Monday, May 21, 2018

3D Printing and the Future of Manufacturing

It has been a long time since I posted here. Let's see how it goes.

I recently have the pleasure of giving a Talk at the TedxBoise event several weeks ago. The name of my talk "What to do with a giant 3D Printing Farm." I will post the video when it is dropped but the talk was primarily about how I came to be so heavily involved with 3D printing over the last 1-2 years, after having dismissed it for most of my career.

I'm going to take this post to summarize and clarify some aspects that of 3D printing that I wasn't able to speak about. Hopefully this post will be a complementary resource to the video when it drops.

So what do I think of 3D printing? It is a ridiculous personal technology. Owning a personal 3D printer is like owning a personal Bandsaw. Everyone can use them, very few can use them well because it actually does require skill. Personal 3D printing is a failed idea, because physics and the non-scientific way that it was created makes it impossible to have the reliability that a home appliance needs. To show this let me ask you a question. When was the last time you replaced a non-disposable component of one of your appliances. The faucet on your sink? The rotor in your Dishwasher? The most involved with the appliances we use is in replacing the capsule in a Keurig or the cartridge in our Paper Printer. But a 3D printer will have a nozzle clog, because physics, and when that happens you have to identify the problem and then have the tools and wherewithall to replace the nozzle. That disqualifies personal 3D printing as a personal technology. And no amount of software will ever prevent a nozzle from clogging. I will leave that there. I could go on, but my beef with personal printing is long and comprehensive.

The requirement of 3D printing of skill to operate it means that utilization of 3D Printing by regular people will be through services. Shapeways, 3D Hubs, etc. But through several projects that I was involved in I found that one service of 3D printing was missing. Production.

Since 3D Printing is a digital process with nearly no geometry constraints it can be used to make almost any piece of hardware. Now most will counter that statement with 3 basic arguments. 3D printing is Slow, Crappy, and Expensive. These are actually the core of my Tedx Talk so, to avoid spoilers at this point, suffice it to say that each of these are wrong and have been proven wrong by one of the largest 3D printing factories on the planet that I have the pleasure to be a founder of.

3D printing is a viable production method. But it is only viable up to a certain point. On average at Slant 3D production with 3D printing is more affordable than injection molding up to about 20,000 parts (give or take). We plan to make it cheaper up to 100,000 or more. At that point the capital expenditure that makes molding prohibitive basically drops away in the scale. The cost of the part is in the cost of the material and the energy that goes to making it. Oddly this is true of 3D printing. So once there are facilities large enough to produce millions of pieces with printing, there will be no reason to use molding.

The caveat there is that molding is reliable and very fast at very high volumes. I don't think that printing will ever replace it at that scale. But it will start absorbing the low volume production of startups and inventors. The digital nature of it lets inventors design and iterate on 10 different version of a product for very little cost. The same way you would with software. This hasn't quite become mainstream yet because there are really only a 2-3 companies in the world with the 3D printing capacity to take a design from prototype to production entirely with printing. Slant 3D is one of them.

But as 3D Printing manufacturing becomes more mainstream I believe that large scale production will decrease and be supplanted by niche products. Note niche here does not mean ultra-customized. Customization is also a black hole. But niche markets of several thousand clients. As more people come into this space the need for "homerun" products will decrease and the production methods to create them will not be as necessary. Only truly ubiquitous products would be created with mass production. Phones, lights, clothes. But toys, tools, accessories can all parsed out to individual groups and produced with giant 3D printing farms.

3D Printing is the future of "manufacturing" not the future of personal manufacturing, Amazon same day delivery invalidates that. But Amazon will always need new products to delivery.

The work we're doing at Slant 3D for the entrepreneur in the dorm room with a CAD program not a compiler.

Its good write again. I think I will do this more often. I have had several writing projects on hold, I think I will be able to get back to them.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The ShopArm

the internet has allowed micro-businesses to crop up. Businesses that serve markets small than niche. Markets like dr. who fans that want a dalek chess piece. People that would like an 1800's rifle piece.

These microbusinesses are mainly monetized hobbies. The proprietors create a few objects and sell them in the weekends and nights outside of their job.

Slant is very familiar with this. We do it daily, and are stubborn enough to think that we can build a real company out of it. by pursuing a volume of ideas rather than a volume of product. An idea factory.

The biggest challenge to scaling such a system is actually not longer in the materials or production. It is the overhead. Paycheck, people, hiring and all of the cost that go with it. Insurance, overtime, bonuses. And this is common through all small businesses.

So we took  on a new project, called ShopArm. The ShopArm is meant to be a low cost collaborative robot for small business. A robot that can pack a couple of boxes so that all of the parts are ready to ship. Or maybe it decorates cupcakes at your Dad's bakery where there are 200 to get prepared.

The current iteration of the ShopArm is 3D printed, this is partially due to the low volume demand as well as the market stereotype of makers. But in the future we will scale it into aluminum.

The ShopArm is meant to allow for the creation of even more microbusinesses. Businesses that just get an arm and buy a few boxes of bulk parts. Then when an order comes in online the robot packs the box and you put it in the mailbox. Total automation and good side income. More expensive than writing an e-book or creating a youtube channel, but just as long term, sustainable, and hands free.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Robot Podcast

"The Robot Podcast" is a podcast focused exclusively on the technology and developments in the robotics industry. We are currently developing the show some more and will release within a few weeks. We will be speaking with industry leading engineers and businessman who are creating and using these incredible machines.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

3D Printed Arduino Robot Arm Launched on Kickstarter

This is a project that I have been a part of for a few weeks. It is a low cost robot arm primarily for STEM and hobby.

We have taken it to kickstarter in order to get the ball rolling.

This has a been a fun project, because, like a software, it moved incredibly quickly. We went through multiple designs in a matter of days. And we had basically the full product in a couple of weeks.

Support the project on Kickstarter so we can get a very versatile and low cost robot into the hands of kids everywhere.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Udemy Course - Autodesk Inventor

I have done a lot of online video tutorials over the last few years. I recently decided to try out Udemy. This is the first course that I have created. It is a fast-paced introduction to Autodesk Inventor. Let me know what you think.

I do like Udemy they do a very good job of lining out instructors so that we create structured content.

Autodesk Inventor: The Basics

Here is my introduction video to the course and why CAD is so awesome

Thursday, July 7, 2016

3-D Printed Arduino Robot Arm

This project has come a long way since the original post.

Now it is a 4 DOF arm that has a whole bunch of code and website to get it all. Visit 3D Printed Robots to get all of the cad and code for this project.

I am also turning it into a kit. If you would like to preorder one, then go to the website and let us know.

It has been a fun project. At this point we have GUI control of the arm and the kinematics are getting tuned in (difficult since the arm is not a precision machine). In the near future we will add a recording capability to the GUI and get a kinematic controller completed that will allow the use to put in a position in taskspace and have the arm move to it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

3-D Printed Microservo Robot Arm

This a project that I took on to create a simple robot arm for kids camps and classrooms. This arm is controlled by an arduino and uses 3 microservos. While it currently does not have a gripper that will be added soon. I will also be completing the kinematic model so that I can implement a positional controller into the arm.

When fully completed I will release the designs and likely produce a few as kits.

In the demo below I was controlling the arm through a keyboard.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Raptor: 3-D printed prosthetic hand

I designed the Raptor to be a basic terminal prosthetic hand that could be 3-D printed. There are only 4 pieces that are printed and they can be made at a home printer.

I designed the Raptor hand for a design competition on GrabCAD. As of this post the competition is still up.

If you would like to print the Raptor yourself here are all the files that you need

If you would like me to design a custom application prosthetic for you feel free to contact me.

Here was a demo of the prototype. I used shockcord and paracord as the cables which is way to bulky. In future I will likely use small steel cable a maybe just rubber bands.

Portable Event Solar Phone Charger

This solar phone charger is designed to be deployed at outdoor events like weddings and concerts so that people can charge their phones. Normally extension cords or large cumbersome solar umbrellas have to be set up to fill this need.

The one issue is that people have to supervise their charging and the charger itself can be stolen. In a future iteration I will add essentially a port for a bike lock and locking compartments for phones to sit in while charging.

I would also like to spread the usb ports around the  edges more so that they are not so condensed. It will change the experience from waiting in line to just walking up and plugging into your own space.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Jerry Multipurpose Home Robot Demo

I've been working for several months on the Jerry Project. He is finally ready to demo. This is the first video. I plan to have Jerry ready for sale near the end of 2016. From now on it is going to be a software development issue. All the hardware works just as expected. Jerry will first be released as an educational and hobby platform and within a year he will be in homes.

 If you would like to see more or watch the progress visit:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Microservo 3-D printed gripper

I found that there are really very few 3-D printed grippers available. So I made on. This one uses a microservo and two rubber bands to create an semi-adaptive gripper. The overall mechanism is based off of the gripper developed at Slant Robotics. But at this moment the amount of material used is a bit large, so I may create a more minimal structure.

Download on GrabCad

Friday, March 4, 2016

Slant Robotics

I have formed a new branch of Slant Concepts...Slant Robotics. The "Jerry" Project is going to become an official product. Jerry is now being built in Nampa, Idaho with a projected reveal of a finished product at the end of April. Jerry is going to be the home robot that everyone has imagined.

Be sure to follow the project of Twitter or Facebook.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Another Book - The Everything Machine

Finished up another book. "The Everything Machine" is a quick look at the current state of the art of robotics. It's a discussion of where robots are and where they are going.

Buy it on Amazon

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Jerry Project: Update

Here are some pictures of a couple final prototype designs for Jerry, a low cost, vision-based, personal robot. I also added the first official teaser video. The real prototype will be soon to follow.

The Jerry personal robot with all actuated components opened and extended

The Jerry personal robot with arm retracted and an added screen for improved telepresence functionality.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Incurve Spherical Robot

For my senior design project I was the chief designer of the internal mechanisms of a spherical robot. Both actuated degrees of freedom have a full range of motion unlike any other spherical robot built. Additionally the team was able to design an original non-holonomic controller for the omni-directional system we were pursuing.

The photos below show the design progression that the system took. All the CAD seen is my own original work (Except for the shell in the final image). I apologize some concepts were abandoned before they could be completed.

Original Concept and Outline
Full Aluminum Truss-Like Structure
Hybrid Wood-Aluminum with Linear Actuator
Hybrid Material with Offset Planes of Rotation
Final Design Designed for Controller Simplification
Final Design of the Incurve Spherical Robot


This is a project that I have been working on for some time. Jerry is my foray into personal robotics. He will begin as a telepresence robot and then develop into an AI robot home assistant. A quick conceptual design is shown in the rendering below.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

jotted - a place to send my stories

I have been writing short stories and pieces of books for sometime. I decided I should put some, or even all of them out into the world.

"jotted" is the place where I will post sections of books and parts of stories. I hope that people will enjoy them or help me improve them.

And who knows, maybe after awhile I'll just compile jotted into a book like I did "The Space Economy."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Illusion Tee-Shirt - Because I Can

I was taking a cognitive psychology class. In class we were running through all kinds of illusions. I wondered if there were any shirts out there with good illusions on them, I mean they would be great conversations starters, right. I couldn't find a tee-shirt with an illusion. So I thought I would make a few.

I discovered TeeSpring, which is awesome because it is a new platform and was fun to just try out. I chose the Rabbit-Duck illusion for the first tee-shirt, because it was quick and already set for black and white.

This was a project that literally took less than an hour to do. There is now a Rabbit-Duck illusion t-shirt in the world.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Prose Aloud - Website for audio poetry

Prose Aloud is a new project I've started to create audio versions of famous poetry. This came about when I realized that there are few to no good recordings of poetry. Also I needed to expand my cultural awareness into that area for a little while.

Below is the first compilation of poems that I read.