3D Printing Example: CEI Awards – Using color, multiple methods, and clever CAD

One of the fun things I get to do is design and print cool things to share what you can do with 3D Printing.  This has extended to making awards for organizations that PADT supports like the Arizona Technology Council, The Arizona SciTech Festival, and AZBio.  Recently our favorite incubator asked us to design a custom award for their first Impact and Innovation Celebration. The request was to incorporate the CEI logo:

Taking a 2D image and making it 3D can be a lot of fun, and in this case it showcased some cool things you can do with 3D CAD and then 3D Printing.  There were some special steps needed to get this one done so I thought I’d share them.

The basic concept was to take the initials, CEI, and create a block that can serve as base. Then extrude the orange line-circle geometry as the key visual object.  But the thing that sets the logo apart from most, is the use of the succulent plant, an agave I think, in the logo.  So we definitely need a 3D agave on there.  The last element needed was the actual award part, where the name and award being given could be listed.

To get started I needed to get the logo into the CAD system I use, SolidEdge. Usually I convert a PDF into DXF in Adobe Illustrator. I then imported this into sketch planes. But in this case I only had a bitmap (PNG)  Fortunately you can paste that into a sketch plan as well, then just draw on top of it.  So I made three planes: Front facing and one rotated 45 deg and another -45 about the Z axis.  I then pasted the logo on to each of these centering the bottom center of the E on the global axis. This allows me to extrude and cut on each plan while keeping everything aligned

The base was made by extruding the initials from the +45/-56 planes and doing a Boolean intersect, This gives the letters from two views while creating a “3D-ness” That stands out.  The circle-line was then extruded on the front plane to cover the block created by the intersection.  It needed a “foundation” as well as a way to hold the letters together, so I just made a simple base.

That left the agave.  I thought about modeling it but nah… too much work.  So I went online and found a bunch of plants that people have made for video games and rendering.  Cool except the format was not STL, what we need for 3D Printing. So I downloaded some crazy rendering format.  Then I used a free online tool (thank you google, sorry I didn’t write down the one I used) that converts between 3D graphics files.  That took it to STL where I could read it into Meshlab, the open source tool for playing with this type of data. As usually with models made for graphics ,there was a lot of extra data and coordinate systems didn’t really translate right.  No problem, Meshlab makes it easy to select and delete objects.  I also scaled it from gigantic to the size I needed for the award.  Next step was to save that as STL and import that into SolidEdge so I could view it and position it properly on the award.

Last was the award part itself.  I played with a couple of ideas and just came up with a simple plaque that we could 3D print words on. i made it white and the “holder” blue to stand out. Then printed the award name and winner in bright colors using the text extrusion feature in SolidEdge.  When I need to get fancy, I’ll do the words and often a logo in Illustrator, export as DXF, then import as a sketch for extrusion. But in this case a nice simple Bold Arial font worked great.

So it was done, and I have to say looked pretty good.  So I asked our experts on 3D Printing if they had any suggestions.  Their one comment was “this is really cool, but its going to be expensive to print as one part.” Duh, I should have paid more attention in my own seminar on design for 3D Printing.  I had tall thin objects and bulky objects and they were all combined.  Lots of unneeded supports and flat surfaces at non-vertical or horizontal angles in the printer.  Bad stuff.

The solution was to design the parts so they could be printed separately and easily assembled.  The resulted in an STL for the base, for the circle-line, the frame, the agave, and the award plaque with simple features that would allow us to quickly glue it all together.  We also decided to print the base on FDM because it needed to be white and used the bulk of the material, and therefore cost. The rest was printed on a Stratasys Polyjet printer in color.

One more change worth noting was how to connect the crazy shapes of the agave needed some simple interface to the circle-line part.  So I created a simple cylinder that intersected the base of the agave.  In the printer we were able to combine the STL of the cylinder and the agave with two different colors.  A cylindrical cut in the orange part made assembly easy.

The results came out pretty nice, and the winners seemed to really like them.

The great thing about 3D Printing is the restraints it removes on making things.  You still have to plan it out to align with what the printers do well, but that doesn’t take a lot of effort and the results are great

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Full Color 3D Printer Road Show: Salt Lake City Event Focuses on Real World Applications

slc-i4The second stop on our trip around the Southwest for Stratasys’ new J750 Full Color 3D Printer was in fantastic downtown Salt Lake City. This device is reinventing 3D printing, and we are showing it off in person so people can see it up close along with holding incredible parts it makes in their hands.

Next stop if Phoenix – sign up here!

The 3D Printing community in Utah is very mature and the attendees were mostly very experienced users of many different additive manufacturing technologies.  So we focused on real world applications for the J750 as well as other Stratasys systems.

slc-i1
slc-i2We were fortunate enought to have a customer, Ultradent, present the fantastic ways that they use their FDM and Polyjet printers to make prototypes, tooling, and production parts. slc-i3

As is usual in this type of an event, the discussion between and after presentations are the best part.  People from Aerospace, sporting goods, medical devices, and consumer products swapped stories, suggestions, and tips.

It was also a family affair. with Jame Barker’s latest family addition was in attendence to help spread the word on the value of 3D Printing with Stratasys solutions:slc-baby-1Beyond the little guy, the other hit of the afternoon was the J750.  As seasoned additive manufacturing profesionals they see the incredible leap forward this machine represents – truly reinventing 3D Printing and opening up a huge range of oportunities.

Full Color 3D Printer Road Show: First Stop a Success Including Radio Broadcast

ICOSA_07169Denver was the first stop on a trip around the Southwest for Stratasys’ new J750 Full Color 3D Printer.  We are showing this machine that is reinventing 3D printing off in person so people can see the device up close and hold the incredible parts it makes in their hands.

You can still sign up for the Salt Lake City or Phoenix events.

ICOSA_70965The Denver event was hosted by St. Patrick’s Brewery in Littleton, right down the street from PADT’s Colorado Office. Several customers and PADT employees gave talks on how to better use 3D Printing, including a presentation from Mario Vargas on the new Stratasys J750.

On top of all of that, local radio station KDMT, Denver’s Money Talk 1690, did a live broadcast from the event.  You can listen in here. Again, PADT employees and customers talked about 3D Printing as well as the new Stratasys J750.

ICOSA_30368We also made the local paper, check that out here.

Spinning Gears: 3D Printing Awards for 2016 AZ SciTech Festival Sponsors

SciTech-Festival-Award-2016-2For several years now PADT has 3D Printed special thank you awards for the fantastic companies that sponsor the Arizona SciTech Festival.  This year we decided to stick with the color of the Stratasys Connex3 but add some moving parts. This gear design spins around and was made as one part, we just wash the support material out of the gaps between parts.

This is a great example of going directly from a CAD model to a custom part.  Each award has the recipient’s name printed on the smaller gear.  Everything was designed in an hour or so and it took about another hour to add in the 30 or so names.  We think these may be the best awards we have made so far.

SciTech-Festival-Award-2016-1

SciTech-Festival-Award-2016-3

Here is a video showing off how they spin:

Awards are kind of simple and fun. But the same technology is applied by PADT to help our customers design and build better medical devices, rockets, aircraft engines, computers, and pretty much any physical product you can think of.  Give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT or email info@padtinc.com to see how “We Make Innovation Work”

3D Color Printing the 2014 Arizona SciTech Festival Awards

photo 2The best way to promote and celebrate science and technology is with science and technology.  And this year PADT was able to do just that by using 3D Color Printing to make the recognition awards for the 2014 sponsors of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

The Arizona SciTech Festival is a new but growing player in the Arizona STEM landscape.  After three short years it has become the preferred way for science and technology companies and educators to engage with the public.  This year’s festival, held in February and March, was a huge success.  And none of it would be possible without the support of sponsors. PADT was honored to once again the awards that are given to these sponsors in recognition of their contributions. 

In the past we mixed traditional manufacturing and 3D Printing to make the awards. But this year we were able to use our new Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 to make the bulk of this years awards, and our Stratasys FORTUS 400 to make the stands.  The resulting awards are better than we had hoped for. 

The Process

The way the color printer works is you have to create a separate STL file for each color you want to print. So I needed to take a 2D vector art file and convert it into a collection of 3D STL files that represent the part I want printed.

I started by taking an Adobe Illustrator file of the AZ SciTech Festival logo, cleaning it up, and exporting it as a *.DWG file.
azstf-award-illustrator
I then imported it into my CAD tool. I happen to use SolidEdge, but the process should work with any modern CAD tool. I had to clean up the lines a lot.  In a graphic art image you can have small gaps, little line segments, and even polygons that self intersect. But in CAD you have to clean that all up. Plus some features were just too small to see in the 3D Printed object, so I simplified those. This was the most difficult part of the process.
azstf-award-solidedge-sketch

Once everything is clean you simply go through and extrude each polygon that you want printed, using the cleaned up sketch as your geometry.  Here is the first solid, and the simplest, the tail:
azstf-award-solidedge-extrude1

Once all the polygons are extruded, I assigned colors so I could visualize what the final part would look like. I also put a round on all the top edges, knowing from experience that even putting a small round on a part like this will increase the final parts attractiveness.
azstf-award-solidedge-extruded

The base needed to be a separate solid, because I needed it to be a different color. So I just made a new part for that and made an assembly. This keeps all of the solids separate. The letters were made just like the lizard logo, I went in to Adobe Illustrator and created the text outline, following the circle that defines the award. I exported that as DWG, imported it into SolidEdge, then extruded each letter.  
azstf-award-solidedge-medalian

The next step was to export the assembly as an STL file.  This file contained all the solids.  This was read in to the software that comes with the Objet500 Connex3. The operator then had to click on each object and assign a color from the chosen pallet.  It turns out that the official ScitTech Festival colors match one of the pallets closely, so we were able to get all the colors in the print. 

Once this was done, we simply printed 28 at a 3″ diameter, and 9 at 2″. Here is a video showing the printing process.

The resolution and brightness of the colors was very nice. Here are some images. Color parts just look better.
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For the base, I just came up with something that was thin and easy to build in using FDM because I wanted a strong part that was inexpensive that would also take a decal with the recipients name on the front, and information about the award on the back.  
azstf-award-solidedge-base

Here is a stack of the printed bases.
photo 1

And the final awards, ready to go to all those sponsors.
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Why Does it Matter

This effort is great example of the power of 3D Printing to a create a smaller number of custom objects. Standard awards form an awards shop are cheaper, but they are generic.  Using traditional methods to make custom awards is expensive and often labor intensive.  By making the whole award using a 3D Printer we were able to reduce the cost and the time for these unique objects, and were able to use advanced technology to highlight the sponsorship of an event that celebrates just that.  Kind of cool.

It is also a great example of the long term power of 3D Printing.  As was covered in a recent blog post, the real power of this technology is that it lets people without manufacturing or craftsman skills to create real objects, without a collection of equipment they don’t need or don’t know how to use. The applications of this power are endless. 

If you want to learn more about how you can do your own 3D Printing or how PADT can provide it to you as a service, contact us today.

Color 3D Printer Added to PADT’s Rapid Prototyping Product and Services Offering

PADT’s new Objet500 Connex3 is up and running, just in time for our 20th Anniversary party tonight.  The latest machine from Stratasys is the first true 3D Color Printer that allows users to print accurate and durable parts in whatever combination of color they want, including tinted transparent material. The machine is comfortably nestled between our FORTUS 400 and FORTUS 250MC.  

connex3-new-machine-padt
We are especially pleased to have several executives and support people from Stratasys, the manufacturer of this machine, here for our party tonight.  They will be around to answer questions and will be offering a brief presentation on their technology as well.

Yesterday we successfully ran the standard “wrench” demo models:
connex3-wrench-test-modelsAnd overnight we ran some more sample parts along with a printout of a 3D FEA result on a valve model:connex3-sample-fea-results
The parts are still inside the support material, so you can’t see all the colors. Have no fear, we will be blogging about the FEA model very shortly.

PADT has been offering this machine for sale since its introduction in February and we have already sold one and have several other users about to purchase.  The advantages of having a color part without having to paint on are significant.  With our own machine we can now build benchmark parts for potential buyers and we can also offer color printing as part of our Rapid Prototyping services

We will be showing off this machine, along with everything else PADT does, at our party tonight.  But if you can’t make it and would like to learn more, just reach out to our sales team at sales@padtinc.com, our prototyping services team at rp@padtinc.com or just give us a call at 480.813.4884.

UPDATE:

Here is the cleaned valve displacement 3D Plot:
color-valve-deflection-1

 

3D Color Printing: Stratasys Publishes Nice White Paper on Maximizing Multi-Material and Color 3D Printing

connex3-machine
Stratasys just released a nice white paper on the uses of their new color technology in the Objet500 Connex3 system.  This machine is more than just a way to print parts in a variety of colors, it allows you to load three different materials, including colors. 
3D-Color-Printing-Colors-1The paper goes in to some detail on how the technology works, what the advantages are, and offers some use cases where beta testers in industry were able to apply the technology on their projects.  If you are interested in 3D Printing in general, and printing color parts in particular, you should download the white paper.

 3D-Color-Printing-Pressure-Contour-1As always, if you can contact PADT at 480.813.4884 or sales@padtinc.com. Or visit our website.

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Usable Color 3D Printed Parts Now Available with Stratasys Objet500 Connex3

We have been waiting for this day for a long time.  There have been 3D Printers out there that do multiple colors, but let’s be frank, the parts were not very strong.  Nice to look at, but not much else.

This weekend Stratasys announced the Objet500 Connex3 machine.  Based on the proven Object500 Connex this multi-material platform allows the user to use three materials, giving you a choice of 46 colors for each build.  That includes transparent material with color tinting!  You can also still mix rubber and ABS like materials.

Objet 500 machine with man and multi material 3D printed shoes

We will have more to report on this in the coming weeks, but we just wanted to get the word out: Usable Color Prototyping is here and it is bright.

If you have an immediate need, or just want to learn more, contact PADT at 480.813.4884 or shoot an email to sales@padtinc.com.

Blue glasses with tinted lenses and black rubber parts Untitled-1

PADT’s team was able to see parts made on the new device at a recent Stratasys gathering. Then they had to keep their mouths shut for two weeks.  That was hard. These parts are high-quality prototypes like you would expect from the Objet technology. But now in color.  Bright brilliant color on strong parts.  This is what many of us have been waiting for.

Here are some links to get your appetite whetted:

(Yes to our ANSYS readers. We are working on a way to get this to print results)