Mar 16, 2016 | By Alec
If you’ve ever built your own 3D printer, you might have learnt the hard way if your machine wasn’t stable enough. The danger is that even the slightest nudge offset the extrusion head during printing, which can lead to layer placement where they’re not supposed to be – ruining your perfect 3D printed surfaces. This problem is what led to some criticism when Amazon announced they were looking into active 3D printers in delivery trucks to optimize efficiency. But it is definitely possible, as a new Ultimaker project reveals. Dutch postal service PostNL has just successfully delivered an active 3D printer, with the results being perfectly playable.
This unusual project has come out of the mind of 3D printing expert Joris van Tubergen, one of the designers/artists at the basis of widely successful Ultimaker 3D printers. If you’ve never heard of van Tubergen, he is one of the masterminds behind the Dutch 3D printing scene. Having studied Industrial Design Engineering at Delft University, he joined up the FabLab ProtoSpace in Utrecht in 2008, and still works as its Creative Director. A firm supporter of RepRap open source 3D printing, this grew into Ultimaker back in 2010. “Back when Ultimaker was first developed I was running the FabLab ProtoSpace together with Siert Wijnia, who is now the CEO of Ultimaker. We held a bunch of workshops about building your own 3D printer, which at the time attracted mainly techies who liked building robots. The fact that it could actually print in 3D was not really why they were there,” he recalls.
Aside from making some key contributions to the Ultimaker concept, he also works as a designer, inventor and 3D printing expert on various projects and art installations. For instance, he was the first to convert the Ultimaker Original into a Chocolate 3D printer, converted himself into a 4-meter-tall 3D printed scarecrow, and also worked on an amazing life-sized 3D printed elephant back in 2014, for World Elephant Day.
For his latest project, he went for a bigger challenge on a smaller scale. As he revealed to 3Ders.org, the challenge grew out of the confidence of PostNL, who boldly claimed that it is possible to ship an active 3D printer without ruining the print. PostNL ships more than a million packages every day, of all shapes and sizes. While it seems fairly straightforward for the average customer, it actually requires a huge data heavy infrastructure to get everything where it needs to go. To illustrate its effectiveness, PostNL wanted to put it to the test. “And the best way to [do] that is to send a package that cannot be sent,” they say.
Challenge accepted. Van Tubergen began by designing a 3D printable trumpet that was addressed to Eric Vloeimans, considered to be the best trumpeter in the Netherlands. Van Tubergen further designed a specific package for the Ultimaker 3D printer, to allow it to be operated inside the cardboard box. That part was easy, but the real question is: how rough is a typical package handled during delivery? Will it harm the print in any way? As you can see in the clip below, it does take quite a few bumps and knocks along the way, all of which can affect the quality of the print.
However, as you can see for yourself, both the delivery truck and the 3D printer did exactly what they should be doing. Eric Vloeimans tested the trumpet, and was happily surprised by the quality. Joris van Tubergen: “The sound is so incredible that many people don't believe it is the real sound from the 3D printed trumpet!” Perhaps active 3D printer trucks roaming the streets aren’t so unrealistic after all.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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