Friday, April 12, 2019

It is Wonderful When a Vision Becomes a Reality

As I wrote in my previous article, I am more than a little thankful for the start that the Cube printers provided me.  Among other things, the Cube was a significant step forward in my quest toward my ultimate goal... finding a way to help my sculptor daughter realize her dreams with the assist of 3D printing.


In reality, the Cube came my way out of the ashes of an earlier product in my trek on the quest that went up in smoke when the DeskTop Factory was swallowed up in 2009 by 3D Systems.

Desktop Factory 3D Printer 2007-2009

Cathy Lewis was the CEO at Desktop Factory, and a tireless advocate for consumer 3D printing, and in the acquisition became the Vice President for International Marketing of 3D Systems.  Cathy and I had become acquainted in 2007 through my interest in the Desktop Factory development and years later, in 2011, remembering my deep interest and help in testing and providing feedback on sample Desktop Factory prints, she contacted me to be on the lookout for a new consumer printer from 3D Systems... the 1st Generation Cube released in 2012, the same year, this blog began.

I knew that the Cube FDM printer was not the ceramics printer of my dreams. But, I also knew it was a first step in gaining 3D printing experience so that I would be poised to be ready when a real ceramics printer became a reality.  And, not too many years after starting this blog, it appeared that ceramics printing was right around the corner.

Those of you that have followed this blog know that 3D System's tantalizing 2014 announcements of the $10,000 Cerajet and, in particular, the $5,000 CubeJet were greeted with extreme happiness around here.  It appeared that the end of my quest was near at hand. 


But, that was not to be.  When 3D Systems closed down the Cube family production line, the CeraJet and CubeJet became collateral damage and my dreams of seeing my daughter's art rise from a bed of powder went down in flames.  It was a hard blow.... made harder by learning that the engineers on the project had probably been scattered like ashes.
There some are creating amazing art with 3D printers capable of extruding clay.

That isn't the process that I prefer.

I know, from years of experience printing with YouthQuest Foundation's Z450 "sandstone" printer, just how much I enjoy working with a powder based printer.  Yet, neither the Z450 nor the newer CJP (Color Jet Printing) ProJet series printers are true ceramics printers.  The powder used in the CJP printers is NOT clay-based ceramics and the binder is, I am relatively certain, NOT something you want to put into a kiln and fire!

And, being able to apply the glaze of your choice and fire your creation is a huge deal.

CeraJet / CubeJet 3D Printed Pottery

Now, out of the Ukraine, comes a 3D printer that has rekindled those long smoldering dreams.  I don't even remember how I found out about the Ceramo Zero Max.  But, however it was, or whoever it was, that pointed me in their direction I am truly grateful.  Here, finally, is a desktop, powder-based ceramics printer that creates objects meant to be fired!

Kwambio Ceramo Zero Max Desktop Ceramics Printer
I am not going to try to post an image of the ceramics output of the Ceramo Zero Max because it would be misleading.  The Ceramo Zero Max does not print in color.  But, the most beautiful examples online are in color.  And, that is because printing the part is simply one step in the process of turning a creative idea into a stunning piece of art.  And, that process is already familiar to clay artisans.  I cannot even begin to tell you just how incredibly important this fact is to an artist.  They can print out a 3D design of a cup and, if they wish, not a single one would be the same as another.  Each can be imbued with the vision of the artist in a completely unique way using varying patterns, color, firing techniques and other personal touches.

But, I WILL point you to their materials pages to see exactly what I'm talking about.  First, the ceramics powder page:

Next, a bonus, the GS ONE page:

I am assuming that one would need two Ceramo printers to EASILY use both materials, as they seem so different.  But, the fact that both are available is very cool.  I'm guessing that the GS One would be great for creating molds for slip casting.  But, since I have no real experience with it, don't hold me to that conclusion.


I mentioned that the Ceramo Zero Max was developed in the Ukraine.  Actually, this didn't surprise me as 3D-Coat, a marvelous 3D sculpting application we've written about in earlier posts, is also the product of a Ukraine company!

But, Kwambio's international headquarters is in New York City.  And, they recently opened a new lab in Harford, Connecticut where it can continue to develop consumer, industrial and, I believe, biomedical products and materials. Both Stanley and GE use their industrial ceramics products.

Here is a story from this year's CES that overs both the industrial and consumer ceramics printers.

I wish I could tell you more; but, until I get a chance to actually seen one in action, I'd simply be guessing.  But, hopefully, I will get that chance in the next few weeks, either at Ceramics Expo 2019 in Cleveland at the end of this month or their offices in Connecticut sometime in May.

I can tell you this.  Whichever visit works out, I am REALLY looking forward to it.  While not a life-time, twelve years is a long time to be on a quest!  And, I am extremely optimistic that the goal is very, very near.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

From 1st Gen Cube to ProJet3500 HDMax, 3D Systems Made it all Possible!

Yesterday, The YouthQuest Foundation received a vital piece of equipment.  It was a 3000VA UPS that will help us power up our latest acquisition.  And, that acquisition is a donated ProJet 3500 HDMax multi-jet printer that we plan to be used to support our mission of changing the trajectory of the lives of at-risk young people.

A piece of equipment that requires such a massive UPS is a far cry from the 1st Gen Cubes with which we started.  While it did not come directly from 3D Systems, it found its way to us through their support network.  And, it would not have happened had 3D Systems not generously donated the very first printers with which we began our work with young students who had dropped out of school and had entered the Youth Challenge program in an effort to turn their lives around.

The steps 3D Systems took, over 4 years ago, made it possible for us to expand our 3D design and printing educational program across four states touching many lives in the process. 

One of our students, Dalonta Crudup, a cadet in the DC Youth ChalleNGe Academy, had been shot shortly before entering the program and his cousin had been killed.  He went on to go back to school and was recruited with a basketball scholarship to the University of Kentucky.  He credits the 3D design class for teaching him important life lessons.  As he puts it, “And I tell them taking that class has helped me a lot because it showed me how get through obstacles in life.”

While the Cube line of printers has come to an end, we know from our own experience, and the experience of other educational organizations and charitable programs, that STEM and STEAM initiatives begun with the help of 3D Systems continue to benefit students in profound ways.

I won't bore you with the steps that took us from our first gift of a consumer 1st Gen Cube to the remarkable gift of a professional ProJet3500 HDMax.  But, to us, it is a remarkable series of events that began with Cathy Lewis of 3D Systems agreeing with our vision of helping turn around lives through experiencing 3D design and printing.

Now we step up to the next level in our ability to serve at-risk young people by offering experience with actual additive manufacturing equipment and processes.  We believe this is going to be particularly beneficial to our graduating students on the autistic spectrum that have shown extraordinary potential for careers in 3D.

We are really excited about this new chapter.  But, we cannot and will not forget those who helped us get here.

Thank you 3D Systems!