On Saturday, February 9th, two local makerspaces, Freeside Atlanta and My Inventor Club, hosted their first ever 3D Printing Hackathon. The free event, hosted in their adjacent spaces in West Atlanta, gave folks in the community an opportunity to witness 3D printing firsthand, while at the same time learning about related topics like 3D design and 3D scanning. Well over 50 people attended, with some making the trip from as far away as Chattanooga.
The highlight of the event was its panel, drawing some well respected names from the 3D printing community. As an illustration of how technology is removing some of the traditional barriers to bringing people together, many of the speakers were not present physically. Organizers hosted a Google hangout and projected the discussion onto a huge screen for event attendees.
Here are some of the highlights:
Shane Matthews, of My Inventor Club, provided a detailed review of the dominant 3D printing technologies. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), the plastic extrusion technology behind hobbyist printers like the Makerbot, was a highlight. Shane also showed several examples of powder sintering, where layers of a fine nylon powder are built up using heat or a special bonding compound. This technique offers higher resolution (i.e., each printed layer is thinner than those that use FDM), and is used in professional level printers like the Zcorp.
Colleen Jordan, a local designer and founder of Wearable Planter, spoke about how important 3D printing has been to the development of her small business. She is known for a necklace she designed that allows people to wear their favorite flowers or plants. All of them are produced using 3D printing technology. Coleen emphasized that, “not everything [you create] needs to be useful.” As is the case with her jewelry, sometimes the coolest concepts don’t have everyday utility.
Clint Rhinehart, of Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio, spoke about and demonstrated 3D scanning technology. Using an Xbox Kinect as the scanner, he scanned a member of the audience and talked through the steps of turning the scan into a 3D print. The audience audibly reacted when the 3D image of his subject showed up on his computer screen within minutes of the scan.
Mark Ganter, of the Solheim Additive Manufacturing Lab at the University of Washington (Open3DP), brought an academic perspective. His lab is doing fascinating research on the different types of materials one can print, including ceramics, wood, and even hot chocolate. All of the work his lab does is open and freely shared. He noted that the patent system might inadvertently stifle some innovation in this area as large businesses seek to protect their competitive advantage.
Emmett Lalish, a 3D designer that has attracted quite a following on thingiverse, spoke next. He’s been a maker for his entire life, and noted that 3D Printing has allowed him to produce things that traditional manufacturing tools can’t (at least cheaply). He is known for designing mechanical systems that work with no assembly, straight out of the 3D printer. Emmett’s heart gear creation was a huge hit, particularly with Valentine ’s Day around the corner.
After the panel, attendees were invited to experience the technology firsthand. There were stations set up to showcase the different types of 3D printing, along with other demonstrations of the capabilities of each of the makerspaces. Freeside has 4 FDM 3D printers, including a Makerbot Thingomatic and a RepRap Prusa. My Invention Studio has a fully function ZCorp powder sintering machine. Being able to witness the technology and touch what it produces added a more substantial dimension to the earlier discussions.
The response to the event by attendees was overwhelmingly positive, and it served to demonstrate the strong interest in 3D printing technology in Atlanta.
About the Author:
James Coleman is a local 3D printing enthusiast, and the founder of MakerStash.com, a supplier of 3d printing filaments and other maker supplies.