When One Thing Leads to Another: 3D Printing the Unexpected

Share this Article

One of the things that often surprises an organization that gets its first 3D printer is the unexpected uses that seem to pop out of the woodwork once it arrives.

Someone in one department will decide to get a 3D printer for a specific project, and once word of the new machine spreads through the organization, a line of people suddenly appears. “Do you think you might be able to help me with a project?” “What about this? Can you print that?”

I heard this story at Texas A&M University, where Veterinary Radiation Oncologist Michael Deveau originally got a Gigabot to 3D print components for a canine cancer treatment. Word of his success spread through the hospital, and he soon had colleagues from different departments knocking on his door to ask if he’d be able to help them out.

Deveau has since printed surgical models for neurologists and orthopedists, Ninjaflex models of canine inner ears to be implanted into toy stuffed animals on which students could practice ear exams, and devices to help a researcher with her studies on reducing bladder crystals in goats. He didn’t originally get the Gigabot to do any of those things — he didn’t even know about some of the projects prior to then — but once a solution presented itself, the applications came flowing.

A similar story happened at Syracuse University in New York, where an economics professor was looking for a way to make his class accessible to a blind student. Anyone who’s taken an economics course will know: the subject matter can be very visual, relying on graphs to tell the story of data and trends.

The university had recently opened the doors to a brand-new makerspace, home to a few dozen 3D printers. The economics professor approached John Mangicaro, manager of the makerspace, to see if there might be a better solution for this student than what was already in place.

Mangicaro worked with the professor to convert graphs from the coursework into 3D CAD files which were then printed on the makerspace’s large-scale Gigabot. Based on feedback from the student, they tweaked print settings like layer height until the desired outcome was reached. By the end of it, the professor had a collection of Braille-esque graphs that his student could call on for homework and exams.

Syracuse didn’t originally build a lab to 3D print teaching aids to make their classes more accessible — it was a happy byproduct of making the right tools available on campus. And this is exactly one of the things that makes 3D printers so powerful: their ability to unlock previously unconsidered or impossible solutions to problems. Give people access to a tool with nearly limitless potential, and they might just surprise you.

So if your organization is thinking about getting a 3D printer, prepare yourself. You may find yourself working on product ideas you hadn’t considered, or printing off-the-wall solutions to problems that weren’t even on your radar, or you may unintentionally make yourself the new most popular person in the office.

To repurpose a famous quote: “If you can build it, they will come.”


Morgan Hamel is the Creative Director at re:3D.

Facebook Comments

Share this Article


Recent News

MIT: Automated System Designs and 3D Prints Optimized Actuators and Displays to Spec

3D Printing in Construction: French Startup XtreeE Announces New Facility in Dubai



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Featured

Modular, Digital Construction System for 3D Printing Lightweight Reinforced Concrete Spatial Structures

Spatial structure systems, like lattices, are efficient load-bearing structures that are easy to adapt geometrically and well-suited for column-free, long-spanning constructions, such as hangars and terminals, and in creating free-form...

Thixotropy, Nanoclay and the Optimal Parameters of 3D Printed Concrete

In ‘The Effect of Material Fresh Properties and Process Parameters on Buildability and Interlayer Adhesion of 3D Printed Concrete,’ international authors strive to understand more about materials and parameters in...

Twikit Showcases Mass Customized Braces and Automotive Parts at Rapid 2019

Belgian mass customization software company Twikit showcased a number of mass customization cases and applications at RAPID + TCT 2019. The Twikit team was able to show BMW Group’s Mini...

An Indian Bioprinting Startup is Working on 3D Printed ‘Liquid Cornea’ for Corneal Grafts

In the last few years, there has been a continuous growth of bioprinting companies around the world, probably because the medical field is one of the most exciting industries taking...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.


Print Services

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our 3DPrint.com.

You have Successfully Subscribed!