Sunday, August 17, 2014

YouthQuest Foundation Prepares for a New Cycle of Teaching 3D Design and Printing

I absolutely LOVE working for the YouthQuest Foundation!

It combines two of my favorite things... encouraging young people to expand their creative thinking skills and 3D printing.

We teach 3D Design & printing to cadets in Youth ChalleNGe settings in two cycles each year.  Two weeks ago, we hosted the top cadets from last cycle's classes from three states for a week of immersion training in our 3D ThinkLink Lab in Chantilly, VA.  It was a wonderful experience.

During this intense week of non-stop problem-solving, designing and printing the cadets showed me exactly why I do this.  Remember, these a young people that for one reason or another dropped out of high school before graduating.  These are NOT the typical students one thinks about when considering 3D design and printing at the high school level.  Yet, when given a chance they prove just how creative and clever they really are.

It's all about turning ON brains!  And, there are few tools better than 3D printers a doing that.

Here's a quick video that describes to prospective cadets what our 3D ThinkLink Initiative is all about.

Our new training materials will reflect our observations, over the past several years, that not only is a "Noun/Verb" approach THE best way to introduce 3D design software; but, the perfect vehicle for allowing more time for actually designing and printing in class.  This, in turn, allows the students more time to explore the concepts of problem-solving and iterative design.

We're moving to a combination of cartooning and captured demonstration to cut down the time it takes to cover a noun/verb combination.  Rather than relying on live streaming, as in the past, we are moving to small prerecorded video modules that can be repeated easily, onsite, for those cadets having a harder time than others in the class.

We believe this will allow each learner to progress at their own pace without being left behind. Here is an example of our cartoon approach to introducing the Moment of Inspiration interface.

As you can see, we expect to be using the new Cube 3 printers in our classes in the very near future. The faster print speed will allow for faster turnover of designs, meaning quicker refinement in iterative design updates.  And, of course, this means quicker success.

The two colors will also allow our students to easily create things like clocks with numbers and letters that stand out.  We've found that the cadets LOVE being able to create special things for their care-givers.  Two colors will enable them to accentuate the personalization features of their designs.

Finally, while I do not have a Cube 3 as yet, I DO have print samples.  Being able to print final designs at 70 microns is going to prove to be a real hit with our cadets.  The resolution is amazing.

With each new version of the Cube printer series, we have come closer and closer to bringing our highest expectations to life.  But, the new Cube 3 is in a class of it's own.


Since the sample I have is NOT from a release machine, I have not photographed it.  However, based on 3dfan's request I did put a remarkable feature of the printed house under my trusty microscope at 10x for a sneak peek at how the Cube 3 handles UNSUPPORTED 20mm GAPS.   While the microscope was focused on a 9mm wide window opening, there are multiple 20mm windows demonstrating the same smoothness at crossing unsupported gaps!  I'm guessing that the image covers an area approximately 6mm wide!

I do not see ANY evidence that supports were used at all!

Above the window opening you see the "slate" roof tiles.

Early Cube 3 Sample Print

I don't know how long it took to print the 100mm tall, 120mm wide and 60mm deep multi-story house complete with interior furniture.  Nor do I know how long ago it was printed.  But, I am blown away by the extraordinarily clean, fine detail and smoothness of this piece.  I expect the release version of the printer to be every bit this good or better!

Now, I hope you understand why I'm being patient about shipping.  This printer is too good to rush.  One only has to read about the plight of another well known manufacturer's users to know how damaging releasing a printer before it's ready for prime time can be!  At the appropriate time, I'll release full and detailed photos of the house.

I hope this at least partially satisfies your request 3dfan.  :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A truly Innovative 3D Pen Uses No HEAT!

I've been a fan of the CONCEPT of 3D pens for some time.  In fact, I own one.  But, my excitement was shortlived when it became hopelessly clogged.  I thought the solution would be a better extruder; but, I think I was wrong.

It turns out that the real solution may be to drop the heated plastic altogether in favor of using  photopolymer "ink" that is solidified using UV light!  It's safer for young children, the very population for which I envisioned using a 3D pen.  And, I THINK that clogging will be a thing of the past.

Right now the best information about the CreoPop can be found on their Indiegogo site.

What I will do here is to post some very cool videos showing the CreoPop in action.  First, we have the obligatory sales pitch found on their indiegogo page.

Now, you HAVE to admit these guys are ingenious. While no 3D pen is going to make any of us world renown sculptors, they do have a place in teaching 3D printing concepts.

Here's a quick review that is excellent at demonstrating the challenges as well as the unique aspects of the cool ink process.

The materials themselves are interesting.  Changing colors seems to be simple and specialty inks are promised.  Here is a sample that creates a deer using two ink colors.


Whether or not you see a 3D pen in your future, I think it's worth while to check out their Indiegogo page as an example that demonstrates that there is still a LOT room for innovation in the 3D realization space.  

Will we see this technique used in future very low cost 3D printers for children?  Could be!

Link to CreoPop Indiegogo Page

Enjoy.  :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Patience Will Be Your Own Reward

I received an email from someone that had placed an order for a Cube 3 and their invoice had projected the shipping date as July 7.  When he called support, he was notified that the shipping date had slipped to near the end of July.

They weren't complaining.  Just reporting.  Like me they are huge Cube fans and have multiple Cubes in a educational setting.  But, since they are hearing this, I know that others must be also.  Therefore, I feel the need to at least provide my perspective on the issue. 

No one is more anxious to have a Cube 3 in their hot little hands than me.  And, I am waiting just like everyone else.  But, I am urging patience to myself and everyone else that is on the waiting list to receive a Cube 3. 

The reason?  I've seen one in action... in person.  And, it's awesome!

A little review and comparison might help put this small delay in proportion.

My first 3D printer was a RepRap style RapMan 3.  The first Cube (version 1) was a radical departure from all previous 3D printers based on the RepRap concept.  It required a whole new approach to manufacturing for both the printer and the cartridge system.  Even the packaging required a radical new design.

The Cube 2 was a significant; but, incremental improvement over the Cube 1.  The manufacturing process was essentially the same and the only difference in the cartridge was the introduction of PLA as well as ABS.  The ABS cartridge was interchangeable in the Cube 1 and the Cube 2.  So, moving from the Cube 1 to the Cube 2 probably didn't involve many new manufacturing process changes.  In fact, I'm guessing that the biggest jolt to the assembly line was the deal with Staples which most likely significantly ramped up the numbers!

Having seen the Cube 3 at shows, I am ready to say that the Cube 3 is as radically different from the Cube 2 as the Cube 1 was to the RepRap.  Frankly, I find it hard to conceive of many Cube 2 parts that might be reused without modification in the Cube 3 design.  Virtually everything about the Cube 3 is revolutionary in such fundamental ways as to require whole new parts and manufacturing processes for both printer and cartridges. These differences have to affect suppliers as well.

Obviously, 3D Systems knows how to design smooth manufacturing processes for radically new products as proven by the success of the Cube 1's assembly line.  But, we shouldn't be surprised that initial delivery estimates might slip a bit with so many big changes to the manufacturing process.  And, then there is the issue of building up an adequate inventory of completely new cartridges while still manufacturing the older style cartridges.

Every single one of the new design changes for the Cube 3 are an improvement over the Cube 2.  Think of how many there are.  Here a just a few that come to mind:
  • Two print heads
  • Print Jets integrated into the cartridge assembly
  • A completely different mechanism for moving the filament into the print jet
  • Self leveling print table
  • Self gapping print table
  • Bigger print surface
  • Finer layer resolution 
  • Faster printing (2x)

I have seen the Cube 3; but, I've not used one.  But I, for one, am willing to wait a bit longer to take that next step if that is what it takes to guarantee that it's the best, most reliable Cube ever... which I am convinced that it will be... by multiple orders of magnitude!

When they finally start showing up on our doorsteps and we all get to actually see that smooth 70 micron print in action, then I'm sure all of us will agree that it was well worth the wait.

Microsoft has a habit of telling it's beta testers who feel a product is not ready for prime time that "Shipping is a feature".   That may be true.  But, it's also the philosophy that gave us the disastrous Windows ME, Vista and Windows 8!   Fortunately, 3D Systems thinks better of us than that and is willing to ship only when the product and processes are ready.  For that, I am thankful.

If you can be patient and let the Cube 3 arrive when the time is perfect, your patience will reward you with one terrific 3D Printer that you are going to love!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pre-order open for iSense for the iPad, iPad Air or iPad mini!

The cadets I teach REALLY enjoy using the Sense 3D scanner.  So, they are going to be doubly excited about the iSense for the iPad Air, iPad 4th generation or iPad mini Retina.

That is because it frees them from being tethered to a notebook via a long USB connector.  The upcoming iSense attaches directly to the iPad so the iPad screen and iSense become one.  I've not used one as yet.  But, I can imagine that this integrated approach makes the scanning process a lot simpler.

I hope to be able to test one using an iPad Mini Retina.  My iPad 3 is not supported; but, my granddaughter has the mini.  I will let you know as soon as I've had a chance to test the iSense.

In the meantime, check out the iSense Pages to check it out and pre-order it.

Sense Scanning Realities

I think it is very important that people understand the strengths and limits of Sense scanning.  The Sense is NOT a $30,000 3D scanner.  So, don't expect to be able to use it for precise industrial reverse engineering.  It's a low cost consumer scanner to be used for fun captures that can be printed on our consumer 3D printers,

We have created dozens of scans of our cadets and the Sense scans have been imported into Sculpt to create personalized gifts for the cadet's family.  This is a perfect use for the iSense as well.  In fact, I am expecting that the scanning process will be even easier and more fun since we will have more freedom of movement.

In a classroom situation, a single iSense or Sense will support multiple students and printers.  So, I expect it to be a popular 3D accessory for classroom 3D printing labs.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Uploads from KiBack Lee

Every now and then I get an invitation to share someone's Google+ page or Youtube Channel.  That was the case today and I was very pleased with what I found when I checked out the Google+ link!  I then checked out KiBack Lee's YouTube uploads.

If you want to have some 3D fun, visit the YouTube channel of KiBack Lee!

You will find some great information about all of the latest Cubify 3D printer products as well as Geomagic Freeform tutorials.

Here are some samples that I've really enjoyed.

Cube 3 Printer Introduction

CubePro Introduction

The ColorJest Printing Process

Until now, consumer 3D printers largely used extruded filament.  But, powder based printers will soon be available.  This is a great overview of that process as currently used in professional printers.


For more uploads by KiBack Lee, simply go to YouTube and search on his name.  I, for one, will be following his channel.  I might not be able to afford Geomagic Freeform; but, I definitely enjoy learning about it.  Thanks KiBack!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

EKOCYCLE Cube - What does it mean?

There is something very different about the blog posts that I've been reading that talk about the EKOCYCLE.  In general 90% of what passes for reporting on blogs consists of 100% cut & paste from company press releases.   Refreshingly, this has NOT been the case for many of the EKOCYCLE Cube reports.

I have seen some genuine reporting about the EKOCYCLE Cube as writers seem to grasp the real import of the idea that this product has some special importance.  That is because it does.  It is very important.

I have to admit that it took me awhile to become a fan of having to separate plastic, paper and garbage when it was first introduced in our area more than a decade ago.  But, years of seeing just how full the plastic recycle container gets each weeks finally convinced me that without recycling, it was true that we would not only be wasting finite resources; but, be buried under mounds of plastic containers and bottles.

Recycling has come to have political overtones; but, in reality recycling is not a political issue.  It is an economic, health and space issue.

Back in the 1960's to 1970's my grandfather and uncle owned a restricted landfill dump designed to fill a deep ravine in the "country" outside of Washington, DC.  The bulk of what came into the dump was building materials as old buildings were demolished to make room for new ones. But, consumers could also drop off things they no longer wanted.  It was amazing to find Lionel train sets and other really nice things being discarded as worthless trash.  Of course, we grandchildren instantly decided to "rescue" some of these treasures.  It was a valuable lesson in recycling as these toys were once again whipping around recycled tracks.

But there were some longer term lessons.  For decades, smoke could be seen seeping up from the depths of the dump as building materials under pressure combusted spontaneously.  Things might be out of sight.  But, they were not out of mind and smoldered for years.  It was assumed back in the 1960s that it posed no health hazards, since it was 'just building materials'.  But, certainly no one knew for sure.  Fortunately the fires burned themselves out and no dogs, cats and children were born with extra appendages as far as we know.  But, certainly, I appreciate the risks of dumping ANYTHING more now because of that experience.

Wind forward to the last few years... with hundreds of printed prototypes behind me.  It didn't take me long after starting to use a 3D printer to realize that recycling is an important and crucial consideration.  So, I was eager to participate in 3D Systems cartridge return program knowing their commitment to recycling.

So, now that I have fully grasped the important implications of the EKOCYCLE Cube, I am certain that this is the printer we should and will be using in our YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink Lab.  Our students, like all of the rest of us are consumers and consumers generate waste.  As generators of waste it is good for all of us to become conscious of the fact that we can recycle at least part of that waste and that recycling has enormously positive benefits to all of us.

I hate token, feel-good initiatives that are of little real consequence.  There is no way the EKOCYCLE Cube even remotely fits that description.

Like so many other blog writers that sense something special with the EKOCYCLE Cube, I have an appreciation of what a big step this concept is to a 3D printing future.  True, the materials are not 100% recycled.  But, the evolution to that goal has begun and I want our students to be a part of that evolving conscious effort to use the old to create the new.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

EKOCYCLE Cube - Using Old to Make New!

It is no secret that I am a fan not only of the Cube 3D printers; but, of the entire vision of 3D Systems behind those innovative printers.  Good things keep popping up so unexpectedly from the Cubify Design Team that I always feel a little behind.  Today, I REALLY had to pedal hard to keep up with the latest events just announced on the Cubify site.

Not only did I have to quickly try to analyze a new product; but, the entire concept behind it.

3D Systems added a new version of the not-yet-released Cube 3.  It's called the EKOCYCLE Cube!


While 3D Systems previously announced that Cube users could return empty cartridges for recycling, this printer takes the recycling concept one step farther by actually using filament manufactured, at least in part, from recycled plastic from things like Coca-Cola bottles!

Here is a video that succinctly explains the EKOCYCLE Cube philosophy.

I can't imagine that schools can pass this printer up.  Its very presence in the classroom is a narrative with a powerful and compelling message.  

Look.  I'm 70.  So, I hope you can understand when I say that I remember being puzzled when it was announced that was announced to be Chief Creative Officer.  Frankly. I had NO idea who was.  Frankie Valli I'd know.   The Big Bopper I'd know.  Roy Orbison, I'd definitely know.  When it comes to pop culture I'm locked into a "Happy Days" time warp!

But, I've come to appreciate the reality that is not only a true renaissance man; but, a forward thinking activist that not only sees future problems; but, solutions as well.

The EKOCYCLE Cube is a bold response to the fact that plastics technology inevitably produces  some waste; but, that waste can be reused.  What better way for us to recycle plastic than to use it to create new useful items of our own creation!  Coca-Cola is a partner in the 2D Systems EKOCYCLE project.  Each EKOCYCLE cartridge will contain filament comprised of a 25% mixture of recycled PET bottles.  So, each cartridge recycles an average of three PET bottles.

Now that I understand the value that brings to the Cubify table, it might be time to update my record collection, too.  WAIT!!!  Did I REALLY just say that????  Does this mean I'm going to have to buy an iPod??? Or, is that yesterday's history, too?

I'll close with this.  Yes.  I have an old Edison wind-up 78rpm record player.  And, I still have an old 45rpm record player.  But, I no longer have an 8-track in my car.  So, it's not entirely hopeless for me to try to up my game when it comes to pop culture.  Thank you 3D Systems for bringing on board and if the EKOCYCLE Cube is any barometer, it was an excellent move!

Everything old really CAN be new again.

And, Hey!  I may be old.  But, I know VERY COOL when I see it.  And, I see it here... and in classrooms and conscientious homes all over the world.   It's another winner!  :)