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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

3D Printing: Constraints Don't Have to Mean Limitations

An interesting communication came my way from Crucible just recently, announcing a set of guidelines that the organization has developed for Designing for 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing.

The announcement gets straight to the point, with an interesting truth: “The perception that these [additive] processes are free from any production constraints remains largely unchallenged. The reality is that — if cost, time or waste matter to you — additive manufacturing / 3D printing processes DO have constraints.”

Because 3D printing is widely (and correctly) associated with new design freedoms in terms of complexity and geometries, it is often perceived as having no constraints at all. This is a mistake that Crucible is hoping to eliminate for users, particularly users of DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering).

Crucible has contributed to the ‘SAVING’ project and as a result, has produced a set of guidelines aimed at achieving best practice with the process. “Most of the guidelines are aimed at making designers aware of the basic facts regarding design with DMLS, like rule number 1 — any downward facing horizontal surface will require support structures to be built and then removed, wasting time and money. The important point to note is that these are not limitations, provided you work with them — just as draft angles are not necessarily a limitation of injection moulding.”

This is an important set of guidelines in my opinion – which will hopefully go someway to supporting new and existing users of additive technology and help them avoid disillusionment when, as can happen, the reality does not always live up to the hype they have heard. The reality is that these processes are capable of great things, but as with anything worthwhile – it takes understanding and effort.

I salute Crucible for this announcement. Nice one! 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

When It's Good, It's Very Very Good

I've not done this before, but I'm double posting this piece here after just loading it to PersonaliZe. After seeing the story this morning and it spreading like wildfire across the 3D printing communities, it is a story that truly deserves maximum exposure. And besides, after the VERY British opening ceremony and the recent gold rush for Team GB at the Olympics over the last couple of days and then this little cherub today — I'm feeling really rather emotional! So sue me .....

After 3D printing headlines that point to the darker side of human nature in recent weeks (I’m sure you get that I’m referring to the handcuffs and the gun), how uplifting it has been today to see the story break of how 3D printing has helped one little girl by providing her with the ability to hug — as well as to play independently and to feed herself.

A Stratasys Dimension machine was the system used to create a custom robotic exoskeleton small enough to fit two year old Emma Lavelle, who has suffered with the debilitating condition, arthrogryposis multiplex congneita (AMC) since birth. According to her mother, the only part of her upper limbs she could move was her thumb. You can read the details on Personalize here.
But bascially, an exoskeleton is a medical device that allows the patient to regain some assisted movement, and although these devices have proved successful in the past with CNC processes, the traditional techniques were unable to make a device small enough for a 2 year old.

3D printing could though!

And it has improved the quality of Emma’s life — so much so, she calls the device her “magic arms”.
Like the jawbone story earlier this year and the numerous custom implants that are now possible, this story just goes to show how 3D printing, applied in the right way, can really make a difference and improve quality of life.

For me it just goes to show that the incredible technology advancements with 3D printing are (or at least can be) a truly great thing.  As with anything powerful, it is how we, as humans, choose to apply that power to change lives for better or for worse. We don’t always make the right choices.

But often we do.