Category Archives: Plastic Injection Tooling

Prototyping Manufacturing

Our objective with the V-Flash™ desktop modeler is to enable designers, engineers, hobbyists and students to imagine, design and produce, whenever they want, whatever they want – directly at their desk.

History of excellence

Founded in 1986, we are a leading provider of rapid 3-D Printing, Prototyping and Manufacturing solutions.

Our systems and materials reduce the time and cost of designing products and facilitate direct and indirect manufacturing by creating actual parts directly from digital input.

These solutions are used for design communication and prototyping as well as for production of functional end-use parts.

In addition to the V-Flash™ desktop modeler, we offer SLA™ systems (stereolithography), SLS™ systems (selective laser sintering), InVision™ and ProJet 3-D Modeling solutions as well as diverse materials, software and application solutions

3D printed Stainless Steel Parts

In August, when I ordered a bunch of parts for the beard trimmer I’m working on, I also ordered a small stainless steel ring that I designed in a couple of hours. The ring was for me to check out in person the quality of Shapeways.com’s 3D printing in stainless steel. It is also intended to replace the stainless wedding band that I have been wearing. It arrived today (finally!).

I like it overall. The design was to look a little Art Deco and does so, though more in person than in the photo, I think. More importantly, my wife approves. It’s always odd to see something from my brain (or my screen) manifested in the real world.

The resolution of the printing is so-so. I am happy with it, but I am VERY glad that I did this test before I promise anyone anything printed in 3D (which, I will do, by the way, just contact me). Just know that you’re supposed to be looking at smooth surfaces when you are looking at the pictures.

The metal itself feels VERY solid and strong. I am pleased with that. I will likely do some tests on it to see how well the surface can be smoothed by secondary process (i.e. a grinder), but that will be for one offs it is works, NOT for productions runs of any sort.

Anyhow, feel free to let me know what you think.

NOTE: everyone who has seen the ring in person says that this photo does NOT do it justice.  Apparently the level of detail apparent in the photo is lower than the real deal and the texture from the process is way worse in the photo than in real life.

EDIT: 1/21/10 I have no idea why I didn’t do this sooner. If you want a copy of the ring, or a bunch of other cool 3D printed stuff available, check out Shapeways.

3D printed Stainless Steel

Alas the ring is not quite perfect. Despite the major composition being stainless steel, there is a little bronze in the ring. This has led to slight discoloration on my finger. I believe it comes about when I wash my hands and don’t remove the ring and thoroughly dry it and my finger. This is unfortunate, since I think that this is likely not normal behavior for most people. If I’m wrong, please let me know.

The implications that this has is that this process is not ready for prime time jewelry production. I personally will continue to wear the ring since I have no issues with the slight color, but customers as a whole are not so picky. I had been thinking about approaching a couple of retail outlets locally to sell small quantities, but this won’t fly. 

The other thought is perhaps it has something to do with my own body chemistry? My previous ring was stainless, but perhaps my vegan diet makes me more basic or acidic than a “normal” person and perhaps most people won’t have this happen. I will have to find more people who have experience with the 3D printed metal before I know, I guess.

3D Scanning

Ugh, what a difficult day. I spent a good part of it creating a set up for 3D scanning and feel like I got no where. But, lessons were learned.

I was working on getting the free software from DAVID to work to do basic scans. If it worked out, I was ready to start saving the $ (well, technically euros) to get the professional version of their software.  Just think, less than $600 to have something that puportedly works as well as the $3000 scanners out there. I am not saying that I won’t start saving, but I am not as inspired as I was hoping to be.

I believe my problem all came down to hardware limitations. I do NOT blame the software. First off, my laser was questionable from the get go. You need a “line laser.” I was using the Straight-line laser level that I stole (er, borrowed) from my neighbors this morning when dog-sitting. I don’ t think it is bright enough.

The second hardware issue was that I was using the webcam in my Macbook Pro. Now the camera itself is fine from a spec standpoint, but it is pointed at the user, which means that I had to set up the stage on top of my keyboard. It didn’t necessarily keep anything from working, but is sure did make it so that I ran out of patience sooner than I probably would have.

The software itself is Windows only, so I was running the Mac in Bootcamp with XP. The software ran just fine and it was relatively easy to figure out, though, admittedly, I did have to READ THE MANUAL. Terrible, I know.

So I am about to put an request for a free webcam out on Freecycle. I figure that is one of those items that people don’t use but feel like they shouldn’t throw away.

If I can come up with that, I have seen a pretty good line laser made out of a regular laser and a glass or acrylic cylinder.  I will work on constructing one. Of course, I will post results.

If I can get a rudimentary setup working, I will take a more serious look at the starter kit that they sell at the DAVID site. From the 3rd party reviews that I have read, it sounds like it is pretty good software.

3D printed iPhone cases

As I recently learned from Freedom of Creation, FreshFiber has launched a line of 3D printed iPhone cases. This touches on something that I have been working on, an iPhone “case” project that hopefully will see light of day within the next month or so.

I do have some reservations about their product, though.  While I think this is a great application for 3D printing technology, I am an iPhone user and I have been through a few different cases. The first one I had was super minimal. Since I carry the phone in one of my pants pockets and the my favorite part of the form factor was how slim it was compared to my Treo 680, I wanted a case that didn’t bulk up the profile. The one I got barely wrapped around the edges, was a single piece of plastic and was minimal as it gets. After a year of loving use (read abuse) I had to exchange my phone for a factory refurb because of some issues with the audio jack.

When I removed the cover that I had used for the last year, I discovered that because their wasn’t a perfectly tight seal between the phone and the plastic tiny particle of pocket matter had managed to get in between the phone and the case and proceeded to scratch the ever-living daylights out of the iPhone’s mirror black, oh-so-pretty finish. While the case certainly did its job against falls, it actually performed worse for scratches than a bare iPhone would have done.

Aluminum Prototype

I’ve begun to redesign classic pieces of (mid-century) modern furniture as knockdown/flat pack items. The idea is to be fully functional and life size. I will post soon about the whole goal and ideas of the Knockdown Knockoff line, but, right now, after a LONG night, I want to revel in what I consider to be a very successful prototype.

Here are preliminary, pre-touch-up photos of the chair. I will eventually give this design away in the Downloadable Design section of this site and it may end up as an Open Design in/on the site of a company that I am putting together for a Spring 2010 launch.

Anyhow, here are the pics:

The design is made of 1″ birch plywood with aluminum and black melamine veneer. It uses cross dowels to hold it together. The canvas upholstery references the earliest versions of the LC4 chaise. Unlike the original, though, the canvas snaps to the frame here so that customer assembly is easier.

This prototype allowed me to explore a few things including CNCing ply with the veneer already applied, canvas seating, and CNC setup for cross dowels without secondary processes. Aside from sanding and finishing the wood edges with low VOC finish, the frame was ready to go off the CNC.

Please let me know your first impressions.

Wireless electricity is NOT a good option for cell phones

I am getting very frustrated with all the attention to wireless charging systems that has been popping up lately. I think the technology is cool. And “space age” (though actually almost as old as our understanding of electricity). What no one focuses on, though, is that it is horribly INEFFICIENT. My understanding is that companies are striving for 50% efficient power transfer in the next few years. This means that if you are charging your cell phone, which already depends on crappy batteries, (ALL batteries are crappy, so don’t respond with something about lithium this or that) you are not only losing the power lost from the batteries, but also the power lost from transferring that power TO the batteries.

When I was working on a power wheelchair design for severely disabled people, I could see the absolute reason for why this technology can and should be used. In a case where something MUST be charged and the user has limited abilities, a 50% power loss is relatively unimportant. My old Interplak toothbrush from the early 90s used a wireless charging system because it couldn’t handle getting its contacts wet. Not AS important, but still understandable. But a phone charger? We need a standard style charger (which, I understand, is in the works) and they need to NOT come with our electronics. Buy it separately. That way, when you upgrade your phone, you can use your old charger. This will reduce our waste in production of needless chargers and make a wired charger EVER MORE efficient versus a wireless charger.

Rubber Sole

Despite the way this starts, this is NOT a shoe review.

I have spent this summer wearing a pair of Blackspot Unswoosher V2 shoes. Since the mid 90s, I have been a fan of John Fluvog’s shoe design. When I found out that he designed an “unbranded” pair of shoes that were to be manufactured in a sustainable, labor friendly way, I had to check them out. Here’s a glimpse at my Unswooshers:

There are only two kinds of men’s shoes in this world: those that can be re-soled and those that can’t. I detest companies that charge a lot of money for shoes that don’t have a mid-sole and therefore can not be re-soled (Steve Madden, for example). I pronate (put my weight on the outside of my foot when I walk) and with my 200-ish lbs, I can wreck poorly made shoes in less than 2 months.

The Unswoosher not only had a mid-sole but it has recycled tire soles. I’m not talking about what Timberland is doing where they are mixing the existing rubber with some virgin rubber and being molded into a conventional looking sole. The shoe has treads and it is awesome.

Turns out, even more important that knowing that come this winter I will leave the coolest looking tracks in the Denver snow, the soles show NO wear after 2 months of consistent wear. Apparently, me weighing a good deal less than a car has something to do with it.

So what do I take away from this? Colorado has 1/3 of the nation’s scrap tires. I understand that it takes work to separate the tread of the tire from the steel bands (unless you’re a late 90s Ford Explorer). Still, there is a tremendous resource here. What is insufficient tread depth for a car is more than sufficient for a person. Car tire soles could easily be offered as an option for when shoes get re-soled. I would love for my 12+ year old Frye boots to get tire soles the next (3rd) time they get soles.

I can not find a company that is doing this as an option for the repair market. Someone should. Let me know if you have more info about this.

Heart Mod

Suddenly I regret that I’m donating a coffee table. Had the project been a chair, the title could have been about “chairity” and I could have dies happy. Oh well, I’ll have to continue to plug along, I guess.

Anyhow, what you’re looking at is the “Heart Mod.” It’s a version of the Mod coffee table that I give away on this site that has a heart cut into it? Why you ask? I’m donating it to the Colorado AIGA (16th Annual) 2010 Heart Art auction. Part of the money benefits AIGA, but more importantly, half goes to Project Angelheart, who provide nutritious meals to people with life-threatening illness.

The Heart Mod is made from FSC certified 3/4″ bamboo plywood. It still needs its low-VOC finish and to have the edges knocked down. The CNC cutting time was generously donated by the Industrial Design department at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Thanks for Terry Dreher for doing the cutting and Ken Phillips for making the call to donate the table time.

One of the cool things about the Mod is that it assembles without hardware or glue and it packs flat. It’s one of the first products that will be available from my future (next month or so) online retail outfit.

Make sure if you’re in Denver to come to the event. And then bring lot’s of dough to buy yourself one awesome table.

my wallet hurts

This post is largely my apology for ignoring this site for a little while. I’ve been busing selling limbs to pay for some computer upgrades. I’m not down to 1 arm, one leg, and a single kidney (metaphorically).

Graduating is expensive. I’ve been sort of floating along until my student Solidworks license expired. It did. Oh boy, did this last week brought some expenses. I’ve now purchased a proper Solidworks license and am a subscriber. I decided to take the difference in moving to a Solidworks Professional package and invest that in some render nodes for Maxwell Render. I’ll let you know how that works out.

I’ve ordered the hardware for the nodes. They’re 2 i7-860 2.8 Ghz quad-core processors with the appropriate motherboards and CPU coolers to overclock them. So basically, right now at least, I’m going with two more computers along side my MacBook Pro. The funny part is that the render nodes will be actually faster than my main computer… just not as pretty. I am adding the cheapest Solidworks certified card to one of the nodes so that I can do my work on it if I so choose.

All in all, total for 2 very fast computers without monitors or keyboards came to about $1700. I spent a while calculating the cost of making 3 machines with Core 2 Quad processors or 2 machines with the i7s. Everything pointed to going with the two i7 because the hyper threading ability apparently makes a good difference when rendering.

I’ll be excited to share my results.

Also on the slate for last week: clean installs of Mac OSX and Windows 7 on the MacBook Pro. This was precipitated by the installation of a 500GB (7200 rpm) hard drive. It was time to move up from the 250GB (5400 rpm) drive that was in it. Fortunately, drives are getting cheap, even in the 2.5″ size.