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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!
In a previous post I mentioned that our VEX robotics group at school had made a simple mistake, they started to build a VEX Clawbot without checking in the box of goodies… They didn't actually have a claw to mount on it. This meant that they investigated making their own by 3D printing using our Bits from Bytes machine.
This has been pretty successful and they are in the final stages of assembling and testing. However at the same time Dr Simon Leigh from the University of Warwick visited our school to show the students a new material called “Carbomorph” (an electrically conductive polymer). This started some discussion amongst the group, wondering if Carbomorph could be used to provide feedback for the claw by using it for touch sensors.
It's an interesting thought and something that needs to be investigated later… How can this interface with the Cortex controller? will Carbomorph be sensitive enough? How can the feedback be coded using the software? Etc.
So to get things started I helped the students out with their design for a modified claw (the finger part) that incorporates a Carbomorph gripping surface (the touch pad) and built in Carbomorph “wiring”. This can be seen in the photographs … Sorry that it isn't very clear but we had black translucent PLA loaded in the printer and the black Carbomorph doesn't show up too well.
This does raise more questions and design/engineering opportunities and the group should really focus on getting the robot finished before taking on more challenges…. So it will be interesting to see how this develops.
This week our Year 12 & 13 Product Design students were able to meet up with Dr Simon Leigh from the University of Warwick and Iain Major from 3D Systems. Dr Leigh works in the School of Engineering, his work has been focused on developing innovative materials, machines and devices based around the technology of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing.
Dr Leigh has developed a new material called Carbomorph, it's a very interesting polymer (plastic) composite that actually conducts electricity! Ok, there are other polymers that can do this but the really new thing about Carbomorph is that I can be printed using a 3D printer.
At Clevedon School we have been 3D printing with our students for quite a long time and Dr Leigh had heard about us through the Internet and 3D Systems (Bits from Bytes Ltd). So to cut a long story short, he gave us some Carbomorph to experiment with (even before the research paper was published, so it had to be kept secret!)
Dr Leigh came to school to explain how a new material is developed, how the research paper is published, how to make Carbomorph, how Warwick is developing 3D printing, what engineering is like at uni, and much more! Our students were fascinated!
Our students were given a challenge…. And a homework! …”What new designs can you come up with to 3D print with Carbomorph?”. This was their chance to show off their innovative thinking. The students shared their ideas in a sort of “Think Tank” session and I think Dr Leigh was amazed at what what they came up with!
Mr White was also able to demonstrate a prototype iPad stylus that used a Carbomorph tip and physical on screen “game players” for ipad games… A product developed from an idea shared by one of our Year 10 GCSE Product Design students. Something Dr Leigh and his undergraduate students hadn't thought of!
So overall this has been a fantastic opportunity for our students to take part in a University development project and it has been really enjoyed by everyone involved. A huge thank you to Dr Leigh and his colleagues at The University of Warwick for letting us join in this project.
It is a bit of a strange combination but the list of nasty stuff in the title are just some of the things that I came across at the new Bristol Robotics Lab (BRL) run by Bristol University and the University of the West of England.
So where does this list of nasties fit in? Well, they are all involved in the research they are doing there. The poo and dead flies are used to generate electricity to drive an Eco robot, the rat whiskers are sensors that can “feel” shapes and textures of objects, the broken bones were in a surgical “robot” that manipulates the bones to be repaired and the creepy face was able to move with realistic expressions…. And that was not all! … Helicopters, quad copters, 3D optical sensors, air muscles, etc, etc.
Getting my head around all of this has been pretty mind blowing and I must thank Dr Martin Pearson from BRL for showing me around and Iain from 3D Systems (Bits from Bytes) for inviting me to accompany him on the visit.
But where does this all fit in with 3D printing? … As the robots are experimental research machines they usually involve mechanical parts that are unique and are therefore produced by RP or 3D Prints. (I spotted a RapMan on one of the students workstations!) And here is where it all links to what we are doing at my school… Our VEX robotics group have 3D printed a claw for their robot (see some of the previous posts on this blog). I’m pretty certain they will be green with envy about my visit when they see my photos! I expect I’ll have to see if one of the guys from BRL can visit us when we meet after school.
Some wonderful new 3D printing developments have been happening over the last few weeks that I couldn’t omit from my blog…
Early in November Ian Major from 3DS / Bits from Bytes presented a 3D Touch printer to the University of Bristol for use by their students. See the attached photos.
On the BfB forum the university also posted the following …. “The 3DTouch in the atrium of the Merchant Venturer’s Building in the University of Bristol has been available to the students for just over a week now and has been in almost continuous use. So far the student have mostly been using it to print cases for their Raspberry Pis, though there has also been a Rubics Cube and I did a Venus de Milo to decorate my desk”.
In another development the University of Warwick has just erased some information about some amazing new composite material that they are using for 3DP. The material that they are calling “Carbomorph” is conductive and is being used in some really interesting ways… Flex sensors, capacitive interfaces, and more. Check out this web page for more information http://www.3ders.org/articles/20121122-printing-electronic-sensors-using-low-… . This new material looks like it could have some real impact on 3DP projects made by students in schools if/when it becomes available.