A little over a year after 3D Hubs, the largest online network of 3D printing services in the world, launched its discount Student Program, it made a further commitment to 3D printing education by introducing its inaugural 3D Hubs Student Grant. Over 449 applicants from 300 universities tried for the grant, which featured three categories: Product Design, Engineering, and Architecture. Applicants were tasked with using their imaginations to discover ways that 3D printing could be used to positively influence the world in one of the three categories.

The Product Design category was the most popular of the three, with a total of 203 entries. Engineering was next, with 146 entries, and there were 100 entries for the Architecture category. Of the 3D software the applicants used, the most common was SOLIDWORKS – 123 applicants utilized this, while 80 worked with Rhino and 37 used Autodesk Inventor software.

This week, 3D Hubs announced the three winners of the grant, who showcased the most unique, innovative uses of 3D printing in architecture, engineering, and product design. The winners of the 2017 grant were chosen based on their project’s core concept and impact, the level of functionality, and “how it was creatively brought to life using 3D printing.”

“The reason we launched the Student Grant is to support the next generation of professionals who are pushing the boundaries of 3D printing,” said Filemon Schoffer, CMO of 3D Hubs. “Through our celebration of innovative students by giving them the spotlight we hope to inspire others to challenge themselves at what they can achieve with 3D printing.”

Each winner will receive $500, a professional photo shoot of their winning project, and an honorable mention from Brian Garret, the co-founder of 3D Hubs, on LinkedIn.

The winner of the Product Design category is Abidur Chowdhury, who is studying Product Design and Technology at Loughborough University in the UK, which actually had the most entries in the grant contest – 14. Chowdhury’s project, titled Aer, was designed in SOLIDWORKS and 3D printed in PA 2200 (Nylon) material. Aer is an asthma management system, which facilitates and encourages users to stay compliant with their medication and not skip any doses. The connected system is portable, so it’s more convenient for the user, and it offers gentle medication reminders, so Aer can be integrated easily into a person’s daily routine. SLS technology was used for the 3D printing, as it offers high levels of accuracy when it’s creating multi-part assemblies and enclosures.

The Engineering category winner, Royal College of Art graduate Dani Clode, may sound familiar – she developed the Third Thumb Project, a prosthetic thumb to give wearers extra dexterity and reach, for her graduate degree in design.

“The Third Thumb investigates the relationship between the body and prosthetic technology in new ways. It is part tool, part experience, and part self-expression; a model by which we better understand human response to artificial extensions,” Clode explained earlier this month. “It instigates necessary conversation about the definition of ‘ability.’ The origin of the word ‘prosthesis’ meant ‘to add, put onto;’ so not to fix or replace, but to extend. The Third Thumb is inspired by this word origin, exploring human augmentation and aiming to reframe prosthetics as extensions of the body.”

The Third Thumb, a 3D printed live-hinge thumb extension for the hand, was designed in Rhino, and has a total of three prototypes: two aesthetic explorations, and a functional model. A combination of 3D printed materials, including flexible NinjaFlex and Formlabs Black/Grey resin, were used for the prototypes, to help recreate how a human thumb works. The hand and wrist components contain motors, and all of the parts of the prosthetic thumb are connected by a bowden cable system of wire and Teflon tubing. What’s most interesting is that the user’s feet control the prosthetic, through two pressure sensors connected to the thumb with Bluetooth. The project aims to redefine what the word ‘prosthetic’ means by investigating the relationship that forms between a person’s body and the prosthetic technology it uses.

Jordan Gracia and Deniz Haklar, who are studying architecture at Rice University, won the grant in the Architecture category with their Micro-Housing project, which “challenges the straight extrusion in order to increase the number of units on the periphery.”

“Cross-plan morphed into x-plan increases the perimeter and allows more units to have views to the city. Braiding of the two volumes, sitting on top of each other, forms outdoor spaces allowing views to the entire city and this weaving, as a result, organizes the secondary circulation system, interconnecting 3 floors and creating a web of shared social spaces.”

The complex outer facade of the Micro-Housing project was modeled using Rhino, and 3D printed with cost-effective PLA material.

You can check out the project entries that were short-listed for this year’s 3D Hubs Student Grant here. If you didn’t win a grant this year, fear not – you’ll have another chance next year. The 2018 3D Hubs Student Grant will be open to all registered students around the world; keep an eye on the 3D Hubs website for the categories and dates. Discuss in the 3D Hubs forum at 3DPB.com.

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