webmd3Customization is one of the key reasons why I feel that 3D printing technology will become so huge, no matter which industry we are talking about. Whether it is the healthcare industry, where custom prostheses are being fabricated daily through the use of 3D printing; the manufacturing sectors, where prototyping with 3D printing has made the process much more simple and efficient; or just simple daily projects where companies don’t feel like spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to just create a handful of custom products using more traditional, more expensive means of manufacturing. 3D printing has definitely arrived, and it will continue its upward trend in the coming years and decades ahead.

Just last week, WebMD (NASDAQ: WBMD), a leading source for health information online, honored the winners of their 2014 Health Heroes at an awards ceremony hosted by Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts. There were six winners this year: Michael J. Fox, Carson Daly, Martha Stewart, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, Dr. Frank Papay, and Zarin Ibnat Rahman.

Other notable celebrities on hand for the event included Rocco DiSpirito, Gavin DeGraw, Lee England Jr., Susie Essman, Jordin Sparks, and Beth Stern, among others. As for the winners, more details on who they are and why they won can be found at the official WebMD website.

The winners of these awards were the recipients of a $10,000 donation to their cause, as well as a 3D printed trophy. The trophy was 3D printed by a company called thingsmiths, and they were quite detailed and unique.

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“We were contacted by WebMD about 5 weeks ago with the idea to create this inaugural award through 3D printing,” Owen Tien, CEO of thingsmiths, tells 3DPrint.com. “After sending over some concept sketches, their team chose the design path of the simple base, with DNA sprouting out of it, joining two hands holding a globe. Our creative director, Alex Hatch, then got to work on a series of CAD iterations. The hands are one of our team-member’s, scanned in using a hand-scanner and then edited heavily in ZBrush. ZBrush was a great tool, as Alex was looking to retain the organic feel that we wanted to associate with healthcare, while retaining a clean look that would be manufacturable. Rhino took care of the simple shapes needed for the glass tube inserts and lettering on the base.”

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Martha Stewart with her trophy (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

To 3D print the awards, thingsmiths mostly used a Type A Machines Series 1 3D printer because of its ability to print with many “exotic” materials. “We really can’t speak highly enough of their extruder design,” explained Tien. “We ran 9kg of bronzeFill (from ColorFabb) through one without so much as a hiccup.”

Each award took approximately 25 hours of printing on the Type A Machines’ 3D printer, and the infill was fluctuated throughout the print in order to maintain a heavy base and light top. This was done to prevent the ease in which these trophies could be tipped. The glass tube which surrounds the DNA helix is Pyrex, 44mm in diameter with 3.2mm walls, and it provides for great structural support and durability throughout the entire object.

“We love how it is the same material used in many test-tubes, and sought to play off that feel,” Tien tells us. “While bronzeFill is a very durable material in our experience, relying on a fairly thin DNA helix to provide the core of these awards would have been a good way to end up with a broken award and a disappointed Martha Stewart, something we really wanted to avoid.”

No one wants to disappoint Martha Stewart!

webmdThe Type A Machines’ 3D printer was not the only one used by thingsmiths for this project. In order to 3D print the globes, the team used a Formlabs Form1+ SLA based printer with their clear resin, which was then polished for a very nice finish (as seen in the images provided).

As for the post-processing of these awards, they were finished using steel wool to sand down and polish the bronzeFill material. This allowed for some of the bronze pieces within it to glimmer and shine. Then the base and hand were laquered to prevent any tarnishing. “We left the DNA unaltered as we wanted a slightly different finish and it would remain protected in the glass,” explained Tien. “All the parts were joined with some carefully painted on 2-part epoxy.”

All-in-all, the total print time for each of the 8 trophies printed for the event was 30 hours. In addition to these 8 awards, thingsmiths also printed out 350 smaller version using Colorfabb’s gold and white PLA.

“It was a really great event to be a part of, and we found it an interesting use case for 3D printing,” says Tien. “We loved working with the WebMD team and helping them through the process. While their project was of greater size than many of our other projects, the base elements of what we do with anyone remained, a creative conversation that we used to get a great end result.”

(L-R) Robin Roberts, Claire Meunier, Dr. Frank Papay, Zarin Ibnat Rahman, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, Jennifer Tedeschi and Julia Parker-Dickerson attend the 2014 Health Hero Awards hosted by WebMD at Times Center on November 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

(L-R) Robin Roberts, Claire Meunier, Dr. Frank Papay, Zarin Ibnat Rahman, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, Jennifer Tedeschi and Julia Parker-Dickerson attend the 2014 Health Hero Awards hosted by WebMD at Times Center on November 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

A great event, for a great cause, by a couple great companies. What more could a 3D printing enthusiast want?

What do you think about the use of these various 3D printing methods by thingsmiths, in order to create trophies for a large company looking to impress some world renown celebrities? Discuss in the 3D printed WebMD awards forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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