Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Formlabs’ PopUp 3D Printing Factory Prints 500 Items in 2 Days at Solid Conference

ST Medical Devices

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formlabs_alikebandsWhat happens when you have a dozen 3D printers and two days of time to use them? You end up with 500 3D prints of some soldered and assembled, wearable wristbands for a group of conference attendees.

A team at Formlabs was approached by O’Reilly Media, the organizers of the Solid Conference, and presented with a challenge. They were tasked with designing and constructing a “PopUp Factory” which could, within a matter of a few hours, print 500 parts and then be disassembled inside a two-day time window.

And they took the challenge.

Outfitted with 12 Form 1+ 3D printers and a team of all-star designers and engineers, the group needed to create 500 customized, interactive wearable Alike wristbands on the conference site.

Image 371The Alike is a wearable device “that brings the power of social networks to where it matters most, the physical world.” Alike’s technology allows crowds to connect in real life. It does so by comparing unique, individual profiles within each band and matching feedback in real-time through colored LEDs. The Alike device is capable of identifying the members of groups of people who share interests.

The broadcast technology lets the system transmit colors to one — or many — users simultaneously to create what they call a “shared experience.” The integrated system is designed to collect event data , and the technology requires no WiFi connection. Each Alike device is programmed with a unique user profile, and as two people come into close proximity of each other while wearing them, the devices exchange information and glow to indicate matching interests. Following the event, each wearer can receive a list of their matched connections.formlabs_popup_3

The Formlabs team set up a “farm” of a dozen Form 1+ 3D printers which, at full capacity, were capable of producing 84 parts for the Alike systems every 4 hours. They say that, given a week, the production would add up to 1,000 parts. And the process featured another unique element.

“Rather than just printing the same thing over and over, with 3D printing, we could churn out unique, one-of-a-kind designs, each with its own edition number,” say the Formlabs Popup Factory Team, who learned quite a bit from the experience.

The say the electronics package and the Alike design came about as a result of research and development efforts from Marcelo Coelho studio. The wristbands included a clever snap-fit enclosure which would allow for the addition of the one-off designs.

Ultimately, the small popup factory was capable of producing 250 customized enclosures in the course of an 8-hour shift at a very low per-part cost, and the process allowed for the design to evolve as needed. The Popup Factory used Grasshopper, a procedural design tool, to create hundreds of iterations of the basic piece.

The circuit boards and injection molded backs arrived for test fitting, and the team say the tolerances of the Form 1+ prints were ideally suited to hold the circuit board, neoprene band and an enclosure.

Have you ever considered the possibility of putting together a PopUp Factory for an event? Let us know in the PopUp 3D Printing Factory forum thread on 3DPB.com.  Check out the brief video below about the popup factory:

 

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