Friday, March 27, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

400% Growth Pushes Makies to Consider Injection Molding for 3D Printed Dolls


Launched in 2012 the Makies Dolls were one of the very first 3D printed products ever to raise generalist media awareness. Now, almost three years later, they are a great indicator of the adoption of 3D printed products in mainstream consumer habits. After growing by 400% for the last two years in a row, Makie Lab is proving that 3D printing can help a small company with a good idea do what was once considered to be impossible (or extremely unlikely): take on giants such as Mattel, LEGO, and Hasbro,  in a very mature and consolidated market, such a the toys sector.

I caught up with Alice Taylor, Makies founder and current CEO, to find out a little more about how this “miracle” began and how it will evolve. While there are many projects in the works, one thing that has become clear to the company is that, if they want more children to be able to play with their 3D printed personalized dolls, the price – which currently stands at a $115 – has to come down.
“In the US, which represents around 80% of our current revenue, spending over $100 for a very special doll is fully acceptable for parents,” Alice tells me. “In fact, the same is true in Japan and some other countries, while it is not necessarily so in Europe. Our goal is to lower the final price to the equivalent of about $60-65 and, to do that, we are looking at injection molding for the dolls’ bodies.”

Currently the Makies bodies are 3D printed – by external laser sintering services – but that’s only because the numbers were low enough to justify additive manufacturing. The only part that is is fully customizable, and thus requires 3D printing, is the doll’s head. Adopting a combination of injection molding and 3D printing would be the most cost-efficient solution now that the business is taking off.

While the Makies are introducing significant changes in the way they approach the toy market, they are not necessarily disrupting every traditional dynamic. They are manufactured on-demand, which means that they do not require inventory, and are generally sold through online distributors, such as Amazon or 3D Systems’ Cubify network (the 3D printer manufacturer has invested into the company and holds a minority stake). However they are not intended to implement a “distributed manufacturing” business model.

“We designed the dolls and we assemble every single one of them here, in our Shoreditch office in London,” Alice confirms. “That is because we have to implement QA [Quality Assurance] processes and guarantee the safety of each doll.” Alice told me that the Makies “Office-Factory” is a 1,500 square foot space with 12 Cube 3D printers, 3 MakerBots and one Ultimaker, used to make accessories and final parts, which are then shipped with the doll. “What we are doing is looking for online companies for digital retail partnerships,” she adds.

All together Makies, a company which – as Alice revealed – is currently selling about one fifth as much as LEGO in the Selfridges department store, employs 12 people. Six people are in charge of administration and assembly, while the other six lead software development.

In fact software – as is the case for a number of other companies (both established and start-ups) involved in 3D printing – is proving to be a key factor for both growth and generating profits. The Makies dolls can  be customized through a software engine which is accessed both online and through the Makies mobile App. “It can be used to make other types of personalized toys and other products as well,” says Alice, adding that they are speaking with a number of companies that have asked Makie Lab to use the system to create their own personalized products.

After raising the initial capital, Makies is now fully on course to break even and it seems its run to the top of the toy market food-chain has only begun. One very interesting possibility – which is difficult to actually implement but has been considered from the very beginning – is that of making the dolls “smarter”. That would entail integrating electronic components and developing a software-based interaction with gaming environments and devices.

“Disney spent 100 million dollars to build the Disney Infinity ecosystem,” Alice says. “There are several projects to make smart and connected 3D printed toys a reality, but it is very difficult to build every aspect and integrate them into a single product. The Makies Doll’s head was designed to be large enough for a Lilypad Arduino board. Now, there are even smaller control boards and cheaper interface technologies, such as NFC, that are becoming more widely available, so this is certainly something we are looking into.” The competition with Barbie and the Disney Princesses is most definitely on.

Startup Could Hold Final Piece of 3-D Printing Puzzle


An Indiana startup says it's going to "cut through the hype" surrounding a new trend in manufacturing. The excitement centers on 3-D printing technology, a relatively new concept in the industry that involves a type of robot "printing" a three-dimensional object. Guided by a computer, successive layers are laid down until the object is complete. However, Crawfordsville-based Frontier Additive Manufacturing says a problem lurks within those layers that compromises the quality of the finished product. It's a glitch that has puzzled engineers and stunted the adoption of 3-D printing, but the startup says it's cracked the code to unleash the method's true potential.

Frontier Additive Manufacturing co-founder Eric Lynch says 3-D printing has mostly involved plastics, but—hence the company's name—the startup is focusing on the new "frontier" of metal 3-D printing. The method is called metal "additive" manufacturing, as opposed to subtractive, which is the traditional way of grinding down chunks of metal into parts. Additive manufacturing, however, has been hindered by micro-fractures, or tiny breaks, that occur within the metal as an inherent part of the process.

"Metal expands when it's hot and contracts when it's cold," says Lynch, who also serves as chief executive officer and president. "To make a substantially-sized part, you're going to have hundreds, if not thousands, of layers that are about the thickness of a piece of paper. As you're adding material from the [bottom] where you started, it's going to be many hours old and cold when you're adding [finishing layers]. As that metal's contracting, it's putting stress into that part that can overcome the strength of the metal and break it."

The result of this thermal stress is a part that's about half the strength of one that's traditionally made. Often used to make replacement parts, the method is producing sub-par parts "that have the quality issue of 'Gosh, do we trust this piece or not?'" says Lynch.

Based on the discoveries of Purdue University engineering professors Gary Cheng and Yung Shim, Frontier Additive Manufacturing says it's solved the problem through a technology that monitors and controls the thermal stress in "micro steps." Lynch says the method produces metal pieces that use the same amount of material, but are 20 percent stronger than objects that are standardly made.

"Our technology isn't just monitoring, because there are some monitoring technologies out there," says Lynch. "We're controlling the process, not only to correct this micro-fracture issue, but we'll be able to tune the crystalline structure of the metal to give you the exact metal properties you want." Listen 

Because metal additive manufacturing can also produce lighter weight parts with less material, the aerospace industry has been the first adopter of the technology for weight-saving purposes. It also enables manufacturers to make complex shapes that previously required many parts. Lynch says GE is using the method on a very limited basis to make fuel injectors for its new Leap Turbofan Engine. He says NASA is also taking advantage of the technology.

"NASA took a rocket engine, that with [traditional methods] was made up of 118 pieces, and made the whole engine in two pieces," says Lynch. "It reduced the number of potential points of failure significantly. In the space industry, this particular process is very much sought after, because it not only makes lighter weight parts, but you can reduce the number of points of failure too."

Engine-making giant Pratt & Whitney opened the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center at the University of Connecticut in 2013. Hoping to work hand-in-hand with the industry's trailblazers, Frontier Additive Manufacturing was excited to learn it was named a finalist in the Sikorsky Innovations Entrepreneurial Challenge; Pratt & Whitney is the parent company of Sikorsky, which manufactures helicopters.

After owning a small manufacturing shop, Lynch hitched his entrepreneurial wagon to the innovation when he worked at Purdue's Office of Technology Commercialization.

"When I realized I could get first look at Purdue technologies, I thought, 'When I find one I can't live without, I'm starting a company,'" says Lynch. "After nine years, that's what I did." Listen

Frontier Additive Manufacturing believes it's within six months of demonstrating its thermal control technology and already has an Indiana-based medical device manufacturer "actively interested." Three other pending clients are in the oil and gas, aerospace and automotive industries.

"We're going to play a key role in the adoption of metal additive manufacturing," says Lynch. "Right now, there's a lot of hype; we're going to cut through the hype and be able to deliver its capabilities. That's exciting from a technical point of view."

The company is sharpening its blade, taking aim at perfecting a technology that experts say could revolutionize nearly every sector of the manufacturing industry. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Avi Reichental: What’s next in 3D printing

For a closer look and see this technology in Action Schedule your personal tour with me NOW 

Just like his beloved grandfather, Avi Reichental is a maker of things. The difference is, now he can use 3D printers to make almost anything, out of almost any material. Reichental tours us through the possibilities of 3D printing, for everything from printed candy to highly custom sneakers.

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Purdue University's College of Technology in Anderson and Cicero-based three-dimensional printing company, TWeatherford Inc.

Purdue University's College of Technology in Anderson and Cicero-based three-dimensional printing company, TWeatherford Inc., have received $100,000 from the Anderson Board of Public Works to "jump start" the project.
The new space could open this fall.
June 19, 2014
News Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today Mayor Kevin S. Smith along with 19 other Mayors and a host of Education and Industry leaders met with senior White House Economic Development and Education Staff for a discussion on Workforce Development and "Makers Space" opportunities. This Staff discussion was followed by a group conversation with the President of the United States regarding the transformative value produced when hands-on manufacturing educational programs are connected to and collaborate with Maker Space facilities.

The City of Anderson has begun the process of working with Purdue University's College of Technology in Anderson, the Flagship Enterprise Center, the Anderson Innovation Center, and area manufacturers to create a facility that will house applied engineering, advanced technology education and high-tech maker tools. One of the drivers of this development is the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, which is one of the University's Big Moves initiatives. It is aimed at radically transforming the College of Technology through renewed undergraduate programs, a state of the art approach to how learning occurs, applied research that will affect the world in a greater way, and a renewed focus on workforce development, helping the State of Indiana prosper in the future.

The City of Anderson is leading the way through a combined $150,000 Board of Work's grant to Purdue and TWI to jump start this process locally. Purdue-Anderson is working closely with TWI/3D Rapid Print and the Anderson Innovation Center to make this space operational for fall 2014. The centerpiece of this initiative will be a Maker Space where students, teachers, industry leaders and entrepreneurs come together to design, produce and test prototypes and refine new designs. Visiting and prospective students, entrepreneurs and industry leaders will witness how learning takes place when a hands-on focus is the core of the learning process. A future facility is also being planned and should be announced within the coming year with the City of Anderson, Purdue and the Flagship all playing a role.

Mayor Smith states, "The focus is on using the facility to foster an increased interest in the manufacturing industry. Simply put, this project's purpose is to raise a generation who want to make things and have the skills to be the Makers."

"We have had multiple discussions with local manufacturers in the area who want to take advantage of these new technologies and services. Innovation is critical to growing our manufacturing base. Many of them want to engage our students in this process," said Corey Sharp, Director of Purdue College of Technology Anderson.

Jon Adams, Anderson Plant Manager for GTI, states, "While we now employ 211 valued associates, GTI has separated an additional 160 candidates to reach this level of employment. This has come at significant cost to our Anderson operation. Our team sees workforce preparation and sustainability as the limiting factor to our ability to expand in Anderson."

As Mayor Smith has talked with the management of new and existing manufacturers, he has come to realize that the skill development of current and future workers is the number one need facing Anderson.

"We have now attracted new industry and assisted existing industry in creating approximately 1,400 new and 1,100 expanded job opportunities over the past 30 months. We now hear from our Manufacturers Roundtable that they struggle to find and retain qualified workers. We must address the skill issue with our existing workforce and with our children if we are to continue to grow our manufacturing base attracting new companies and assisting our existing companies to expand. Doing this requires creating a vision of cutting edge manufacturing that old and young can see, touch and get excited about and then creating a way for folks to engage and capture the skill sets that make that manufacturing possible. Our collaboration with Purdue's College of Technology, the Flagship, AIC and local manufacturers is the first step in enabling the new makers of today and tomorrow," said Mayor Smith.  

Source: City of Anderson

Project Summary From Manufacturing Alliance of Communities

Anderson, Indiana will work with Purdue University's College of Technology at Anderson and the Flagship Enterprise Center (identified by the Small Business Administration as the top micro-lender in the State of Indiana in 2012) to construct a new building that will house advanced technology education and high-tech maker tools - the Purdue Polytechnic Institute - for as many as 500 students and hundreds of entrepreneurs, at the site of a former automotive plant.

The centerpiece of the Polytechnic Institute project will be a maker space where students, teachers and entrepreneurs come together to produce and test prototypes and refine new designs.

Visiting and prospective students and industrial leaders will quickly see how learning takes place when a hands-on focus is available.

Surrounding and integrated into the maker space will be a variety of spaces and tools ranging from specialized learning labs and incubator spaces, to a light industrialspace where students can work for local established and developing businesses.

Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith, whose leadership on this issue has been paramount to its success, states that "the focus is on using the facility to foster an increased interest in the manufacturing industry. Simply put, this project's purpose is to raise a generation who wants to make things and have the skills to be the Makers."

Source: Manufacturing Alliance of Communities

Latest technology coming to Anderson TWI expanding Noblesville operations

ANDERSON – A Noblesville company expanding into Anderson is bringing a 3-D printing manufacturer and will work in partnership with the Purdue College of Technology.

The company, TWI, is bringing a recent breakthrough in manufacturing to Anderson Innovation Center on 53rd Street, officials said.

The Anderson Board of Public Works on Tuesday approved a $100,000 grant to TWI and $50,000 to the Purdue College of Technology. The funding comes from food and beverage tax revenues.

Greg Winkler, director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said this is a great educational opportunity for students in Anderson and Madison County to see what the latest innovations in technology is capable of doing.

He said this is the first phase in the expansion of TWI that will hire two people with an annual payroll of $70,000.

“What we’re doing is leveraging the technology,” Winkler said.

Timothy Weatherford, vice president of TWI, said the company has been located in Noblesville for eight years and started 3-D printing four years ago. The company has 12 employees.

He said the company is supplying parts to Rolls Royce, GE and Cummins.

Weatherford said the 3-D printing manufacturing process builds products up and he displayed several items the company produced.

3D Printing or additive manufacturing creates products by placing thin layers of material on top of each other to create a finished shape based on a computer generated model.

“Anderson was a manufacturing intensive city,” Cindie Weatherford, CEO of TWI, said of expanding into Madison County. “We wanted to bring the latest and greatest technology back to Anderson. We want to make it a hub again for manufacturing.”

Winkler said a second phase could be announced in a few months.

The $50,000 grant to Purdue is for construction of a classroom and engineering lab at the Anderson Innovation Center, Winkler said.

Corey Sharp, director of the Purdue College of Technology at Anderson, said Purdue University wants to bring robotic and automation degrees to all its schools in the state.

“We want students to learn by doing,” he said. “This new manufacturing technology is the future for our students.”

Sharp said students will be working alongside engineers for the different companies in Anderson.

“This will be a recruitment tool to bring students to the Purdue College of Technology in Anderson,” he said.
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3D Printing Vs. Rapid Prototyping
The Competitive Advantages Of 3D Printing
An ideal compliment to CAD, 3D printing offers a fast, low-cost alternative to traditional rapid prototyping for building concept and working models. Designed for workstation and network access much like a standard laser printer, 3D printing is growing in usage along with the unprecedented growth of CAD solid modeling.
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Both rapid prototyping (RP) and 3D printing technologies build models layer by layer from STL data. The cost difference per part between 3D printing and rapid prototyping systems can be significant. Including material, machine depreciation, system maintenance and labor, a part built using rapid prototyping technology can cost nearly twice as much compared to 3D printing.
More expensive rapid prototyping systems are often centrally located with a dedicated staff functioning much like an in-house service bureau. 3D printers are smaller, more affordable and suitable for installation near an end user providing convenience and ease of use that eliminates "departmental delay."
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