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The Future of 3D Printing in Product Design and Education

By March 16, 2017General

We reached out to Luis Rodriguez, the Community Strategist for Ultimaker,
to ask about their vision of the future of 3D printing in product design and education.

3D printing removes some of the barriers of product design, development, and manufacturing, making additive manufacturing and low-batch, low-volume production a possibility that is the future for many products.

“The use of additive manufacturing in the product design and creation phase removes the turnaround time associated with traditional manufacturing. With tools like 3D printing, you can now have multiple iterations of a design in hand in hours. This is an incredibly powerful tool when trying to move a product to the next stage. With engineering-grade materials, you can get functional, quality prototypes 3D printed instead of one version for each process of manufacturing. This combined with low-cost printers, like the Ultimaker, means you can get affordable, high-quality output today. We are starting to see 3D printers have their data-center moment and are installed in factory environments and service bureaus printing everything from jigs and fixtures, like Volkswagen does, to doing low-batch, low-volume production.”

Because of the possibilities that 3D printing skills open up in terms of design and manufacturing, it’s applications are endless. Often, this means that high-cost items like prosthetics find a low-cost, high-quality alternative, essentially democratizing the cost of consumer items for knowledgeable 3D printer users. 3D printing is, therefore, becoming an increasingly important skill.

“3D printing is an empowering tool and we always enjoy seeing someone’s creativity freed from restriction, whether it is an artist exploring space and new mediums, a teacher trying to convey a lesson, a museum trying to share ancient artifacts, or NASA putting their designs in our hands. Some of the most directly rewarding objects have to be prosthetics. Organizations like the Open Bionics group and Enable Community Foundation to work hard to provide low-cost prosthetics to recipients that feel stigmatized in their communities. To see them turn into superheroes with something as simple as a printed device is
truly life-changing.

The 3D printing ecosystem gives the user a level playing field for the future. The knowledge of how to use digital fabrication, like additive manufacturing, ensures workplace relevance for years to come. The operational knowledge of a printer and materials, and the associated materials science, and the software used to prepare files for a printer are invaluable and transferable skills for a future workforce. If one also pursues learning the 3D CAD and Modelling software that are used to create the designs, then a whole world of possibilities opens up for the learner.”

It is becoming easier to access and learn 3D printing every day.
As Luis states, “With the proliferation of the hardware and software in schools and libraries, equal access to professional 3D printing as a career is made more real every day”. Companies like Ultimaker also make 3D printing more accessible through their products, free education platforms, and fully open-source philosophy.

“With the introduction of the Ultimaker 3, we made professional 3D printing accessible. The advanced capability to print complex geometries using industrial-grade materials right from the desktop affords users the freedom of design never before accessible in the professional environment. Fully integrated hardware, software and materials configuration, as well as full settings alignment, ensures both efficient workflow and precision print results. With Ultimaker 3, professional and reliable 3D printing is now available for multiple users across the organization and across many disciplines.

Our users gain complete design freedom by using reliable dual extrusion with materials like water-soluble support. This means you don’t have to worry if a design is able to be printed and you don’t have work with messy chemicals to dissolve support material. With swappable print cores, you get high uptime and fast changeovers. Using our hardware, software, and materials means you have a cohesive 3D printing ecosystem that guarantees a level of experience that is unprecedented.
Connectivity is key with the Ultimaker 3. From using widely available USB thumb drives to print jobs to sending jobs via Wifi from Cura, our free software that prepares your model for 3D printing. Cura now can read what material is loaded on the printer and adjust its settings to help you get a great start on your project.

One thing to remember is that Ultimaker is open-source through and through. While we guarantee a certain level of experience with our ecosystem, users are free to use their own filament and modify the hardware and software to their needs.
That is the beauty of open-source. You are in charge and have a plethora of solutions to your problems.
The whole world can help to improve and create more features for all users.”

This open-source philosophy extends to the incredible, free education platforms that Ultimaker provides.

Education has been engrained in the Ultimaker culture since it’s creation. Ultimaker was born in an environment that shared hardware, software, and programming knowledge, offering a wide range of benefits to educators. Not only do we sell a reliable, easy-to-use, award-winning line of 3D printers, we offer North American educators, who are passionate about bringing 3D printing and design into K-16 and informal education settings, the opportunity to connect and collaborate with each other through the Pioneer Program. This program is made up of educators with years of 3D printing experience or they may just be starting out. What the Pioneers have in common is a desire to improve their teaching and to share ideas with others.

Whether you’re just getting started in 3D printing or just looking for new ideas for an existing 3D printing curriculum, the Ultimaker Education website, a repository of various types of content contributed by teachers, is an invaluable resource. The site is printer-agnostic and no login is required. By visiting our platform you can gain insights from educational blog posts written by teachers for teachers, resource sections, which include: files to print, lesson ideas and starters, grant opportunities (How do you find money to start a 3D printing program in your school or classroom?), and a reading list, to just mention a few.

Last, but not least, is our community, Ultimaker has worked hand-in-hand with our users to improve our hardware and software. This has lead to a group of individuals that not only help us but help each other learn to use the software, hardware, and materials that we sell and that are available in the marketplace. The community is our most ardent champions and defenders. They also demand the best and expect us to quickly address issues that may arise.
Ultimaker is proud to do this over and over again.

Ultimaker’s involvement in Make48 is largely due to shared goals and shared missions. Luis and his team have been personally involved in mentoring during past Make48 events!

“Make48 and Ultimaker both share the vision of making professional manufacturing technologies accessible. We both believe that with knowledge of the tools, you can make an informed decision about how best to bring your product to market in the fastest way possible at the lowest cost possible, without sacrificing quality. We both want inventors to have the freedom to explore ideas without worrying about being taken advantage of or having to wait for long turnaround times. We both believe awareness and education is the key to success and that the community is key to achieving your goals.

Make48 has been so rewarding because we are able to work directly with the inventors and help them realize their dreams.To see an invention go from a dry-erase board concept to a product you can pop off the build platform and hold is inspiring.

The joy in their faces means we are doing something right with our platform. I love that Make48 removes barriers to creativity by providing the tools people need and the experts to use them. Make48 wants the inventor to concentrate on the idea and the execution rather than the nuts and bolts. While the event is competitive, the atmosphere is educational and friendly with competitors helping each other. I love to see people leave inspired, even when they don’t win.”

(Just like us,) Luis is excited for what Make48 TV will bring to the it’s viewers.

“The Make48 TV Series will be a wonderful educational experience for anyone who has ever wanted to act on an idea, fabricate it, and then navigate the waters of bringing a product to market. It will help paint a realistic picture for inventors of how the process works, what to watch out for, and what to expect in the real world. People will see first-hand how 3D printing can accelerate the prototyping phase as well as the functional product phase. Learning to use 3D printing to your advantage will greatly enhance turnaround times compared to traditional manufacturing. Any savings in time and money will only help the inventor reach the market faster without costly overhead.”

Make48 is thrilled to have a sponsor with such similar goals and visions, and we can’t wait to see what other advances in technology, medicine, and product design are made through Ultimaker’s 3D printers. We are actually lucky enough that Ultimaker is not only a strong presence in our competitions, but is also providing the Make48 team with Ultimaker printers for our new in-house prototype lab! Be on the lookout for some fun 3D printing how-tos and up-to-date information on our social.

To learn more about Ultimaker, visit their page!