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Iterative designing for 3D printing

 One of my GCSE students (15 years old) decided that for his final project he would design a fitting to hold an iPhone on his bike handlebars. I think he must have seen one produced by another student last year and featured in an earlier post on my blog!

So he went away and started to produce some ideas using Google Sketchup I would have much preferred him to have used a proper CAD program for the reasons you will probably see later. Anyway, he finished his design, exported it to .stl format, created the gcode with BfB Axon and printed the first parts. As you can see they were far too big and chunky… This was a real surprise to him as in Sketchup the design looked ok. So, back to the drawing board! … I wonder if he would have realised his mistakes if he had used Creo Elements/pro or Autodesk Inventor?

His next designs look far more promising, the size is better and somehow it all fits together… So what will the next version look like? … Well, this is where the power of 3D printing lies. The simplicity, cost effectiveness and relative speed allowed this student to start down the road of an iterative design process. For this him it would have been almost impossible for him to test and visualise what his product would turn out like without printing his first draft design. The jump he made in improving his design would probably not have been possible if he had to have invested heavily in skill acquisition, time and materials for CNC milling. 

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