Jan 23, 2015 | By Simon

When it comes to new ways about thinking about 3D printing, oftentimes some of the best ideas don’t come out of existing multi-million or even multi-billion dollar companies such as Stratasys and 3D Systems but instead, young students who have experienced their own problems with 3D printing firsthand and are able to communicate their vision for creating a better experience.

A recent example is with the Vanguard 3D printer, which was conceived of by New Zealand-based industrial designer William Nicholson during his Honours year at Massey University in Auckland.   

The young designer, who states on his website that the “methodologies in [his] personal work lie in combining natural, tactile materials with technology to achieve a high level of refinement while keeping sustainability and efficiency in mind,” recently entered the Vanguard 3D printer in the James Dyson Award competition.  

The project explored how 3D printing technology could be utilized in a new approach to produce better and more adaptable end user products with a focus on large scale design applications.

Among other directions that Nicholson explored in his project were the current and emerging technologies of 3D printing, trends, existing products and manufacturing processes, as well as how 3D printing and evolving technologies are affecting social and cultural circles.  

Based on his research, Nicholson determined that the best direction to pursue in his design solution would be to further explore the advantages of additive manufacturing technologies over more traditional manufacturing and structural building technologies.      

“I discovered that despite this technology that is capable of manufacturing far more complex objects, at little to no extra cost and the ability of mass customization, we are still designing for traditional manufacture methods,” said Nicholson on his Dyson project page. “3D printing is starting to change not only the way we manufacture but also the way we design”.

To approach the design of the Vanguard 3D printer, Nicholson outlined three design drivers to help guide him on through the design process.  These included a design that had to be adaptable to a broad range of environments, applications and products, portable and appropriate for its purpose, environment and end user.

To develop his concept, Nicholson started with small-scale mock-ups before jumping into full-sized tape renders that included exploration in size, ergonomics and form.  He then further iterated on the design with print material testing, concrete testing, CAD visualizations and a final 1:1 scale model that would help test the end user’s interaction with the device.

Nicholson’s environment-adapting design - which resembles more of a bulldozer than a traditional 3D printer - utilizes a cement and expanding foam matrix to print three-dimensional structures using a traditional layer-by-layer extrusion-based 3D printing method.  

The internal structure of the 3D printer features two units; one that controls the extrusion of the print material and another that houses the necessary power source and material supply.  

The print unit houses a cement reservoir that controls the extrusion of cement to the extrusion head while an internal mixing auger prevents early curing of the cement...an unwelcome factor that has been seen time and time again with clay or cement-based 3D printers.  The extrusion head consists of three nozzles (two foam and one cement).  While foam is extruded out of the two outer nozzles, the cement is extruded from a central nozzle that is controlled by the width of the foam extrusions. 

As for the power source and material supply unit, the included electric generator, computing system, material supply and cement pump system ensure that everything is condensed into a central design for the portability-focused 3D printer.  

The fact that Nicholson chose to employ the use of concrete in his 3D printer design comes with little surprise...as he prefers the aesthetics and philosophy behind handcrafted designs:

“I enjoy working with natural and tactile materials which bring the essence of being handcrafted into a world where mass production outweighs its sustainable implications.”

While it’s just a concept for now, you can stay updated on Nicholson’s designs and (possible) 3D printer manufacturing over at his website.  


Posted in 3D Printers


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