Thursday, January 10, 2013

Guest Post - How The Cube Has Changed My Daily Workflow

Editor's Note:  I met Chris Crowley because he and his Cube had a rocky first  meeting.  His Cube had been damaged in shipment and he asked for some  advice.   I quickly became an admirer of his analytical skills and the  more we interacted the more I wanted others to hear from him.  Obviously, those initial problems were resolved and, as you can see,  Chris is clearly a Cube fan!

So, here is Chris' first guest post.  And, he is right.  You will be hearing from him in the future and I hope you will be hearing from him many times.

Hi Everyone -

I’m Chris Crowley, and I’ll be your guest blogger for today! I own Table Mountain Innovation, Inc.... a Mechanical Engineering consultancy specializing in medical equipment design.

Tom Meeks and I met through “Cube” activities, and Tom asked me to describe how the Cube has changed my daily workflow.

“Wow” is the best description!

All of my clients are extremely impressed by the fact that they get “free access” to a 3D printer when they hire me for mechanical engineering. You see... I don’t charge any additional fees to 3D print parts from my Cube. I am not acting as a “service bureau” for my clients. Just as I might make a prototype with a rough cardboard cutout, with my milling machine, or with my silicone casting process.... I can now simply print prototype designs on my Cube and test them with my clients.

I offer this service because the material cost is so low. Of course, I charge professional hourly fees for the concept, design, and CAD work, but now the printing comes “free”.

The results are simple.... my product designs are better. My design cycle is much shorter. The costs to the client are lower. We do more prototyping in less time.

I’ve used Cube parts in FDA “Final Verification” tests. I’ve used Cube parts as a 3D “master” to make a soft silicone mold, and then cast several silicone or rubber prototype parts from that tool. I’ve used Cube parts to repair existing machinery. The ABS is MUCH stronger than the epoxy-based stereolith parts that people sometimes purchase - this is critical for durability testing. The possibilities are endless.

The Cube has been great throughout. Perfect? No. There were some early technical issues quickly solved by 3D Systems’ top notch Customer Service. The surface finish isn’t as good as the $50K Objet Eden machine at my usual service bureau. I wish the accuracy was higher. I have some tricky geometry-related shrink issues. But... SO WHAT?!

In-house 3D printing capability has literally changed my business. I am 100% certain that the Cube has paid for itself in repeat customers, just in the last few months.

Here are some great examples:

Example #1: Replacement Spindle for Vinyl Printer

A client needed a “thumb-sized” spindle to replace a worn part on a very expensive production vinyl printer. The OEM spindle was so worn that it would occasionally DROP a 100+ pound spool of vinyl on the floor during a print job. They wrapped it in masking tape and rubber cement. When that didn’t work, the client used an old piece of sprinkler pipe, which caused the spool to jam. HP wants $900 for this part - it is only purchasable with a larger assembly. I reverse engineered the spindle and printed 3 replacements all in an afternoon. Client VERY happy!

Example #1a: Vinyl Printer Needing Replacement Part

Example #1b: Part Location

Example #1c: Cube Printed Part next to old

Example #1d: Cube Printed Part in Place

Example #1e: Old Part for Comparison

Example #1f: New Cube Part for Comparison

Example #2: Using a Cube Printed Part to Create a Mold

In this case, a Cube printed part was used as the "positive" for a wrist strap for a medical device being prepared for silicone molding. I’m pouring the second half of the mold, and the black “master” part is soaked in oily mold release. The strap was printed in the Cube, and the resulting molded parts will be “rubber” versus the rigid Cube ABS.

Example 2: Using a Cube Printed Part to Create Mold

Example #3: Snap-Fit Speaker Mount

I designed a production test fixture for a client, but they needed a quick solution to hold a speaker that wasn’t part of the original design. I quickly printed a snap-fit speaker mount, and we were back in business that afternoon. You can see the Cube “lime green” part near the lime green arrow. :-)

Example 3: Snap Fit Speaker Mount

Example #4:  A Clip to Hold Surgical Dressing

well... I’m not at liberty to disclose just yet. It is “clip” to hold a surgical dressing to the body in a certain fashion. As you know, human skin a full of sensitive nerves and tiny changes in the clip design really affect the comfort. The client and I have been working on many different designs... sometimes we print 2-3 per day. It is a magic and wonderful machine that makes this a design and prototyping process possible.

That’s all for now! I’m sure Tom will have me back sometime, and I’m sure that I’ll have more photographs for you!

Thanks for listening. If you want to find out more about me and my company:

Protomold Case Studies


  1. Who supports cubify invent. I found a bug (produces
    stl files with holes in them) but can't find anyone to talk to. No email, no phone, and no web site.

  2. Support can be found at...

    Holes in STL files are common. A program like MeshLab can fix them and so can the HEAL function, if they aren't too bad.