Aug 28, 2015 | By Alec

Kickstarter and 3D printers: sometimes a fantastic combination, and sometimes one that just doesn’t work. While a sociologist might be more capable of discerning crucial factors than we are, some Kickstarter campaigns involving 3D printing are hugely successful, while others are not. However, you don’t need a degree to see why North Drinkware was so successful earlier this year with extremely cool pint glasses featuring Oregon’s iconic Mount Hood embedded in the bottom, a product realized with the help of 3D printed prototyping.

Seeking to raise $15,000 in pledges, that goal was surpassed in just over five hours, before going on to raise more than half a million dollars at the conclusion of the campaign in March 2015. A logistical nightmare, but the dream of every 3D printing startup. They have since begun successfully shipping these glasses, with thousands going out all over the world in batches until October.

However, the story and the 3D printing process behind these glasses is almost as interesting as the glasses themselves. Its roots can be traced back to the beautiful state of Oregon itself, as the three Oregonians Nic Ramirez, Matt Capozzi, and Leigh Capozzi wanted to produce a product that captured all the things they love about it: the gorgeous mountains and the craft beers Portland is becoming increasingly famous for. Why drink an Oregon beer made by Oregonians with ingredients from the same state out of a regular boring glass, they wondered.

That question grew out in to the Oregon Pint Glass: featuring the gorgeous and iconic Mount Hood – Oregon’s highest peak at 11,250 feet – embedded in its base. Much better and more durable than a logo. Some good things are found at the bottom of a glass after all. ‘We made The Oregon Pint because we wanted a glass with a connection to the places where we live and play. We were seeking a glass that was crafted with the same skill, care and consideration as the beer we love to drink. The Oregon Pint delivers an enhanced experience when enjoying a beer and swapping stories after a ride, a day on the hill, or when gathering with friends and family,’ they say of their cool glass.

However, Kickstarter’s project rules require projects to feature ‘explicit demos of a working prototype’ before launching, and this is where 3D printing came in, alongside the age-old skill of glassblowing. ‘Using United States Geological Survey (USGS) data (depicting ridges, canyons, and peak) a 3D model of Mt. Hood is integrated into the mold so your beer cascades around the mountain when you pour it into the glass,’ they explain. This data was used to mock up a digital model of the glass, which was extensively prototyped using a MakerBot Replicator.

These models were eventually used to make molds for the glass itself. ‘By using a MakerBot, we were able to do five iterations for almost nothing, versus, if we had made five graphite molds, it would have cost $20,000,’ Nic Ramirez tells reporters. With the help of a local expert glassblower, these molds were filled with glass bubbles, which formed around their mountain. Over time and through a succession of 3D printed improvements, they eventually reached the glass visible here. ‘Every round of prototypes offered new insight and learning as we worked toward a Kickstarter-ready Oregon Pint,’ Ramirez says.

Check out the production process here.

However, 3D printing continued to play an important role even after Kickstarting success. ‘We got to the point where we imagined we would be in five years in five days,’ they explain. And scaling up production has frustrated many startups, and the same can be said for glass blowing. Including among the 3D printed solutions in this phase was a 3D printed fixture to hold glasses during the final flame polishing – much quicker and easier to work with than established alternatives. ‘Kickstarter was the big accelerant. To get to the proof of concept, MakerBot was critical,’ they say.

So what’s next? The guys from North Drinkware are currently still hard at work to meet their amazing Kickstarter demand, but hope to start working on follow-up products for other states with iconic natural landmarks and a great beer scene. Current targets are Washington, Vermont, California and Colorado. And if their initial experience is anything to go by, 3D printing will definitely play a key role in those beer glasses too. 


Posted in 3D Printer Applications



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