A Conversation with Worrell

At the end of October, 3D printing giant Stratasys announced a new collaboration with the medical design and product development firm Worrell “to accelerate medical device development through the use of 3D printed injection molding (which Worrell refers to as ‘3D IM’).

Replicator World had a chance to interview Derek Mathers, Worrell’s Business Development Manager, about this new venture.

We asked Mr. Mathers how it came about: “3D IM has been around for a couple years now, however the true value of it hadn’t been realized for product development until now.  We were put into communication with the inventor of this application, Nadav Sella [Stratasys’ Pre-Sale and Application Manager], who realized that there was significant opportunity for a partnership between our organizations to help each other learn more about this technology.” 

“We are working together to make 3D IM a commonly adopted development process across every industry, to improve efficiency and get higher quality designs into the market faster.”

Mr. Mathers himself first became interested in 3D printing when he was a freshman in college.  “I was…working on Capitol Hill for a U.S. Senator.  Instead of going to a Senate hearing where Michael Vick was saving face by presenting with the Humane Society, I decided to go to the room next door that had a sign reading ‘3D Printing and the Future of Manufacturing.”

The 3D printing process set his imagination on fire.  As Mathers goes on to explain: “I was most passionate about the fact that for the first time in history, humans could create objects by building them up layer-by-layer using only the materials needed.  This passion got me through working three jobs while taking 20 credits in order to pay for my international travels to Istanbul, China, and briefly Amsterdam.  I went to these places so that I could see how companies are using 3D printing to accelerate the technology around us.”

Mathers continues: “I came across Worrell’s Shanghai office while I studied abroad there, and reached out to the company’s CEO Kai Worrell as soon as I returned because I heard that they were about to invest heavily in 3D printing technology for [the medical industry].  I absolutely had to be a part of it.”

Mr. Mathers has indeed become a part of it.  As Worrell’s Business Development Manager, he has “the freedom to do what I need to do to grow our business.  This means consulting to discover new solutions for our customers, utilizing the best available technology and working with our team of engineers to solve product development issues.”

A large part of Mathers’ job “is negotiating strategic partnerships – discovering ways we can work with the leaders of technology to give our clients an exclusive path into the future of medical device development.”

Which brought us back to talking about Worrell’s team up with Stratasys.  Worrell is already “using FDM and PolyJet technology for Rapid Prototyping, which is nothing new to the world.  Using these machines to test [their] designs enables [them] to gain a quick understanding of the design [they’ve] engineered.”   

Now, however, Worrell is evolving their process.  As Mr. Mathers explains, “our newest development in 3D printing that we use in our…process…is to actually make injection molds on our printer.  We combine two materials – one to print our molds in just hours.  We then process the molds and move them into our injection molding press, where we can instantly manufacture production-level prototypes.  The benefit of using 3D Injection Molding is substantial – our designers are able to test their final designs before ever having to invest in tooling.”

As Mathers pointed out to us, the benefits of 3D IM include the ability “to produce production-level parts in just days, at a fraction of a cost of traditional molds.  This enables [Worrell’s] designers to constantly iterate and produce new designs until they’ve finalized their design for manufacturing.”

This is a huge step-up from the traditional-tooling process.  According to Mathers, “traditional tooling is expensive and a hassle to deal with, and the first run of parts is usually never correct.  Our clients and designers have been frustrated by tooling their entire careers since expensive metal molds are usually rendered worthless with a small design change.  3D molds take just hours to print and can be quickly switched out of an aluminum mudset, making design iterations a delight instead of a budget breaking mistake.”    

We asked Mr. Mathers what sorts of medical devices Worrell will print using injection-molded prototypes.  He replied that “the bigger question here is what materials we can manufacture – and the answer is most thermoplastics, TPEs, and some thermosets.  This enables us to make small batches of usually around 100 small to medium sized parts in PC, ABS, PP, Peek, and many other materials.”

He sees the medical industry being revolutionized by 3D printing: “It will start with making our current technologies better, such as 3D IM to injection molding.  3D printing will help introduce technology faster, allowing companies to rapidly introduce new medical devices to the marketplace and do so with higher quality products.”

“Next, it will be used in hospitals to support surgeons and doctors to improve their ability to care for a patient – whether it’s companies like Materialise creating titanium surgical guides to make complex surgeries simple, or companies like Oxford Performance Materials making titanium bone replacements.”

“Finally, in the future it will be used to rebuild human [bodies] before medical devices are ever needed, by creating and rebuilding organs lay-by-layer using your specific stem cells.”

For now, though, the medical industry must be educated in all the ways 3D printing can propel it into a bold new future.  This is why, in Worrell and Stratasys’ press release, they have announced that they will jointly attend international tradeshows and host a series of workshops. 

We concluded the interview by asking Mr. Mathers what sorts of things he, Worrell, and Stratasys would like to educate the medical industry about, when it comes to 3D printing. 

He told us “that this 3D IM process is a monumental step for what has been a fairly unchanged product development process for a long time.  By integrating 3D printing with injection molding, we are breathing fresh, exciting life into an industry that hasn’t changed much since its inception.”

“We are looking to educate new and existing PolyJet customers of Stratasys on how to enhance their development cycle, and provide Worrell’s customers with a higher quality and faster development process than any industrial design firm in the world.”

Images and Quotes Courtesy of Derek Mathers and Worrell

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3D Printed Food for Troops

According to NPR, the Army is developing a way for troops to eat 3D printed food on the battlefields of the future. 

The team researching this possibility is headquartered at the Army’s Natick research center and led by food technologist Lauren Oleksyk.  Their aim is to strap soldiers head to toe “with sensors that measure if they’re high or low in potassium or cholesterol.” 

As Oleksyk explains, “we envision…a 3D printer that is interfaced with the soldier.  And that sensor can deliver information to the computer software.  And then they would be able to have either powdered or liquid matrices that are very nutrient dense, that they have on demand that they can take and eat immediately to fill that need.”

The project has just been approved for research funding by The Department of Defense.  “’There’s synthetic types of meats, there’s real beef, there’s real meat,’ Oleksyk says.  ‘And we would see what that does in the printing process to that protein, whether it’s animal based or plant based.’  She’s talking about this research with the MIT Lincoln Lab and NASA too.”

The Army aims for soldiers to receive these 3D printed nutritional boosts by 2025.

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of NPR

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Stratasys EuroMold Presentation to Feature StreetScooter

Stratasys announced that at this year’s EuroMold in Frankfurt, Germany from the 25th to 28th of November, its presentation would “feature the paradigm-breaking StreetScooter C16, an electric production vehicle available for under 10,000 Euros (about $12550).”

The StreetScooter “project was developed by the Production of Engineering of E-Mobility Components (PEM) of Aachen University.”  The initial StreetScooter company “was founded in 2010 with the goal of developing an electric car that rivaled conventional vehicles on price with realistic performance, safety, and sustainability.”

According to Stratasys’ press release, “while specifications vary from model to model, a StreetScooter C16 is expected to typically weigh 450 kg – (1000 lbs) excl. batter, has a range of min. 100km (80 miles) and delivers a top speed of 100km/h (60 mph), making it an ideal city vehicle.”

The StreetScooter was made with the use of the Objet1000 Multi-material 3D Production System.  “The 3D Production System’s huge 1000 x 800 x 500 mm (39.3 X 31.4 X 19.5 in) build tray gave it the ability to 3D print the full range of components up to a meter in length.”

Indeed, “the Short Distance Vehicle was build using…the Objet1000…for all its exterior plastic parts, including the large front and back panels, door panels, bumper systems, side skirts, wheel arches, lamp masks, and a few interior components such as the retainer instrument board and a host of smaller components.”

“Parts were 3D printed using Stratasys’ tough Digital ABS (plastic) material, enabling the engineering team to build a prototype car that could perform in strenuous testing environments to the same level as a vehicle made of traditionally manufactured parts.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Stratasys Ltd.

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3D Printing ‘Skylanders’

Engadget recently wrote about the innovative ways video game developer Toys for Bob is using 3D printing.

Toys for Bob, best known for their ‘Skylanders’ franchise, which allows “players [to] control virtual versions of their RFID-equipped figurines in-game, was the first [game series] to successfully merge physical toys and video gaming as part of a new crossover entertainment category.”

The ‘Skylanders’ team has now embraced the use of 3D printing during their character design process.  I-Wei Huang, the lead character and toy designer for the games, explained that the idea behind incorporating 3D printing into production was so that they “could get a real sense of how their two-dimensional drawings would fare as fleshed-out 3D models.  Apart from giving the [team] more freedom to experiment and quickly iterate on designs, the tech was also helpful in determining what character poses would fit properly within the constraints of retail packaging (e.g., adjusting the grip of a character’s weapon and stance).”

For the majority of 3D printing jobs, the team uses a high-resolution Objet Eden printer, but they have recently been using MakerBot Replicators as well.   

Before the use of 3D printing, “it would take Huang at least four weeks to see his creations made into physical models.”  Now, however, “he can see results in-studio in about four hours.”  As Huang explains, “Before we started 3D printing, the process took a long time.  Basically, we would draw a character.  We’d have a toy team to…help us model it…and also prototype the actual physical toys.  And that could take months and months of work before we’d actually see anything back.”

But now, Huang can see a radical difference: “As soon as a character is finalized on paper, we start modeling and instantly we can print something overnight after the model’s done.  We can try different detail levels, expressions, and stuff like that…different poses.”

Huang believes that eventually, “kids will be able to make their own ‘Skylanders’ figurines (and other toys) at home” using 3D printing.

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Engadget   


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Flux: Modular 3D Printing


Engadget recently reported on the Flux 3D printer, created by Flux Technology LLC.  Currently, this machine is the subject of a Kickstarter campaign.

“The crowdfunded device lets you swap in modules that accomplish any number of tasks; if you need to laser-etch wood or work with pastry, you just switch components.  It’s not a large printer, but it includes a 3D scanner.” 

These interchangeable modules start with the laser engraver, but Flux Technology is developing “a dual extruder, a ceramics extruder, and a pastry extruder (for chocolate, jam, and many other edibles).”

As you can see from the video above, using the Flux, it will be very easy to scan an object and then 3D print as many duplicates as you want.  (But be wary of copyright infringement – we here at Replicator World would advise you not to start selling those copies!)

As Engadget points out, however, “you’ll have to pledge between $499 and $599 if you want the normal Flux printer, although you’ll have to wait until July to get one at those prices.  If you’d like one by May, you’ll have to plunk down $899 for a bundle that includes a laser engraving module and safety glasses.”

These obstacles haven’t deterred the campaign’s 473 backers, however.  With 24 days to go, Flux Technology has raised $1,022,577.  Their original goal was only $100,000!

Video and Photo Courtesy of Flux Technology LLC

Quotes Courtesy of Engadget

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3D Print.com Gushes About i.materialise’s New Alumide Colors

In mid-November, the 3D printing blog 3D Print.com ran a story about i.materialise’s new alumide colors. 

“Alumide has been among i.materialise’s offerings for some time, noted as being ‘perfect for beginning designers who want a well-priced model, a maximum freedom of creation, and who don’t want to be bothered with the limitations of the printing process.’”

However, up until now, alumide has only been available in its natural matte grey color.  Alumide, for those curious, is “a blend of polyamide fine granular powder and grey aluminum powder.”

But now i.materialise is breaking alumide out of its matte grey shell with colors such as “Asphalt Black, Brick Red, Rusty Orange, Sparkly Blue, or Moss Green.”

3D Print.com goes into further detail about the dyeing process and how i.materialise was able to bring vibrancy to alumide.  Be sure to check the article out!

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Print.com

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3D Printer Aboard International Space Station

As Spaceflight Now previously reported, a 3D printer has become the latest crewmember aboard the International Space Station.

“Developed in a public-private partnership between NASA and Made in Space, Inc. (the Silicon Valley startup which built the printer), it was launched Sept. 21st on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.”

Once aboard the space station, the 3D printer, which uses ABS plastic, was unpacked by Astronaut Barry ‘Butch’ Wilmore “and put inside a safety housing in the space station’s Destiny laboratory module.”

“The printer was…placed in an enclosure called the microgravity science glove box and switched on….In the coming weeks, the 3D printer will begin testing.  It does not require much attention by the astronauts, who only need to set up the system and remove the printed part at the end of the process.” 

“The printer will produce an initial set of more than 20 demonstration parts, according to NASA.  The materials will include tools and test coupons that will also be printed by an exact copy of the Made in Space printer on the ground, then engineers will compare the products.”

As Mike Snyder, Made in Space’s director of research and development, enthuses: “This experiment has been an advantageous first stepping stone to the future ability to manufacture a large portion of materials and equipment in space that has been traditionally launched from Earth’s surface, which will completely change our methods of [space] exploration.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Spaceflight Now

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Toys R US Joins 3D Printing Bandwagon

Retail giants such as Home Depot and Staples have already entered the in-store 3D printing kiosk fray, but now Toys R Us has announced they are joining them. 

Toy News writes that these pilot in-store kiosks will open at the end of November at two Toys R Us locations.  They will give customers “the chance to create toys and wearables on demand.”

Toys R Us has teamed up “with the Pittsburgh-based start-up PieceMaker Technologies to pilot the initiative at the Toys R Us locations in Cranberry Township and Totowa.”

“The PieceMaker Factory will allow users to create custom inventory on demand…offering ‘a factory within the store.’…Custom items will cost about $10 each and will take less than 30 minutes to print at the site of purchase.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Toy News

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(Former) US Defense Secretary Commits to 3D Printing

ZDNet reports that (Former) US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has made a commitment to 3D printing in regards to US military defense spending.

In a speech delivered at the Reagan National Defense Forum in mid November, “Hagel announced new, ambitious plans to keep the US military sharp.  The new ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’ will include ‘an effort to develop and field new systems using technologies such as robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data, and ‘three-dimensional printing.’”

Granted, the US military has already invested in the 3D printing industry by designing “its own 3D printer as an alternative to commercial models.”  As well as sending low-cost 3D printer models to the front line in order to “allow soldiers to repair weapons on the ground rather than wait weeks for parts to arrive.”

But Hagel plans to expand the military’s interest in 3D printing.  However, “Hagel did not say how much would be spent on the Defense Innovation Initiative, and the figure is likely to be based on the country’s fiscal 2016 budget – which is currently being drafted before being submitted to Congress in early 2015.”

Hagel seems determined, though: “we are entering an era where American dominance in key warfighting domains is eroding, and we must find new and creative ways to sustain, and in some areas expand, our advantages.”

Photo Courtesy of Politico

Quotes Courtesy of ZDNet

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3D Printed Laptop Shatters Indiegogo Goal

As reported by Wired.co.uk, the world’s first 3D printed laptop is shattering its Indiegogo goal.

The ‘Pi-Top’ has raised $162,505.  Its original goal was to raise $80,000.  That’s more than a 182% increase!

The Pi-Top, or Raspberry Pi laptop, “fuses a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design and 3D printing – a combination that endows [the user] with the prerequisite know-how to create [their] own hardware product.”

The purpose of the Pi-Top, at least initially, is to demonstrate to people that “hardware can be as accessible as software.”  Launched by “a group of student engineers from various UK universities”, the Pi-Top is meant to be as beginner-friendly as possible. 

“Pi-Top aims to provide a platform on which you can hone your computing skills and learn to code your own hardware…the makers want you to ‘learn how to make and control home automation devices, robots, and consumer electronics.’”    

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Wired.co.uk

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MakerBot Teams Up with Martha Stewart

According to Dezeen, Martha Stewart, lifestyle guru, businesswoman, writer, and TV personality, has launched a line of 3D printables in collaboration with MakerBot. 

This collaboration was launched through Stewart’s company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. (MSLO)  This range of custom printable designs and new filament colors boast “artisanal character.”

“The two companies have developed a range of table accessories, which can be purchased from the MakerBot Digital Store to print on demand, and a set of colored plastic PLA filaments to print them in.”

“The designs in the ‘Trellis’ Collection include coasters, napkin rings, LED candle holders, and place card holders.”

“These can be printed at home on a MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer in Stewart’s first three filament colors for the company – Lemon Drop, Robin’s Egg, and Jadeite – which join 20 tones that are already available.” 

Stewart announced that MSLO is “thrilled to work with MakerBot to bring our signature color palette and designs to the world of 3D printing.  3D printing allows for cost-effective product design without compromising artisanal character.  With this partnership, we are able to leverage our expertise and expand our business into the exciting new 3D printing category.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Dezeen

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Customize Your Ollie Robot With 3D Printing

In Australia, Sphero recently released the Ollie.

According to Mashable, the Ollie “is a robotic toy that can be controlled by an app on your iPhone or Android device connected via Bluetooth LE…it can do insane stunts and reach speeds of 22km/h…on two rubber wheels and spins, drifts, jumps, and flips to create a range of tricks.”  

The Ollie costs $99, but Sphero has now “teamed up with the innovative Australian 3D design team, Makers Empire, to launch the Ollie Customizer app.”

“The app allows an Ollie owner to create unique hubcaps and armor, or select from a library of designs, which can then be 3D printed using a variety of different materials, colors, and textures.  Finally, you can make your Ollie stand apart during the 360 on the dirt track.”

Once users are finished creating their unique design, the cost to download the STL file are $0.99 “and the print service cost varies according to the size and shape of the design and the type of material.”  Usually, however, a simple design costs under $30. 

“Ollie Customizer is available on iPad and Android devices and is built upon the 3D design platform developed by Makers Empire.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Mashable

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