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Design student Will Nicholson completed his final year of undergraduate studies in Industrial Design at the Massey School of Design in Wellington, New Zealand with a high-tech flourish. We have no idea what his fellow Bachelor of Industrial Design students were turning in for their final projects but Nicholson’s award-winning creation, a portable 3D printer, placed him squarely at the top of the class.

“Design to me,” says Nicholson, “is like a bug. It grows to the point where it occupies my mind day and night. For me the perfect solution lies in simplicity and the attention to detail.”

Nicholson’s Vanguard 3D, a portable 3D printer, earned him a Gold Pin at New Zealand’s 2014 Best Design awards as well as the national top 5 and international top 20 in the 2014 James Dyson Design Awards. The Vanguard 3D is no ingenious-yet-low-budget senior project. In conception, appearance, and function it feels more like the product of a cutting edge industry innovator than the design project of an undergraduate student.

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The Vanguard 3D uses complicated 3D printing technology to facilitate a wide range of adaptable design applications — in its own way, it’s a multi-purpose device. This portable 3D printer employs an expanding foam and cement matrix to print three-dimensional structures and can be programmed to adapt to challenging environments. Because it can be controlled remotely and is designed to navigate over rough terrain, the Vanguard 3D could be deployed in difficult-to-access sites.

Nicholson’s portable 3D printer isn’t your ordinary desktop 3D printer by any means. The Vanguard 3D, which looks something like a complicated vacuum cleaner, features two units. The first is the actual print unit. It oversees the extrusion of the print material — the cement and the expanding foam. The second is the pump unit, which contains the power source as well as the material supply.

vanguard mainThe print unit contains a cement reservoir where the precisely controlled extrusion of cement to the extrusion head takes place. In order to prevent the premature curing of the cement, Nicholson included an internal mixing auger in the cement reservoir. The extrusion head includes a total of three nozzles. The outer two nozzles extrude the foam and the center nozzle extrudes the cement. The adaptability of the Vanguard 3D allows you to adjust the distance between the nozzles in the extrusion head so that you can modify the print width. Importantly, the extrusion of the cement from the center nozzle is delayed by one layer so that the expanding foam can first cure sufficiently.

The pump unit of the Vanguard 3D holds the computing system and an electric generator and provides storage space for spare expanding foam tanks. It also contains the cement pump system, which helps to reduce the weight of the print unit. This assures stability, accuracy, and efficiency with the print unit. The pump unit trails closely behind the print unit on skid steer rubber tracks.

Nicholson’s award-winning additive manufacture device is showcased on the James Dyson Awards website and he’s also shared images and a discussion of his process on Behance. We imagine that this impressive young innovator is already making an impression on 3D printing industry movers and shakers and won’t have to go knocking on doors when it’s time to begin the post-design-school job hunt.

What do you think about the Vanguard 3D? Join the discussion in the Vanguard 3D Printer forum thread at 3DPB.com.

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