skills.


We’d like to hear your thoughts about this aim and these goals and objectives.

Can you fill out the objectives? For example, can you list specific tools students will need to build the future? Specific technologies? The specifics of how thinking, designing and making differ from the way we think, design and make now? What real-world problem solving skills are required as we enter a 3D printing era?

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Coming up: 3D Printing in Every Classroom, Part III.

3D Printing in every classroom, Part I

China to install printers in all 400,000 schools in the country.
China to install printers in all 400,000 schools in the country.

HOW to get it there: two models for getting 3DP into every classroom

Top Down 3D Printing in every classroom

In early April this year, a report began to circulate that “the Chinese government has a new policy to install a 3D printer in each of its approximately 400,000 elementary schools over the next two years.”

This bold move will station China at the forefront of the march to bring 3D printing technology to the classroom. It demonstrates a commitment to the democratization of learning, an ideal counterpart to the potential for 3D printing to democratize manufacturing or “making”.

With a printer in every classroom, all of China’s children will have an opportunity to experience this transformative technology and participate in a process that will change the way we manufacture, the way we design, the way we think.

Printers in 400,000 schools. That’s a bold and enviable initiative. It’s also a top-down initiative. What are the potential challenges involved in this approach?

Certainly preparedness of the infrastructure is a concern:

  • Will staff in every school be prepared to support and sustain this technology?
  • Will curricula be ready so that 3DP is integrated to learning in the most effective ways possible?
  • Will teachers be trained to incorporate 3DP into their classrooms in effective ways?
  • Will schools have an adequate ongoing supply of required materials?

Bottoms up 3D printing in every classroom

It’s hard to imagine us succeeding with a similar strategy in the U.S. Surely there would be years of painful budgetary wrangling accompanied by partisan attacks and counter-attacks.

In the U.S. we rely on generating excitement and interest at the grass roots level with federal and local level speeches, Maker Faires, science fairs and funding for centerpiece resources.

Last June 18, President Obama “hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire and challenged ‘every company, every college, every community, every citizen [to] join us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.’” The President called for an “all hands on deck” approach and suggested six projects that might help build student participation in “making.” This June, the White House will host the second Maker Faire.

Also in 2014, The America Makes Institute was established, members of Congress established a Makers Caucus, and $240,000,000 was designated for a new digital manufacturing hub in Chicago. Another $240,000,000 in STEM Commitments announced at the National Science Fair in 2015 included specifics related to 3D printing technologyand encouraging “makers.”

Other than generating excitement and seed funding, though, it has been up to individual schools, school districts and organizations to plan for and invest in 3D printing. There are an increasing number of wonderful 3DP projects initiated in individual classrooms and schools, several I’ll highlight in 3D Print in every classroom, Part III.

In our U.S. based business, sales to teachers, schools and school districts have been brisk, amounting to about 40% of all sales. This is encouraging news for getting 3D printers into every classroom!

Within the local framework, there are somewhat wider commitments in the U.S. Last week an announcement came out about Baltimore placing 3D printers in each of its 49 Archdiocese schools.

This strategy of relying on local interest, engagement and funding may result in some gains for long-term development and maintenance.

    • Doing the research and planning that results in 3DP funding in specific schools may make them better prepared to integrate 3DP technology into the students’ world.
    • Early-on engagement in local areas may produce the interest and skills to maintain a project.

On the other hand, relying on local interest and engagement means some kids will have more access than others. Some may not have access or only delayed access.

3D printing in every classroom: Top down or bottoms up?

These two models for bringing 3D printing to the classroom are very different. Each has inherent benefits and challenges.

  • Which model do you think will work better to get sustainable 3D printing programs into every school?
  • What ideas do you have for overcoming the challenge in a bottoms up model of reaching every child in this country?

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Coming up: 3D Printing in Every Classroom, Part II.

Ask not what 3D printing can do for you…ask what you can do to transform the world with 3D printing.

Jeremy Simon chats with a visitor to the e-NABLE table at a conference in downtown Chicago.
Jeremy Simon chats with a visitor to the e-NABLE table at a conference in downtown Chicago.

3D printing: a transformative technology

I hear the word “transformative” a lot these days. Last week I had an opportunity to understand in a deeper way exactly what it means to talk about a “transformative technology”.

Jeremy was invited to represent e-NABLE at a public program on 3D printing sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in partnership with U&I Labs. Jeremy asked if I would like to join him to get a close-up look at some things going on in the field.

David Mosena, President and CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry, who introduced the keynote speaker, describes the mission of the Museum as “creating transformative experiences that get people excited about the world around them…”

There’s that word “transformative” again. And yes, a public program on 3D printing is a perfect expression of that mission. The common theme throughout the program was that 3D printing is entering every sector of our economy and lifestyle. It will transform not only the things that surround us and the way we produce them but our way of thinking about them and our world.

e-NABLE prosthetic device display at 3D print conference in downtown Chicago.
e-NABLE prosthetic device display at 3D print conference in downtown Chicago.

3D Printing: redesigning creativity?

After having a chance to meet and talk with people at the forefront of 3D printing projects in many fields of endeavor from e-NABLE’s prosthetics to medicine to robotics to sustainability and more, we enjoyed a presentation from Avi Reichental, President, CEO and Director of 3D Systems, Faculty Chair of Digital Fabrication at Singularity University and a Member of the XPRIZE Foundation innovation board.

Avi focused first on the democratization of manufacturing that 3D printing allows, pointing out the bi-directionality of that process: even as 3D printing creates a new future for us, it returns us to the roots and heritage from which we came.

Those roots ante-date the industrial revolution, going back to a time when everyone was a craftsman. What we lost in the mass production of the industrial revolution is craftsmanship and artisanship. 3D printing opens a door to a return to that as it decentralizes and democratizes industry. Our new craftsmen and artisans are the 3D makers and designers.

This vision is one that began with Chuck Hull of 3D Systems 33 years ago. His idea was to return Detroit to competitiveness as it lost market shares to the Japanese. Chuck had the idea he could work smaller and get to market faster.

This idea of Chuck’s has become a “disruptive exponential technology” that touches everything: shoes, cars, mobile devices, fashion, jet engines, medicine and food to name a few things. It is beginning to influence how we learn, how we teach, how we express ourselves and how we design.

And today we are only at the beginning of this journey! It is a journey that will change our ideas of what is possible as it transforms and disrupts the way we design and manufacture. As recently as 10 or 11 years ago, it wasn’t obvious this would all be possible. Now it is clear that it is. We have an opportunity to mainstream technology through passionate and realistic removal of friction points.

The journey will be shaped by a few trends and ideas. Within the field, the most important catalyst for progress is materials science. Today we have 120 materials from 3D Systems alone with which to print – plastics, nylon, rubber-like materials, ferrous and non-ferrous alloys.

At first we thought the “holy grail” of 3D printing would be mass customization. Now it’s clear the more important opportunity is that we can rethink designs with a complexity and functionality that weren’t possible before. Why? Because complexity and enhanced functionality is free. We no longer have to conform to the requirements of mass production.

Here are just a few benefits of the trends and new ideas emerging from the industry:

  • There isn’t as much waste, and everything is faster and less expensive.
  • Waste can be turned into beautiful objects.
  • It is possible to “get it right” the first time on big projects that cost a lot of money by using 3D modeling.
  • Manufacturing can supply a “need it now” and “fit for me” demand.
  • In medicine, errors are reduced and outcomes improved because of models and reality simulators that allow rehearsals.
  • Kids in classrooms can hold their ideas in their hands.

We are headed toward a ubiquitous 3D lifestyle that will permeate every aspect of our lives. The question isn’t should we get a 3D printer in our home but what room in our home will house the 3D printer!

Yes, there are unintended consequences. One that stands out is the possibility of printing 3D guns. With the democratization of digital craftsmanship, everyone can make things, not just designers and craftsmen. There are questions that must be answered along the way, and there will surely be regulations.

Currently technology and 3D printing are moving at exponential speeds. Regulatory and enforcement platforms are not moving at the same speed. And yet – should we restrict the flow because some misuse technology? We cannot regulate the human condition. We can just begin to educate people in charge of education and law enforcement.

And there are also unimagined consequences as we continue to transform and disrupt the way we think, design and make things. These are the things that are exciting.

Several organizations got a special mention for their work at this point, and e-NABLE was one!

3D Q&A: what are people asking?

Here are some of the questions asked by the audience, and answers from Avi Reichental:

Do you see 3D printing becoming ubiquitous? Yes, as much as the tablet or smart phones in a few years. The possibilities are unlimited as we get away from the need for a supply chain. For the first time in more than a century, we have tools that will allow anyone to start a business.

Will 3D printing replace traditional manufacturing and the jobs associated with it? No. Instead I expect a convergence of additive and subtractive technologies in the same box, a hybridization. I do think we will have to deal with issues of job learning in a massive way…with retraining and repositioning and learning new skills and developing new muscles.

What are some issues you see developing in the regulatory process? We can now do physical photography and 3D scanning for 100s of dollars, so there are questions about the value of an original design. Who owns it? What constitutes counterfeiting? Who can monetize a project? Who is entitled to royalties and revenue sharing arrangements? No one knows. What’s the value of a 20 year patent when technology doubles every year exponentially? These things will probably be tested quickly.

How does energy consumption for traditional manufacturing compare to 3D manufacturing? Studies show up to 40% net benefit in additive manufacturing vs. traditional manufacturing. More studies are needed.

Will one or two technologies begin to dominate? No. There are different machines for different purposes. We can’t look at it as a single crank engine but rather as a toolbox.

Where will the next generation of innovation come from? Each of us has access and tools so can develop digital literacy. 3D print the magic box that your own ideas jump out of: a collaborative device, a creative device, a chance to play and learn, to become an artist or a scientist or maker – create a sandbox of creativity and personalization, that’s the biggest opportunity!

The best question and response of the evening was from an 11 year old young man. He asked, ”What can 3D printing do for me that I can use?” 

The answer? Effectively it was: “Ask not what 3D printing can do for you but what you can do to transform the world with 3D printing.”

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The Best Tools for Monitoring Your 3D Prints are Your Own Eyes and Ears


I like to monitor my 3D prints closely. You can learn so much by just watching and listening to a 3D printer in action. The more closely you look and listen, the more you’ll see and hear!

For example, watching is especially important for the first layer of a print. I watch the first layer carefully to make sure the bed is perfectly leveled and the extruded plastic is being pressed flat into the build plate. I watch to ensure there’s good adhesion to the build plate, especially at the edges of the print. If any of the edges are lifting off the build plate, it’s likely to get worse and lift more as the print proceeds. This is especially true with ABS prints.

Here’s an excellent guide for visually troubleshooting issues with 3D prints. This is written for the Ultimaker 2 specifically, but much of the information is also applicable to other desktop 3D printers.

So there’s a lot we can see by watching carefully. But there’s also a lot we can “see” from careful listening! After watching the first layer, I find that I can detect some of the most common print issues by sound more readily than by sight. Each printer has a very distinct sound that it makes when everything is working properly. It’s important to become very familiar with that sound, so you can detect even the slightest variations from that.

Probably the most common example would be a sort of clicking sound that can start to occur when there are problems feeding the filament. This can be caused by a filament jam, or when the printer is being asked to extrude material faster than it can be melted and pushed out of the nozzle.  Catching this kind of issue quickly can mean the difference between a good print and a failed print, since you can pause the print job to reload the filament, or adjust flow settings, before it causes any serious problems.

If you start to hear a squeaking sound as the extruder moves around, that can indicate that it’s time to apply some lubricant to the appropriate parts of the printer, which varies by printer type.

If your extruder is instructed to move somewhere beyond the X/Y boundaries of the print bed, it can result in a loud grinding noise as the belts slip when the extruder reaches the limit of its range of movement.

These are just a few examples, but the basic idea is the same… Become very familiar with the way your printer looks and sounds when it’s working properly, and it will become much easier to identify exactly what’s going on when something does inevitably go wrong.



It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere! 3D printing in a neighborhood near you


Partnership lets you print a thing within 10 miles of home

It’s big news that now, even if you don’t own a 3D printer, you can find a design for an object that you like and get it printed. It’s even bigger news that the partnership making this possible is a merger of two key concepts that are shaping the future.

The facts: MakerBot, a subsidiary of Stratasys Ltd., made two announcements this week. The first was that it is reducing staff and closing locations. The second is that it is partnering with 3D Hubs to connect Thingiverse products to printer hubs.

As a result of this partnership, more than 1 billion people who don’t own 3D printers will be able to 3D print objects from Thingiverse within 10 miles of home by touching a button. The average turn-around time is less than two days!

One door closes, and another opens. While 3D printer sales may not have measured up in recent quarters for MakerBot, with this partnership it has taken a giant step toward “creating a 3D printing ecosystem,” in the words of Joey Neal, Chief Experience Officer at MakerBot.

Founded in 2009, MakerBot is known for having the largest installed base of desktop 3D printers. More significant in relation to this partnership is that it operates Thingiverse, the world’s largest 3D design community.

Based in Amsterdam, 3D Hubs operates the world’s largest 3D printing network. It’s a marriage made in heaven, or at least a marriage which signals a paradigm shift reaching the masses.

So what are the specifics? Thingiverse boasts more than 700,000 designs. It has invited eight of its top designers to place a button on their items, “Get This Printed.” Pressing that button will allow a consumer to choose from 15,000 3D Hubs locations where the object can be printed.

Once a location is chosen, when a user enters payment information, there is an opportunity to “tip” the designer. Formerly Thingiverse provided designers with an opportunity to showcase their work. This arrangement allows designers who choose to monetize it. Eventually it will be an option available to all designers in Thingiverse.

Everyone wins: consumers who do not yet own their own printers, both designers and general public, have the capability to get the item printed locally in a very short time. Designers have an opportunity to make some money on their creations. 3D printer owners have an opportunity to maximize the value of their investment in a 3D printer, which might otherwise have periods of “down” time.

Power to the people: partnership brings creativity and production power home

The really big 3D print news is that a paradigm shifting concept has come to our homes.

Two ideas have been an important part of the 3d print “revolution,” open source design and distributed manufacturing.

From opensource.com: “The term “open source” refers to something that can be modified because its design is publicly accessible.

“While it originated in the context of computer software development, today the term ‘open source’ designates a set of values—what we call the open source way. Open source projects, products, or initiatives are those that embrace and celebrate open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community development.”

From The World Economic Forum: “Distributed manufacturing is one of 10 emerging technologies for 2015 highlighted by the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies.

“Distributed manufacturing turns on its head the way we make and distribute products. In traditional manufacturing, raw materials are brought together, assembled and fabricated in large centralized factories into identical finished products that are then distributed to the customer. In distributed manufacturing, the raw materials and methods of fabrication are decentralized, and the final product is manufactured very close to the final customer.”

So let’s think about this for a moment. At our end as consumers, we are used to hoofing it to a series of local stores to find a finished product, very likely made on the other side of the world. Usually personalization and modifications are not options other than to have a design we want added onto a factory produced t-shirt from China or some tailoring done on a mass-produced suit or dress we purchased. We are offered “options” on expensive purchases like cars to personalize them, but that’s something different. The options themselves are manufactured in the traditional way.

In an open source world, we can tinker with the code for a design to make it work exactly as we would like it to work. If we don’t have that capability, we can interact with a designer to make adjustments. It’s easy to see some of these interactions from people’s comments in Thingiverse.

It’s only the possibility of distributed manufacturing, though, that makes that personalization or customization practical. The altered code can be used to 3D print one object locally. It doesn’t have to be applied to masses of product in a centralized factory.

So here we are with a paradigm shift that will completely alter the way we think, the way we shop, the way things are produced and our economy. This paradigm shift is the result of two ideas that are core to the 3D printing industry: open source interactions and distributed manufacturing.

Bram de Zwant, CEO and co-founder of 3D Hubs, calls this a merger of creativity (MakerBot’s Thingiverse) and production power (3D Hubs local printing of custom items).

So it’s great news that we can all choose an object from Thingiverse and print it locally with a button that connects us to the resources of 3D Hubs.

But the really big news is that now it’s possible for each and every one of us to be part of a dramatic revolution in how we do things and how we think about things. Before we know it, this revolution will become so pervasive that we won’t even realize any more that we’re part of it.

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3D Printing: Shaping the Conversation on Sustainability

RecycleBot process...
RecycleBot process…

“There’s a great future in plastics.” Really?!

In 1967 when I saw The Graduate (13 times), I laughed heartily every time at this ironic exchange:

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Ben is disillusioned with his parents’ lifestyle and their expectations for him. In this memorable scene in a swimming pool, Mr. McGuire shares with Ben his belief that the future is in plastics.

At that time, the general public (of which I was a young part) got that reference to plastics as a reference to something merely . . . well, tacky and phony like the world of Ben’s parents. I hardly saw it as the shape of the future.

Yet here we are in the future, and 3D print technology is helping people in all walks of life and at all ages in small and in dramatic ways, helping animals, transforming industry and our world. Much of that industry is happening in plastics. A conversation I laughed at for its irony I can now see as prophetic.

As a newbie to 3D printing and confronted every day with environmental concerns about the plastic we discard, one of my first questions was about sustainability.

It turns out there’s way more to the picture than roll after roll of plastic filament stretching into the distant future. In fact, the 3D print industry is already becoming a significant force in its contribution to the conversation on sustainability even as many begin to work on the factors that could contribute to making 3D printing anti-sustainability.

Can 3D printed plastics protect the environment?

The question of sustainability with regard to 3D printing doesn’t result in simple and clear-cut answers despite lots of enthusiasm for potentialities.

Some focus on the ways 3D printing can contribute to sustainability.  Others point to ways 3D printing may have features that mitigate against sustainability, among them that currently it requires quite a bit of electrical energy in its process. Of course there are questions about adding to the plastic load in the world.

I looked at 3 aspects of the 3D printing industry to understand how it might contribute to a sustainable future:

  • The nature of the process, that is, how 3D printing works
  • Concepts related to sustainability that are coming out of 3D print technology
  • Current projects that are contributing to sustainability

There is so much going on, but I’ve selected just a very few recent stories in each category.

2 Ways 3D printing works and how they contribute to a sustainable future

Anything that can be designed and 3D printed removes from the equation the energy involved in transportation.

One of the things that 3D print designers love about this technology is that an idea can be generated on one side of the world, put into code, transmitted in nano-seconds to the other side of the world and produced on-site for review, evaluation and adjustments. These adjustments can be returned to the designer via the internet.

Not only has this technology created new collaboration possibilities, it has created a completely new design and manufacturing model that eliminates or greatly reduces geographical and related time and energy considerations.

Anything that can be designed and 3D printed can reduce waste.

The old model for manufacturing was to produce a mass of items in the hope they would sell. The new model for manufacturing is to 3D print exactly what has been sold or is needed.

In addition, 3D printing is additive. Instead of taking a pile of material, using what is needed and dealing with a remainder as in traditional manufacturing . . . material is added in layers exactly as needed without the cutaway waste.

There are disclaimers: one is that many 3D projects require supports which are discarded after manufacture. Smart developers are producing new solutions to this and other problems every day.

3 Concepts from 3D printing that contribute to sustainability

Modeling (Rapid Prototyping). The possibility of creating models during the planning stage saves time, energy and material in every area of endeavor, from medicine to city planning to agriculture to food and much more.

“Most current 3D printers are not used to create final consumer products. Rather, they are generally employed for rapid product prototyping, or to produce moulds or mould masters that will in turn allow the production of final items. Such printing of 3D objects already enables engineers to check the fit of different parts long before they commit to costly production, architects to show detailed and relatively low-cost scale models to their clients, and medical professionals or archaeologists to handle full-size, 3D copies of bones printed from 3D scan data. There are also a wide range of educational uses.”

Circularity. Plastic items (PLA and ABS plastic waste) can be turned into filament for printing new items. Alternatively the plastic from failed prints can be recycled to print another item.

Going local. Items that typically involve manufacturing or harvesting in distant locations and shipping can be 3D printed as locally as in your own home.

This new paradigm could change the meaning of “going local.” With consumers printing at home, emissions from transporting finished products could fall. Future printing with locally recycled feedstock could substantially reduce emissions from shipping raw materials as well. This create-on-demand model is also much more efficient than mass-producing and shipping potentially unwanted, excess items, and could eventually cut down on the need for product packaging.”

2 Current practical applications contributing to sustainability

Plastic Waste (recycling and repurposing). 

Plastic Bank. This is a project I love — a recycling project that is so much more than recycling! Not only does this project work to reduce the impact of plastic on our environment, it empowers the deeply disadvantaged in the process.

From TechRepublic: “Society does not fully value plastic. That’s the idea behind the Plastic Bank, which calls for harvesting and repurposing plastic, turning it into a valuable currency.”

RecycleBotCloser to home, literally: we have printers that are the first step toward recycling and repurposing plastic waste in our own homes! RecycleBot turns old plastic milk bottles and more into filament and new objects.

I’m not yet going to list these 3D food printed applications as current and practical because they are in early experimental stages, but someday it will be possible for those who eat meat to eat it without the tremendous toll on our environment and our fellow creatures.

Edible Growth by Chloe Rutzerveld
Edible Growth by Chloe Rutzerveld

Here’s one last useful food idea I want to watch: Edible Growth, by food and concept designer Chloé Rutzerveld. The project is described in her blog and in CNet.

Imagine the impact on our environment and on nutritionally disadvantaged populations when these 3D printed applications toward a more sustainable future are fully realized.

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3D Printing Helps Seniors

3D printed soft food delivers appetizing nutrition to seniors
3D printed soft food delivers appetizing nutrition to seniors

3D printing enhances quality of life for seniors


We’ve all heard them, those jokes about getting older: “You know you’re old when you and your teeth don’t sleep together.” It’s a humorous accommodation to the fact that one of the unfortunate features of aging is that bodily structures and systems deteriorate at a more rapid rate.

As anyone knows who has needed a dental implant or dental prosthetics, they are costly, as in the thousands. Medicare doesn’t cover this particular expense nor do most insurers, even dental insurers. In addition, there is usually an uncomfortable waiting period between tooth removal and implantation or development of a dental prosthesis.

That set of facts makes it exciting news that 3D printing is taking off in the dental industry. This development isn’t futuristic: it’s happening now. While at the moment, 3D print technology is focused on reducing the cost and increasing the accuracy of dental surgery through lifelike modeling, 3D printing implants and dental prostheses isn’t far behind.

Says Andrew Wheeler, a 3D print journalist of Stratasys Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer, showcased at the International Dental Show in Germany just last month, March 2015: “I think it’s pretty nice that we are coming to an age where you can have a crown replaced almost immediately after having it scanned with an intra-oral scanner, have the data processed on 3D software, and then have the replacement 3D printed out for you while you comfortably relax with your pin-pricked gums, numbed out face, blinding light, and crappy TV or music.”


More than 50% of women in the U.S. suffer from osteoporosis and more than 25% of men. Hip fracture is a serious and costly public health problem in this country and internationally. Fragility fractures as a function of osteoporosis are associated with an approximately doubled risk of death in the year following the fracture. The annual cost of osteoporotic fractures to the US healthcare system in 2001 was approximately US$17 billion.

3D printing offers life-saving solutions as implants into the skeletal system. Two particularly impressive stories are these, one a hip implant, the other an arm-saving shoulder implant. 3D printed knee replacements have been used with good success. Particularly exciting are the stories of 3D printed implant processes completed with stem cells.

3D printed hip replacements can save lives and improve the quality of life. A year ago, surgeons at Southampton General Hospital 3D printed a hip joint for 71-year-old Meryl Richards and used her own stem cells to hold it in place.

3D printed shoulder implant. Also a year ago, a hospital in the Netherlands 3D printed the first shoulder prosthetic. The expectation was that the patient would have better mobility than with a traditional shoulder implant. Prior to that surgery, only knees had been replaced through 3D printing.

In another shoulder implant story, a tumor patient’s shoulder and arm were saved from amputation with a 3D printed shoulder implant.


Degenerating teeth aren’t the only reason seniors may have difficulty eating. Sadly more than 60% of elderly people have dysphagia, difficulty swallowing. Until now this problem has been addressed with unappetizing purees.

One German company, Biozoonhas a new approach. They have created a 3D printer that manufactures beautiful, appetizing, nutritious 3D printed soft foods. Developed in 2010, the concept has been adopted in over 1,000 retirement homes in Germany. Biozoon is now working with 14 companies from 5 countries and has received money from the European Union to develop the technology and improve supply. –

Transitioning from 3D Printing to Bioprinting: life everlasting?

Does 3D printing combined with bioprinting technology promise more comfortable and productive sunset years for all of us? Or even eternal life?

Bioprinting is a technology that artificially constructs living tissue by printing layer upon layer of living cells.  It is not futuristic: it is here! In March 2015, Russian scientists unveiled a functional 3D printed thyroid.  They hope to have a functional 3D printed kidney sometime during 2018.

As we are able to print functioning body tissue, some enthusiasts envision . . . well, eternal life. In this vision, 3D and bioprint technology will print replacements for each body part that wears out. In addition, by studying exact functional replicas of body parts produced with 3D modeling, we may be able to find solutions to many of the mysteries of aging.

The Smithsonian builds on this futuristic theme with “Organs made to order.”  This idea points to a shorter term, very practical and probably less ethically laden use for 3D and bioprinting technology, though: Huffington Post explains “How 3D printing could end the deadly shortage of donor organs.

In the even shorter term, 3D and bioprinting technology may assist failing organs instead of replacing them.

We live in exciting times!

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3D Printed Animal Prosthetic Stories: Antidote to the News


From human to animal prosthetics

If you keep up with the news as I do, you’re likely to have moments when you feel discouraged about the human enterprise on this earth. More and more often I find myself turning off the news and looking for stories about the activities of organizations like e-NABLE.

This great volunteer organization, focused on creating 3D printed prosthetic hands for those who would otherwise not be able to afford them, is transformative in so many ways and at so many levels. It transforms the lives of recipients . . . but it also transforms the lives of makers, offering a way for them to participate directly in improving the lives of others.

Another kind of story that inspires me is about 3D printed prosthetic limbs for animals. Whether making devices for humans or animals, caring people have devoted countless hours to making the lives of our fellow creatures better.


20 stories of animals’ lives transformed through 3D printed prosthetics

There is a growing movement of innovators designing 3D prosthetics for injured animals around the world. Good people who want to “pay it forward” are everywhere, in these cases from a number of locations in the U.S. to Taiwan to Costa Rica to British Columbia.

Here are links to inspiring stories of animals whose lives changed dramatically through 3D printed prosthetics — and of the people who made those changes happen.

Any time I get discouraged, I like to read one of these stories.

And lots more! – https://instagram.com/animalorthocare/


Good news about the impact of 3D printing on animals’ lives

Animal lovers and animal rights activists will be happy to know that 3D printing technology may replace drug testing on animals within five years by printing human stem cells.

Vet Consultants in Telemedicine suggest several applications for 3D printing in veterinary medicine including in the areas of orthopedics, vascular surgery and and radiology, oncology and implants and surgical instruments.

So the next time you want to remember that people are capable of great love and caring acts, turn off the news and revisit some of these stories about 3D printed prosthetics for animals, the people who do it and how it helps our animal friends.

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3D Printing: Coming Soon to Kitchens Everywhere

juicer01 - Copy

How 3D printing freed the slave in my kitchen

I’m a foodie, and I love to cook. Naturally all the buzz about 3D printed food stimulated my curiosity. I have discovered very interesting possibilities and wonderfully useful applications . . . but probably not yet for my kitchen. Does that mean there’s no place for 3D printing in my kitchen today? Not at all!

I use a lot of lemons in my cooking. Awhile back I was chatting with a next door neighbor, complaining about the shape, cumbersomeness and relative ineffectiveness of lemon juicers currently on the market. Short of getting a professional juicer like I used to have in my cafe, there isn’t much I like.

Did I mention that my next door neighbor owns a 3D printer? The next morning I received a beautiful 3D printed lemon juicer. It was love at first sight. I knew immediately it would be the  BEST lemon juicer I have ever had. One minute later, my neighbor had fresh lemonade!

Having a 3D printed lemon juicer in my kitchen may seem like a small thing, but like I said, I squeeze a lot of lemons when I cook. And now I’m free from a little bit of kitchen drudgery! Not only that – I can make lemonade in a heartbeat.

juicer07 - Copy

The Real Lemonade Revolution: brought to you by 3D printing

A few years ago I offered a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade to a 20+ employee. She took a sip and had a stunned look on her face. “Amazing,” she said. Noting her ecstasy over the drink, I wondered if it was possible she had never had real lemonade before? Sure enough, prior to this moment lemonade for her was something made with water and canned powder. She had no idea you could just make lemonade from . . . well, real lemons.

Have you ever compared the ingredient list on a lemon with the ingredient list on one of those cans of lemonade mix? Here is a typical powdered lemonade mix ingredient list: Sugar, Fructose, Citric Acid, Less Than 2% Of Natural Flavor, Ascorbic Acid, Maltodextrin, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Citrate, Magnesium Oxide, Calcium Fumarate, Artificial Color, Yellow 5 Lake, Tocopherol.

Compare that list to: Lemon. No wonder my employee was so amazed with that glass of fresh lemonade I handed her.

Now you, too, can make fresh lemonade faster than you can open that can of powdered mix, just in time for summer – with a 3D printed juicer. I’m going to have one made for everyone I know this year.

Three more MUST-HAVE 3D Printed Kitchen Tools & lots more

I love my 3D printed juicer so much. It started me wondering, what other ways could 3D printing transform my life in the kitchen? Here are a few things I found that I want to try.

For now, I’m going to go enjoy a tall glass of fresh, 3D printed juicer lemonade and figure out how I’m going to hit up my favorite 3D printer owning neighbor for a Cheese Press.

The “Juicy Juicer” featured in this article can be found on Thingiverse, here. Model credit: Procrastinator.

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How does your garden grow? This year with 3D printing!

From 3Dponics: an easy to use and open sourced hydroponics system that turns small spaces into home gardens

No soil, no sun, no water, no problem with 3D printing

I keep telling myself that spring is on the way. Some days it even feels like it’s here. That must mean it’s time to get underway with a garden.

I used to have a 120′ x 60′ garden. Great drainage, plenty of sun. All the manure I wanted. Now I have a 10′ x 10′ deck. Too much sun. No soil on the deck. A virtually sunless area under the deck where the dirt is. I can glean a few more inches here and there around the base of trees and along the back of my townhome. If I’m lucky, I can get a five month growing season.

I will guess that most of us in the United States don’t live in situations that allow us to grow our own food. Even if we do have space, we probably don’t have ideal weather 12 months of the year. Enter 3D printing and micro farming.

How 3D printing can help you grow your garden

I wondered if 3D printing could help me grow food on my deck and in my house. A quick check on the internet provided me with these great possibilities.

Mike Adams, the “Health Ranger,” offers a Food Rising Mini-Farm Grow Box system based on 3D printing and hydroponics. As a lab science director and inventor, Mike was able to work with taulman3D to create the strong, water-tight material he needed for his project. The 3D printed components are made with taulman3D t-glase Polar White Filament. FoodRising provides instructions to build your own Grow Box, complete with 3D print specs.

3Dponics specializes in matching 3D technology to hydroponics. It is “an open-source initiative for the development of 3D models that are used to build efficient and affordable gardens.”

According to 3Dponics, their “MakerBot app makes creating unique gardens with 3D printing quick and easy. 3Dponics Inc., creator of the first 3D-printable hydroponics system, is releasing its first MakerBot-Ready App to enable anyone to 3D print their own 3Dponics parts: the 3Dponics Customiser.”

Computer scientist Yuichiro Takeuchi of Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. has developed a 3D printer that will print a garden in any shape you design! His invention is also built on hydroponics, a growing system that replaces soil with mineral nutrients. Takeuchi’s vision is for barren city rooftops to be covered with growth. Maybe my deck can be a small practice project?

Here are all kinds of handy gardening tools to 3D print:

And well, sometimes girls (and guys) just wanna have fun – build a chess set garden with 3D printing technology:

When you’re ready to go big time, here’s a project I love. FarmBot “hopes to create an open source hardware, software and data solution that allows anyone, anywhere to build and operate their 3D farming printer, the FarmBot.” 3D printing food is exciting, but it probably won’t work on the mass scale needed to feed the hungry. This system has the potential to do just that.

FrogDesign marks “4 Tech Trends That Will Define 2015.” Two of the four are 3D printing and … micro gardening! These enterprises we’ve shared just match them up.

Here’s one more idea, designers: what about creating a hand along the lines of a prosthetic device? With gardening attachments?

If the garden isn’t happening, 3D print your own food!

But that’s another post.

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter (@3dprintingisfun) and like us on Facebook. Subscribe to this blog, or visit us at shop3duniverse.com.

3D Printing Changes Lives


Last week I had an opportunity to listen in on a presentation Jeremy gave at the Barrington Library. His presentation was part of a “maker” series, focused on 3D printing. It was intended to introduce participants to one very important use for 3D printing: making affordable prosthetic hands.

Jeremy was talking about a volunteer organization with which he is deeply involved, e-NABLE, “A Global Network Of Passionate Volunteers Using 3D Printing To Give The World A ‘Helping Hand.'” In two short years, e-NABLE has grown from a handful of volunteers to 4500 volunteers around the world. People are excited about an opportunity to not only learn a new technology but to see how they can be part of helping others in a big way.

Jeremy often says that 3D printing is transformative. With what I heard and saw at this presentation, I understood what that means. Yes, 3D printing will help those recipients of the prosthetic hands who would not otherwise have them. It will change their lives! It will also change the lives of the “makers” as they are able to reach out to help others in such direct and constructive ways.

3D printing will change relationships as well. It will change relationships between makers and recipients, between people across the world involved in a common project, and between individuals and industry.

Making prosthetic hands is only one small, although very important, part of what 3D printing can do and will be able to do in our lives. It is exemplary, tho.

I am old enough to remember when I first heard of someone purchasing a personal computer. It seemed expensive and . . . well, exotic. I got one myself two or three years later though. I could hardly use it, but I knew there were wonderful possibilities hidden in that metal frame. Still, I couldn’t have imagined then how computers would transform my life.

I remembered those early years of personal computers as I watched people listening to Jeremy’s presentation in the library. For forty minutes, there was not a sound in the room as Jeremy showed slides of kids’ smiling faces receiving their 3D printed hands. You could see their new confidence and their changing perception of themselves. It was great to hear stories about kids going from being picked on to being stars in their schools.

Jeremy told these stories against the backdrop of a technology that is developing daily and a worldwide volunteer community that is developing right along with it.


People’s questions were insightful, far-ranging and rapid-fire, just one sign of the intensity of their interest and excitement. There were technical questions, practical questions and cultural questions. What’s the best 3D printer? Where do you find parts like the fingertips on the hands (repurposed secretaries’ plastic protective finger tips, included in Enable parts kits). What is the difference between a hand made for an American kid and a hand made for adults in 3rd world and war-torn areas?

I was a latecomer to personal computers. I’m glad I’m not last in line to learn about 3D printing! I can’t wait to see the ways it will change my life. I hope you’ll join me in this adventure.

Follow us on Twitter (@3dprintingisfun) and like us on Facebook. Subscribe to this blog, or visit us at shop3duniverse.com.

3D Universe Team Builds a Pair of Ultimakers

NOTE: this post was written by Aleks, co-founder of 3D Universe. Until now, he’s been working behind-the-scenes doing all the programming and design work for the online store.

Last week, we went on another 3D Universe field trip, this time to Memphis, Tennessee. Jeremy and I took a 550-mile journey to visit Ultimaker’s United States-based partner, Fbrc8. They are the folks responsible for the assembly and distribution of Ultimaker 2’s in the United States.

At 3D Universe, our whole philosophy is that we use the actual products we sell. It’s an easy value proposition to own up to: we get to tinker and play with 3D printing technology for a living. What’s not to like about that? :-)

One of our favorite 3D printers to play with is the Ultimaker 2. It’s an easy product to like. We knew that if we were going to sell them, we wanted to be able to provide the best support possible. With Ultimaker committed to growing into the United States market, we needed to go no further than Memphis, Tennessee to get the training needed.

We were already excited about getting to spend an entire day with Simon Oliver, owner of Fbrc8. What we didn’t know is that we were each going to get to build a brand new Ultimaker 2 from the ground up. Talk about getting some serious hands-on training!

Simon is a highly respected moderator known as “Illuminarti” on the Ultimaker forums. There are few people who have spent more time than Simon working with Ultimaker printers. We couldn’t have asked for a better instructor!

We spent the morning going through some basic support issues and getting oriented. After lunch we plunged head-first into building our two Ultimakers.

Here’s what we started with, two empty cases. I said we started from the ground-up, but we actually had a tiny head-start:


Here’s a shot of our venerable (and patient) instructor, Simon Oliver:


Here I am assembling the hot end:


And the fully assembled hot ends, prior to installation:


Here, Jeremy is connecting the Bowden tube:


Here’s a shot my first test print fresh from the Ultimaker I finished building only a half-hour earlier – a pretty surreal experience!

The master and his newly initiated apprentices near the end of the day. In right side of the photo on, you can see our two completely assembled Ultimakers sitting on the table:


We started with two empty cases, installed all the major and minor components, including the main circuit board, the hot end assembly and the backbone wiring. The result was two fully assembled Ultimaker 2’s. And a pretty proud pair of tech geeks!

After lubricating the appropriate moving parts, we ran our first test prints. I watched as the nozzle emitted the first layer of plain-white PLA, then the next, and so on… until the entire 1 mm-tall test square completed.

Eventually, I was holding the 3D print from a machine which I had built with my own hands, in no small way with the benefit of Simon’s expert instruction! In the long course of my career, this stands as one of those subtly defining moments that I’m sure I’ll fondly remember, decades from now.

We gave a profuse thanks to Simon for taking time out of his very busy schedule to accommodate us and give us this one-of-a-kind training.  We soon got on the road and headed back to Chicago….

Interview with Josh Goldstein, Founder of Parametrix

I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Josh Goldstein, founder of Parametrix. Josh comes from an architectural design background but is in the process of building a new business around 3D printing, utilizing his design expertise in new and creative ways. Like many others, Josh is finding new opportunities thanks to the empowering capabilities of desktop 3D printers. In getting to know Josh’s work, I became fascinated with the benefits of having a strong design skill set combined with a solid understanding of 3D printers and their capabilities. He has learned to design not only for aesthetics and functionality, but also for ease of 3D printing.

Can you please tell our audience a little about your background?

I’m a wannabe inventor from Denver, Colorado. In my youth, I spent much of my free time making robots. First out of cardboard, and later out of consumer electronics (VCRs, computers, stereos, toys). My dad even made business cards for me so I could impress my elementary school friends. “If we don’t have it, we’ll invent it” the business cards said.

After I was done electrocuting myself with the robots, I got into architectural design. I saw the demolition of a well-known Denver property and became interested in the life and death of buildings. which I saw as larger-than-life machines. I taught myself how to use digital modeling software and landed an internship with a retail developer in high school. I worked on the construction and design of a $300 million urban development project near Denver for two years before going to college.

I went to Kansas State University for my Master of Architecture degree. It’s one of the top architectural design schools in the country. It was there I learned to take 3D modeling and design to the next level – by using parametric inputs and algorithms to “script” a design
into creation, whether that be a08 18 Parametrix logo stacked_forweb-01 building, a piece of furniture, or a product. This ability to rapidly generate designs and patterns was what inspired the creation of my side project, Parametrix.


What inspired you to get involved with 3D printing?

3D printing brought out the inventor in me. Since I already had the skills to draw and script complex 3D designs, the ability to physically create the designs in my own home was the next logical step. I decided it was a worthwhile investment to buy a FlashForge Creator almost a year ago. It’s been simultaneously exhilarating and maddening. I have been able to design and fabricate useful and beautiful products with a foundation in architectural design, all while learning the capabilities and limitations of this new home production technology.

Besides being fun, I saw the ability to design and produce products at home as an opportunity to launch a small business, something I’ve always wanted to do. Select Parametrix products are now available at I Heart Denver, a mecca for local Denver art and design. 3D printing has enabled me to follow a dream.

What are some of your favorite 3D printed designs? Please share some photos, and tell us a little about each one.

With Parametrix, I’ve experimented with shapes and patterns to create unique and innovative home products. The ability to use parametric scripting means these designs are all based in mathematics and can be changed and adjusted in seconds, and 3D printed again.

IMG_6424_edited IMG_6405_editThe Parametrix Pen Holder is the first product that seemed worthy of retail sale. The original faceted version was the one that caught the eye of I Heart Denver, and allowed me to produce more products for the store. The faceted version has since been joined by the wireframe version, which takes its inspiration from Colorado Native American arrowheads and is designed specifically to print cleanly using FDM manufacturing processes.

final mountain range with plant whiteOf course, great product design isn’t simply about shapes and patterns. The Parametrix Planter is designed with a hidden drainage system. It hides the unsightly saucer behind the beautiful relief pattern and provides the plant with critical aeration. The Planter is a good example of high-quality design and function in one cohesive 3D-printed design.

IMG_6606_editedA final product worth mentioning is the Parametrix Denver Cityscape. Over 50 iconic buildings make up this beautifully-detailed 1:5280 scale model of Denver. An algorithm controls the rotation, scale, and placement of the buildings on the platform in order to maintain location accuracy but ensure visibility. On the bottom, I’ve included an engraved numbering system for each building which can be matched to a legend on our website, www. parametrix3d.com.

Now that you’ve learned 3D printing, how are you leveraging your combined skill-sets of professional design and 3D printing?

Screenshot 2014-09-21 12.30.02I’ve learned how critical it is to keep designs flexible with 3D printing. The ability to quickly adjust a dimension globally for a particular product using the scripts I create saves so much time over drawing and redrawing geometry manually. I’ve learned a lot about flexible design and scripting through the process, and I translate these skills as an architectural designer. Keeping in mind that tolerances and dimensions may change affects how I look at the design process of buildings, structures, and spaces. Being able to maintain an idea while satisfying real-world considerations and limitations is key to flexible and successful design.

Do you feel that 3D printing technology is creating new professional opportunities? Please explain.

Absolutely. I think 3D printing will spawn a whole host of new markets. For instance, if a 3D printer becomes a common household appliance, maybe we’ll see more brick & mortar printer demonstration and repair shops. I think we’ll continue to see individuals and small businesses innovate to create a better printer, better accessories, and better filament.

I also think we’ll see businesses dedicated to some of the by-products of home 3D printing. Filament waste is a significant issue, and maybe we’ll see new markets to capture some waste and turn it back into profit. For instance, we’re already seeing a movement to recycle filament at home with the right machinery. Recycling printed objects is a sticky issue itself, and we’ll likely see municipal recycling programs taking a stance and educating people about where and how to dispose of tricky plastics like PLA.

Do you have any future plans or projects you can tell us about?

Now that I’ve got several products that are print-ready, I can focus on new directions. I want to start looking into robotics and kinetic design. Using a 3D printer to fabricate structural frames, skins, and mechanical parts and combining them with servo and stepper motors could result in cool robots or machines. I want to come full circle and return to my inventing and robotics work, this time with a design degree and more experience.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

WP_20140817_002I have high hopes for 3D printing, but I also have been frustrated by its limitations. The FDM manufacturing process imposes illogical limitations on design. For instance, the script that controls the wireframe pen holder specifically aims to keep the angles on the pattern very high, otherwise the bottom edges of the design get messy as the molten filament tends to warp and expand if the angle of an overhang is too low. Depending on the intelligence of the slicing engine, the very movements of the print head while printing may result in poor-quality prints because the hot nozzle will pull corners up and distort edges. I look forward to a time when I can design anything, regardless of angles and overhangs, and print it accurately at home.

I also think 3D printing is unfortunately far from ready for the average consumer. I’ve had to do a fair bit of research, experimentation, and tweaking with varying results. Obviously this comes with the age of the technology, but I look forward to a time when 3D printing is truly as easy as plug and play. The good news is, we’re getting closer every day.

BONUS: Here’s a time lapse video of the Parametrix Denver Cityscape bring printed on a FlashForge Creator X 3D printer.

For more information and for links to download STL files visit, please visit Parametrix at http://www.parametrix3d.com/

Introducing The Raptor Hand by e-NABLE

I had the rare privilege recently to work with a team of amazing individuals to help design e-NABLE‘s latest model of 3D printable prosthetic hand, The Raptor.


Ivan Owen, Peter Binkley, Frankie Flood, and Andreas Bastian did the 3D modeling work, while I provided project management and coordination, as well as 3D printing and testing of design iterations.

These guys are my heroes! I’ve been doing project management for over 20 years, but I’ve never witnessed a team work so effectively and efficiently as what I witnessed with this team. These guys started with a blank slate, designed original 3D models for all the parts of the Raptor Hand, including many iterations and improvements – and all within a period of less than one month, on top of working their full-time jobs!

The Raptor Hand was introduced in a big way at the recent Prosthetists Meet Printers conference with Johns Hopkins. Please check out Jen Owen’s terrific blog post describing that event – I can’t possibly describe it any better than she did.

The design this team came up with is truly elegant. A lot of thought was given to what worked best with previous designs, and where there were issues that could be improved upon.

The Raptor Hand is intended to bring together the best and most widely tested ideas from a year of crowd sourced innovation.
The objectives in designing the Raptor Hand were as follows:

  • To simplify fabrication and assembly and repair for makers and recipients alike
  • To provide a platform and reference design for future innovations, incremental and radical
  • To identify a core features set and standardized dimensions embodied in accessible 3D models with progressive licensing terms that will ensure widespread availability and future development.

e-NABLE’s prior “go to” designs included the Cyborg Beast, the Talon hand, the Ody hand and the Talon Beast. To these classics, the Raptor Hand by e-NABLE adds the following features:

  • Easier and quicker printing (no supports required)
  • Easier and quicker assembly (no Chicago Screws required, simplified cord installation)
  • An improved tensioning system (modular design, allowing for easier future development)
  • Improved documentation (in progress)

All of the parts needed for assembly can be found easily in most areas, but if you prefer to get everything in one place, 3D Universe offers kits with all of the assembly materials needed for producing a Raptor Hand.


The Raptor Hand instruction manual is in the process of being developed. Until then, please refer to the following video tutorial for assembly instructions.

Printing instructions:

  • Print without supports (palm and gauntlet have some supports built into the model)
  • Scale all parts as needed (the Raptor Hand is designed to work at scales from 100% through 170%)
    • At 100%, the inside of the palm area measures 55mm
    • Measure across the widest part of the palm, then add 5mm for padding, then divide by 55 to get the scaling factor (for example, if the palm is 65mm wide, then 65 + 5 = 70, and 70 / 55 = 1.27 – so your scaling multiplier would be 1.27 or 127%)
  • PLA is recommended for this design
  • Suggested settings are 0.2mm layer height, 35% infill, 2 outlines
  • Refer to file names for part descriptions. The number in square brackets at the end of each file name indicates how many copies of that STL file need to be printed for a complete hand assembly.

Parts reference:

Raptor Hand Parts - Exploded View

If you have a 3D printer with a large enough build plate, you can print all of the parts for an entire Raptor Hand in one pass. Here’s a time-lapse showing the Raptor being printed in various colors.

STL files for printing a Raptor Hand can be downloaded from

Thingiverse: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:476403

YouMagine: https://www.youmagine.com/designs/the-raptor-hand-by-e-nable

Also, be sure to check out e-NABLE’s new Handomatic web application, which can create custom scaled STL files for you in just a few clicks so you don’t have to do the scaling yourself.

Taulman 3D Launches Kickstarter for Six New Filament Types

Looking to expand your 3D printing horizons beyond ABS and PLA? Then look no further… Taulman 3D has launched a Kickstarter campaign for SIX new specialty filaments.

These materials are already developed and community tested. The Kickstarter campaign is strictly to raise enough money to go to full-scale production.

3D Universe is proud to be one of Taulman 3D’s testers, so we were lucky enough to get our hands on samples of all these materials, and we were very impressed with the results and ease of printability.




Tritan is a new high tensile strength material.  Tensile Stress (PSI) of 6,600 lbs, Modulus (PSI) 53,000, E@B was 18.7% “When 3D Printed”.   The reports from testers continue to confirm that Tritan is the strongest material they have printed. To include bonding, bridging, non-stringing and extremely low warping.


  • Glass clear
  • FDA approved raw material
  • Excellent bonding makes for shatter proof parts.
  • Prints at ~270C on clean glass heated to 85C

PCTPE (A Plasticized Copolyamide TPE)

     An extremely flexible yet durable and strong TPE and nylon based material.  PCTPE was designed to be both highly flexible, yet retain the durability of nylons.  Single perimeter parts can be wadded into a ball, yet are difficult to stretch out of shape.  With a lower printing temperature than our nylons, PCTPE easily prints on any 3D printer, as it requires only 225C – 230C. While extremely flexible, the nylon insures 1.75mm line is no problem for direct drive or bowdens feed systems. That determination was made by our testers, as every sample of PCTPE sent out was 1.75mm.


  • Prints at 225C – 230C on glass w/PVA heated to 45C
  • Elongation @ Break = 370%+
  • Excellent bonding even at 0.3mm nozzle size


ARCbio is a new high strength, crystal clear PLA, biodegradable material. ARCbio is a very new polymer developed specifically for it’s strength, clarity, and light transmission. The natural color of ARCbio is clear and Aspen Research has worked to develop a PLA the stays clear during thermal processing, thus eliminating the common “yellow tinge” seen in other PLAs. Unlike t-glase, ARCbio is more optically transmissive rather than reflective.


  • Prints at 205C to 210C on clean glass/acrylic or warm bed with Kapton/Blue Painters tape
  • FDA approved raw material
  • Glass clear
  • Non-Yellowing


Tech-G is an extremely tough PETG polymer with full FDA approved raw polymer documentation and certification. Tech-G will be released as a technical “Fully Documented” material with the intent to provide Engineers, Design houses and Industry with a material that comes with hundreds of specifications as to strength, chemical resistance, worldwide certifications and technical data sheets. A simple scan of the QR code on our label will take you directly to our documentation site for Tech-G . You’ll be able to download all of the documentation provided from the chemical company and the St. Louis Test Labs. Working with one of the largest Chemical companies offering PETG variants, we have selected and tested the one chemical configuration that provides the best viscosity, lowest shrinkage and best bonding for 3D Printing.


  • Fully FDA approved PETG polymer with extensive certifications and documentation
  • Low shrinkage and high bonding
  • Prints at 238C

Nylon 680 FDA

After almost a year of testing by users worldwide, nylon 680 FDA approved raw material polymer is ready for release. Nylon 680 is an extremely tough semi-transparent line with one of the highest impact ratings and least shrinkage of all of the taulman3D nylon materials. Nylon 680 FDA will have “traceability” via QR codes. Nylon 680 is currently under evaluation for CE Dental use.


  • Print temperature is 245C
  • FDA approved raw material
  • Double Vacuum sealed


Bio-G is a new BPETG that has significant biodegradable features. When your design, idea or invention requires a biodegradable super tough polymer, one that you can count on to survive significant shock and resist harsh chemicals, Bio-G is there to support you. Bio-G is relatively new on the market and has gone through significant testing to meet several certifications. Like all taulman3D materials, you can count on printing huge pieces with no delamination.


  • FDA approved raw material
  • Prints at ~238C on glass heated to 45C with a coat of PVA



A New Model for Rapid Progress

I’m an impatient person. I think that’s part of the reason why I’m enjoying 3D printing so much. It seems to be following an amplified version of the Moore’s Law trajectory. So why is that?

As I see it, this is due primarily to a combination of three factors. 1) open source licensing and the open source community, 2) Internet-driven collaboration, and 3) a widespread willingness to share the results of one’s labor freely.

It turns out, this is a very powerful combination! It’s the exact same combination of factors that has resulted in the e-NABLE volunteer community accomplishing so much in such a short period of time, with over 1350 members in just one year of existence.

Recently, Autodesk threw their significant weight into the ring, committing to a significant investment into that open source process by developing an entirely new open source hardware and software platform for 3D printing.

Internet collaboration technologies are empowering individuals everywhere to get directly involved in solving real-world problems and helping to move important technologies forward. This is something the larger companies are going to have to adapt to if they wish to survive in the long term. Companies will need to learn to leverage this model instead of trying to compete with it.

Like any well-managed company, 3D Universe has a clearly defined set of strategic objectives and targets. Unlike most companies, financial profit is NOT the top item on that list. Profit is one factor that plays into our decision-making, but social impact and alignment with our core principles carries more weight in our considerations.

I sure hope that idea continues to catch on. Companies can no longer afford to act or make decisions in isolation from the broader community. With continued population growth combined with Internet and computing technologies, everything has become too connected for that to work any longer.  It’s amazing how many companies still have profit as their number one objective without realizing how that leads to bad decision-making. When we focus too much on profit, at the exclusion of everything “outside” of the company, our view is way too narrow and disconnected from the broader reality of the situation.

We need to change our definition of success. Real success isn’t measured by a bank balance. It’s measured in terms of the impact we have on those around us. It’s measured in terms of our peace of mind when we go to bed at night and the enthusiasm with which we greet each day.

If we consider the model of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, we can view this shift as moving beyond the more basic physiological and safety needs, to focus more on matters of self-actualization (which can apply to companies as well as individuals).


Interestingly, it seems there is a growing number of people who share this view and therefore wish to do business with companies who operate on this basis. As a result, financial goals can easily be achieved, even without that being the primary focus.

There is a strong current rapidly developing through Internet-driven collaboration and sharing. Companies who try to fight against this current are going to lose. Those who learn to ride the current will find things progressing quite rapidly!

Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing

There’s a reason why so many people from all walks of life are passionate about 3D printing: It’s a great hobby! Once you’ve learned how to print (and get good results) the whole process is a total hoot.

However, you’re going to encounter a number of teething issues and stumbling blocks along the way. So what can you do to bypass these hurdles and progress with your printing knowledge and skills?

There’s loads of information online about 3D printing, but much of it is aimed at those with existing knowledge and experience.

This can make getting started with 3D printing a challenging task indeed.

To help make your journey from 3D printing novice to expert as simple as possible, the crew at 3D Printer Plans have compiled a Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing that will teach you everything you need to know to get started the right way.

Here’s a sample of what you’ll learn:

  • The history of 3D printing
  • Different printing processes (and their pros and cons)
  • How to pick your first 3D printer
  • What software you need to get started
  • Essential hardware and accessories
  • Maintenance and safety instructions

Hopefully you’ll find 3D Printer Plans’ guide useful – you can read their free guide to 3D printing here.

e-NABLing Sierra – Part 4

For background on this story, please see:

The science fair is over, but Sierra’s adventure continues! As you may recall, having finished her work for the science fair, Sierra still wanted to do more. At her request, I worked with e-NABLE to locate an 8-year old girl in need of a prosthetic hand. Sierra is now helping to build that device for this girl she’s never met!

Also, this is a new design, developed by several e-NABLE volunteers, made specifically for people who have a functional thumb but no fingers. So not only is Sierra making a new hand for another girl, but she’s also helping us to test this new design and is providing valuable feedback from the assembly and testing process.

Today, Sierra was going to be speaking to a large group of teachers in Vermont, as part of a “Make, Create, Learn” event focused on personalized education. Unfortunately, she came down with a bad cold and 102 degree fever yesterday, so she wasn’t able to make it to that event.

I had the honor of being a guest speaker for that event, so I got to talk to 50+ educators who are working to bring more personalized and experience-based education to our schools.

Kate Gagner, Sierra’s teacher, was also there, and had the following to say about Sierra’s project:

“I think Sierra said about 27 words the first six months of school – she’s very, very quiet. But this hand became the unofficial mascot of our classroom. She was a rock star. She had all of this intellectual and social capital because she had designed this project for herself, and it was so innovative and so cool and so engaging, that she just stole the show. It was really great to see.”

While she couldn’t make it to the Make, Create, Learn event, earlier tonight, Sierra was featured on her local news station, WCAX, in Vermont!  Check out this great video:

2014-07-15 02.20.19 am


So let’s review…

Sierra came up with this project idea for exploring possibilities for 3D printed prosthetic devices (for people or animals). She went on to not only make a fully functional prosthetic device, with minimal assistance, but also make another device for someone who actually needs one! Along the way, she has been inspiring people all around her. Her classmates have been inspired. Her teacher and fellow educators have been inspired. I’ve been inspired. Today, that circle of impact broadened considerably, with 50+ other teachers being inspired by her work. Now they’re tweeting about it and sharing it with others.

Sierra is making a real impact that is already spreading far beyond her home town.

Would you like your kids (or your classroom) to be involved in a project like this? Send me an email or give me a call, and I’ll be happy to help you get started!

Email: jeremy (at) 3duniverse (dot) org
Phone: 800-689-4344

For more information about e-NABLE, please visit:

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started with the FlashForge Creator X

Here at 3D Universe, we’ve been using the FlashForge Creator and Creator X almost around the clock for months on end. We have been very impressed with what this printer can do, given the very reasonable price.

However, in getting started, we found the need to reference a variety of different information sources on the Internet and had to go through a good deal of trial and error to get everything working the way we wanted.

Now, after months of using the Creator and Creator X, we wanted to give something back to the 3D printing community, so we have prepared a new guide containing all of the information you’ll need to get started in one place.

This is our gift to you – free of charge. No need to fill out any forms or give us your email address.


Free download: The Unofficial FlashForge Creator X Manual

The official FlashForge manual isn’t bad, but it only covers the initial hardware setup and Replicator G software. Many users prefer to use other software options, of which there are many available. Our unofficial guide covers some of these other options, as well as the process for upgrading to the popular Sailfish firmware. We also show how to install and use a glass build plate and explain why you may (or may not) want to consider doing so.

In addition to the PDF version of the guide, we are also releasing a series of video tutorials that correspond to the topics in the PDF.

Been thinking about getting a 3D printer, but feeling hesitant because you’re not sure exactly what you’re getting into? Watch these videos, and you’ll know exactly what to expect!

For the entire playlist of videos, click here.

Part 1: Unboxing and Initial Hardware Setup
Part 2: Overview of Software Options
Part 3: Installing and Configuring Replicator G
Part 4: Installing and Configuring Slic3r
Part 5: Installing and Configuring MakerWare  (coming soon!)
Part 6: Installing and Configuring Simplify3D™ (coming soon!)
Part 7: Upgrading to Sailfish Firmware
Part 8: Installing a Glass Build Plate (coming soon!)

A note about FlashForge support:

Please refer to the official FlashForge manual included with your Creator X (on the SD card) before contacting FlashForge support. The FlashForge support team will not provide support for anything not covered in their official manual. FlashForge only provides support for their hardware and the Replicator G software.

For any questions related to other topics covered in this unofficial manual, 3D Universe customers are welcome to contact 3D Universe at support@3duniverse.org or 800-689-4344.

To purchase a FlashForge Creator X, please visit shop3duniverse.com.

1000 Volunteers, Making Free Prosthetic Limbs for Those Who Need Them

“Never underestimate that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

–  Margaret Mead [American Cultural Anthropologist]

Yesterday marked an important milestone for the e-NABLE volunteer community, as the 1000th member joined the group! 1000 people from all over the globe, all making 3D printed prosthetic devices FOR FREE for anyone who needs them. How amazing is that?

e-NABLE’s crowd-sourced, Internet-enabled global network of volunteer designers, technologists, and researchers designs and delivers 3D-printed assistive technology devices to underserved communities around the world. We have already advanced the state of the art in technology and in collaborative pro-social innovation. We believe we can globally scale and generalize our approach.

Upper limb differences accompany up to 1% of live births worldwide. Fingers, hands, and arms are also lost in accidents and armed conflicts.

Traditional prostheses cost tens of thousands of dollars, and insurance coverage in the developing world and for children who will outgrow them are rarely adequate. As a result, physiological, sociological, and psychological development can be impaired and human potential wasted. Our distributed manufacturing model provides local solutions that are inherently sustainable, replacing industrial manufacturing processes with in-place fabrication by end-users with locally-reproducible, recyclable materials.

In less than a year, e-NABLE has grown to over 1000 members, spread around the globe, focused on providing 3-D printed prosthetic hands free of charge to anyone who requests assistance. e-NABLE continues to grow rapidly, currently at a rate of about 20% monthly.

What originally started out as a couple of guys who created something to help one child in need…has grown into a worldwide movement of tinkerers, engineers, 3D print enthusiasts, occupational therapists, university professors, designers, parents, families, artists, students, teachers and people who just want to make a difference.

They are coming together to create, innovate, re-design and give a “Helping hand” to those that need it – whether it is helping to print parts for them, creating a completed device for them or simply helping to guide them as they build one themselves.

There are people around the globe – 3d printing fingers and hands for children they will never meet, classes of high school students who are making hands for children in their local communities, a group of people that are risking their lives to get these devices onto people in 3rd World countries and new stories every day of parents working with their children to make a hand together.

Come see what it’s all about…

e-NABLE’s web site
e-NABLE’s Facebook page

Ready to volunteer? Just fill out this form to get started.

Looking to obtain a free prosthetic device? Fill out the same form, and someone from the e-NABLE Matching Team will help match you with an e-NABLE volunteer.

Exploring the art of 3D printing and related technologies