Recently a global healthcare company backed by decades of innovation with leadership positions in hormone replacement therapy and diabetes care began to evaluate 3D printers. This company is committed to combating Diabetes through awareness, education and superior treatment options. Their goal is to arm patients with the necessary information and leadership technology and encourage them to take charge of their condition.
By Kendall Joudrie, Thinking Robot Studios.
In November 2013, Natasha Hope-Simpson lost her left leg in a hit-and-run accident. As you might expect, she had to put her whole life on hold. At the same time, Natasha proved stronger than she had ever imagined. Natasha moved forward with her life through design. After reflection on the prosthetic leg she had been given, she knew it had to be different. As a graduate at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), she sought to
make a leg that was more personal, one that fit her personality and her anatomy.
She wanted a leg that was human.
It all began in February 2014, when Natasha spoke to a class at which NSCAD Director Gregor Ash happened to be visiting. Natasha discussed her prosthetic design efforts and the challenges of creating this functional, aesthetic personal medical device.
Inspired by Natasha’s drive and ambition, Ash came to us at Thinking Robot Studios with a challenge: to team with Natasha to create a prosthetic design in time for NSCAD’s Maker Symposium within 15 days. We make a living at creating custom orthopedic implants and systems, but I remember thinking that this was going to be a challenge. How on earth were we going to pull this off?
completed prosthetic design ready for prototypingWe knew that 3D printing and scanning was the only way to do this quickly and accurately, so we immediately called Mike Fanning, CEO of NovaCad, a 3D Systems reseller. For scanning, we called Ian Weir at Canada’s Department of National Defense and Bob Garrish of Spring Loaded technology. Natasha’s team of one had, within less than a day, become a team of six. But there was still a lot to do.
In order to get the shape and size of Natasha’s prosthetic leg correct, Ian and Bob took two different scans of Natasha’s existing leg using laser and white light scanning. They processed the scans using Geomagic® Studio scanning software and converted the data into usable 3D so my business partner, Jourdan Dakov, and I could perform the engineering steps. Using the mesh scan data, we created the prosthetic‘s mechanical and structural
components in CAD.
In the meantime, Natasha was trying to work out the aesthetic side of the prosthetic leg. She wanted something as attractive as it was functional, and she had many ideas but little time to develop them. The breakthrough came when she discovered the 3D printed masks of Melissa Ng on the Internet.
“Melissa’s designs were amazing,” said Natasha. “They were perfect. I instantly fell in love.”
So I quickly contacted Melissa in New York City, and just like the rest of us, she was eager to help. “I was deeply moved by her story and was happy to donate my design to the project. I will continue collaborating with Thinking Robot over the next year as they develop a final prosthetic for Natasha,” said Melissa.
the design and engineering team with Natasha at the Maker symposium
Melissa extracted her design data into a usable format and immediately sent it over. At this point we had three days to apply the design to the mechanical parts before 3D printing was to begin. To say the least, this process was intense. We were adjusting mechanical CAD data and applying the design elements from Melissa. We knew from Mike Fanning and the 3D Systems team in Boston that we only had a few days to get them a printable file.
Yet seven days after starting the project, and after some long days and nights by our team members, we had a prototype design ready to be 3D printed. We rushed the CAD files to NovaCad .
“I immediately sent the files to the 3D Systems team in Andover, Mass., and specified the materials to be used,” said Mike. “The team there pulled out all the stops to print the components and get it shipped back to us.” The 3D Systems team printed on the ProJet 7000, a robust SLA printer that delivers highly accurate 3D parts with excellent surface smoothness.”
Customized solutions have always been Dallan S.p.A’s hallmark. The Treviso, Italy-based company, founded in 1978, designs and produces complete production assembly systems for precision rollforming and sheet metal production that adhere to each customer’s exacting specifications.
“Our customers tell us the end product they wish to produce,” says Andrea Dallan, CEO and Sales Director at Dallan. “It could be a shutter or window blind, products for suspended ceilings, drywall manufacture and more. Then we develop the automated production systems that manufacture that product.”
In an effort to continually diversify components and improve time-to-market, the company has added new 3D printing systems to its conventional machining technologies. Installing the 3D Systems ProJet 3510, provided by reseller 3DZ, the company has upped its value proposition by using the ProJet 3510 for fast customization of client parts.
Said Dallan, “Each production machine we make is basically a very well-tested prototype, since it’s unique to each customer’s needs. Each new automated section and each new mechanism must be designed, manufactured, tested and applied to the machine, using many components that have to interact seamlessly.
“Since the parts being made by the customer—say window blinds—are often quite delicate, the machine components, especially those for picking and handling of the parts, are typically milled from solid blocks of plastic material. But this process takes time, especially when you consider that for foamed rolling shutter production we have more than 300 different models and the picking clamp must perfectly match the form of the part being made. Using traditional milling, it takes a long time to perfectly match the curvature. Using 3D printing, you have the shape already in place and you simply print it with perfect dimensional accuracy.”
TWO PATHS, ONE TURN
Dallan says that with 3D printing, the company can pursue two paths. “Either we print components in plastic materials that are assembled as final parts on the machines, or we obtain prototypes used to carry out functional, dimensional assembly tests before manufacturing the part in metal.
“In both cases, the ProJet 3510 system allows us to cut machine manufacturing time and thus reach the market faster. We are even using an acrylic resin that has sufficient mechanical features to create, for instance, support elements for sensors.”
“We have use 3D printing instead of milling, to create brackets measuring 10 x 20 mm, which include holes for the passage of optical fiber sensors. To program the machine tool with the correct inclination of the holes, internal threading and so on is long and demanding work. But with 3D printing we have designed the bracket with all details related to the holes, and in the evening we sent the file to the ProJet 3510. The next morning the components were there, ready to be assembled. We applied them and we immediately, and successfully, tested the set.”
SIDEBAR: AESTHETIC AND FUNCTIONAL
Easy to use, compact and silent, the ProJet 3510 printer by 3D Systems makes it possible to manufacture aesthetic prototypes and prototypes for dimensional assessment. Indeed, it produces parts featuring smooth surfaces and well-defined edges that are ideal to be used in functional tests, forms and coupling checking, rapid prototyping, product presentations, masters for casting, or silicon replicas.
Based on MultiJet technology, the ProJet 3510 produces objects with maximum dimensions of 298 x 185 x 203mm, with a maximum resolution of 750 x 750 x 1600 dpi and layer thickness up to 16 μm.
FROM THE IDEA TO THE PRODUCT
Simply put, Dallan is quickly discovering the potential of 3D printing—it allows them to create specific solutions that can’t be achieved with conventional machining.
“We are rapidly identifying the cases in which it is more profitable to use 3D printing and those in which it is preferable to use milling. At times, to optimize machining time, if the milling devices are busy we manufacture some pieces directly with the 3D printer.”
“Another important aspect we have verified is that, beyond productive possibilities in terms of price complexity and fastness, 3D printing can prove very useful even during the project development stage.”
Going forward, the sky is the limit with Dallan’s growing 3D printing capabilities and the new level of service it allows the company to offer. “I believe that the possibility of customizing parts and the design freedom offered by 3D printing, used in synergy with conventional machining technologies, will allow us to respond in an increasingly versatile and specialized manner to the new challenges set by out customers,” says Andrea Dallan.