10 Reasons Product Designers Prototype With 3D Printing

Prototyping is a necessary stage in product development that can be time consuming and expensive for product designers, sometimes taking weeks-long chunks out of the development process. But as 3D printing technology has entered the scene, rapid prototyping has become its most popular application in all areas of design whether it be in jewelry, architecture or engineering, and more, because it facilitates the product design process considerably. Using 3D printing for rapid prototyping, designs can be tested and improved at a higher rate, therefore increasing production efficiency and cutting costs. Realistic iterations can be printed quickly for any stage of the design process, from a concept model to a functional prototype, and allow the designer to explore a physical piece to improve and avoid problems early on.

Want to learn more? Here are 10 ways rapid prototyping with 3D printing streamlines the design process:

1. Optimize The Design Using 3D Software

By creating the blueprints for the prototypes
and final design in 3D software, any edits or improvements to that design are
reflected accurately and promptly. The design can be visualized enough at this
initial stage to reduce any errors of communication and to make early
improvements that will save substantial time during the prototyping and
production stages. If the product or part requires customization, this design
can be revisited and expanded upon at any time.

2. Take Advantage of Form Freedom

3D design allows for the creation of complex geometries
that might not be as attainable in other processes. This allows for expanded
freedom in the design and the final shape of the product can only be limited by
the designer’s imagination. This flexibility makes it possible to produce a
professional proof of concept of innovative and original pieces without
sacrificing additional time or costs in the development process.

3. Save Time in Prototype Production

In traditional prototyping, the product designer or engineer would use materials such as cardboard, styrofoam or wood to create initial prototypes, then move on to creating functional prototypes using manufacturing processes typically used for finished products. This is often a costly and time-consuming process, and often not a practical use of resources when the product is still in the developing stages. With 3D printing, a prototype at any stage of the design process can be printed quickly and provide the exact information needed in that stage whether it is a proof of concept or a functional prototype. When developing a part, being able to reiterate quickly and affordably is crucial, and 3D printing facilitates that need for all stages of prototyping.

4. Save on or Eliminate Tooling Costs

3D Printing acts as an all-in-one production method for low-volume production and for rapid prototyping. The technology eliminates the need to gather other manufacturing components or machines. Manufacturing methods like injection molding are much more costly to set up, especially for small quantities, and make creating custom prototypes very expensive and time consuming.

5. Create More Time for Designing and Customizing

Instead of having to wait weeks for a prototype
to be constructed by hand or for a mold to be made, prototypes can be 3D
printed in a matter of hours or days depending on its size. It allows for
mistakes to be fixed more quickly and for the design to evolve at a much higher
rate, leaving more time for further innovation, customization or moving on to
the next design.

6. Save Time Communicating Ideas and Information

When a product or part is being developed, it is extremely important to be able to communicate without misinterpretation and to leave as little to the imagination as possible when discussing with a client or any other involved parties. 3D printed prototypes look more professional and can communicate details better than a 2D drawing. This enables more viable and specific feedback for revisions to be made quickly and efficiently. The better the level of information in prototyping stages, the better the final product.

7. Choose from a Wide Range of Materials Depending on Each Iteration’s Purpose

Different materials can be used based on different prototyping stages to illustrate or explore the integrity of the design. Early iterations can be printed in more affordable plastics such as our Versatile Plastic, while later, more refined versions can be printed in different materials to fit the specific needs or testing requirements of the product. Many of our materials are end-use ready, saving you the need to look for a manufacturer once the product is market ready.

8. Minimize Material Usage Where Possible

In initial stages of prototyping different printing methods can be used to save on materials. If a version of a prototype is meant to show the shape alone, for example, it can be scaled down and hollowed out. Lattice or honeycomb designs can be used for surfaces to cut down on materials and costs while still communicating key information about the part or product. The on-demand nature of 3D printing eliminates material waste during the prototyping stages.

9. Use 3D Printing Services for Prototyping

You can save a lot of money on equipment start-up costs by working with 3D printing services like Shapeways. By printing with a specialized service you do not need to own any printers or materials, your model will be reviewed by engineers before they are printed, eliminating trials and errors encountered when using your own machine. You are guaranteed a high level of quality control, the use of industrial-grade printers and should you need technical assistance, your inquiries will be answered by experts in the 3D printing space.

10. Use Realistic Prototypes for Marketing and Sales Needs

Once the final design has been revised and refined to satisfaction, realistic prototypes can be used to get a head start on marketing and sales promotions. A visual model of the product can be used before money is spent on manufacturing to test with potential customers, for use on a sales floor or to send your products to beta testers to help validate the design.

3D printing is a crucial tool for designers to facilitate a more efficient prototyping process. It saves time and money and also generates a higher level of design freedom, and improves communication with clients and prospective customers. By making the prototyping process faster and without sacrificing on quality, this helps design innovation maintain a competitive edge.

Ready to start prototyping your next idea, part or product with Shapeways? Upload your design now or get in touch with our team to discuss your unique innovation.

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Customize Drones with 3D Printing to Suit Your Business

Drones, or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), are a growing technology used in many different sectors and their designs must suit their specific application. 3D printing facilitates drone innovation by enabling design freedom, as well as fast and affordable prototyping and printing of parts. It is possible to 3D print many of a drone’s parts including the frame, propellers, the landing gear, protective equipment and casings for the electronic components.

With the cost and time efficiency that 3D printing offers, each of these parts can be optimized, customized and upgraded to suit the exact needs of the business it is serving. If you are using or considering using drones for your business, 3D printing has the potential to substantially enhance your drone’s function.

Cut
Time and Costs By Turning to 3D Printing for Customized Drones

Commercial drones can be highly expensive and out of reach for smaller businesses that rely on the use of drones to grow their business. 3D printing cuts costs in many different areas including prototyping, customization and manufacturing and therefore makes specialty drones more accessible. It also speeds up the design and prototyping process so that changes can be implemented and the design can evolve more quickly. Kespry, a company that specializes in drones for mapping and surveying, were able to successfully grow their business thanks in part to the affordability of 3D printing their drone parts. Prototyping and printing the covers for their drones’ electronic components cost substantially less than traditional manufacturing methods like injection molding.

Design
a Drone that Suits Your Business Perfectly

Even with the wide range of drones already out there, why rely on a ready-made drone that only suits some of your needs? If you need drones to transport supplies and other cargo, to perform reconnaissance in tight spaces or remote areas, or to catch stunning video footage from the sky, 3D printing can allow you to upgrade drones to suit your business specifically.

Optimize Your Drone Based on its Function

A drone transporting cargo would need a much sturdier, reinforced frame, for example, whereas an FPV drone carrying a small camera might benefit from a more lightweight body. Perhaps your drone needs to be weather resistant and be able to continue flying in unpredictable conditions. No matter what your business’s unique set of needs is, 3D printing allows you to make specific design choices.

Take Advantage of a Higher Level of Geometric Complexity

3D printing technology allows designs to incorporate a higher complexity, allowing parts to be produced more efficiently. Using 3D Printing, companies like Quantum Systems are able to consolidate their drone parts by taking advantage of the ability to produce more complex designs that integrate multiple functions into one part. This not only saves time and materials but also gives them the opportunity to add any needed features to their designs without compromising on the drone’s weight.

Prototype
Your Drone Parts

Prototyping with 3D printing helps make customizing drones accessible even to smaller businesses. The process allows for unprecedented speed and cost reduction in making sure your drone is the best it can be. Instead of waiting months to test new iterations, changes can be made to 3D designs within hours, then printed and shipped to you in days. Implementing changes quickly allows for a faster evolution of a design and to find exactly what is right for your business.

Print
Your Parts with the Appropriate 3D Printing Method and Materials

Selecting the right 3D printing technology and materials will depend on the drone. SLA printing provides a high level of precision and a wide range of materials to choose from. The material should be tough and versatile and be able to handle stretching, bending and impact. Nylon is another option as it is strong, temperature resistant and is also good for printing drone fuselages that resist collision damages.

Partner
Up with a Service To Achieve the Highest Level of Quality

For the most efficient printing process, it is important to have dedicated support and access to the highest quality results. Our services at Shapeways enable businesses of all sizes to develop specialty drones without incurring high equipment startup costs and navigating the trial and error of adapting to a new technology. That way your focus can be on your needs and your unique drone design while the production of prototypes and parts is taken care of.

            Drones are used for such a wide range of projects and functions that having specific enhancements to suit its purpose are hugely beneficial. Traditional manufacturing methods would have made unique alterations inaccessible to many smaller businesses but thanks to 3D printing, updating a drone’s design has limitless opportunities. Whether your business uses or produces and sells drones, customization will become more and more important and 3D printing is the best suited technology to facilitate it.

See how Shapeways can help you produce the best drones to grow your business.

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What’s In A Technology Name?

The good news is that a technology by any other name might perform as sweet, to riff off of Juliet’s centuries-old question — but we still have to ask: what’s in a name?

This question comes up all the time when
talking about manufacturing processes used today, especially those newer to
shop floors like 3D printing. (Or is that additive manufacturing…or rapid
prototyping?)

Let’s start at the beginning. This technology suite traces its current roots back to the 1980s when processes like stereolithography (SLA) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) were being developed. These technologies found their initial usage in prototyping applications, achieving faster results than traditional processes. As these and other layer-by-layer approaches developed and matured over the last few decades, applications evolved as well, including into end-use production.

Throughout this briefly laid out history, we
see several stages of evolution in both process and usage. At each stage, a
different name has been appropriate, growing along with the fledgling industry
surrounding these technologies. Now that we’re in 2020, though, and have four
decades of experience in this maturing manufacturing area, we’re able to take a
step back and look at what the best terminology is to use today.

3D
Printing or Additive Manufacturing?

A question that comes up a lot is simple:
“What’s the difference between 3D printing and additive manufacturing?”

At the simplest level of response, these terms
are often used interchangeably. Use either phrasing and anyone in the industry
will understand what you mean. But of course, there are ways to be more
accurate in discussing these processes, and more precise in nomenclature.

3D printing is the process of actually
building up a part, as a step in the overall additive manufacturing workflow.
Additive manufacturing itself can be seen to encompass the total process: CAD
design to slicing to 3D printing to post-processing to finished product. Rapid
prototyping would then be an application, rather than referring to the process
itself.

That’s one way of looking at it, and
understanding what is meant when any of these terms are bandied about.

Another way is in terms of the user. Additive
manufacturing is recognized as a more industrial term, and tends to encompass
expensive professional machinery being used in applications from prototyping to
end-use product production. 3D printing can refer to the process of
layer-by-layer building of an object, or more generally to refer to any usage
of this technology, from hobbyists using inexpensive desktop systems to
professionals using industrial equipment. Rapid prototyping was one of the
first terms used for these technologies, which in the 1980s were geared toward
the rapid production of prototypes and for a few decades so dominated usage
that this application was synonymous with the tech itself.

These conversations are ongoing, and opinions among experts are still fairly varied. When, for example, in working to understand viewpoints on the terminology of technology, I turned to industry professionals, responses extended from ease of understanding to familiarity of phrasing.

That conversation was perhaps best summed up by industry veteran Rachel Park, long-time journalist and currently a principal at PYL Associates, who said of 3D printing (3DP) and additive manufacturing (AM):

“3DP versus AM will not be resolved any time
soon, and like many others here, I often use them interchangeably depending on
application, audience and process being used. On that – I have noticed that
process names (re the 7 categories identified by ASTM) are being used more
frequently, to differentiate capabilities and applications for manufacturing /
production.”

3D
Printing Technologies

That leads into an important conversation in
its own right, as the different 3D printing processes each have their own
terminology to take into account.

Industry expert Terry Wohlers, Founder of independent consulting firm Wohlers Associates, which puts out the annual Wohlers Report, recently discussed the importance of terminology through the lens of industry standard phrasing. He brings up several key points in this Wohlers Talk piece, chief among them the very availability of industry standards.

ASTM International, which defines standards in
a number of industries including additive manufacturing, has been publishing
terms for AM to serve as recognized standards. The first version, as Wohlers
points out, was published in 2009 as the ASTM F2792 Standard Terminology for
Additive Manufacturing Technologies defined 26 terms. That work was
foundational for the current ISO/ASTM 52900 Standard Terminology for Additive
Manufacturing.

As laid out from that standard in Wohlers
Talk, the presently recognized seven AM processes include:

  • Material extrusion—an additive manufacturing process in which material is selectively dispensed through a nozzle or orifice
  • Material jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which droplets of build material are selectively deposited
  • Binder jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which a liquid bonding agent is selectively deposited to join powder materials
  • Sheet lamination—an additive manufacturing process in which sheets of material are bonded to form a part
  • Vat photopolymerization—an additive manufacturing process in which liquid photopolymer in a vat is selectively cured by light-activated polymerization
  • Powder bed fusion—an additive manufacturing process in which thermal energy selectively fuses regions of a powder bed
  • Directed energy deposition—an additive manufacturing process in which focused thermal energy is used to fuse materials by melting as they are being deposited

Different companies, of course, refer to
technologies that fall under these umbrellas by proprietary names. Think of the
ongoing conversation regarding FFF v. FDM (that is, the common term Fused
Filament Fabrication versus the trademarked Fused Deposition Modeling), both of
which effectively refer to the same process and are in fact classified as
material extrusion.

Seeking to differentiate may lead many a
company to brand copiously; why say the standard “material extrusion” when they
could tout FFF, which as an acronym may sound more intriguing — or, if that
branding is from Stratasys, why not further herald FDM, which is trademarked
and is one of the original 3D printing technologies invented decades ago.
There’s certainly something to be said for standing apart from the crowd by
owning a process name.

Still, it absolutely comes across clearly to
everyone what sort of process is up for discussion when the term is universal;
material extrusion will convey just what’s meant quite neatly, and without any
potential confusion.

Naturally we must include a disclaimer that
while these seven ISO/ASTM recognized processes cover most of what we see in 3D
printing, they do not cover every technology. Significant R&D is ongoing
around the world, with efforts to create wholly new 3D printing technologies
abounding. Most of even these new processes will still fall generally under one
of these categories, but some will be new unto themselves. This is why
standards creation is so important, as these experts regularly discuss and
evaluate new processes that may need to be added.

What’s
In A Name?

So ultimately, what is in a name?

Everything, when it comes to clarity,
legality, and precision. Certainly it never hurts to be precise when sharing
information about industrial technologies.

At the same time, if you say “additive manufacturing” to someone unfamiliar with today’s advanced production processes, it’s perfectly fine to clarify that you mean “3D printing”, which may be more easily understood. There’s a time and place for full accuracy, but as always the most important part of communication is establishing understanding.

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How is 3D Printing Innovating Medical Research in 2020?

3D printing technologies are pushing the boundaries of what was once considered only possible in science fiction novels. The advances being made by engineers from around the world are contributing to a plethora of innovations that are having a major impact on conventional medical practice. Medical researchers have been able to develop solutions in the form of patient-specific prostheses and pre-operative models, tailored, corrective insoles and orthotics, new medical devices and instruments, and 3D bioprinting and tissue engineering. In this article, we will provide a brief review of some of the latest 3D printing technologies and methods that are inspiring medical research.

Pre-operative
planning, prostheses, and implants

The rapid prototyping capability of 3D printing is offering the medical community a fast and cost-effective way of delivering life-altering medical interventions and solutions to patients. For individuals that require a prosthesis or implants such as a bionic hand or leg bone, 3D printing is providing a functional and affordable way to generate patient-tailored parts. The technology offers complete design freedom and rapid turn-around times. 

Using high-resolution images, 3D printing is able to generate accurate models of human anatomy. Image data can be exported as a common medical file format, DICOM (digital imaging and communication in medicine), which can then be converted into a stereolithography format (STL) file. From this file, a 3D virtual model can be created. For orthopedic surgery, implants can be made from these models to replace fractured bones. Further, virtual or physical models can be used by surgeons in pre-operative planning and for teaching patients, alleviating their stress and anxiety by explaining what a procedure would entail.

Biological tissue
generation

In early June of this year, scientists from the University of Colorado (UC) Denver and the University of Science and Technology in China were the first to use new material to 3D print structures that could mimic cartilage. Cartilage replacement has been a notoriously difficult hurdle to cross for scientists and healthcare professionals until now. UC Denver’s mechanical engineer, professor Chris Yakacki, led the team of researchers in using a 3D printing process called digital light processing (DLP) to create a liquid crystal resin-like substance. When exposed to UV-light the researchers observed that the substance cured and formed new bonds in several thin photopolymer layers. The final cured form constituted a strong, yet soft, and compliant elastomer. when printed as a latticed, honeycomb structure, that’s when Yakacki and his team saw that it began to resemble cartilage. Their research findings were published in the journal Advanced Materials.

In addition to utilizing this breakthrough material for cartilage replacement, Yakacki also believes there is potential for liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) to be used in the creation of a spinal cage prototype. The design of complex structures like LCE’s and the use of bioinks to help produce artificial live tissue will provide the medical research community with unique scaffolds with which to generate different components of the human body.

Bioinks

One particular area gaining interest by researchers and clinicians is
the design of patient-specific bone grafts. Associate professor at the Department of Biomedical
Engineering at Texas A&M University, Dr. Akhilesh Gaharwar, believes that developing
replacement bone tissues may be an exciting prospect in the generation of
treatments to help people with dental infections, arthritis, craniofacial
defects, and bone fractures. This is where bioinks enter the scene. In a recent
publication, Dr.
Gaharwar outlines the creation of a structurally stable, biodegradable, and
highly printable bioink. Garharwar’s nanoengineered ionic covalent entanglement
(NICE) bioinks involve two reinforcement techniques known as nonreinforcement
and ionic-covalent network. The use of these two techniques results in much
more stable tissue structures.

Following bioprinting, the NICE
networks form crosslinks with encapsulated stem cells to create stronger
scaffolds. Within the period of three months, the cells start to produce
cartilage-like extracellular matrix which calcifies to form mineralized bone.
The team used next-generation RNA-sequencing technology to establish the role
of nanosilicates (a component of the bioink) in inducing the formation of bone
tissue. Dr. Gaharwar and his team successfully demonstrated the ability of NICE
bioink to create patient-specific implantable 3D frameworks for the repair of craniofacial defects.

Orthoses

Medical research centered around the custom design of orthotics still
bears the stigma of a high price tag and inaccessibility which can be an
irritable deterrent for healthcare providers trying to do the best for their
patients and a disheartening prospect for patients respectively. The revelatory
story of Matej
and his son Nik, shows how powerful a tool 3D printing can be in advancing
medical and engineering research, efficient medical practice, and optimizing
patient care.

One of the latest uses for 3D printing in the world of orthotics was the design of a cervical collar using a novel workflow for a patient with a neurological disability with no alternative means of therapy. Dr. Luke Hale and Associate Professor Dr. Deepak Kalaskar from UCL’s Institute of Musculoskeletal Sciences (IOMS) led the research which was published in Scientific Reports. The research team scanned the head and neck of the patient with a handheld scanner to generate a 3D scan mesh. This framework was then imported into Houdini software (SideFX software, version 16.5). The geometry projected onto the 3D scan conforms with it completely to create a comfortable orthosis.

Using the scan, the design of the orthosis was optimized to incorporate modifications including a porous pattern to improve ventilation. This also reduces the cost and weight of the final orthosis. Four prototypes of the cervical collar were made to accommodate patient feedback and achieve the most comfortable design. The research validated the use of using 3D printing and scanning alongside a tailored workflow for clinically beneficial outcomes while allowing for iteration, modification, and improvement of the design.

These are only some of the latest medical research advancements coming
to fruition with the revolutionary technology of 3D printing. 4D printing and
the use of novel bioinks for organ tissue generation are some more fascinating
research prospects to look forward to in 2020. 

Are you a veteran of medical 3D printing looking for a bespoke manufacturing service, or, are you new to the scene and would like expert guidance? Find out how Shapeways can help with your medical 3D printing needs.

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The World’s Best Sleep Fan Is A Fan Of 3D Printing: Rapid Prototyping With SNOOZ

SNOOZ is known as the world’s best-sounding white noise machine. The device, which houses a real fan, creates white noise to encourage sleep — without either the annoyance of a looping soundtrack or unwanted cold air in cooler months. The best-selling system is seeing success in travel and home use as the sleep fan continues to gain fans around the world.

Working with Shapeways to 3D print dozens (and dozens and dozens) of designs to reach the ideal sound system, the SNOOZ team cut substantial time and costs in their production process by rapidly prototyping. The savings over traditional machining was major enough that this Las Vegas-based startup has now been working with Shapeways for more than five years — and still has more product work with us in the pipeline for the next devices.

We interviewed SNOOZ CTO and Co-Founder Eli Lazar to dig into how SNOOZ utilized Shapeways’ 3D printing technology and services to make a new product possible.

SNOOZ Co-Founders Eli Lazar (left) and Matthew Snyder. Photo source: SNOOZ

Having parts machined was always an option too, but from our experience, that is 10-25x higher cost [than 3D printing], and perhaps 10x slower, which was just not an option for us.

Eli begins by laying out the big picture:

“The Shapeways printing service has really been instrumental to the success of our product and company. Our product is a specialized fan for sleeping, and in the quiet of a bedroom you can literally hear every frequency, so any unwanted tones people will pick up right away. We used Shapeways to print probably 100+ variations of our product to perfect the acoustics and create our signature sound.

As a result, by the end of this year we will have sold nearly 100k units, and we have a 4.7 star rating on Amazon (without manipulation) with nearly 1,500 reviews. SNOOZ is also used in nearly 2,000 hotel rooms across the country as well. 

To be very direct, without having access to the Shapeways printing service our product would not have been nearly as good as it is today, or perhaps, not a success at all. Shapeways gave just two average guys with very limited finances access to world class rapid prototyping at an affordable price. That has really made the difference in our product and the reviews we have received. In fact, we found the precision from Shapeways prints to be so good that when we machined our actual plastic molds for production, we didn’t have to do any changes and were able to go to production much faster and at a lower cost. We also have two new products coming out this year, both of which have been prototyped on Shapeways, and we have started on developing a new product which will be using Shapeways again for.”

After prototyping 100+ variations, SNOOZ created a market-ready product. Photo source: SNOOZ

At the beginning, how did you come to the decision to use 3D printing instead of other manufacturing methods?

“Without 3D printing, I am not sure we could have ever developed a viable product, or at least one that people actually liked. Our fan blade is entirely custom, and small details make a huge difference. A 1-degree extra twist in the blades or 1mm extra length or width of the blades, and it generates a whole different set of tones. You can use software to simulate the acoustics for a fan blade design, and we did do quite a bit of this. However, these simulations can take up to a few weeks to run, and they are really not accurate enough to predict the subtleties that we were interested in. The best way I can explain this is that a stringed piano is always acoustically superior to a digital keyboard, because the timbre (perceived sound quality) of real sound is just better than any digital replica. With that said, we had to make actual parts. Having parts machined was always an option too, but from our experience, that is 10-25x higher cost, and perhaps 10x slower, which was just not an option for us.”

Did you already have technical knowledge in 3D printing? If not, was there a learning curve to getting into this technology?

“We didn’t have any prior experience with 3D printing before SNOOZ. It was actually for this reason that I was drawn to the Shapeways website. A lot of other 3D printing services seemed to put the burden of getting the print right more on the user. When we first started using Shapeways in 2015, I think you were the only online platform where you could instantly get your 3D CAD analyzed for printing with a quoted price. Even still, I think Shapeways has the most user friendly website for 3D printing. The only learning curve was figuring out what tolerances to use so parts could snap together well. However, since I found Shapeways prints to be repeatable and accurate to the CAD, every time, it became pretty easy. I actually use the same tolerances we figured out worked in 2015 to this day, and that is nearly a five year span.”

Components of SNOOZ, a portable white noise sound machine. Photo source: SNOOZ

What material(s) do you print in and why?

“We have printed in SLA, Versatile Plastic (Nylon), and PLA (which you guys offered shortly). However, Versatile Plastic is our preferred choice for prototyping. The main reason is the strength of the parts. We actually produce some parts out of Nylon and the strength and flexibility of a 3D printed part is definitely on par with a Nylon molded part that comes out of an industrial factory.”

Are you able to share any quantifiable metrics on the time and/or cost you’ve saved by prototyping with Shapeways?

“I found an early quote to machine a single part for $381 that we eventually ended up just 3D printing with Shapeways for about $30. Since then, we have printed over 100 parts, so the savings has literally made the difference in us being able to afford to start SNOOZ. Also, in terms of timing, it is absolutely incredible to be able to design a part on Monday and have it in your hand within a week or so. If the legendary inventors of the past had access to this technology, the world would be a vastly different place today.”

SNOOZ has sold tens of thousands of units since 2015. Photo source: SNOOZ

By rapid prototyping with 3D printing, the
SNOOZ team was able to test out more than 100 designs to find their perfect
acoustic fit — and then translate the final prototype directly into scale
production. The ease with which SNOOZ put the pieces together, at a literal
fraction of the cost of traditional machining, highlights the effectiveness of
3D printing throughout the product development cycle. And today? We’re SNOOZ’s
biggest fans!

Find out how Shapeways can help with your rapid prototyping needs today.

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Creating Permanence – Why Prototyping in 3D Leads to Greater Success

Innovation has been a driving factor in our society from the very beginning. Ever since humans first made stone tools for carving, our world has been driven by innovating the “new.” 150 years ago, business leaders were often quoted that “everything that could be invented has been.” As we recharge our smart phones and watch private companies lift off into outer space, it is clear this thought is far from true.

For companies that focus on innovation, it is not only new ideas that drive their business, but also new tools that help to transform these ideas into working prototypes that help them achieve ongoing success.

For thousands of years it has been the pen and paper that has stood out as the primary tool for visualizing innovative concept in prototype form.  While writing instruments have unlimited capabilities in the 2D medium, in the end, the sum of their parts as a tool is limiting. Drawings, designs and sketches are by their nature restrictive and passive in scope. They are flat, 2D and can only be described as “plans on paper” or blueprints.

We are very fortunate to live in a time when designers have more tools than ever to assist in the visualization of their inspiration. And there is one tool in particular whose full power is unleashed when specifically applied to the prototyping process.

I’m talking about 3D printing.

What is Permanence? Turning An Object From Passive to Active

Whether the concept of 3D printing is foreign or familiar to you, there is no denying that this revolutionary technology by its very nature allows objects to transition from concept to permanence. And this is a key factor when applied to the prototyping process. So what is “permanence” and why is it important?

Permanence is the metamorphosis of an object, concept or expression from the 2D to the 3D. And what comes with permanence is not just the ability to visually see an object from multiple angles. Its major ontological impact is that an object with permanence is experienced actively.

What this means is that a drawing, a cartoon or a doodle is viewed in a passive experience. Like a comic book or a movie, you see it, and then you look away. There is no interaction. There is no weight, no tactile contact, no long-term interaction with the observer.

But an object with permanence is transformed into an active
experience. It is in three dimensions of space. It has weight, it has tactile integration.
And this emotional connection is key to the prototyping process.

With a 3D object, the observer can experience it in
countless ways that a passive drawing does not permit. How will gravity effect
it? What does it feel like? How does it look on a shelf with other objects when
moved from point A to point B?

Our 3D printing solutions allow design firms to generate a new design into a fully-rendered concept that one can hold, touch and interact with, and provides not only permanence as noted above, but also creates a path to improvement and redesign that 2D drawings never can.

Holding a 3D printed prototype in your hand allows you to
examine its faults, advantages and perhaps even discover capabilities you
didn’t even know it had. No longer are you limited to viewing your blueprints
and imagining what a design would look like, the 3D printing revolution has now
given you the power to examine, refine and redesign your creation in a way
never before permitted.

Give Potential Customers An Experience, Not A Presentation

When designers are limited to presenting their ideas in a
passive way it maintains a passive presentation. Anyone that is reviewing your
design, invention or concept when looking at a drawing does not experience a
solid relationship with that prototype concept. They view it, and then they
turn away (or cease viewing it). A passive experience.

A designer from our community tests out HP Nylon Plastic

But when holding a 3D model of your prototype in their hand – that is an active experience. And the emotional connection this creates is exponentially greater in creating positive feelings and interest in said prototype.

Using 3D printing, you can now transform a prototype from passive to active. No longer is your audience limited to merely viewing your prototype. They are now experiencing it. A 3D object cannot be avoided or ignored or experienced passively. And the ability to prototype this way is a major advantage to 3D printing.

The Exact Part You Need

The advantages of 3D printing prototypes does not stop with helping to create permanence and an active experience.

In addition to making your design into an active experience,
3D printing also allows for trial and error in the real world. And it allows
for an exact transformation of your imagination into reality.

Often design firms are limited by “parts on hand” when
creating what is termed a “looks like” or even a “works like” prototype model.
But with the revolution of 3D printing, any part, angle or object needed to
accurately represent or even function like your creation is now accessible.

Gone are the days when a broom handle and a stack of glued-together poker chips are substituted for the exact design you have in mind. With the advent of 3D printing, a 1:1 duplicate of your mind’s creation can now exist. And because it is in 3D, all of the advantages of permanence and an active experience as described above are now infused in your prototype.

With the new tools and powers provided by 3D printing, prototyping has not only become easier, it leads to designs that are exact duplicates of your imagination. No longer does your audience need to interpret a drawing or experience your invention passively. Creating a “looks like” model is now replaced with “a model.”

And how amazing is that!


Want to learn more? We’re here to help with your prototyping needs.

learn more

The post Creating Permanence – Why Prototyping in 3D Leads to Greater Success appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

Creating Permanance – Why Prototyping in 3D Leads to Greater Success

Innovation has been a driving factor in our society from the very beginning. Ever since humans first made stone tools for carving, our world has been driven by innovating the “new.” 150 years ago, business leaders were often quoted that “everything that could be invented has been.” As we recharge our smart phones and watch private companies lift off into outer space, it is clear this thought is far from true.

For companies that focus on innovation, it is not only new ideas that drive their business, but also new tools that help to transform these ideas into working prototypes that help them achieve ongoing success.

For thousands of years it has been the pen and paper that has stood out as the primary tool for visualizing innovative concept in prototype form.  While writing instruments have unlimited capabilities in the 2D medium, in the end, the sum of their parts as a tool is limiting. Drawings, designs and sketches are by their nature restrictive and passive in scope. They are flat, 2D and can only be described as “plans on paper” or blueprints.

We are very fortunate to live in a time when designers have more tools than ever to assist in the visualization of their inspiration. And there is one tool in particular whose full power is unleashed when specifically applied to the prototyping process.

I’m talking about 3D printing.

What is Permanence? Turning An Object From Passive to Active

Whether the concept of 3D printing is foreign or familiar to you, there is no denying that this revolutionary technology by its very nature allows objects to transition from concept to permanence. And this is a key factor when applied to the prototyping process. So what is “permanence” and why is it important?

Permanence is the metamorphosis of an object, concept or expression from the 2D to the 3D. And what comes with permanence is not just the ability to visually see an object from multiple angles. Its major ontological impact is that an object with permanence is experienced actively.

What this means is that a drawing, a cartoon or a doodle is viewed in a passive experience. Like a comic book or a movie, you see it, and then you look away. There is no interaction. There is no weight, no tactile contact, no long-term interaction with the observer.

But an object with permanence is transformed into an active
experience. It is in three dimensions of space. It has weight, it has tactile integration.
And this emotional connection is key to the prototyping process.

With a 3D object, the observer can experience it in
countless ways that a passive drawing does not permit. How will gravity effect
it? What does it feel like? How does it look on a shelf with other objects when
moved from point A to point B?

Our 3D printing solutions allow design firms to generate a new design into a fully-rendered concept that one can hold, touch and interact with, and provides not only permanence as noted above, but also creates a path to improvement and redesign that 2D drawings never can.

Holding a 3D printed prototype in your hand allows you to
examine its faults, advantages and perhaps even discover capabilities you
didn’t even know it had. No longer are you limited to viewing your blueprints
and imagining what a design would look like, the 3D printing revolution has now
given you the power to examine, refine and redesign your creation in a way
never before permitted.

Give Potential Customers An Experience, Not A Presentation

When designers are limited to presenting their ideas in a
passive way it maintains a passive presentation. Anyone that is reviewing your
design, invention or concept when looking at a drawing does not experience a
solid relationship with that prototype concept. They view it, and then they
turn away (or cease viewing it). A passive experience.

A designer from our community tests out HP Nylon Plastic

But when holding a 3D model of your prototype in their hand – that is an active experience. And the emotional connection this creates is exponentially greater in creating positive feelings and interest in said prototype.

Using 3D printing, you can now transform a prototype from passive to active. No longer is your audience limited to merely viewing your prototype. They are now experiencing it. A 3D object cannot be avoided or ignored or experienced passively. And the ability to prototype this way is a major advantage to 3D printing.

The Exact Part You Need

The advantages of 3D printing prototypes does not stop with helping to create permanence and an active experience.

In addition to making your design into an active experience,
3D printing also allows for trial and error in the real world. And it allows
for an exact transformation of your imagination into reality.

Often design firms are limited by “parts on hand” when
creating what is termed a “looks like” or even a “works like” prototype model.
But with the revolution of 3D printing, any part, angle or object needed to
accurately represent or even function like your creation is now accessible.

Gone are the days when a broom handle and a stack of glued-together poker chips are substituted for the exact design you have in mind. With the advent of 3D printing, a 1:1 duplicate of your mind’s creation can now exist. And because it is in 3D, all of the advantages of permanence and an active experience as described above are now infused in your prototype.

With the new tools and powers provided by 3D printing, prototyping has not only become easier, it leads to designs that are exact duplicates of your imagination. No longer does your audience need to interpret a drawing or experience your invention passively. Creating a “looks like” model is now replaced with “a model.”

And how amazing is that!


Want to learn more? We’re here to help with your prototyping needs.

learn more

The post Creating Permanance – Why Prototyping in 3D Leads to Greater Success appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

How 3D Printing Boosts Innovation in the Medical Field

3D printing is becoming a crucial tool in the innovation of medical supplies, equipment and procedures as it caters to a rising demand in patient-specific products. The technology’s capacity for complex design, customization, time/cost efficiency and the availability of sterilizable, biocompatible materials have all led to substantial advancements in the medical industry in recent years. Here are a few examples of how 3D printing has led to positive progress.

Training & Practicing

3D Printing offers an affordable way of printing specific models that can allow for more precise training for surgeons. Models of organs, for example, can be printed in a material that resembles human tissue, like silicone, and can be a more affordable and less-stressful source of practice than using human cadavers. Thanks to CTs, MRIs and 3D scanning technology, physicians can 3D print exact replicas of organs, bones, or any other part of their patient to gain a better understanding of what they will be facing in surgery or treatment. This gives them a chance to practice and develop improved surgical planning, which can speed up surgery time, creating less chances of infection and minimizing patient trauma.

medical expert in 3d printing

Surgical Instruments

In any surgical procedure, the utmost precision is needed to ensure success. Thanks to rapid prototyping and the ability for customization, 3D printing allows for surgeons to have access to personalized and procedure-specific instruments. These instruments can be altered to better fit a surgeon’s hands, or a patient’s anatomy, and patient specific surgical guides can increase accuracy and efficiency to greatly improve surgical outcomes. Because modifications on 3D printed tools can be achieved quickly, this equips physicians with functionally improved tools that facilitate their operative techniques and the procedure at hand. Instruments can be printed in a number of different materials depending on their needs, including titanium, stainless steel as well as sterilizable biocompatible plastics. The potential for customization is limitless, and costs do not necessarily increase with instrument complexity.

Prosthetics

Prosthetics also benefit hugely from an ability to create patient-specific models, as getting them fitted is traditionally a prolonged and expensive process. Using 3D printing to create prosthetics that can fit someone’s particular anatomy perfectly is a cheaper and faster alternative. Prosthetics can be flexible, stronger, less bulky and easily personalized with the help of 3D printing. The significantly lower costs make them a better option for children who need access to new prosthetics as they grow. With contactless 3D scanning and printing, maxillofacial prosthetics can be produced easier than ever before. Eye, nose and ear prosthetics have been printed with silicone to perfectly fit patients who have lost or were born without facial parts to restore facial geometry and aesthetic. The customization power of 3D technology will continue to make it a key player in the innovation of future prosthetics.

Orthopaedic Implants

3D printing contributes greatly to the advancement of orthopaedic implants. The possibility of geometric freedom, customization options and quick iterations have the potential to produce implants that fit patients better than ever before, therefore increasing their longevity and comfort. 3D technology also facilitates the creation of porous bone replacement scaffolds, allowing for natural bone ingrowth and ongrowth.

Hearing Aids

Thanks to 3D scanning, hearing aid shells and earpieces can be digitally fitted to exact anatomical specifications and customized pieces can be mass-produced. This has the potential of giving many more people than ever access to hearing aids with optimal fit, all thanks to the digitization of the design process.

shapeways 3d printed swabs

Testing / Covid Swabs

With the spread of COVID-19, the healthcare industry saw an immobilizing shortage of supplies due to the closure of traditional suppliers. 3D printing was able to meet many urgent needs by producing PPE supplies and ventilator parts at an astounding rate. Face shield designs were quickly optimized and printed by the thousands to help protect healthcare and plant workers dealing with exposure. Sterilized nasal swabs were also produced quickly to help increase testing ability. The speed and efficiency of 3D printing processes made it a crucial tool in providing immediate relief to emergency medical shortages.

Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering focuses on finding new ways of developing or regenerating damaged tissue, creating models that can be used to study tissue development or for screening drugs. In order to regenerate or grow tissue, an appropriate scaffold needs to provide the right environment for growth. 3D bioprinting provides more control than conventional methods and enables the fabrication of structurally and biologically complex constructs and scaffolds to facilitate tissue engineering with the use of bio-inks. Researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a way of 3D printing living skin by using two sets of bio-inks. Grafted onto the backs of immunodeficient mice, the blood vessels of the 3D printed skin successfully transferred blood and nutrients to the mice’s blood vessels. Though this research is not quite ready for use with humans, it is one of many examples of the immense potential of 3D printing in live tissue engineering.

Medical Grade Materials

To print medical equipment it is especially important that, depending on the application, the material be compatible with a biological system. Instruments must be sterilizable and strong, implants or other pieces to be placed inside the body must be biocompatible and corrosion-resistant. 3D printing provides many plastics and metals that are suitable. Nylon PA-12 is durable, sterilizable and corrosion-resistant and is also one of the most affordable medical grade materials to use. Stainless steel is also biocompatible and good for surgical instruments and temporary implants.

3D printing is quickly becoming an essential tool in the medical industry where personalization and precision are key. From improved surgical planning and tools, to better fitting prosthetics and implants and advancing tissue regeneration, 3D printing will only continue to boost the potential to improve and save lives.

Shapeways offers industrial, medical-grade materials in our FDA-listed facilities. For all of your medical 3D printing needs, find out how we can help.

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The post How 3D Printing Boosts Innovation in the Medical Field appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

The Future Of Aerospace 3D Printing

Innovations in the aerospace industry have been seeing huge strives when it comes to 3D printing. Aerospace companies and organizations from around the globe are using 3D printing for both prototyping and end-use parts. These applications have been ramping up for years — and now we’re looking ahead to the future of 3D printing in aerospace.

Aerospace
3D Printing Today

Aerospace is a unique fit for 3D printing, offering a prime application area for many of the benefits of additive manufacturing technologies. Among these benefits are:

  • Part consolidation
  • Lightweighting
  • Complex geometries (“freedom of design”)
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Low-volume production
  • Digital inventory

Leveraging these benefits is proving
transformative for aerospace manufacturing as today’s aircraft, rockets, and
other commercial, private, and military aerospace builds are increasingly able
to perform better than ever before. Fewer, lighter parts mean fewer assembly
points that could be a potential weakness as well as a lighter weight
structure, enhancing fuel efficiency and load capabilities.

Aerospace has long been a ‘city on a hill’ for
additive manufacturing, offering highly visible proof points of the
technology’s high-flying potential to very literally fly high.

Like in the automotive industry, many
aerospace entities have been using 3D printing internally for years, if not
decades. Also like the automotive industry, though, many companies have seen
the technology as a competitive advantage best kept somewhat under wraps. This
has perhaps benefited these companies’ bottom lines — but it has limited the
visibility of these applications.

The GE fuel nozzle — which famously reduced from approximately 20 welded pieces into one 3D printed (and 25% lighter weight) piece — was among one of the highest-profile individual applications to be publicly shared. Such use cases are only ramping up; between 2015 and 2018, for example, GE 3D printed 30,000 of those fuel nozzles. Still, though, these examples are often heard over and over again because many other specific use cases are still seen as proprietary ‘secret sauce’ and not public knowledge.

The cat’s out of the bag by now, though, and
it’s almost an assumption that any aerospace company is in some way utilizing
3D printing in its operations.

From SpaceX and NASA to Boeing and Airbus,
this is certainly the case. These companies are among the highest-profile in
aerospace to share at least some look into their 3D printing usage.
Applications range from visible cabin components in passenger airplanes to
made-in-space tools on the International Space Station, with both mission
critical and aesthetic uses well represented.

The secrecy of ‘secret sauce’ is slowly
changing, too, as in addition to broadening adoption of 3D printing, space
exploration is becoming privatized.

Organizations like SpaceX certainly have their fair share of trade secrets but are also open about their use of 3D printing in applications from spacecraft to personalized astronaut helmets. 3D printing is often coming into play as well to not only make components of rocket engines, but also in new uses such as at Rocket Crafters for their fuel grains.

Smaller, private companies working in the
space industry are celebrating the technologies they use to gain traction in
technological advance and out-of-this-world achievements. By highlighting
instead of hiding the tech helping them to accelerate toward their own
liftoffs, these new entities are contributing directly to a shift in the
conversation around aerospace technologies.

Aerospace
3D Printing Tomorrow

When we look ahead, we can see an even brighter
future for an aerospace industry making more and better use of additive
manufacturing opportunities.

While certainly the technologies will improve,
providing natural points of improvement even from those areas already
leveraging additive manufacturing, the largest single point of future impact
for aerospace overall will simply be wider spread adoption.

While the 3D printing industry has
historically been excellent at internally sharing the benefits of the
technology (like those bulleted above), a sticking point has been in
externalizing this message. Aerospace becoming a more open industry with these
new private entities on the rise, and with more participants discussing the
advanced technologies they put to use every day, will see industrial additive manufacturing
gaining more attention, and more traction, overall.

If the GE fuel nozzle made anyone do a
double-take, the next innovations to come — or even those already accomplished
and not yet publicized — are sure to be fully head-turning.

Further parts consolidation, lightweighting,
and other means of taking advantage of the freedoms that DfAM (design for
additive manufacturing) enables have the potential to see massive advances in
aircraft and spacecraft manufacture.

By optimizing every part of an aircraft,
completely rethinking and redesigning the whole, a manufacturer might see
unprecedented capabilities emerge. In an industry where every ounce of
structural weight matters and lessening any possible point of failure is a
must, industrial 3D printing is an obvious fit.

The technology will only continue to make headway into the aerospace industry going forward, and with that larger general footprint will come more significant discrete advances. The future of aerospace and 3D printing is a relationship that will be ever more tightly intertwined.

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The post The Future Of Aerospace 3D Printing appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

How to Create an Original Board Game Using 3D Printing

Whether you’ve been developing board games for a long time, or you are just getting to new ideas to entertain people staying at home, now is a fantastic time to get started on designing and playing high quality, professional-looking board games. You can make a version of your game with cardboard or other craft materials around the house to start, but if you’re looking to make a polished version for play testers and potential investors, 3D printing is a great tool to bring your unique game to life.

3D printing allows artists and designers access to a higher level of creative control where they might have been limited by traditional manufacturing in the past. Here are just a few ways 3D printing facilitates the process of board game creation:

Fast
and Professional Prototyping

Once you have developed the concept of your game, you can start bringing each part to life by creating prototypes of your ideas. Creating a 3D design for the board, pieces and accessories not only means they can be easily reworked and refined but also reprinted any number of times. Creating prototypes will allow you to communicate your ideas to play testers and investors while you continue to develop and refine your game. And the faster you can produce the prototypes for your ideas, the faster you can improve and perfect your design. You can also test your design in multiple materials, anywhere from plastics to metals, to find which one suits your game the most.

Creating
the Board

The landscape of your game can be as simple or complex as your game needs it to be. 3D modeling easily allows for forming geometric shapes or creating pattern-based boards, and using 3D printing gives you greater freedom to explore more intricate details. The board can be designed with interlocking pieces, structure and scenery models, and can even integrate electronics. Depending on your needs, 3D printing allows for the aesthetic and functional ideas to come together smoothly with a polished appearance.

game pieces

Creating
Original Game Pieces

There are a multitude of custom game pieces available for download on 3D model websites, but an original game idea requires original pieces. 3D printing makes it possible to create completely unique pieces in any printable materials. You can pair your game aesthetic to one or multiple materials for a uniformed design. Or create collector’s versions with game pieces printed in different materials. If you want to learn more about key features of game designs that have withstood the test of time, check out our article on game design here.

Play
Testing & Sharing

Because creating prototypes with 3D printing is much faster than using traditional manufacturing techniques, the process makes it much simpler to create playable versions for play testers. 3D printed parts can make the experience of playing the game smoother and clearer to people who are exploring it for the first time. Your play testers will be able to test your game idea by using real, physical objects, leaving less room for miscommunication during the feedback process. Having the digital files for all of the game’s printable pieces also means you can share your game with anyone anywhere in the world as they can upload the files and print their own through Shapeways.

Lower Start Up Costs with 3D Printing

The start up costs for creating a board game from scratch can be daunting if you’re adding in new equipment and materials. Crafting a board game by hand that looks professional requires a considerable amount of time especially considering the likely need to create several versions before arriving at a final design.

Making use of 3D printing technology and directing your manufacturing needs to Shapeways will allow you to cut down on those costs and put your efforts directly into designing and creating your final product. Ready to start building your own original game? We’d love to help!

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The post How to Create an Original Board Game Using 3D Printing appeared first on Shapeways Blog.