Interview: Inside UCLA’s faster, multimaterial 3D bioprinter

Artwork commissioned to illustrate the SLA based microfluidic 3D bioprinting process developed by UCLA and HMS researchers. Image via Yu Shrike ZhangCover artwork
commissioned to illustrate the SLA based microfluidic 3D
bioprinting process developed by UCLA and HMS researchers. Image
via Yu Shrike Zhang

Recently, a 3D bioprinting project conducted at the University of California, Los
(UCLA) has been making headlines for its potential
to create complex biological tissues.

Led by UCLA Professor of Engineering Ali Khademhosseini,
the project describes a bioprinter that makes use of
microfludic chip to efficiently print multiple materials in a
single process.

Yu Shrike Zhang of Brigham and Women’s
and Harvard
Medical School
, joins Khademhosseini on the project
as co-senior author of the published results. In this
exclusive interview, I speak to Zhang to learn more about this
latest 3D bioprinting technique, and its potential to transform
the future of medical research.

Multimaterial 3D bioprinting on a chip

Zhang is currently a Faculty and Associate Bioengineer within
the Division of Engineering in Medicine at Harvard Medical
School (HMS).

In this latest project, Zhang contributed to the work of a
UCLA/HMS collaborative that sought to develop a new, more
efficient technique of 3D printing biological matter. The
product of this research is a stereolithography (SLA) based
bioprinting platform.

In place of a typical build plate, the UCLA/HMS platform has a
small, circular outlet in the center of a
microfludic chip

Schematic of the UCLS/HMS 3D bioprinters microfluidic build plate (note central circle). Image via Supp. Mat. Advanced Materials journal.Schematic of the
UCLS/HMS 3D bioprinters microfluidic build plate (note central
circle). Image via Supp. Mat. Advanced Materials journal.

To print, cell-loaded bioinks are washed through the
channels of the chip. In the circular center, a light flashes
to cure a layer of material in the desired shape. As in SLA,
the plate i.e. the center of the chip, moves down to make way
for a new layer on top of the first one. Gradually, the inks
build-up in successive layers into a 3D sample.

So far, the technique has been proved to print with up to 5
materials, including a liquid that serves to flush out unwanted
material. As a proof of concept, the researchers bioprinted
“tree-like” vein structures as seen in the image below.

Tree-like vein structures 3D printer in the center of the bioprinter's microfludic chip. Image via Supp. Mat. Advanced Materials journal.Tree-like vein structures
3D printer in the center of the bioprinter’s microfludic chip.
Image via Supp. Mat. Advanced Materials journal.

The need for speed

While there are many projects examining ways to recreate the
complex, multimaterial structure of natural tissues, some are
still hindered by the slow deposition rate of material
extrusion technology. In this instance, the UCLA/HMS method
finds it’s niche.

Zhang explains “The advantage [of our technique]mainly lies in
the speed. Since SLA is based on layer-by-layer printing from a
reservoir, it can crosslink a large area at a time making the
speed faster than extrusion printing.”

In the work, the team also used a digital micromirror (DMD)
device for digital mask generation, making the 3D printing
process “even faster.”

The UCLA/HMS microfluidic printing platform. Photo via UCLAThe UCLA/HMS microfluidic
printing platform. Photo via UCLA

The second advantage of the SLA technique is resolution, which
is typically higher than extrusion-based technologies.

As standard, the UCLA/HMS bioprinter operates using UV light,
which can incur some minor damages to living cells. However,
Zhang asserts “Short time UV exposures are usually okay for the
cells […] We can also switch to visible light photoinitiators
to avoid the use of UV light.”

“Complex tissues” at “unprecedented ease”

Even at this rudimentary stage, results show that “The
technology can facilitate fabrication of complex tissues
potentially at unprecedented ease,” says Zhang. And, “With
multi-material capacity it makes it possible to generate
tissues with multiple types of cells and extracellular matrix
molecules in a structurally biomimetic manner leading to better

Zhang and the team are optimistic that the technology could one
day be used to make patient-specific tissue samples to be used
in regenerative medicine, though the next step would be to
scale the process. Project lead Khademhosseini has also
previously led research into a
microfludic platform to 3D print liver tissue

Multimaterial Maskless Stereolithographic Bioprinting
” is
published online in Advanced Materials journal.
It is co-authored by Amir K. Miri, Daniel Nieto, Luis
Iglesias, Hossein Goodarzi Hosseinabadi, Sushila Maharjan,
Guillermo U. Ruiz‐Esparza, Parastoo Khoshakhlagh, Amir
Manbachi, Mehmet Remzi Dokmeci, Shaochen Chen, Su Ryon Shin, Yu
Shrike Zhang and Ali Khademhosseini.

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Featured image shows Advanced Materials cover artwork
commissioned to illustrate the SLA based microfluidic 3D
bioprinting process developed by UCLA and HMS researchers.
Image via Yu Shrike Zhang

Newcastle University creates first 3D printed human corneas

Scientists at Newcastle University
(NCL) have successfully 3D printed human corneas for the
first time. Gelatinous and multicellular, the artificial
corneas are valuable steps towards much needed solutions for
the millions of people suffering from eye disease and severe
damage around the world.

A vivid solution

The cornea is a vital part of human vision; it acts as
the transparent outer layer of the eyeball, refracting and
bending light in order to focus eyesight. With over 10 million
people requiring corneal transplants worldwide, scientists,
including those from the
Instituto de Investigación de
Biomédica del Hospital La Paz
(IdiPAZ) have

exploring methods to end the shortage of global cornea
through 3D bioprinting.

Progress has been made in aiding human eyesight through
3D printing as seen by
University of
student Logan Williams’

Polar Optics 3D printed contact lenses
However, many are still suffering from blindness caused by
corneal diseases.

To remedy the shortage of corneas available Che Connon,
Professor of Tissue Engineering at Newcastle University, and
his research team created a printable bioink solution from
donor stem cells, alginate, and collagen.

Ten-minute corneas

The specially developed bioink has been successfully 3D
printed  in under ten minutes in concentric circles to
mimic the shape of a human cornea.

“Many teams across the world have been chasing the ideal
bio-ink to make this process feasible
comments Professor Connon,
Our unique gel keeps the stem cells alive whilst
producing a material which is stiff enough to hold its shape
but soft enough to be squeezed out the nozzle of a 3D

The researchers previously used a similar hydrogel in an
experiment to keep cells alive at room temperature for several
weeks. From this test, they were able to identify a process
that allowed cells to grow within a bioink solution.

Newcastle University
Biomedical Scientists and research leaders Stephen Swioklo (left)
and Che Connon (right) and an Inkredible bioprinter from CELLINK.
Photo via Newcastle University.

Ph.D. student from the Institute of Genetic Medicine, NCL,
Abigail Isaacson, was one of the scientists that confirmed that
a cornea could be built and rapidly produced to match a
patient’s specifications by scanning the dimensions of tissue
from an actual eye.

Professor Connon added,“What we have shown is that it is
feasible to print corneas using coordinates taken from a
patient eye and that this approach has potential to combat the
worldwide shortage.”

The 3D printed corneas are now undergoing further testing
as scientists estimate that it will be several years until they
are suitable for transplantation.

Stay up to date with all the latest 3D bioprinting
developments at
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Featured image shows Dr. Stephen Swioklo, holding 3D
printed cornea with Professor Che Connon (right). Photo via
Newcastle University.

Thanks to MIT and Harvard brains can now be 3D printed by the pixel

A collaboration between MIT’s Mediated Matter Lab and
the Wyss Institute for
Biologically Inspired Engineering
at Harvard University has yielded
an image processing method that makes 3D printing
patient-specific medical models a cinch.

While accurate, and ready-sliced for 3D printing, manually

processing MRI and CT scan data
is a laborious process,
typically done over the course of 30+ hours.

Instead, by adopting a pixel-by-pixel approach, the MIT/Harvard
team have succeeded in processing MRI and CT data in less than
hour, and used it to 3D print accurate, multimaterial models of
human anatomy.

Crunching big data for 3D printing has never been so easy.

Annotated, 3D printed model of brain tumor using MIT/Harvard pixel processing. Image via Wyss Institute at Harvard UniversityAnnotated, 3D printed
model of brain tumor using MIT/Harvard pixel processing. Image
via Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Pixel-by-pixel, layer-by-layer

The MRI/CT processing project works with a related method
patented by Neri
, director of Mediated Matter at MIT, and
colleagues Dominik Kolb, James Weaver and
Christoph Bader.

Initially described as a workflow for
multimaterial 3D printing directly from point-cloud
, this method is capable of converting images into a
series of detailed bitmap layers that serve as the “slices” of
a 3D printable object.

The bitmap images consist of a series of black and white pixels
that dictate the multilateral composition of each layer, i.e.
black is a soft material, white is rigid. 3D printed on a
microscopic scale, these pixels and layers combine to create
varying “shades” of a material between hard and
soft, preserving the detail of the original image this is
processed. As an example, a hard area, like bone, would contain
more white pixels, and a flexible area, like an artery, would
contain more black pixels.

Each step of the point-cloud to pixels data file prep as detailed in the Oxman et al. patent. FIG 2A/2B show the spatial data structure. FIG. 2C through 2E shows how spatial data is split into layers. In FIG 2F, the data is sorted into pixels. In 2G the pixels are mixed with materials. And finally, FIG 2H demonstrates how each pixel layer is built up to make a 3D object. Image via FPOThe layer by layer,
pixel by pixel process detailed in the Oxman et al. patent. FIG
2A/2B shows a spatial data structure. FIG. 2C through 2E shows
how spatial data is split into layers. In FIG 2F, the data is
sorted into pixels. In 2G the pixels are mixed with materials.
And finally, FIG 2H demonstrates how each pixel layer is built up
to make a 3D object. Image via FPO

Empowering patients in the next 5 years

The first real-life case study of the method was conducted
for Mediated Matter research affiliate Steven Keating.
Finding a tumor on his brain while studying at MIT, Keating
initiated the collaboration by approaching the Wyss Institute
for help in understanding his diagnosis.

As a result, Keating now has a highly-detailed, multimaterial
3D printed model of his brain, and the tumor inside it. “The
ability to understand what’s happening inside of you,” he says,
“to actually hold it in your hands and see the effects of
treatment, is incredibly empowering.”

Wyss Institute senior researcher James Weaver who worked on the
project explains, “Our approach not only allows for high levels
of detail to be preserved and printed into medical models, but
it also saves a tremendous amount of time and money.”

With these savings, the team hopes to
change the way practitioners communicate with patients
Weaver adds:

“I imagine that sometime within the next 5 years, the day
could come when any patient that goes into a doctor’s office
for a routine or non-routine CT or MRI scan will be able to
get a 3D-printed model of their patient-specific data within
a few days.”

A study on the method, “From
Improved Diagnostics to Presurgical Planning: High-Resolution
Functionally Graded Multimaterial 3D Printing of Biomedical
Tomographic Data Sets
,” is published online
in 3D Printing and
Additive Manufacturing
journal. It is co-authored
by Ahmed Hosny, Steven J. Keating, Joshua D. Dilley, Beth
Ripley, Tatiana Kelil, Steve Pieper, Dominik Kolb, Christoph
Bader, Anne-Marie Pobloth, Molly Griffin, Reza Nezafat, Georg
Duda, Ennio A. Chiocca, James R. Stone, James S. Michaelson,
Mason N. Dean, Neri Oxman, and James C. Weaver.

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 near you now.

Featured image shows an annotated, 3D printed model of
brain tumor using MIT/Harvard pixel processing. Image via Wyss
Institute at Harvard University

Interview: Ed Sells, RepRap ‘opened up a multi-billion dollar industry now known as 3D printing’

This week marks the
10th anniversary of the RepRap project
. At 3D
Printing Industry we’re interviewing some of the earlier
pioneers and leading figures in the open source and FFF 3D
printer world.

Ed Sells became involved in the very early days of the
RepRap project when he was a
studying at the University of Bath. He was

designed and built the first Mendel printer, and also
(together with Dr. Adrian Bowyer) made the RepRap Darwin, the
first RepRap 3D printer. Ed Sells wrote his PhD, 3D Printing:
Towards a Self-Replicating Rapid Prototyping Machine.

In this article Ed Sells talks about designing the early
RepRap 3D printers, the evolution of self-replication and the
need for Open Source in 2018.

Dr. Adrian Bowyer and Ed Sells with the process to make the first Darwin 3D printed shot glass. Photo via Adrian BowyerDr. Adrian Bowyer, Ed
Sells and Christine Bowyer with the process to make the first
Darwin 3D printed shot glass. Photo via Adrian Bowyer.

Michael Petch: How did you come to be involved in the RepRap
project, please can you tell me a little about your role in the

Ed Sells: By total luck, I got Dr B as my
supervisor whilst I was studying Mechanical Engineering at the
University of Bath – we always had a good time in his office,
answering some of the bigger questions.

As I finished my undergrad I remember mentioning to him
that I wasn’t ready to quit being a student and start looking
for a job (I wasn’t ready to be that unhappy 😉 and that’s when
he showed me his latest idea, RepRap… and his offer of three
years designing self-replicating machines for a PhD was a

As lead on the mechanical design, I started by designing
Darwin*. It was tough – the point about RepRap was to use as
few shelf items as possible, and so it was a bit like throwing
out the entire engineering library and starting all over again.
I wasn’t even allowed to use ball bearings… that’s a killer
when you’re trying to design a 3D positioning system! Instead
we printed our own bushes and adopted assembly techniques which
gave us the constraints we needed, and in doing so we
demonstrated areas in which the machine could

Importantly, Darwin took a big step towards proving
Adrian’s hypothesis, that the rapid-prototyping process (soon
to be labelled by the media as 3D printing) was capable of
achieving large chunks of self-replication. But as a first
attempt, Darwin failed in its ability to be reliable. I could
see that makers following the project were struggling to
assemble the design properly. I’d overconstrained the axes, the
components were too delicate, and assembly required too much
mechanical love. And so mid-way through writing the thesis I
downed tools and designed Mendel.

Mendel stripped everything back to first principles
(can’t beat a triangle, right?), used fewer parts and was much
simpler to assemble. The release coincided with some stable
software and better extrusion techniques and the success with
the community was immediate – all of a sudden RepRap’s started
popping up everywhere. I was late on my thesis deadline, but
RepRap got the mechanics it need to… well… replicate. And it

Here’s a
of the design evolution that spawned from

*to be entirely accurate the first version of Darwin was
called ARNIE. ARNIE was the first internal iteration, which
iterated into Darwin – the first RepRap release. ARNIE stood
for Another Replicating Novelty Invented by Ed’n’Adrian.

Ed Sells and Dr. Adrian Bowyer with the first RepRap 3D printer. Photo via RepRapEd Sells and Dr. Adrian
Bowyer with the first RepRap 3D printer. Photo via RepRap

Michael Petch: What are your thoughts about how RepRap has
developed over the past decade?

Ed Sells: My thesis was called “Towards a
Self-replicating Machine”. Looking back now, it could also have
been called “Towards a Cheap 3D Printer”. As well as an
immediate effort towards self-replication, we opened up a
multi-billion dollar industry now known as 3D printing. And
that’s been no bad thing for self-replication.

Over the past decade we’ve seen small businesses
(Lulzbot, Prusa, Printrbot etc) push 3D
printing technology into the hands of everyone, and in doing so
the technology has been exposed to some intense competition. In
turn, this has hugely strengthened the technology’s performance
and reliability.

And for RepRap, by definition of self-replication, that
kind of evolution was expected to happen. When we released 3D
printing, it was young and fragile. Competition has toughened
it up no end. And that’s what self-replication needs, a strong
3D printing backbone from which it can reproduce.

Michael Petch: Are you still working with 3D printing, what
are you currently working on?

Ed Sells: I’m not working in 3D printing
development at the moment. I may come back to it soon, now it’s
matured a bit. I’m having a lot of fun with art and software
these days.

Michael Petch: What is your perspective on the state of Open
Source  in 2018 and is there still a need for OS

Ed Sells: I think OS is healthy and proven.

Is there a need for OS? We’d be doomed without it!

Michael Petch: What is 3D printing currently missing, what
would you like to see?

Ed Sells: I had hoped to see more
electro-mechanical printed components by now. And

Do you have any other RepRap thoughts you’d like to

  1. When the original Pirate-bay site caught wind of our
    project, they put a link on their homepage to the RepRep
    website. The volume of traffic brought the whole University
    of Bath’s network down for about 24 hours.
  2. Huxley was my third and final machine design (and
    favourite). I wasn’t supposed to be working on it – I think I
    had more thesis to write – so I developed it with Patrick
    Haufe in secret. That said, Adrian was kind enough to sign
    some blank order forms, so I think he knew something was in
    the works. We spent weeks on it in the lab, with some pretty
    late nights, before finally sitting down to dinner with
    Adrian and his wife Christine. We’d put it on the center of
    the table under a tea-towel, kind of like a turkey under a
    dish. The unveiling was pretty special. I think that’s the
    first time we started talking about printing food….
  3. The first item we ever printed was a shot glass,
    designed by Vik Olliver. It was an honour and a privilege to
    celebrate with Dr B by shooting whiskey in the lab with our
    very own tools. It was an amazing time, it really felt like
    we were on the edge of something disruptive. Turns out we

The RepRap 10th Anniversary series continues

You can read more in the
RepRap 10th Anniversary series here
. Make sure
you don’t miss the forthcoming interviews with other RepRap
pioneers, subscribe to the
3D Printing
Industry newsletter
and follow us on social

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Featured image shows version 2 of the RepRap Mendel.
Photo via RepRap.

INTAMSYS secures series A funding for Industry 4.0 industrial 3D printer development

Industrial 3D printing system and material developer INTAMSYS has successfully

secured an undisclosed amount of Series A funding
. The
round was led by venture capital firm CWB Capital, whose
mission it is to create “a sustainable smart manufacturing
ecosystem” between China, Hong Kong, and global technology.

According to INTAMSYS
CEO Charles Han, the money raised will be used to help its
customers create and integrate 3D printers into digital supply
chains, and boost the capabilities of mass customization
through R&D and market deployment.

3D printer. Photo via INTAMSYS

High performance 3D printing 

INTAMSYS was founded by a team of engineers with over a decade
of experience in the technology industry. Headquartered in
Shanghai, the company is known for bringing high-performance
polymer 3D printing to the desktop through the FUNMAT PRO

In materials, the company recently added PEKK to its portfolio,
alongside other industrial grade polymers PEEK, ULTEM
9085, ULTEM 1010, PPSU and PSU.

In total, the FUNMAT PRO and FUNMAT PRO
 systems can work with over 20 functional materials,
including the three most widely used engineering grade
polymers, PC, ABS and Nylon.

The company’s
material expertise is now also available
on demand manufacturing service
, offering accuracy,
consistent quality, intricate detail, optimal and repeatable
mechanical properties as key features.

INTAMSYS PEKK material samples. Photo via INTAMSYSINTAMSYS PEKK material
samples. Photo via INTAMSYS

Engineering grade solutions

INTAMSYS 3D printers are trusted around the world by
professionals in aerospace, automotive, medical, engineering,
oil & gas, electronics, education and research industries.
Customers of the company include American multinational
conglomerate Honeywell, chemical manufacturing
company Sabic, the UK Atomic Energy Authority and
global manufacturing services company Jabil.

The wide-ranging international clientele aligns perfectly with
the aims of CWB Captial. Prof. Li Zexiang, co-founder of the
firm that led INTAMSYS’ series A, comments:

“We see tremendous potential from INTAMSYS in excelling and
eventually leading in the era of Industry 4.0 given the
company’s current position as an industry leader in PEEK 3D
printing, offering customized high-performance functional
materials additive manufacturing solutions to the

Find out more about INTAMSYS 3D printers,
materials and services here.

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Featured image shows the INTAMSYS FUNMAT HT. Photo via

Interview: Dr. Adrian Bowyer on the 10th anniversary of RepRap

Today is the official anniversary of RepRap. At 3D Printing
Industry we are marking the occasion in a series of interviews
with those closely linked to the project. If you’ve used a
desktop FFF 3D printer the chances are that the RepRap project
has influenced the design of the hardware or software.

“On 29th May 2008 at 14:00 UTC Vik Olliver, Ed Sells and
Adrian Bowyer assembled the very first child RepRap from a
parent which was made by a proprietary 3D printer.” – RepRap

I asked
Dr. Adrian Bowyer
a few questions about the origins of the
RepRap project, the need for open source in 3D printing and
what’s next for the industry.

Adrian Bowyer's desk circa 2009. Photo via Adrian BowyerAdrian Bowyer’s desk
circa 2009. Photo via Adrian Bowyer

Michael Petch: So when is the official anniversary of
RepRap? May 29th – I’ve seen a few celebrations

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: I had the idea for RepRap in
2004, and it first appeared publicly on Bath University’s
website in the February of that year. The 10th anniversary this
year is the important one though – it’s the anniversary of the
first RepRap making another RepRap: as close as a machine can
come to giving birth and so having a birthday.

As it is a special anniversary we thought we’d trail it
with a few events and social media
leading up to

Michael Petch:
How did the idea for what would become the RepRap project come
to you?

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: I’ve always been fascinated by
the idea of an artificial self-replicating machine. That goes
right back to childhood. In retrospect it seems it was
triggered by my learning of Lionel Penrose’s self-replicator
made from simple wooden cut-outs when I was seven or eight, but
retrospect has poor accuracy – that may well be a false memory.
And later, as an adult engineer, I always had a deep interest
in biology. At base, biology is the study of things that copy
themselves. But my academic research at Bath University was focussed on
the mathematical and computational techniques needed to
represent complicated shapes in computer-aided design

3D printed parts for the first Darwin RepRap. Photo via Adrian Bowyer3D printed parts for the
first Darwin RepRap. Photo via Adrian Bowyer

Then, around the turn of the century, the British Government
gave my university a large equipment grant, and the university
gave some of it to me to spend. I bought two 3D printing
machines – a Stratasys Dimension FDM machine and a 3D Systems
Vanguard SLS machine. For the first time in my life I could
hack something together in the CAD system on the computer in
front of me, and have it in my hands an hour later.

This was a complete liberation. I had known about 3D printing
since its first public appearance, which was as a joke by
the late David Jones writing as Daedalus in the New Scientist
on 3 October 1974. But knowing about something and actually
using it are different, of course.

Humanity had finally, I decided, created a manufacturing
technology sufficiently versatile and competent to stand a
chance of copying itself.

Michael Petch: Can you tell me about the early days of the

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: It started with me and my
student, Ed Sells. He did his final-year project on making
3D-printed electrical circuits by having the Stratasys leave
channels in prints that were subsequently filled with Field’s
metal. This was based on John Sargrove’s brilliant work
(nothing to do with 3D printing) just after World War II. We
thought that 3D-printing circuitry was going to be important
for RepRap.

PCBs made using the RepRap Darwin. Photo via Adrian BowyerPCBs made using the
RepRap Darwin. Photo via Adrian BowyerPCBs made using the RepRap
Darwin. Photo via Adrian Bowyer

A year later Ed started his PhD on the design of the whole
RepRap machine.  The first was called Darwin (The Origin
Of The Species…). During that year I had decided to make
everything about the project open-source. My first reason for
that was that I thought a general-purpose self-replicating
manufacturing machine was a potential industrial disruptor, and
that – in order to prevent its leading to an increase in wealth
inequality – I ought to give it to everyone.

A few minutes after that (uncharacteristically noble)
thought I realised it had to be open-source anyway: if you
protect the IP in a self-replicating machine you are saying to
the World, “I want to spend the rest of my life in court trying
to stop people doing with my machine the one thing it was
intended to do.” I realised I had better things to occupy my

Bath University were fine with my open-sourcing RepRap,
incidentally, though the Chief Of IP looked at me a little
wistfully when I said I was going to. A proper aspect of
academic freedom is that individual academics get complete
control over how their work is published, and giving all the
RepRap files away was simply me publishing my results.

Given that I thought that the project might turn into
something significant, I also considered I
an obligation to tell the World about it,
so I got the University’s Press Office to put out a
press release. This was picked up by
some high-profile outlets like The Guardian, the New
Times, the Hindustan Times, the BBC, and
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. As a consequence of
that, and because people liked the open-source nature of
RepRap, lots of people e-mailed me volunteering to work on the
project.  It was as a result of all their work that RepRap
was such a success.

I used to boast that I was running the World’s biggest
university research project in terms of

The first ever RepRap Darwin 3D printer. Photo via Adrian BowyerThe first ever RepRap
Darwin 3D printer. Photo via Adrian Bowyer

Michael Petch: What were some of the early hurdles &

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: I would love to be able to say
that we fought against obstacles like existing-industry
opposition and public cynicism; people delight in a narrative
of a struggle against giants. But to be honest there weren’t
hurdles, nor was there any

everything we tried worked, of course. But Ed, the dozens of
volunteers, and I were never stuck – there was always an
alternative idea, physical principle, or software solution from

volunteers whenever a
designed part of of RepRap failed to

random selection of the early breakthroughs were

Olliver (the very first RepRap volunteer) had the idea of using
PLA in the FFF process – he was the first to propose this
anywhere.  It turned out to be a near-perfect plastic for
3D printing: you could print it on a cold surface and it
wouldn’t warp and the layers welded to each other really
strongly. The success of RepRap was in every way founded on the
mechanical toughness of PLA-printed

Dr. Adrian Bowyer and Vik Olivers with the process to make the first Darwin 3D printed shot glass. Photo via Adrian BowyerDr. Adrian Bowyer, Ed
Sells and Christine Bowyer (bottom right) with the process to
make the first Darwin 3D printed shot glass. Photo via Adrian

I myself thought of the software idea of driving of a 3D
printer using a multi-dimensional 
a digital differential analyzer (DDA) that considered filament
movement to be just 
another axis of the
machine like X, Y and Z.  I realised immediately that this
extended trivially to 
multiple filaments and
would allow such things as proportional mixing, as well as
allowing the 
dynamics of the machine to be
easily accommodated by accelerating and decelerating its
masses, with the filament extrusion automatically doing the
right thing because of the four-or-more dimensional DDA. This
entailed no extra computational

Palmer had the idea of using a simple resistor to heat the
extrusion head of the machine, and he realised the need for a
short melt zone achieved by both heating and cooling with a
insulator forming part of the nozzle. He
and Erik de Bruijn also had the idea of reversing
filament at the end of sections of print
to produce a much better finish (though commercial systems may
already have done that at the time; they were proprietary so we
didn’t know).

One of the great things about the open-source nature of
RepRap was that there were no secrets at all. As soon as anyone
had a breakthrough idea, no matter how crazy, it went straight
on the blog.

This had two marvellous results. First, it prevented any
of those ideas being patented as
established prior art; and second, the
ideas sparked other ideas in a spectacular firework display of

RepRap toolchanger 2007. Photo via Adrian BowyerRepRap toolchanger
2007. Photo via Adrian Bowyer

Michael Petch: When did you realise that you were onto
something big?

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: I realised we were on to
something big when Josef Prusa made his greatly simplified
version of Ed’s design for RepRap II (which we called Mendel).
Here was a bloke that I had never heard of who was having his
RepRap print more RepRaps for people, and those people were
falling over each other to get hold of them. I realised that
the project was no longer just an interesting academic research
exercise (albeit a global one), and was now out in the World
and completely out of my – or anyone else’s – control.

(On “Mendel”, incidentally: all the RepRaps I get to name
I name after dead biologists. As I
biology is the study of things that

Petch: What has surprised you about how the project has

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: At the start I thought that the
project would either sink without trace or explode globally.
This is back to biology again – self-replicators either go
extinct or grow in numbers exponentially; there are no half
measures. In the absence of data I assigned a prior probability
to each of those outcomes of 0.5.  Despite that sober,
quantitative and dispassionate reasoning, I must allow that
there is another part of me that is still flabbergasted that it
did explode globally. That’s human illogicallity for

Petch: Some early fuss and misunderstanding around 3D printing
came from people, including politicians who believed 3D
printers would be used for all manner of nefarious purposes, I
think you may have said in the past that people tend to build
more ambulances than tanks with the internal combustion engine
to illustrate the point that technology is rarely intrinsically
evil. Is this stage [i.e.misconceptions/fear] of 3D printing
behind the industry now? What are some of the wilder
misunderstandings you’ve heard?

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: There was a lot of fuss about
the 3D-printed gun when it came out (it was a useless gun,
incidentally; perhaps that’s the best kind…). This even made it
into an episode of the TV series The Good

There has
been less fuss (though gratifyingly there has been some) about
Open Bionics’ 3D printed bionic limb replacements for amputees.
A 3-D printed hand that allows its owner to catch a ball in
flight while controlling the hand with their own nerves is
really quite something.  Those two examples are further
echoes of my tanks-and-ambulances argument that you

irrational disparity in fuss over bad versus good is not a
3D-printing nor a RepRap phenomenon, but one of journalism
(sorry) in general.  We have evolved to pay more attention
to bad news than good: if you are hungry and there is a tiger
in the shade of the mango tree, it is more important for your
potential future children that you fear the tiger than that you
desire the mangos. But that evolved priority doesn’t work in a
world that humans almost completely control and dominate -it
makes us unnecessarily fearful and

Petch: What are your thoughts about the state of open source in

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: I’ve already mentioned Josef
Prusa.  Prusa Research ships more 3D Printers than any
other company, I understand. And they are all open-source
RepRaps. Lulzbot are another open-source 3D printer company
based on RepRap technology, and there are more. I also
mentioned Open Bionics and their 3D printed hand prostheses. As
implied by the name of the company, they are open-source

In short, I
think open-source is going from strength to

Petch: What are you working on at the moment?

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: I’m working on a new RepRap
Delta design called Lorenz (well, it would be new if I could
find more time to get on with it quicker).  In fact this
is another wonderful example of open-source: I put the
part-finished Lorenz designs up on Github, and other people got
them working before me and set up a Facebook group for

My daughter
Sally is developing a 3D-printed robot incorporating some of
the technology that’s used in self-driving cars. It’s 200
millimetres across and battery powered, so it can’t run you

She intends it to be a teaching project in schools –
pupils will be able to print it, assemble
then experiment with writing
machine-learning self-driving control algorithms. She’s doing
initial software and mechanical design,
and I’m doing the electronics. We have a placement student
coming shortly to work on that too. It’ll be open-source, of

In the background I’m developing a small 3D-printed
horticultural robot to tend a patch of
for gardeners. It’ll weed, water, get
rid of slugs and encourage the plants the gardener wants.
may even till the soil and plant
seeds. But it’s not nearly finished.

Michael Petch: What is 3D printing currently missing, what
would you like to see

Dr. Adrian Bowyer: I think the machines are
running ahead of the software to drive them.  In
particular, multi-material machines need better CAD to support
them, specially to integrate electronic schematic design and
fully three dimensional circuitry seamlessly and

This is not a new phenomenon for automated manufacturing
machines: there are shapes that 5-axis milling machines could
make that are impossible for the software driving the machines
to plan tool paths for. That is not the case with
single-material 3D printing.  It and its driving software
are only constrained by the physics of the machine itself; it
can be instructed to make anything that it is capable of
making. This is one of the reasons 3D printing is our most
powerful manufacturing technology so far. And we can do
multi-materials with the same versatility, but not easily
enough for the

what I’d really like to see is a £500 open-source RepRap that
can work easily and reliably with electronics, plastics, metals
and ceramics all in one print…

The 10th Anniversary of RepRap

3D Printing Industry will be sharing more interviews with
those involved in the early days of RepRap and also with the
companies who continue to apply the open source ethos to their

Make sure you subscribe to the 3D Printing
Industry newsletter
follow us on social
if you don’t want to miss these

Featured image shows Adrian Bowyer toasts the success of
the first Darwin RepRap 3D printer with a 3D printed shot
glass. Photo via Adrian Bowyer

Ilan Levin resigns as Director and CEO of Stratasys

Today, leading 3D printing provider and
manufacturer Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS)
announced that Ilan Levin, the company’s Director and CEO,
will be stepping down from his position on 1 June 2018.

At the end of his term, Levin will have served as Stratasys CEO
for two years, and Director of the company for over five years,
when he graduated to the position after over a decade as
President and Vice Chairman of Objet Ltd. (which
merged with Stratasys
in 2012).

Inside a Stratasys Objet 500 3D printer. Photo via StratasysInside a Stratasys
Objet 500 3D printer. Photo via Stratasys

In an official statement from the Stratsys Chairman of the
Board Elan Jaglom, who will be assuming the role of interim
CEO, Levin was thanked for his contributions to the company
over the course of the last 15 years. “Ilan has implemented a
number of key decisions as CEO that have kept the Company
strong and ready for future expansion,” comments Jaglom.

“We thank Ilan for his dedicated leadership of our Company
during this phase in Stratasys’ history.”

In addition to Jaglom, an Oversight Committee has been put
in place to help in the management of the company at this
stage. This committee comprises the Company’s Vice Chairman of
the Board, Executive Director and former CEO, David Reis,
Founder and former chairman Scott Crump, and Board Director Dov

Continuing a downward trend

The news of Elan’s departure comes after a disappointing first
quarter for Stratasys at the start of 2018.

3D Printing Industry previously reported
, “net sales at
Stratasys continue to fall in Q1 2018, and rather than a blip
on an otherwise upward trajectory – the reverse appears to be
the case. First quarter data for product sales has declined in
every period since 2014.”

Following Stratasys’ Q1 financial results, we also
spoke directly with Levin
who responded, “We are witnessing
a strong appetite in the market for AM technologies,
specifically for exploratory efforts related to new
technologies brought to market,”

“We observe this dynamic when introducing new products, and
have benefited in the past from the high growth that results
from this kind of “try and buy” behaviour as customers develop
use cases.”

Stratasys net sales. Data via Stratasys. Chart by 3D Printing Industry.Stratasys net sales.
Data via Stratasys. Chart by 3D Printing Industry.

New and upcoming products from Stratasys

The most recent product line released by Stratasys is
the F123
 that has proved a popular addition to the

In April 2018, the company announced the
formation of two subsidiaries
Vulcan Labs,
 and Evolve Additive
, respectively aimed to promote the use of PBF
technology, and introduce a new 3D printer technology to the

The company is also scheduled to release further details of its

forthcoming metal 3D printer
, having teased samples from
the machine at
RAPID + TCT 2018

3D Printing Industry will be keeping our readers informed of
any further updates on a new Stratasys CEO.

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Printing Industry newsletter
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Featured image shows Ilan Levin, soon to be former CEO
and Director of Stratasys. Photo via Stratasys

Interview: Vik Olliver, the first RepRap volunteer – ‘We didn’t just build a 3D printer’

This week marks the
10th anniversary of the RepRap project
. At 3D
Printing Industry we’re interviewing some of the earlier
pioneers and leading figures in the open source and FFF 3D
printer world.

Vik Olliver was the first RepRap
volunteer. He is a widely recognized Open Source expert
and also brought skills in hardware and software development to
the project. It was Vik Olliver who first had the idea of using
PLA as material in the FFF 3D printing process. In this article
Vik Olliver talks about the history of the RepRap project, some
of the key developments and the future of

self-replicating nanomachines.

Dr. Adrian Bowyer and
Vik Olliver. Photo via Vik Olliver.

Michael Petch: How did you come to be involved in the RepRap

Vik Olliver: Long story. In the mid-90’s I set out
to carve a piece of culturally significant New Zealand
I made a 3D model of the intended piece and just kept on doing
3D modelling. Before long I was modelling planets, spacecraft,
the moon and so forth – then a chap from NASA saw my work and
wanted to use it as a backdrop for a private manned lunar
mission proposal: Project Artemis. His foreground model was
tacky, so I modelled it properly and that led to me designing
real satellites, lunar spacecraft, life support systems etc.
and working on a return to the moon.

Realising that you can’t take all the spares for life
support with you I began designing a machine that could make
the parts, and the parts for itself. Whole reading New
Scientist magazine, I saw

an article by Adrian proposing a replicating
and realised “Yeah, one of those would
be really handy on Earth too.” I contacted Adrian and we had a
discussion in which he suggested that squirting plastic was the
way to go.

I had a free week
coming up, so I drew on a lifetime’s supply of Meccano and my
daughter’s supply of glue guns (sorry darling, Daddy will get
you new ones) to create the first prototype in my workshop –
little more than a motorised glue gun on a stick hanging over a
self-lowering turntable. It could however print a short tube
from readily available materials in an unregulated workshop
environment. I presented this to Adrian and became member #3 on
the team.

Vik Olliver's Meccano 3D printer. Photo via Vik Olliver.Vik Olliver’s Meccano 3D
printer. Photo via Vik Olliver.

Michael Petch: Please can you tell me a little about your
role in the project?

Vik Olliver: A tinkerer and hacker, occasional
documenter. I designed stuff, built prototypes from scrap, and
did a lot of adapting the designs to use everyday materials and
parts. Not everything worked, but finding out what does and
doesn’t quickly is a necessary part of the game. I made the
first 3D printed part on a prototype to replace a tooled part
in the prototype. I designed a screw-driven extruder, ways to
mould gears, experimented with bed materials and coatings (blue
tape is one of mine), and filaments – I made the first PLA
filament. I set up a company
Diamond Age Solutions
to sell the filament to

I built the first “Child” printer – one assembled from
the parts printed by a 3D printed printer; being able to
assemble things quickly and bodge the parts on the fly helped.
i.e. Replacing (then) unobtainable drive belt with the ball
chain used to tie down bath plugs. I designed a lasercut
acrylic version of the Darwin. My super power is probably
debugging though 🙂 I have an understanding of things from
mining the copper and silicon to programming the finished
computer, and can trace bugs through hardware and software. I
turned the fact that things always break around me into an
asset… I also travelled a lot and evangelised to the Open
Source community and Maker movement.

Filament was a pain because nobody supplied what we
needed. Adrian bought a big bag of CAPA aka Polymorph aka
Friendly Plastic. This softens around 60C and you can shape it
by hand. We rolled it between sheets of glass with a knitting
needle as a spacer to produce short lengths of filament, and
welded them together with a lighter! With practice, as at a
live demo in Vienna, I could make filament faster than the
printer used it. However, after I’d got PLA filament made by
collaborating with a nice chap called Allan at a local plastics
factory (
Imagin Plastics,
. Still selling it.) our life became a
lot easier…

3D printed gears for the RepRap. Photo via Vik Olliver.3D printed gears for the
RepRap. Photo via Vik Olliver.

Michael Petch: What are your thoughts about how RepRap has
developed over the past decade?

Vik Olliver: RepRap evolved from the first proof
of concept machines to the kits we know today in relatively
short order. They evolved pretty much as we expected them to,
but the proliferation of support from Chinese companies to
independently produce the Open Sourced electronics needed to
build the was an unexpected bonus. These kits and parts
encouraged further experiment as they could be easily adapted
thanks to their open source nature.

This led to the creation of multi-head printers, the fast
delta configuration designs, and various versions of printer
with continuous belts as print platforms. Lots of innovation,
most of it Open Source, and thus those  designs will drive
further evolution. Kudos to
Catalsyt IT Ltd of
who employed me remotely and let me
have one day a week (“Google Time”) to run an Open Source
project. RepRap of course.

Makerbot was started by us to provide a way of printing
parts for 3D printers and bootstrapping the process. The
takeover management (my thoughts about the matter are
unprintable in family publications) closed the design off from
the community and while they made some money they basically
stopped innovating beyond the basic design. Meanwhile,
laboratories wanting to make custom printers for, say, printing
body parts, would use RepRap-based machines for their
developments because the workings were documented, easily
modified, and supported by an enthusiastic community.
RepRap-based designs still hugely outsell Makerbots.

The RepRap design is printing a lot more materials than
we started with, and has been adapted to wield lasers, routers,
pens, knives, inkjet nozzles and pasta extruders. These are
used to produce more Open Source tools, which get folded back
into the process to produce more exotic machines.

At the other extreme,
kids scavenging the e-waste tips we ship off to Togo are
building their own RepRap-based 3D printers from the
, now they know it can be done.

It’s fun to watch evolution in action.

The first selfmade RepRap part fitted. Photo via Vik Olliver.The first selfmade RepRap
part fitted. Photo via Vik Olliver.

Michael Petch: Are you still working with 3D printing, what
are you currently working on?

Vik Olliver: Not directly. I’m trying to persuade
people to do the same thing we did to RepRap on a much smaller
scale – individual atoms. The ultimate aim is self-replicating
nanomachines, but getting there is tricky. This means we’ll
have to do the same thing as the RepRap project did – cheat. We
used existing precision threaded rods and belts, took
impressions to generate gears, and used common motors.
Nanotechnology will have to bootstrap from existing crystal
structures, proteins, and so forth instead. Lots of great work
being done at the Technical University of
(TUM). As with RepRap, trying to convince people
this is not mad is half the battle!

Eventually the chemistry of ever more complicated
materials will be able to interact with the smallest machines
we can make to provide manufacturing capability all the way
from the macro world to an atom. We will have digitised matter,
and at that point you can make just about anything for just
about nothing.

While pursuing this dream, I farm olives, support the
local Fab Lab workshop, and develop keyboards for disabled
people in China.

Vik Olliver and his RepRap 3D printer. Photo via Vik Olliver.Vik Olliver and his
RepRap 3D printer. Photo via Vik Olliver.

Michael Petch: What is your perspective on the state of Open
Source  in 2018 and is there still a need for OS

Vik Olliver: Open Source is in pretty good shape,
it has a huge army of developers and testers, and they’re more
connected than ever before. What’s not in good shape is its
adoption. Bureaucracy was invented to pass the buck, and
proprietary development houses have played on a fear that it
may be difficult to pass the buck onto an anarchistic crowd of
diverse individuals. Those who actually know how things work
will know that Open Source development is not like that, but
the ignorance is there and can be readily manipulated.

Still a need for OS? That’d be a “Hell Yes!” because it
is the best way to collaborate and innovate. It’s 2018,
Microsoft’s notepad app is 35 years old, and it’s only just
supported UNIX and MacOS line endings. Proprietary companies
spend huge amounts of money – our money – shaping our
governments, commerce and society to their own ends, basically
so we give them even more money. Then they stick it all on
their own servers, call it “The Cloud” and charge us rent for
the privilege! They can do this because they create their own
lock-in: You can’t drop Facebook because all your friends are
on Facebook, right? Even if they’re selling your digital

Basically Open Source technology is the only way we’ll
end up as citizens in this technological world, rather than as

Michael Petch: What is 3D printing currently missing, what
would you like to see?

Vik Olliver: Multiple heads printing
simultaneously to increase speed and/or use more materials. It
could be done using asymmetrical delta printers that overlap a
workspace. Incline that workspace to 45 degrees, and stick a
moving belt under it for a base and you can print infinitely
long objects really quickly.

Smarter materials. It’s still tough to print a circuit,
let alone a functioning electronic component. Materials are
needed that engage actively with their surroundings rather than
passively: repeatable movement, changes in state, changes on
volume, self-healing, self-organisation. For your average
RepRapper not much has changed in the feedstock department
since I created the first PLA filament.

More education on all levels. Too often I see schools
with 3D printers gathering dust because the staff don’t know
how to use them. I see students being taught “3D Printing” in
the same way that you can teach “Computing” by showing students
how to use a spreadsheet. Kids need to experiment with the
process and the materials, not just learn how to print a
plastic windmill.

Michael Petch: Do you have any other RepRap thoughts you’d
like to share?

Vik Olliver: When we all got our first Darwins
working, we each printed out “minimug” cups, and toasted each
other 🙂 It was fun listening to people telling us that we
couldn’t possibly make a machine that could print itself, when
we had one in the workshop…

The 3D printed shot glass. Photo via Vik Olliver.The 3D printed shot
glass. Photo via Vik Olliver.

I once had to explain at NZ Customs and Excise HQ that
Maurice Williamson the current minister’s assertion that

3D printers would print gold, gems and drugs

so they should be restricted was complete nonsense, and
pointed out that even if they could this would not be a bad

We always knew that people would use the RepRap for good
and evil, as every technology has been. People want to use any
new technology to produce weapons, sex toys , and drugs
paraphernalia. But Adrian pointed out that given something like
the internal combustion engine, people tend to build more
ambulances than tanks. In recent mass shootings in Palestine by
the IDF, I noticed that the Palestinians are not 3D printing
guns, they’re

3D printing tourniquet kits
. They’re
using RepRap-derived Prusa printers and local recycled
filament. They’re making them in the quantities they need,
breaking a blockade, and making sizes that fit children because
they treat more of them for gunshots than adults. They’re
evolving the design so it can be deployed on the run or under
fire, and it’s Open Source so others in similar situations can
use it.

There’s Dr. Michael Laufer and his cohort of DIY medical
activists at Four
Thieves Vinegar Collective
, 3D printing affordable versions
of the ludicrously expensive (and patented)

, and
various other medical devices
. Again,
providing necessary medical devices as Open Source to those who
are in greatest need but have no money to interest
pharmaceutical companies.

Simple biochemical reactors are being printed. Soon there
will be little DIY “drug factories” popping out of printers.
The authorities (possibly helped by aforementioned pharma) will
decry the devices as being production systems for meth and
heroin, while there is much need for asthma control and heart
medication that currently goes unfulfilled because of cost and
access. It’s tanks and ambulances all over again.

We didn’t just build a 3D printer, we built a community
that’s still going

The RepRap 10th Anniversary series continues

You can read more in the
RepRap 10th Anniversary series here
. Make sure
you don’t miss the forthcoming interviews with other RepRap
pioneers, subscribe to the
3D Printing
Industry newsletter
and follow us on social

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Featured image shows Vik Olliver and his RepRap 3D
printer. Photo via Vik Olliver.

DWK Life Sciences releases “first” commercial 3D printed lab equipment

DWK Life
, a leading manufacturer of premium
lab equipment, has released its first ever metal 3D printed

Used in laboratories to facilitate the secure transfer of
liquids, the new bottle connector cap has been brought to
market in record time, and acts as a proof of concept that
powder bed fusion (PBF) can be applied to parts for sterilized

Conventional to additive manufacturing

DWK Life Sciences was formed in the summer of 2017
in a merger between the DURAN
Wheaton Industries
and Kimble
, all former manufacturing companies of
high-quality laboratory glassware and equipment.

The original range of Duran GL 45 Multiport Connector
Caps are manufactured using conventional processes such as
machining and welding. However, as a result of the production
team’s implementation of additive manufacturing, they were able
to create a newer, fully functional version of the product, in
a fraction of the time.

4-Port GL 45 bottle connector cap manufactured using metal 3D printing.A 4-Port GL 45 bottle
connector cap manufactured using metal 3D printing. Photo via
DURAN Group.

The 3D printed connector cap’s production was reduced in
cost and weight when compared to an original product. A welded
product weighs approximately 150 grams, while a 3D printed
version weighs around 50 grams.

“Development of new labware, especially glass products,
is traditionally a slow process,” explains Alistair Rees, DURAN
product manager, “In contrast, the development time for the 3D
printed connector cap was very short: from the first idea to
the final printed product only took about two months.”

A batch of the caps was 3D printed in medical grade 316L
Stainless Steel using an EOS system, and took around 51 hours
for completion. After printing, physical and electrochemical
processes are used on the surface in the final stage of
production. The finished product is intended to be used in
chemistry, life science and biopharma laboratories.

A traditionally
manufactured Duran™ GL 45 Multiport Connector Cap. Photo via

3D labware innovation

3D printing has previously been used to create a more
timely and cost effective scientific process in laboratories

FieldLab, a 3D printed portable diagnostics
created by the South African biotech
, used to identify disease outbreaks in
remote circumstances.

Furthermore, a recent study from the University of Glasgow
has proposed the concept of
replacing costly labware with a selection of modular, 3D
printed plastic vessels
accessible through a
set of downloadable digital files. This allows users to print
and produce their own chemical modules.

The new DURAN Stainless Steel 4-Port Connector Cap GL 45
will be on display at the DWK Life Sciences Stand B7 Hall 4.1,
from July 11-15 at the World Forum and Leading Show for the
Process Industries, 
Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

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Featured image shows Stainless Steel Multi-Port
Connector Cap GL 45. Photo via DWK Life Sciences.

Sandia Labs apply design for additive manufacturing to build precision telescope

Using sub-par materials and inaccurate dimensions does not
sound like the appropriate start to a precision engineering
project. However, a team at Sandia National
 has done just that, and made a functional
telescope capable of “seeing” as accurately as one five times
the cost. How did they do it? By leveraging the advantages of
design for additive manufacturing (DfAM).

Movement of the lenses in Sandia's 3D printed telescope. Clip via Sandia National Labs on YouTubeMovement of the lenses in Sandia’s 3D
printed telescope. Clip via
Sandia National Labs on YouTube

Tooling over tolerances

The purpose of Sandia’s 3D printed telescope project was
to take some of the weaknesses of metal additive manufacturing,
and make sophisticated design allowances to turn them into

Ted Winrow, the Sandia mechanical engineer who led the project,
explains, “…the project was looking at how [additive
manufactuirng] could make it faster and cheaper and just as

“If you make yourself insensitive to the things that
additive’s not very good at, you take advantage of all its
good things.”

The questions the team asked were, “Can we design a system that
doesn’t care if your material is not as good as you expected it
to be? Can you design a system that doesn’t care that your
parts aren’t as dimensionally accurate?”

This was achieved by focusing on the assembly of the telescope
using precise tooling, rather than manufacturing parts with
precise tolerances.

Modular design of the Sandia telescope - exploded view. Image via Sandia National LaboratoriesModular design of the
Sandia telescope – exploded view. Image via Sandia National

Design allowances

One of the challenges the team overcame in this project, is the
precise positioning of lenses – all four of them.

Traditionally, the lenses would sit on a ledge, made to fit
exactly in the right position. Instead, the Sandia team used
tolling, designed to hold the lenses in place while epoxy resin
was added, setting each one in place.

Winrow explains, “We can make parts that are less precise as
far as dimensions are concerned because of the epoxy in the
process. It’s the tooling that’s precise.”

In addition to the telescope’s design, Sandia researchers
created an algorithm that can
compensate for downgraded lens quality
, cancelling out
errors and distortions.

With these allowances, the team can use optics three times
cheaper than those in and average, high-performance lens.

Range of images "seen" by the telescope and algorithmic enhancements. Image Sandia National Laboratories Range of images “seen”
by the telescope and algorithmic enhancements. Image Sandia
National Laboratories

Additive at Sandia 

At Sandia, additive manufacturing has proven especially
pertinent for power generation and environmental research

It’s 13
meter long wind turbine blade mold
recenlty won an award
from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for the application
of 3D printing. As part of a project for the Solar Energy Research Institute for
India and the United States
(SERIIUS) Sandia researchers
also applied 3D printing to
the production of solar power receivers

Now complete, the 3D printed telescope project is contributing
important information to future design projects at the labs.

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Featured image shows Sandia project lead Ted
Winrow and the telescope made using 3D printing. Photo
by Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories