German Researchers Publish Paper that Shows Us Just What's in a Thingiverse 3D Design Remix

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The Sarahs’ successful prints: a dragon and a raven

The first time I ever 3D printed something was when 3DPrint.com’s editor-in-chief Sarah Goehrke and I visited Proto BuildBar together in 2015. We each chose designs from popular 3D printing platform Thingiverse – she went with a dragon design, and I printed out a small, black raven, which sits on my desk next to my Edgar Allan Poe coffee mug. I didn’t really think much about the Thingiverse designs or where they actually came from – I just knew that when I typed in what I was looking for, dozens of designs would pop up on my screen as if by magic; all I had to do was choose a favorite. Four researchers from Germany decided to explore the online design platform and determine just where all of the designs came from, and recently published a scientific article about what they discovered.

“Personally, I am fascinated by the creativity of the community. Sometimes you see a design and ask yourself how did they do this? And then, analyzing it, we found that often the answer was that people cleverly recombined what was already there,” Marco Wirth, from the University of Würzburg, told 3DPrint.com. “Much of the creative potential of the platform really lies in the open exchange of models.”

Wirth, together with fellow University of Würzburg researchers Christoph Flath and Frédéric Thiesse, and Sascha Friesike with the KIN Research Group of VU Amsterdam, investigated how Thingiverse users are able to reuse existing designs to make new ones – this is known in the 3D printing community as remixing.

In “true maker community fashion,” the researchers published a scientific article, titled “Copy, transform, combine: exploring the remix as a form of innovation,” in the Journal of Information Technology under a Creative Commons license, so anyone can read and use its contents.

The abstract reads, “With the emergence of open internet-based platforms in recent years, remixing has found its way from the world of music and art to the design of arbitrary physical goods. However, despite its obvious relevance for the number and quality of innovations on such platforms, little is known about the process of remixing and its contextual factors. This paper considers the example of Thingiverse, a platform for the 3D printing community that allows its users to create, share, and access a broad range of printable digital models. We present an explorative study of remixing activities that took place on the platform over the course of six years by using an extensive set of data on models and users.”

Blockbot V3.1: an example of a remix within Thingiverse

The researchers investigated four different aspects of the remixing practice, in order to form a set of “theoretical propositions and managerial implications,” starting with the basic role of the practice in design communities. The paper shows that remixing is a vitally important part of the success of Thingiverse, as over half of its available designs are based in remixes. A good example of a remixed Thingiverse design is the Blockbot V3.1, by Thingiverse user msruggles; you can even see on the design page that there have now been a total of five remixes of this design.

“The beauty of studying 3D printing is the fact that you can look at all the designs and print them for yourself. Research is often abstract but in this case we had a very visual experience that help to understand what is happening,” Friesike told 3DPrint.com. “I am especially surprised by how a few patterns can explain basically all the remix behavior we see on the platform.”

The team also studied the various patterns of remixing processes, and were able to illustrate that every bit of remixing activity on the platform is able to be explained by eight basic remix patterns. They denote two types of remix relationships – parent (Things the remix is based on) and child (the remix itself) – and grouped the patterns into separate classes: convergent, which are characterized by remix relationships with several parent designs, and divergent, delineated by relationships with several children designs.

The paper illustrated how, since the Thingiverse platform has grown, it has added features that make remixing easy, like the customizer in the browser window. Finally, the researchers explain the profile of users on the remixing platform, and how the practice is used as a creative tool by multiple user groups.

“As researchers we have known for a long time, that most ideas are based on existing knowledge. However, it is very difficult to show that. If we go to a company and ask them where their idea comes from, they will tell us, that they came up with all of it on their own,” Friesike explained. “We know that this is not true, but most of the time we are unable to show it. Within the 3D printing community the reuse is explicitly allowed and the mandatory declaration of the sources of inspiration allow us academics to explore how ideas evolve. In doing so, we show how much creative potential open knowledge entails. Besides a creative and passionate community, Thingiverse contains so many great designs because designers can inspire each other and nobody needs to fear that reusing someone else’s ideas might be frowned upon or downright illegal.”

Concept of remix relationships and generations.

Not everyone is a fan of remixing, which is technically a sophisticated type of plagiarism, and has a complicated status in terms of copyright law. But this paper provides a different take on the practice, and illustrates how the open community of Thingiverse is actually able to benefit from users building on others’ ideas. Discuss in the Thingiverse Remix forum at 3DPB.com.

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DISCLAIMER: We are NOT real Doctors…just fidgeters wanting to help fellow fidgeters.

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Compact – Discretely take your spinner with you anywhere. It’s pocket-sized design lets you bring it to the office, on your morning train commute, to church, and everywhere in between.
Smooth – No rough 3D-printed edges here. Your fingers will love the smooth edges we’re able to achieve through our injection molding process.
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  • Smooth & Ergonomic Edges – No rough 3D-printed edges here. Your fingers will love the smooth edges we’re able to achieve through our injection molding process.
  • Spinning Techniques: Finger Spinning – Grip between your Thumb and Middle finger, flick with your Pointer or Ring finger. Tabletop Spinning – Place your spinner on a table or desk, hold the center with one finger and flick with another.

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BMW combines 3D printing & virtual reality to streamline vehicle design

Mar 29, 2017 | By Tess

German auto manufacturer BMW, no stranger to 3D printing technologies, has announced its intention to combine additive manufacturing and virtual reality to help streamline and reduce the costs of its design processes.

3D printing and virtual reality have been developing side by side for several years, with both technologies becoming more and more advanced and increasingly accessible. It is hardly a surprise then that their trajectories have become intertwined in numerous ways. Earlier today we wrote about one instance of this intersection, as tech company HTC released its new MakeVR tool, which allows HTC Vive users to craft and 3D model in a virtual environment.

Now, it seems BMW is seeking to explore the benefits of combining both technologies for its own design-related purposes. In designing and developing a new vehicle, BMW would traditionally have to manufacture one or several prototypes for each part—a time-consuming and costly process. With the advancement of 3D printing, however, this task was made significantly easier, as the company was able to additively manufacture one-off prototypes in a more time and cost efficient manner.

By adding virtual reality into the mix, the car manufacturer is hoping to streamline its design and prototyping process even more. That is, in combining VR tech with 3D printing, BMW is confident that it can simplify and speed up its auto design stage by cutting back on the number of parts that even need to be additively manufactured.

How is this going to work? Well, BMW is reportedly working on a VR program (in collaboration with Unreal Engine) that is capable of recreating a variety of different surface finishes and features that are integrated into BMW’s vehicles. Using the VR technology, the company plans to project the virtual images onto 3D printed parts to see how they will look when they are finished and built into the car. This will allow BMW’s designers to see any early flaws with a particular design, and allow them to create and adapt a new virtual design.

Additionally, BMW also intends to use virtual reality and 3D printing in tandem in order to increase the efficiency of inter-departmental communications. By using the two technologies together, BMW says it will be easier to convey design ideas and directions to different teams, and will provide a more user-friendly experience for its employees.

For over 25 years, BMW has been a strong proponent of additive manufacturing technologies, not only using it for its own manufacturing needs, but also investing in up-and-coming 3D printing companies, and collaborating with various organizations, including Team USA. As always, we are eager to see its continued use and advancement of the technology.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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ViaCAD 2D/3D v9 + PowerPack LT – A seamless marriage of 2D & 3D design plus 3D printing tools to help you take your sketched ideas to 3D realism! (for PC) [Download]

ViaCAD™ 2D/3D brings the power of 3D to everyone; regardless of your design experience. This software provides a seamless marriage of 2D and 3D to help you take your sketched ideas to 3D realism. Powerful but easy-to-use 3D design and drafting tools will help you create like seasoned designers and compatibility with other systems will let you share your designs.

With support for both metric and imperial measurements as well as AutoCAD™, SketchUP, Rhinoceros and other formats to share, ViaCAD™ is the perfect 3D software to model your ideas. ViaCAD™ has tools for architectural drawings, mechanical designs, electrical schematics, Do-It-Yourself projects, and much more.

The addition of PowerPack LT printing tools allows you to prepare and verify your data for 3D printing. PowerPack LT provides a collection of tools designed to increase your productivity within 3D printing and managing CAD data by finding common mistakes with your model before printing. You’ll save time and materials with an overall 3D print check.

Here are just some of the types of drawings you can create with ViaCAD™:

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  • Creating 3D models is easy with ViaCAD™, regardless of the design’s complexity. The LogiCursor™ will guide your cursor to help you create drafting documents or even align points in 3D. Editing is as easy as drag and drop with the Gripper™.

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    • Powerful but easy-to-use 3D design and drafting tools will help you create like seasoned designers and compatibility with other systems will let you share your designs.
    • PowerPack LT provides a collection of tools designed to increase your productivity within 3D printing and managing CAD data by finding common mistakes with your model before printing.
    • A complete set of 2D drawing tools is provided for drafting documents and sketching schematics, floor plans, mechanical designs and more.
    • 26 industry-standard dimension styles, and 250+ tools for 2D drafting and editing,
    • Includes 19 file formats to share your designs. GES, STEP, SAT, SketchUP, AutoCAD, DXF/DWG, OBJ, Adobe Illustrator, Rhinoceros, STL, 3DS Max, and more.

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  • Michigan Engineering Develops New Cyber Manufacturing System to Quickly Design and 3D Print …

    um-engineering-logoIn early 2016, the University of Michigan Orthotics and Prosthetics Center (UMOPC) teamed up with Stratasys and Altair Engineering to form the CYBER team, which was funded by America Makes and aimed to leverage 3D printing and Industry 4.0 to make better Ankle Foot Orthotics, and more specifically to address the orthotics needs of veterans. The work the CYBER team did paved the way for a new project: UMOPC recently implemented a new cyber manufacturing system that was developed by the University of Michigan College of Engineering, in an effort to quickly design and 3D print custom, better-fitting orthotics and prosthetics for stroke patients, amputees, and people with cerebral palsy.3d-printed-um-orthoticCurrently, when a patient needs a custom assistive device like orthoses (braces used to protect, improve, or align function and stability to injured limbs) or prostheses (devices used to replace a lost limb), they have to wait for days, and sometimes even weeks, for one to be fabricated. The UM clinicians and engineers who designed the system said it will create custom, lightweight devices much faster, and additionally can improve the fit, function, consistency, and precision of each device.

    Albert Shih

    Albert Shih

    Albert Shih, project lead and professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan, said, “Eventually we envision that a patient could come in in the morning for an optical scan, and the clinician could design a high quality orthosis very quickly using the cloud-based software. By that afternoon, they could have a 3-D printed device that’s ready for final evaluation and use.”

    The team is currently focused on one specific device: ankle foot orthoses, generally prescribed to help stroke patients regain the ability to walk independently. There are 700,000 stroke victims in the US each year, and over two-thirds of these need long-term rehabilitation, which can be helped with custom orthotics like the ones UM is working on. Children with myelomeningocele and cerebral palsy can also use these types of devices to regain stability while walking.

    um-scanningTo make the custom assistive device, the patient will first have to undergo a 3D optical scan, and the orthotist will then upload the scan data to a cloud-based design center and use software, specially developed by Altair Engineering and Standard Cyborg, to design the device. A set of electronic instructions is created by the software and transmitted directly to the orthotist’s facility, where an onsite Stratasys Fortus 400mc 3D printer will create the device itself in a matter of hours.

    This is a “major departure from current methods” of creating assistive devices, according to Jeff Wensman, director of clinical and technical services at UMOPC. The current labor-intensive process, which usually takes about two weeks, needs a highly trained staff and large shop to complete all of the steps, which include:

    1. Wrapping fiberglass tapes around the patient’s limb, which will harden into a mold
    2. Filling the mold with plaster to make the model
    3. Vacuum forming heated plastic around the model to make the device
    4. Smoothing the edges by hand and attaching mechanical components, such as straps

    The new process developed by UMOPC only needs three pieces of equipment on-site: a handheld optical scanner, a computer, and a 3D printer; as the Fortus 400mc is only about 4′ x 3′ x 6.5′, the lab or shop itself won’t even need to be that big. So in the future, even smaller clinics located in more rural or remote areas could better accommodate patients who need these types of custom devices.

    um-3d-printed-orthoticThe system, developed by UM mechanical engineering PhD student Robert Chisena, utilizes a new type of infill pattern: a wave, or parse structure, which creates a wavy, continuous infill pattern, and makes the orthotics partially hollow. This not only saves weight while retaining strength, it also helps increase the machine’s efficiency.

    Wensman said, “Traditional hand-made orthotics are solid plastic, and they need to be a certain thickness because they have to be wrapped around a physical model during the manufacturing process. 3-D printing eliminates that limitation. We can design devices that are solid in some places and hollow in others and vary the thickness much more precisely. It gives us a whole new set of tools to work with.”

    3d-printed-orthotic-umThe new process is also more consistent than existing methods, since it utilizes computer-based models instead of hand fabrication. So any clinic that owns a 3D printer will be able to create the exact same device over and over again. Doctors will also be able to see how a patient’s shape and condition are progressing, as they have access to computer models of previously used orthotics for the patient. Shih says the device is already creating and testing prosthetics and orthotics, and the team is working on a plan to show how their new process will be able to improve both efficiency and service, as well as reduce the overall cost. So other healthcare providers are able to benefit from their work and develop similar systems, the team will be making their system specs and software available for free.

    Along with America Makes and Manufacturing USA, the project received funding from the National Science Foundation.

    Shih said, “Without America Makes and Manufacturing USA, we would not be able to bring a state-of-the-art 3D printer to the prosthetics center with the traditional research project. Without the National Science Foundation’s Partnership for Innovation and cyber manufacturing grants, we would not be able to have PhD engineering students working at UMOPC to develop the system. I am very blessed to have all three projects funded and started at the same time to create this first-of-its-kind demonstration site at UMOPC for the Michigan Difference in advanced manufacturing and patient care.”

    Check out the 3D Printed Orthotics video to learn more:

    [Source/Images: University of Michigan]