All posts by Michael Rindler

3D Printing & Education

The use of printing as a tool has gone through dramatic changes over the centuries. From the printing press to the home printer, it has gotten objectively easier for 3D objects to be read across all kinds of platforms. However, with the advent of 3D printing becoming a pipe dream during the 1980’s and now a legitimate form of printing during the 21st century, so too have the ways students obtain access to these tools to further the development of 3D printing.

Many high schools have begun to incorporate engineering into their school curriculum, offering those the opportunity to engage in the field of engineering as a potential career path. Now that 3D printing has become more readily available, so too has the use of the 3D printer in the curriculum of high schools, not just engineering. 3D printing has offered a variety of uses for not only high school students but also K-8 students as well. In an article published by EdTech Magazine, designed to report on news about K-12 across the nation, many teachers interviewed were praising the use of 3D printing as a learning device.

For example, although it is an expensive way to keep up a learning opportunity, Campbell-Tintah Public School District Teacher Richard Osman found a way to incorporate this expensive technology for his school. “Osman incorporates trips to local plants and engineering offices into his classes. The goal: to show students how 3D printing is used in industry. After the tours, students devise 3D printing projects that mimic what they’ve seen. Campbell-Tintah PSD serves 160 pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students, all in a single school building. The high school students get first crack at the 3D printer. Once they are proficient with the technology, they show the sixth-grade students how to use it,” (Peterson, EdTech Magazine).

My sister, who currently attends Benet Academy in Lisle, IL, says that although she knows a fair amount about the use of 3D printing, she doesn’t know about many practical applications for it in education below the college level. Benet has not begun to incorporate 3D printing into the school’s curriculum, unlike other local high schools like New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, IL. She said, “I’m not sure of many other practical uses of 3D printing currently or how often they are used though. My school doesn’t offer any 3D printing opportunities and haven’t announced any plans to incorporate it into the learning environment.”

Illinois high schools across the state have begun to incorporate 3D printing in their curriculum’s. One way that 3D printing has been incorporated is through the use of STEAM projects encouraging students to think about entering the engineering field in the future. Specifically, these programs target female students as the representation of women in the field continues to grow. One example of this is the “GOT STEAM” program at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, IL. “A group of girls from Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, IL took it upon themselves to show their younger counterparts—from fifth to eighth grades—just how much fun STEAM can be, creating a mentorship program called Got STEAM. The girls offer workshops once a month, featuring subjects such as 3D printing, robotics, and coding. The sessions are held either at their high school or the Glenview Public Library. Kate Stack is a high school sophomore and acts as a program leader in the new mentorship program, which began during this school year. She states that the program is open to all, with boys welcomed—although the program has primarily targeted membership by girls,” (O’Neal,

Many schools in Illinois have begun to acquire access to 3D printing technology through the use of educational grants and other means. Equipment for 3D printing can be expensive, however as the technology becomes more readily available, the price for the equipment and materials have begun to be more cost-efficient. “Those units can cost around $2,000 each, with metal, plastic, wax and other materials costing 30 cents per gram. Top-of-the-line models cost $7,000 or more with materials at 30 cents per gram,” (Poremba, District Administration). While that might seem like a high cost still, federal and state grants have made the burden of buying expensive equipment and materials a little easier.

3D printing was once thought to be a fad. Now, as 3D printing becomes commonly used to build auto parts and even human body parts, so too does the incorporation in the school. If trends in education continue to go the way they are now, many K-12 schools will begin to use 3D printing for not only engineering curriculums but also math and science, giving the world a whole new generation of engineers, mathematicians, and scientists.


Works Cited

O’Neal, Bridget Butler. “Illinois: High School Girls Mentoring Younger Counterparts in STEAM Technology & 3D Printing.” 3DPrint.Com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, 6 Jan. 2018,

Peterson, Tommy. “3D Printers Add a New Dimension to Classrooms.” EdTech, 13 Jan. 2015,

Poremba, Sue. “Finding Purpose for 3D Printers in Schools.” District Administration Magazine, 25 Aug. 2015,


Closing Time

Our class spent the first half of the semester focused on understanding the capabilities of digital making and developing our technical skills.  Many of my classmates, including myself, signed up for this class blissfully unaware of the digital canvas at our fingertips. Vishal did an excellent job helping the class quickly overcome the apparent digital learning curve. I especially appreciated class conversations with industry insiders because I enjoyed learning how digital making is currently being integrated into their business practices. Slowly but surely I began thinking in a digital making mindset.

Reading over my previous blog posts in my current mindset, it’s comical how easily 3d printing impressed me. In my first blog post, I wrote about how I was awestruck by the ways 3d printing is changing the supply chain… years after 3d printing was invented. Part of the Maker Mindset reading that week stated that students at play are the ones actually learning. I agreed with the idea then, and more strongly now having worked on a project with virtually complete freedom to create. This idea also inspired my research paper into digital making educational policy.

My next blog post is titled “creative freedom,” which I believe is one of the most valuable aspects of digital making. With the right technical skills, you can build any 3d object you could possibly imagine. This particular week I was introduced to the Fusion360 software. Despite the user-friendly software, I still struggled to keep up with the demonstrations. I learned that 3d modeling is definitely not one of my strengths. This experienced helped demonstrate the importance of developing your technical skills. for example, you could have a genius idea that will change the world, but it may never be more than an idea without the Fusion360 skills needed to conceptualize it. Learning these technical skills is just as important as learning the alphabet.

In the following weeks, I continued to stay creative at the FabLab. I made a laser cut box, an embroidery lighthouse, and worked with sewable LCD lights. I never imagined I would do any of these activities when I signed up for this class. It seemed like a poor use of my time attempting to master each software program I used for the mini projects. A universal design platform would help minimize time spent learning the same functions on different interfaces. I have learned that collaboration is a pillar of the digital making community, and I believe it would benefit from such a design platform.

At this point, I began thinking about design more and more frequently. It applies to large parts of our lives, but most of the time goes completely unnoticed.  The U of I Design for America presentation was one of my favorite throughout the semester. One of the major learning points was that design affects effectiveness, aesthetics, user experience, practicality, etc.  I learned to take a step back from the surface and focus on the problem I wished to solve, rather than the solution. Innovation happens throughout the entire design process.

During the second half of the semester, the skills I learned were put to the test. Incorporating what I had learned into a project seemed broad at first, but by focusing on a problem my group came up with a legitimate idea.  “How can we” statements helped my group solidify the objectives we were going to tackle head-on.  Our early discussions were focused on our design. There different types of hydroponic systems, sensors, and hardware decisions was overwhelming.

I was still narrowing down these choices the following week. Looking back, I am lucky to have had the ample resources around me at my disposal. Staff at the FabLab saved my group hours of research time because we were able to ask the right people the right questions. Most of our questions regarded feasibility, both technologically and financially.  During this week I also wrote about drafting the testing protocol. I thought it was a unique opportunity to re-evaluate assumptions that we had made up until this point.  The valued the feedback the prototype received because I had taken the time to properly design the questions.  I will try to take advantage of these opportunities in the future now that I understand how valuable a single suggestion can be.

I don’t think this class necessarily met my expectations because I didn’t have any genuine expectations coming into this. I came into this class with an open mind, and I’ve earned a long-lasting learning experience. My favorite part of this course has been the freedom to design and create. When I was building the hydroponic system prototype, I would sometimes think to myself, “I have no idea what I’m building.” My thought process always circled back to the problem at hand.  I would ask myself, “What do I need to do?” and “How am I going to do it?” It seems idiotic, building something while at the same time not knowing exactly what you are building, but don’t be afraid to deviate from your original plans. Think outside the box. There is genuine inspiration inside us all. This mindset truly changes the way you perceive the world. Don’t forget, your digital canvas is always at your fingertips….


Once again, thank you Vishal for the pizza filled semester. This class has been a change of pace that has been long overdue.





Fundamental Design and Confirmation Bias

Last week I drafted questions to be asked during the prototype testing portion of the project. I specifically worded these questions to address the most basic assumptions of our hydroponic design. Reflecting on this exercise, I realize that I was also critically thinking about other design options 3Dream hasn’t fully considered. This class has already evaluated prototype designs during Week 5 with the Design for America Team. One important takeaway that I believe to be applicable is avoiding group confirmation bias. The similar views that I share amongst members of my group have skewed our collective judgment. Product prototype designs are tested before commercialization to reduce the effects of confirmation bias.

This week’s reading provides the guidelines for effective prototype testing. There are multiple variables that must be controlled, or the findings may be misleading. Those variables include: finding proper test subjects, defining the usability tasks, the interview questions, the test environment, and finally updating the prototype. I believe this final step to be the most critical because it relies on personal judgment. Assuming a prototype test is properly conducted, it is possible the findings will not initiate any design changes. Worse yet, the results could spark design changes that retrospectively fails. It is difficult to gauge the sometimes widely ranging test subject expectations, which is why reviewing the results is both a science and an art.

After reading the article and having aspects of design on my (hopefully open) mind, I headed to the store in search of hardware materials for the hydroponic drip system. I got a PVC pipe connector, a T-joint to hang plants from, and a measuring bucket for the base. I am currently designing a stabilization device on Fusion360 to firmly anchor the 5-foot PVC pipe in the center of the bucket. Since this piece will be 3D printed, I will easily be able to implement any feedback I get from the imminent prototype testing.

To conclude this week’s post, I wanted to promote the upcoming Design for America spring expo event being held on campus. They are awesome people working on local projects that you can check out here. The slides from the Week 5 Design for America presentation helped inspire me when thinking about prototype testing questions. Designs have a meaningful impact on how we interact with the things around us, and for the creative people in the world, there is always room for improvement.

Until next week.

Reverse Engineering using 3D Scanning Tech

Class activities this week centered around 3d scanning technology and project prototyping. Vishal started off class by familiarizing everyone with 3d scanning technology and reverse engineering. This Lynda video does a great job demonstrating the technology’s capabilities. Our class experienced the technology first-hand with a 3D Systems scanner. This scanner attached to an iPad in order to utilize the local camera to collect the necessary data. I developed 3d scanned busts of my classmates with this tool and an app called ‘scanner’ on the iPad.

Due to the nature of scanning people and the complexity of our equipment, most of the scans I attempted were failures. However, I have some tips for those of you who have yet to try 3d scanning an object. First, try to remain the same distance from the object at all times during a scan. I attempted multiple scans in a narrow part of the classroom and noticed one side kept turning out better than the other. The quality of scans improved by going outside. Secondly, don’t be afraid to circle around somebody multiple times. The more data you feed into the software, you will generally get a better result. Lastly, try to stay away from direct light. The scan of my bust was 95% perfect besides a glaring hole at the tip of my nose. I theorize the brightness of the light reflecting off my nose confused the camera. Here is a picture of my bust.

Rather than re-scanning my bust, I can edit the previous version to fill in this hole. Using an editing software called MeshMixer, one can also fill in surface cracks, solidify the insides of the model, make a flat base, and export for eventual printing. I will post my finalized bust in next week’s post.


Whilst others we scanning my fellow group members and I continued to work on our hydroponic drip system prototype. We have pretty much finalized our design unless an issue arises during user testing. I drafted the testing protocol and relevant questions in hopes of gathering any information we can use to improve the final product. I have never actually tested a physical prototype before so I’m anxiously waiting to get started. Now we are focused on actually building the prototype… easier said than done. I rummaged around in the basement at the FabLab and found a PVC pipe that we will use for the main support. Since we are essentially scavenging for materials, we have made a couple slight adjustments to the prototype. We are now planning to run the tubing up through the PVC pipe. The wooden hook we had planned on using now may be scrapped for a T-junction of PVC pipe. We have acquired a suitable sump pump from the FabLab that is capable of pumping water to the top of the apparatus. We met another guru at the FabLab that is a great resource for stability questions. I have yet to hear back from engineering faculty members that I reached out to for help with a pH sensor.

TL;DR The prototype is slowly being built, piece by piece.

Until next week,


Idea Generation and Prototyping

This week we returned to the Digital Making Lab for the first time in three weeks. A guest speaker from Shapeways started the class with a brief virtual tour of their production and fulfillment facility. Shapeways leverages the digital making community platform to custom print and ship designs around the world. The printing machines expectedly dwarfed those I have seen in person, yet I was still impressed by their capabilities. These machines can simultaneously print objects from purchase orders.

I hadn’t considered a need for a dyeing section of the facility. From a revenue standpoint however, it makes more sense for Shapeways to print in one color and dye everything afterward. Changing colors using the Ultimaker or the embroidery machine in the FabLab is a hassle. Repeatedly having to do so would reduce Shapeways productivity and profits. This exemplifies how companies in the digital making space manage to foster creativity while staying profitable. More focused on the creative side of digital making in this class, I’m glad our guest speakers have consistently shown business insight in this industry.

The remaining class time was dedicated towards our final project prototypes. My team and I produced a rough sketch of our hydroponic drip system prototype and the necessary materials. Our early discussions were heavily focused on various design points. I drew upon lessons from the Design for America presentation a few weeks ago, specifically narrowing down the problem and asking “How can we” questions. Currently, the team is looking into ways to feasibly integrate a pH sensor. Hydroponic plants frequently perish at low or high pH levels because owners neglect to monitor it. I’ve reached out to a professor in Agricultural Engineering hoping for clearer direction.

I also returned to Brandon at the FabLab for further design input. I wanted to find a material strong enough to support several hanging plants. Instead of PLA plastic, we are leaning towards using laser cut wood. Adding wheels to the three support prongs is another interesting design aspect emerging from this meeting. The ability to move the hydroponics system to sunnier areas of the house would promote growth and further satisfy customers. Lastly, I spoke to Brandon about an air quality measuring device developed at the FabLab called DustDuino. The device could be attached at the top wooden hook in order to measure the air purification progress over time. There is still much work to be done, but the freedom to explore these options certainly makes this project unique.





Saying Goodbye to the FabLab… for now


This week marked our last class session in the Fablab. Although I won’t be returning in class, I do plan on coming back for advice on my final project. I have been impressed by our instructors over the past 3 weeks. They demonstrated knowledge and experience with different machines and techniques. I was surprised to learn that one instructor, Clinton, was still an undergrad. I’m not sure why, but I assumed that lab staff were either graduate or doctorate students. I applaud people like Clinton for being involved and inspiring others using his passion for digital making.

The third and final mini-project in the FabLab involved sewing LED lights onto the embroidery I made last week. Before sewing, we listened to a brief lecture on series and parallel circuits. I roughly sketched my cloth and a parallel circuit with wiring to help model my design. A parallel circuit connects the positive ends of the two LED lights to the positive end of the battery. The same is true for the respective negative ends. The wiring must be carefully mapped because the electric current breaks when positive and negative wires cross over one another. This may sound simple, but my extended break from physics classes ran me into difficulties.

The sewing materials included a needle, conductive thread made out of steel, two small LED lights, a lithium battery, and the switch. I placed one light at the top of the lighthouse, and the other illuminated the moon. I didn’t want the LED lights to be visible on the white lighthouse and moon, so I placed them under the cloth. Unfortunately, the small lights had trouble shining through the cloth. I will have to alter my design if I want people to notice the lights.

I thought the conductive thread was pretty neat. I never heard of or realized a use for conductive thread before. I also learned that beeswax can help flatten loose ends of thread through the eye of the needle. The biggest challenge was for me was actually sewing. I connected the positive and negative ends, but random bits of thread ruined the aesthetic. Choosing a darker cloth should easily fix that problem.

Reflecting over the past 3 weeks, I have a better understanding of product design. I think this is partially due to the creative freedom we were given, which we have learned is increasingly rare for students. Even though I have made mistakes, I walked away with lessons I can apply to future designs. Mistakes can be just as important as successes from a learning perspective.

Hope you all have a great spring break!

Aesthetic Embroidery

Our class was back in the FabLab this week. The Champaign-Urbana community is privileged to have these creative tools at our disposal. Instead of a tour, we headed straight to the embroidery machines in the back room. I had no previous sewing experience, which made these machines difficult to comprehend.

My instructor started by showing us how to use the design software. I thought it was similar to the software used for the laser cutter last week. I wonder if in the future there will be one universally accepted design software that is compatible with multiple digital making machines. Familiarizing ones-self with the features in each software is time-consuming. When I was creating my design, all the tips I learned last week were irrelevant. I think a common design platform would greatly expedite community innovation.

I was designing a cloth top for the box I laser cut last week. The instructor ran into some problems with my box during the cut, and it actually caught on fire. Although this happens quite often, there is nothing you can do besides restart. The second cut went fine and I managed to assemble my box without breaking any pieces. I found I enjoy the smell of the laser-singed wood.

My cloth design included a lighthouse, sailboat, and the moon. I used a spool of thread that alternated between white and blue. The sails on the boat turned out great with this alternating pattern. I didn’t realize that our mini-projects each week were going to be combined. Consequently, my combined creations aren’t the most cohesive.

Before printing, I had to wrap the thread around hooks on the machine to immobilize it. The last step is pulling the thread through the eye of the needle, which ironically felt old-school. I thought all this was overkill but was quickly proven wrong once the sewing machines turned on. They rapidly and repeatedly pulled the needle through the cloth. I didn’t want my fingers getting anywhere close to it. I was worried that the connecting thread between the three objects in my design would look awkward. The machine cuts thread itself when switching between objects, so I simply trimmed the remnants.

Luckily my first sewing project finished without incident. Other students weren’t so lucky. Sometimes the thread gets tangled or stuck. The machines are working so fast it is inevitable. My lack of sewing experience would have made me useless if that happened to me.

Lazer Vision

Rather than our normal location in the BIF, the class ventured over to the FabLab. Once all the stragglers found their way into the lab, Jeff Ginger took the class on a brief tour. Most students had previously heard about the lab because Jeff, the lab’s director, was our guest speaker in Week 3. My tour experience felt like somewhat of an information overload having missed that class. I didn’t have any time to be awestruck however.

Clinton, the lab assistant, began showing me how to design a box for the laser cutter. I was glad to be in Clinton’s group because I love the smell of burnt wood. I was confident I would be able to design a box without trouble after tinkering around with Fusion360. Inkscape, the laser cutting software we were using, turned out to be more difficult. I struggled to measure the box to my liking, despite the simpler Inkscape software interface. Part of the reason I think I had trouble with Inkscape is that I was designing in 2D. Spatial reasoning has never been one of my strong suits, and I had to picture assembling the pieces of the box in my head.

The box design included a wooden base, 4 sides, and a cloth lid that would be fastened by a frame. The laser cutting machine cut these pieces from a single sheet of wood. The speed and precision of the cuts were astounding. Furthermore, the machine has another lower temperature setting for engraving. I placed the Chelsea logo, my favorite soccer team from London, on the largest face of my box. The machine seamlessly switches between its two different lasers and carved the components of my box in no time.

Total cutting time for each box was less than 15 minutes. While we were waiting for a cut to finish, Clinton made a point about how much faster laser cutting would be than 3D printing a box. In class our focus has often been on 3D printing, but this moment showed me that other digital making methods can excel in their own ways. Using the appropriate technology for your projects can end up saving you both time and money.

I didn’t have time to physically assemble my box due to time constraints (hence the lack of pictures). I was shocked that the wooden joints could naturally be joined without any adhesives or nails. This technique reminded me of past readings about construction and furniture manufacturing techniques that don’t require any materials other than wood. I dug deeper into some woodworking techniques and discovered that our boxes are held together by the aptly named box joint. If you are interested in other woodworking techniques without any fasteners, you should check this out.






Biohacking, Mycelium, and more

This week we had the pleasure of welcoming Dot Silverman. She graduated with a physics degree and began working for Autodesk, and now she is back here at school. Dot introduced me to the world of biohacking. Her past projects include printing with mycelium, human organs on chips, and portable DNA recovery devices. The mycelium plant pot, which is mainly mushroom fungi, was my favorite item she passed around. Despite how complicated these projects seem, Dot learned most of her technical skills on the job. She thinks that the lines between different disciplines are beginning to disappear. Projects nowadays are almost exclusively multi-disciplined. Students should be aware of this and continuously expand their minds. Their ability to work with those of different technical backgrounds is extremely valuable in the workforce.

If you’re like me, you have zero prior knowledge about biohacking. Biohacking is the activity of exploiting genetic material experimentally1. To put it another way, “if you think of biology as a computer, and the way a hacker can infiltrate the system to make it work the way they want it to, biohacking can be easier to understand. The process of biohacking can involve a distinct combination of medical, nutritional and electronic methods to make the body function exactly as you want2.” So despite the nefarious sounding name, biohacking actually improves our health and quality of life.

Dot’s thoughts and experiences in the biohacking field were incredibly interesting. She also provided additional learning resources for the class to explore topics of interest. I dug deeper into the environmental characteristics associated with biohacking hoping to find a project idea. Ideally, my final class project will involve environmental sustainability in some way. I believe the planet is a critical issue that my generation must embrace, as mentioned in a prior blog post.

You’ll have to check back next week for my project selection. Though I haven’t finalized an idea yet, I was inspired by a company called Ecovative, a world leader in mycelium printing technology. Ecovative cultivates mycelium using farm waste, before “planting” it in 3D printed structures. As the fungus grows, the object materializes and becomes strong. These products are more normal-looking than you would otherwise think. If you don’t believe me, check them out. Mycelium is cheap, strong, and environmentally friendly, and thus Ecocative has profited from its unique business model. I appreciate the fact the company can operate while actively making our Earth a better place to live.




Nuances of Design

Our class was privileged to have Design for America as our guest speaker this week. Thus far our guest speakers have all been industry professionals. I enjoyed hearing another student’s thoughts on design and the digital making world. Our guest speakers reframed the way I thought about design and offered plenty to think about as I start working on my final project.

I always thought design involved either architecture, cars, or interior decorating. I quickly realized that design is an aspect of everything humans have made. It impacts effectiveness, aesthetics, user experience, practicality, etc.  Engineers and makers are continuously tweaking their designs to improve these areas.  A good design may make a product, but a bad design can break it. For example, take a look at these parking signs from Los Angeles.

How much time does it take to see if parking is free on Sunday? The second picture is clearly the better design,  but not every example will be this clear. How different are these pictures from each other?  Although they contain the same information, these pictures display it in vastly different ways. I’m mentioning this to show that improving design doesn’t have to be rocket science. Sometimes nuances make all the difference.

The city of Los Angeles has since implemented new parking signs. However, a key idea from the presentation is that innovation happens throughout the whole design process, not just implementation. One must think critically in order to understand and discover where the true problem lies in their design. In the parking sign example, this turns out to be information overload.

Understanding the true nature of the design problem is easier said than done. The design process is simplified into 6 steps: identify, immerse,  reframe, ideate, build, and test.  The first 3 steps are necessary for one to understand the problem. Much like consultants, designers must interview relevant individuals in order to gain new perspectives. “How Can We” statements are useful tools that help a team narrow down to a single point of focus.

Once the pain points have been identified,  the next 3 steps are turning abstract ideas into concrete solutions.  Although these steps are useful guidelines outlining the design process, the real process is far from linear.  You will be jumping forward and backward from one step to the next as the team generates new ideas and takes in more information.

My group designed an interactive railing to help blind college students feel more included on campus.  It was interesting to see the variety of designs our class came up with during our limited time. After each group presented their design, I wish we could have engaged in a class brainstorming discussion where we had the opportunity to combine all our ideas into one solution.


Thank you for reading. You can read more about LA parkings signs and other good/bad design ideas here.



Creative Freedom

Freedom to create and design are positive attributes pushing 3D printing technology into homes around the world. These attributes are prevalent across the collaborative community platforms we’ve explored in class. It’s fascinating to see the wide range of designs people have published on websites like Spaceway. I have even more respect for these creations having designed my own.

Dan Banach showed us the basics of Autodesk’s Fusion360 design software this week during class. I compliment him for his simple explanations and more importantly an enjoyable experience. His tutorial focused on designing a windshield snow scraper and a phone charging platform. Although these items seem rather simple, designing the scraper took 2 hours. Familiarizing myself with the nuances of the software took time, but by the end of the session I was confident I had them down.

With the number of tools available on Fusion360, the only limitation is your mind. The feeling of limitless creation is elusive after childhood, but while I was tinkering with my design it felt like I was playing with Legos again. I have had few opportunities to instantly conceptualize my ideas in this manner as a business student. These experiences show how powerful the software can be. When 3D printers become common household items, anyone will be able to customize their common household items. The number of new inventions compounds when more people have access to this technology.

One takeaway from this week’s tutorial is the effects different printing materials have on the final product. I was absent from our first 3D print last week because of the flu and thus didn’t get to experience the printing process firsthand. I had been looking forward to seeing the Ultimaker melt various plastics with my own eyes. My interest in the benefits and drawbacks of each material, especially their environmental impact, led me to further research.

In class, we have already established that 3D printers can be greener than traditional manufacturing because they use fewer materials. 3D printing is an additive process that uses exactly enough material. Traditional manufacturing carves the product from a block of larger material, leaving waste. One material mentioned during class that I frequently see mentioned is PLA bio-plastic. It is becoming the most popular option for 3D printing hobbyists. PLA bio-plastic “requires less energy to print (and less energy to manufacture) than ABS plastic; it’s also less toxic, and even has better print quality.” Another example of green technology is a solar tinter that fuses sand into glass using solar energy. I hope researchers focus on sustainability as they continue to innovate. You can read more here.

Check out a fruit holder I made here.

Week 2: Creating in 3D

When I first heard of 3D printing, it was featured in one of those eyebrow-raising headlines that you’ll never hear of again. Fast forward to this semester, surrounded by the digital making community the past two weeks, and the current state of 3D printing technology seems futuristic. Furniture, organs, guns, and even houses all digitally printed layer by layer. Printing complex products without the need for individual parts is a monumental shift in the manufacturing process. This is why 3D printing is being called the third industrial revolution by some people. I don’t understand how these milestones have been happening under my nose. Owning the means of production used to be a privilege reserved for the rich, but now everyone can print from their home with this technology. The consumer’s changing relationship with traditional manufacturing is fueling the maker movement.

In the Maker Mindset reading, Dale Dougherty states that “makers are inspired by others.” Designing concept ideas and sharing them with others has slowly helped the movement gain steam. People are able to redesign concepts and tweak them to their liking. For example, you could print a customized sofa for your living room that filled the perfect amount of space. This digital making movement is as much about manufacturing as it is about art. It’s an extension of the inner human desire to create.

Although 3D printing has stayed under my radar, I discovered it through the education movement pushing it.  Dougherty’s reading states that real learning occurs while students are at play, which in this case is creating. Community 3D printing centers are being built all over the world so kids can have more control over their ideas. I believe in this learning philosophy because curriculum can sometimes feel rigid.

I had lots of fun looking at the Spaceway marketplace for 3D printed products with my groupmates. Sharing the funny, useful, or simply random products definitely sparked some project ideas for later in the semester. 4 Notable mentions included:

Universal Chopsticks Helper T2

As a Chinese restaurant goer, I liked this idea. The chopsticks could be customized to fit your grip.

iPhone 6/6S Wahoo Mount Case – Hill Climb 

It’s annoying to continuously get your phone out to change the music or for directions while biking. A phone mount for the center of your handlebars is a handy gadget and safer alternative for bikers. The mount could customize the mount to fit any bike.

Bitcoin Cufflinks

What screams “I’m a millennial” louder than 3D printed Bitcoin cufflinks? Jokes aside, the 3D printed fashion options for men’s belts and cuff links weren’t bad. Maybe one day I’ll be wearing a belt buckle and cuff link I made myself.

Bugle For iPhone 5

This is one of my favorite products because it’s a simple, yet creative solution to someone’s problem: their iPhone wasn’t loud enough. You don’t need to be a physicist paid by a corporation to explore cutting-edge acoustic quality research to develop your own product. Testing 3D printed prototypes is inexpensive compared to current mainstream manufacturing. Although the item pictured above is a crude amplifier, it shows that anyone can be an engineer.


My name is Michael and feel free to comment or read my future posts, I’ll be here all semester.