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3D printing for “proof of concept”

One of our A Level students has a very interesting project for her coursework. It's all about designing and making a stage set for a small or travelling theatre company. Of course the set has to be easy to assemble, take down and transport, so she has investigated using lightweight materials and a bespoke system for assembling a framework. Being uncertain about how the frame might fit together she has designed some fittings using Autodesk Inventor and 3D printed them using our 3D Systems CubeX machines… Just to prove that the concept will work!

Her next steps will be to refine the designs having found out that her idea works ready for final production. Really looking to forwards to seeing how this iterative designing develops…. Great work Polli!


Blokify the @Cubify iPad app to get young pupils into #3DPrinting

Personally I'm not all that into games on computers or tablets, I see these devices as being more for “doing” things with. But a can see that these programs and apps have great appeal to youngsters. So why not use them as a way to introduce kids to designing an making with 3D printing?

Well that's just what 3D Systems and Cubify have done with the new app “Blokify”. It's available for iOS and Android. Here is the link to the Apple App Store.

The app is a bit like “Minecraft” in that simple blocks (bloks?) can be assembled into all sorts of structures… Castles, forts, etc. And then of course exported or in this case emailed as a .stl file.

Even for an oldie like me who has never played with computer games the app proved to be extremely intuitive to construct my castle…. A colleague of mine commented that even her 4 year old was able to use Blokify, so it doesn't really say much about my skill level :o)

Anyway, here is a screenshot from the Blokify app that I have exported and is currently printing on my CubeX 3D printer…. I'll post another picture when it's completed.

The app is free to download and comes as standard with a few different building bloks but it's an in app purchase to unlock some extra different bloks using “diamonds” as currency (note that as this is mainly an app for kids safeguards are built in to help prevent them running up big bills on your Apple store account)

Here is a quick picture taken mid print…. Love the texture that is showing up on the castle walls!

Anyway, I'm really impressed by how well this all works. So congratulations Cubify on a great app to encourage creativity in 3D printing for youngsters!


And here it is…. My first mini Blokify castle!


UWE and @ClevedonDT students working together. Recycling and #3DPrinting

This evening a group of D&T students were able to work with Sam Millington a BSc Product Design Student from UWE (University of the West of England, Bristol, UK).

Sam has designed and made a prototype “Filament Extruder” for his final project. This machine takes ground up pieces of plastic from milk bottles (and/or other plastic recyclables) and makes new filament (rolls of plastic) to use in a 3D Printer.

Our students were able to discuss with Sam how he went about designing and making his degree project, and how the filament extruder might be used in schools. The students explored how the machine might be supplied to schools as a kit and how this could help students to understand how plastics can be (and are) recycled. Some interesting discussion took place about how students might form teams in their D&T lessons to build a machine, set up a company to collect and recycle scrap plastics and make 3D printed objects from the plastic to sell. A really cool Eco friendly project that if supported by teaching and learning resources would be interesting for schools teaching STEM.

We all wish Sam good luck in the final development of his filament extruder… And of course good luck with the work for his degree!


Pi day and #3DPrinting

Thursday 14th March was pi day and as it happened to fall on the day that our Vex robotics group meets after school one of our students wanted to celebrate by 3D printing a Raspberry Pi case. (Ok not really a vex activity and perhaps not what pi day was really about, but….)

Printing took longer than our evening meeting… And we didn't quite make it on pi day but here is the result. A lovely Raspberry Pi commuter case, downloaded from Thingiverse and printed on our 3DS Bits from Bytes 3D Printer.



Prototypes and #3DPrinting

A quick preview of some product prototypes being developed using 3D Printing by our AS level students… Retractable headphones, motorised school compass and an ergonomic knife sharpener…. More to follow later.

Students not afraid to experiment with #3Dprinting

When designing for 3D printing I often find that students “push their luck” and sometimes incorporate features into their designs that even with several years experience in 3D printing I personally wouldn't even attempt.

Well that's exactly what happened this week. Some of my students are doing a tried and tested printing project that I have done with several groups … Design and make a bespoke USB stick case. Anyway, one of my students got carried away adding a surface texture of 1mm diameter bumps and a tiny hole (1mm square) right through the lid of his USB stick. I smiled to myself and warned the student that these wouldn't show on the final print…. And you've guessed it… They did! Each of the bumps is clearly visible and yes the hole does actually go right through. (Maybe a bit of swallowing of humble pie needed?)


Click the above picture to see a larger version.

And here are a few technical details… The lid is 20x14x12mm wall thickness is variable but approximately 1.5mm. The object was printed in ABS using a Bits from Bytes 3D Touch machine at a medium layer thickness of 0.25mm (now I'm wondering what would be possible with 0.125mm layers). The g code generation software was Axon 3 (alpha).

Oh, and if you fancy doing the project in schools then I have produced a free lesson resource that can be downloaded here http://wiki.bitsfrombytes.com/index.php/Bespoke_USB_Stick


@ClevedonDT students visit 3DS / BfB

As visitors to my blog will probably know/realise I teach Design and Technology at Clevedon School in the UK…. my year 12/13 students study AS/A2 Product Design. Studying this course not only requires students to design and make products but also to know how they would be made in the “real world”… And many students incorporate 3D printing in their designs, so what could be better to combine all of this into a visit to 3D Systems (Bits from Bytes).

So earlier today we took the students to “BfB HQ” to have a look round. The guys from BfB did a fantastic job of making us welcome with Annabelle introducing the students to the factory with a brief history of how the business was set up and it’s development from the RepRap project at Bath University. Iain then gave the students a tour of the facilities including the business side of the company, how it fits in as part of the 3D Systems global company, how sales and marketing are managed and of course a tour of the production facilities. The students were able to see both the RapMan and 3D Touch production systems and how these differ due to RapMan being sold as a kit and the 3D Touch being sold as a “ready to print” machine. It was brilliant for the students to see all this happening “for real” and how the things we have studied such as “Quality Control and Quality Assurance” really do make a difference to the manufacture of products.

From a personal point of view it was also great to meet up again with the guys from BfB… Amazing how many were previously students at my school!

And finally a huge “thank you” to Iain, Annabelle and all the others at BfB for making us so welcome and for sparing their precious time especially when they are in the middle of the rush to get machines out to their resellers in time for Christmas.

Here’s what my students had to say…

Bits from Bytes visit

      Bits from Bytes are a UK based company owned by 3D Systems. They design and manufacture low cost 3D printers for rapid prototyping. The company was started in a garage, and has now progressed to two warehouses.

     We were first met by Annabel, who told us briefly about the history of the company. After that we met Iain. He first spoke to us about the marketing aspects of the business, and the admin and finance elements.

     We then went through to the board room, and saw how the machines have evolved and some examples of what could be produced on the 3D printer. This included some alternative materials such as ceramics.

     Following on from this we went down to the factory floor, and observed the different processes involved in production of the Touch 3D machines. He spoke about the different methods they have produced for storing materials, and how they buy materials using the “just in time” method. We also saw the jigs they have produced to make the production method more efficient. Iain also told us how they had recently had seasonal workers in due to a high volume of orders. All of the employees at Bits from Bytes who assemble the machines are trained in all aspects of production.  They each have a trolley which they wheel around the factory floor, and they are responsible for the completion of the machines they are working on.

     To show us a contrast to this, we saw how the kits are put together for the RapMan 3D printers. These are produced in batches and the put in shrink wrap. One employee then moves along the shelves and puts the required quantity of each part into a box, ready to be shipped out.

    At the end of the visit we were given the opportunity to ask any questions we had. We learnt about future plans for the business, and how the company plan to expand as the market does.

    Overall it was a valuable trip, and gave all of us the experience to see what we’ve learnt in our theory lessons in a real life situation.


Year 13 students


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