3D Print 2010 vs. 2021 and Unicycle 2

Unicycle Two was inspired by the first 3D print object I ever made in 2010 – Unicycle One, which was part of the 52 in 52 project. This first full object project and over 1000 subsequent projects since has been a massive learning experience. The following summarizes the progression that has taken place over these 11 years.

Unicycle Two (2021, foreground) vs. Unicycle One (2010, background) reflects the evolution of progress in creating finished art using 3D print technology. This includes surface finishing as well as approach to body fill and construction.

Not knowing the characteristics of the ABS plastic in 2010, I printed the first fixture solid, which consumed 115 cubic inches of material, at a cost of over $600. Ouch! Over the last 11 years, I have learned a lot about how to create objects with 3D printers, which is reflected in the latest iteration of the Unicycle design.

2010: The first 3D print object, using a Stratasys Dimension bst1200es, was printed solid and is unfinished. The design was done in Rhino CAD, and the separation of colors reflected the numerous sections required to build the fixture up. The driver and electronics are in the base. The arm and head were made from machined copper.
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What’s in a Name?

Names are just nouns, words, a collection of vowels and consonants in an order that allows the brain to create a pronunciation, or sound when spoken. In other words, nothing tangible. Yet, names and words are far more than that. Some, like “the” and “of” are binding words, that make sentence structure work. Others like “hot”, “fast” or “angry” impart feeling or action into a sentence. Names are words of identification.

Names establish identity to an organization, a person, or an object, that eliminates the need for additional descriptive words to create understanding and identity. Without names, how would we describe companies like Ford, Chevrolet, IBM, 3M, Apple, et al? How would we differentiate between the thousands of various products we live with every day. In many cases, the name of the originator of a product becomes the noun describing the general product category, like Coke and Kleenex, or Hoover (for those old enough).

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The Idea of a 3D Print Manufacturing Universe – Real or Fantasy?

There is a lot of buzz about the idea of 3D printing taking over as the prime manufacturing method for producing products, even buildings. Some proposals include the concept of entire products being made within one machine. While the ideas are interesting and enticing, their is a long list of things that make all of this more fantasy than reality.

Cost

While the cost of 3D printed parts has been improving over the last decade, they still fall well short of the piece part prices of production tooled parts. Ignoring the cost of tooling for a moment, the cost of a stamped, die cast, or injection molded part, run in quantity, is pennies on the dollar compared to 3D printed parts.

Production Time

The time that a 3D printer takes to make a part is measured in hours, compared to seconds for parts coming from tooled processes. A die cast machine, from raw material to cooled, ready to finish part might be a few minutes. Not that die cast and molding processes have a small amount of waste – as do 3D printed parts that have build trays to discard every few parts, and material that is not used from spools tails.

These two basic elements of part creation are just the beginning of the comparison lop-sidedness that ahs to be considered before running off an buying a 3D print farm.

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Integrated 3D Printed Handheld Task Light

3D printing can be accomplished using single or multiple materials. The future of the process includes printing integrated circuits, optics, circuit pathways, heat sinks, fixture bodies and enclosures. Robotics, combined with 3D printing stations, can assemble entire products with no fasteners, no seams, and no human interaction, from a bin of raw materials.

The process involves setting up a series of 3D printers that feed into a main printer that is printing a body. At various stages, the printer is paused, and components are installed into cavities, before the printer continues. This can also include potting of cavities, as well as creating wiring vias and paths for conventional wires to pass through. The finished product would have no seams to leak, no intermediate gasketing to fail. It is an integrated assembly that used no glue or seaming of any type, making the final product durable.

This process can be repeated 24/7, with no staff present, other than to keep the material supplies loaded (also done with automation in the local area of the machine.) Customer orders can then move directly from order entry into the production que, with all available selectable options of color, optic, LED power level, CCT, control interface, etc… since the entire fixture is created from software to real world, with none of the conventional inventory of parts, components, etc… through to assembly operations.

A Simple Example to Illustrate the Process

The following is a design and process I created from raw fixture design to printed, in less than 24 hours.

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Dear Fellow Creatives

Allow me to introduce myself in a way that a resume and LinkedIn profile is unable to. I offer the following brief illustrated run down of my career in 10 Acts. Sort of a Play of evolving interests that leads me to offering you a new resource. I hope you have a moment to enjoy this adventure as much as I have. Who knows, perhaps we might one day find ourselves on a shared path.

To start, I am an artist at heart, and have been for a very long time. My first punishment in grammar school was for using my imagination to color a birds in a manner the nuns did not appreciate. This, combined with other similar incidents of expressed independence, led to my being removed from Catholic school to be placed in a conventional grammar school where my “unique” approach would not present disrupt the order of the Rigid Penguin Queens.

I come from a background of a mother who was exceptionally talented in art, and a father who was an engineer and math professor, and a multi-generational family of entrepreneurs. My father showed me the way of being a professional adult, my mother the path to artistic expression. While this duality has afforded me insight into two worlds that rarely share the same space, it has suited me particularly well in lighting – which is why I spent so many years in the industry.

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33 NPD Thoughts for Growing Companies

After several decades involvement in product design and development, I’ve accumulated a few basic ideas I believe are useful for small product manufacturer businesses looking to build NPD into a driver for future growth. I pulled together 33 thoughts, updated and collected into a small book for anyone interested. Each topic is described in less than 400 words to provide the reader insight without getting too deep into the academics of each one.

You can download a copy for your use below:

Finishing the Big TR6 Project

Finished TR6 Project, ready for final tune, polish up and alignment (by others)

A long time friend (and previous employer) decided it would be lovely to take his car apart and rebuild it from the ground up. I have witnessed my of these “projects” over the years – most end badly. Taking a car apart seems so easy. Just undo every fastener, and dump the parts that fall off into boxes – while tossing all those old rusty corroded nuts, screws, washers, broken little clips and pins into bins. When something is frozen up, beat it apart, or cut it, it’s all replaceable – right?

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AM Technology in Lighting’s Future

3D Printing is actually a misnomer. In technical terms, we are talking about AM (additive manufacturing.) The process delivers a 3 dimensional object in plastic or metal, layer by layer. Unlike CNC machining, which is technically subtractive in nature (starts as a block of material that is whittled into shape), AM produces no chips or cut-off material, just the finished part.

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A Common MacAdam Fail

The MacAdam ellipse is a Standard Deviation Color Matching (SDCM) protocol for describing visibility of human observers of differences of sources, by how far they deviate from a reference color. Each ellipse represents a standard deviation from the reference (center) source. It is generally accepted that within 3 MacAdam ellipses, most observers cannot discern a difference between two sources. At 4 steps, a significant sampling of observers would see a color difference. At 7, virtually everyone will see a difference. For a more complete background, there are numerous sources describing these details, such as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacAdam_ellipse. The shape of the ellipses varies by color, as human visual differentiation changes in both spectral sensitivity as well as range between sources.

With this, it would seem pretty straightforward that when someone claims their product, LED, or light sources fall within 2 or 3 steps, that it can be assumed that the difference between two sources from that provider will be unseen. Unfortunately, a common miss-interpretation and incorrect application of the MacAdam ellipse protocol creates an actual deviation that can be as much as double that stated. The illustration below shows how this happens. Continue reading “A Common MacAdam Fail”

As One Adventure Ends, Another Begins

The Adventure with Architectural SSL Magazine

In 2006, I pitched the idea of a magazine dedicated to Solid-State lighting technology as it applies directly to architecture with the owners of Construction Business Media. After a few pizza lunches and more convincing, they moved to creation of Architectural SSL magazine in time for Lightfair 2007 with its debut issue.

Since that debut 12 years ago, I have participated in editorial discussion and planning, contributed content to every issue with a market setting feature, a closing remarks Op Ed, white papers, judeged products, provided reviews of various products and provided general commentary on the progress of SSL into the lighting market. Continue reading “As One Adventure Ends, Another Begins”