Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 19 Make:Shift:Do 3D Printing

Pop Up Thinglab 19 was an inspireNshare 3D printing workshop and open session as part of the UK Craft Council Make:Shift:Do event at Croydon Library on Halloween Saturday. It was a heads on and hands on introduction to the role of libraries in the future and 3D printing with simple, friendly, accessible and cost effective "citizen tech”. It was an opportunity to learn how to get started making and printing in 3D.

The workshop started "heads on" where we covered the development of 3D printing, a simple technical explanation of how it works and the current state of 3D printing with a description of products, platforms, prices and capabilities to help you find, model and make things.

For beginners I recommended Thingiverse as a 3D printing gallery and Tinkercad as a modelling tool and when I mentioned that Tinkercad models could be downloaded to Minecraft we had quite a discussion about the connection between virtual worlds, virtual reality and 3D printing. There is deep fascination in making virtual objects real by 3D printing them and anytime I mention Minecraft it's like ringing a division bell - anyone under 16 gets quite excited and immediately engaged - there is obvious potential in teaching and learning.

At the end of the workshop we opened the doors for an open Thinglab where we printed items from the inspireNhare Thingiverse collections and talked about 3D printing in general.

Items from the inspireNshare Halloween collection printed with glow in the dark PLA

We spoke about how 3D printing is used in medicine - I told people about the first time I came across this a few years ago when surgeons saved baby's life using a 3-D printed windpipe. We went on to talk about printing biological materials and how 3D printed skin can help burn victims and avoid the use of animals in pharmaceutical and cosmetic testing testing. We spoke about how a 3D Printed Heart Replica Helped Save the Life of a Nine-Month-Old Baby and about how 3D printing is increasingly important and useful to make prosthetics.  

We spoke about how maybe one day every home might have a 3D printer and how this would affect standard business models and the effect on the environment of all the chains in transportation needed to get an object from remote centralised manufacturing (often in distant countries such a China) to you. Many people ask if 3D printing can use recycled materials and thanks to Filamentive we had a range of recycled 3D printer filament samples and some objects such as the Boneheads: Skull Box w/ Brain which I managed to print with their rPLA to show and talk about.

Boneheads: Skull Box w/ Brain printed using recycled PLA from Filamentive

We spoke about how 3D printing is especially useful in remote areas where you can't easily just go down the shop and buy something (or order it on-line for delivery) -  with a 3D printer you have your own local manufacturing facility. In space you can't take everything up with you so the ability to make objects on demand locally and to use recycled materials will be critical .. especially on missions to Mars for example. I told people about the projects to use the local materials of other planets with 3D printers e.g. NASA Tests Feasibility of 3D Printing on the Moon & Other Planets Using In-situ Materials and a Really Hot Laser.

We spoke about 3D printing food and especially chocolate and about the difference between craft and design. Craft is tangible and the time and effort is in the making whereas design is virtual and the time and effort is in the "composition" - the design can be shared, edited and remixed and the making can be automated. Using a 3D printing pen is crafting - its very much like icing - it creates a hand made one off work of art and requires manual technique and dexterity. Using 3D modelling with a 3D printer is design - its like baking from a recipe - the recipe is designed with 3D modelling tools and made using a 3D printer ... the extruder nozzles of FDM 3D printers even operate at the same temperatures as ovens and making can take a long time so the analogy with oven baking isn't that far off :)  

InspireNshare designed bookmark keytag with graphic

I spoke with a group of children who were examining the various iterations of my bookmark keytag design and had quite a conversation with them about the design process and design thinking. I explained how you can add simple graphics to a 3D design for 3D printing and explained how I had used the 3D printer to prototype and test options for the design such as overall size and thickness, flap size, the hole size and the location and the size of the "plate" area to add customised graphics. I explained that one design seemed just fine until I noticed that in actual use it left quite an impression on the page - the library wouldn't like this as it would damage their stock. I though this could be solved by making the whole bookmark thiner so 3D printed a thiner prototype to test until I arrived at a design that was just thick enough to be robust but just thin enough not to leave too much of an impression on the page.

At the end of the open session people took away 3D printed objects made on the day as well as some I had "baked" earlier from the inspireNhare Thingiverse collections and as it was Halloween Saturday there were 3D printed glow in the dark things to take away from the inspireNshare Halloween collection. 

Thank you to 
CCS Libraries for their support
The Crafts Council UK for their support
Ultimaker for the loan of an Ultimaker 2 3D printer
Filamentive for a sample selection of recycled filaments

For more images of Pop Up Thinglab 19 visit: Thinglab 19 images (Flickr album)

To find out more about inspireNshare visit
To find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab visit
For my bookmarks on 3D printing visit
For the inspireNshare Thingverse collection visit 

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