Friday, September 26, 2014

solo exhibition

Last week was filled with a flurry of activity as I was preparing work for a solo exhibition at the Tarble Arts Center at Eastern Illinois University. I honestly didn't have anytime to shoot any shots of any of the work before the work went out. It's sad, but all I have is one picture of an engraved Corian panel that is in progress. I've just had too many "irons in the fire" lately. I've been trying to keep up with teaching, teaching studio improvements, the family, organization for the Hopkins conference and Maker Faire, e-NABLE design work, making hands for a few new recipients, organizing old work, and making new work. Today, I sat down for the first time to catch my breath, but realized that some documents still needed to be sent out for printing, so I just took care of that. I'll complete several other things today so I can be prepared to fly out first thing tomorrow morning. It will be good to have a few of these events behind me in the coming weeks.


Noah started playing cello a few weeks ago. He was super pumped for us to go pick out an instrument. He's getting so big; it scares me to think how fast his life is moving along. I guess it's because you realize how fast your own life is progressing. It's like your children become "markers of time" in your own life.

Noah thought the picture above was cool. We just happened to be seated at a Milwaukee restaurant the other day and realized that someone had reserved the spot for us long before we arrived...

chad's printer stand

Chad sent this picture of his cool little 3D printing stand that he has in his garage. He painted the stand to match the printer he built in my class. I helped him with some 3D printing firmware stuff this week. We flashed an updated version of Marlin to his Mega and got his small filament extruder working. He should be able to start banging out high res prints now.

e-NABLE stickers

I've been making some e-NABLE stickers lately. John, Fred, and Kaivahn helped me do a lot of weeding of the stickers and transfer tape prep. We needed a lot as Kaivahn and I will be heeded to Johns Hopkins and Alex and Sam will be manning the Milwaukee Maker Faire e-NABLE booth. We'll give these away to interested people.


Larry Granec (from Haldeman - Homme, Inc.) brought Jim Westberg from Solidscape to the DCRL yesterday to show us the capabilities of their wax 3D printers. I had invited a few of my colleagues as well as my graduate students, but Pete and Chad were the only people to attend (expect for a few students that happened to be working in the lab). Jim presented a talk on the history of the Solidscape company, their market, the intended and unexpected uses of their machines as well as a detailed overview of how their machines work. I have always been interested in their machines but I have to admit that the small build platform as always been something that made me "walk away". Jim explained how there is a surfacing process by which the wax is "milled" after each layer of deposition that allows the printer to have great accuracy. Jim pulled out samples for us to look at after his presentation. Jim had commented that the Solidscape printers were capable of 6-75 micron layer height. The samples he pulled out were "medium" level in terms of  layer height. These parts were incredible! The hollow "intense pave" ring was unbelievable! You can guess that after meeting Jim and Larry and seeing their wares, that I'm craving to get ones of these machines.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

connecting us to our heritage

ultimaker's e-NABLE donation

Back in August, 3D printer designers and builders Ultimaker announced that they would be donating $10,000 worth of printers to e-NABLE. The announcement sparked a lot of buzz within the community as well as outside the community as it signaled Ultimaker and Erik de Bruijn's (Ultimaker Co-Founder) commitment to collaboration and sharing within the world of 3D printing as it applies to the mission of e-NABLE in the development and production of low cost assistive devices to those in need. I have had conversations with people at many different 3D printing manufactures about the need for 3D printer manufacture's support for this type of research, but I was blown away by Ultimaker's generosity to the community. At the time of the announcement, we learned that a few machines would go to e-NABLE community founder, Jon Shull and his MAGIC lab at RIT and that Dr. Albert Chi at Johns Hopkins would also receive a machine. Some time passed and honestly the I had forgotten about the announcement. 

Last week a message went out to the group that designed the new Raptor hand about where the remaining Ultimaker printers would be going. It was decided earlier that the printers should go where they would be able to benefit the most people. Both Ivan Owen and Peter Binkley selflessly suggested that the last of the donated Ultimakers go to me, as the work that the DCRL at UWM has been doing would be able to affect the greater cause. Did I mention that the people of e-NABLE are amazing and selfless! Ultimaker had just made the announcement this past week that they would be going global so again the Ultimaker was on my mind this week. Well, Friday afternoon I received a box "with a robot" on it and when I opened it, I was pleased to find a brand new Ultimaker 2 3D printer. I was almost brought to the floor with the thought of actually receiving this generous donation. I would like to personally thank Ultimaker and Erik de Bruijn, as well as my colleagues at e-NABLE for making this happen. I cannot put into words, what this means to me. 

My student and lab assistant, John McGeen, and I set about getting the printer unpackaged and set-up. We printed a test "robot" and then unfortunately it was time for the day to end. As I began to think about what Ultimaker just had done, I realized that I had a commitment to make sure that the machine is put to good use straight away. I went back to the lab and I have been printing hands for the Johns Hopkins Conference all weekend. It's taken some time to reacclimatize myself to "RepRap based" printers and the "Slic3r like" Cura software, but I'm getting back into the swing of things. I set up a full bed of hand parts and the Ultimaker has been churning out parts ever since. Another plus to receiving the Ultimaker is one of the DCRL partners in the Middle East also has a Ultimaker that has been rigged for travel (via backpack) into remote locations, so now testing of designs can be done in my lab on a similar machine and settings can be shared within our group. Ultimaker will now be responsible for some of the hands at the Johns Hopkins Conference as well as the future development of designs that will benefit others in areas never before imagined. The new palm design that I posted about earlier will become available on Ultimaker's YouMagine site in the weeks following the Johns Hopkins Event. 

For more on the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's Digital Craft Research Lab... 
The DCRL is devoted to a simple goal, to move the art and technology of Craft forward by looking to the past. Our students are artists, with the hands of a craftsman, the mind of an engineer and the imagination of a dreamer. Our students blend traditional hand crafted artistry with cutting edge technology using methods from: industry, the tech lab, metalsmiths, machinists, computer programmers, and “blue sky” inventors. We fuse the history of Object Making with the future of Craft; leading Craft and Design to places no one thought possible. 

Our students get to do one of the most wonderful things imaginable, and that is, create new and innovative objects. Taking everyday materials, metal, silicon, binary code; we mold, shape, and transform them into living Objects, with vitality, emotion and soul. We believe in the power of these living Objects to help tell a story. Bold, distinctive and enduring stories that make a difference in the lives of the people who use them. 

The DCRL and its members have been responsible for the creation of twelve 3D printed mechanical hands that have been fitted to five children as well as the development of numerous experimental hands or hand features. The DCRL continues to work with Shea, Karuna, Hayley, Bella, Cai, and are currently developing relationships with several local and worldwide partners in the development of new designs that address specific user needs. For more information on their recent work, please see: 

For more on Ultimaker and their donation to e-NABLE (goto link or read content below): 
Editor's Note: Ranee, Shea is shown on this link. 

The e-NABLE community is a global group of volunteers who have joined forces and have tasked themselves to make free prosthetic hands available for kids. It is a group of tinkerers, engineers, 3D print enthusiasts, occupational therapists, university professors, designers, parents, families, artists, students, teachers and people who just want to make a difference… Regular people who are creating hands for people in need and sharing their designs with the World for free. They innovate, re-design and provide prosthetic hands and fingers for children all over the world, with the use of 3D printing. 

Ultimaker empowers this community by providing Ultimaker 3D printers so they can prototype their developments and give the entire community a head start. Ultimaker’s open source platform YouMagine is helping with the development of ‘hand-o-matic’, software to have prosthetics made without CAD-modeling skills. By just entering a few required values like the size of your wrist it automatically generates a customized fitting prosthetic hand. ”Hand-o-Matic’ will be made available through YouMagine. 

“This is a prime example of what open source and 3D printing can offer to society. Both the enabling of free prosthetic hands through 3D printing and the rapid development that is possible by being open source. There is no other way that this can be achieved.” says Ultimaker’s CEO Siert Wijnia. “It is an excellent fit with our open source philosophy.’’ 

When Ultimaker’s Community Manager Sander van Geelen and e-NABLEs founder Jon Schull, research scientist at RIT’s Center for MAGIC, met in Barcelona they soon realized they had similar ideals and there was a mutual interest to partner up and boost the goals of e-NABLE. The next meet up will be in Johns Hopkins hospital where e-NABLE will further introduces the value of 3D printed prosthetics along with Ultimaker. To underline their partnership Ultimaker donated $10.000 worth of Ultimaker 2’s to e-NABLE. 

3D printing can be life changing. Imagine what having a cool 3D printed prosthetic can do for an introvert or shy, disabled child. Not only will it enable him to use both hands, but it will also transform the kid into a hero with a cool 3D printed prosthetic. 

YouMagine is sharing the files for the hand prosthetics and is hoping to extend the range of derivatives. Ultimaker is contributing to a wider support base for e-NABLE in Europe. 

new palm design

In between preparing work for my exhibition and designing for the Raptor hand release, I have been working on a thumbless and non-thumbless palm to accommodate hands that have partial digits. This particular palm is being designed for both a local boy as well as a young boy from the Middle East who are both in need if a hand. This palm features printable hardware and is very robust. I printed the palm you see above with NO supports and not even modeled supports (as I have been doing with the gauntlet) in ABS plastic. It does have some stringiness and is thin in the arch area, but it's really amazing that it printed with no support (even in the cutout for the thumb). Future versions will have modeled printing supports. In my most recent hand designs, I am trying to accommodate for a wider range of printers as well as printing conditions. I am also interested in designing hands that can hold up to harsh conditions in other parts of the world. I will also work on creating a cover for the cable channels that allow this area to be covered. I'll be sharing this design work with one of our DCRL partners in hopes that this might suit our friends in need that live both close and far away.

flared gauntlet and the meaning of life

Last weekend I received a semi-urgent message from Peter Binkley asking me if I could create a new gauntlet that was tapered for users with a wider forearm. As I mentioned earlier, I have been working with a group of talented people to develop a new hand for the Johns Hopkins Conference. My contribution was to the design of the gauntlet for the new e-NABLE 2.0 hand called the "Raptor". Jeremy Simon had released the new Raptor arm files to the e-NABLE group so volunteers could start printing the 300 3D printed hands that we hoped to have at the conference. I needed to act fast, so I spent all day last Saturday redesigning the gauntlet so it would have some flare at the back section. This adjustment should cut down on pinching and make for a more comfortable fit. This has been a really good modeling exercise for me as it has forced me to get better at refining my sketching and set-up. Making things that are easier to manipulate and tweak has been one of my recent  goals. I am thankful for this opportunity to push my abilities to make things fit with other people's designs. 

It's rather amazing what a small group of people living thousands of miles away from each other can do when working together on the same problem. We are living in a time where we can navigate to different parts of the world with the click of a mouse, complex information is accessible within seconds, and we are able to connect with communities that bring a diverse skill-set to a particular problem. We have never lived in such a time, where  all of these things are possible. I keep telling my students that this is one of the most amazing times to live in and that they need to seize the opportunity. 

I think the largest challenge of our world is to get over the idea of ownership. I realize now, how my training as an academic, artist, designer, and craftsman can get in the way of actually doing something meaningful due to "ownership". Ownership plays a key part in actually prohibiting true progress from happening in our world. Ownership and ego create gridlock when progress needs to happen. I believe there was a time when people put aside their own well being and pride to help others in need, as a way of showing care for each other. I remember my Mother talking about her neighbors sharing the bounty of their gardens, helping when there was a big job that needed to be tackled, or just making simple "gifts" (such as the occasional baked good) for the people in her small farming community when she was a child. Helping others can get in the way when we're all trying to "get to the top" or reach our own personal goals. When was the last time you used some of your precious time and abilities to make something for someone so you could show them that you care? Go take a look at the spreadsheet and see if you can help make one the last 48 hands needed to reach our goal.

I write all of this, not as a way to call any of you out, but rather as a way to keep myself from worrying about the issue of ownership (that I warn about above). When someone at work asks me what I, MYSELF, have accomplished in the last year, what exhibitions I have entered, or what new work I have single handedly brought into fruition, I have to remember the motivation behind the things I want to accomplish. Writing this post reminds me to not worry about personal gain, but rather make decisions and live for what makes for a fulfilled life. Right now, I'd rather be helping people through the things I am able to design and through collaborating with other people who devote their time and energy to larger problems. 

I was able to get the gauntlet design to Peter and Jeremy Simon by late Saturday night and by Sunday, Jeremy had disseminated the new updated files to the e-NABLE group volunteers for them to continue with the printing of the 300 hands. The volunteers from the group are currently printing the required hands for the Conference (that happens this weekend), and as of now we have 260 hands that have been made in the last few weeks. Again, it's amazing what can happen when you get people from around the world working on a common problem. 

I printed the "ice blue" PLA hands above when I was testing the flared gauntlet design. If I were to guess, I think the girls that I have been working with might like this "icy" look. Just a guess though...