Meet the FabLab’s newest guest, Zeus. (Professor Frolik is letting us borrow it). Zeus, produced by AIO Robotics, is a combination 3D scanner, printer, copier and fax machine. The print resolution is comparable (if a bit coarser) to that of our makerbots, but the real innovation of this machine is the integrated 3D scanner and powerful onboard software package. The scanner is a step up from our current 3D scanning setup, which requires a separate computer and a lot of user input to produce a decent model. AIO’s machine has a powerful user interface built on the open source operating system Ubuntu. This means that Zeus is not just a 3D printer, scanner, copier and fax machine, but also a stand alone computer that can be used to surf the web (if one is so inclined) and more importantly, perform all of the complex operations that involve meshing together a 3D scan.
To take a scan with Zeus, all one needs to do is select the resolution of the scan, place an object in the machine and press start. The machine will automatically take pictures of the object from all angles and mesh them together into a 3D model which can be printed, exported to another computer, or faxed to another Zeus.
Autodesk is well know for offering a wide variety of CAD software, such as AutoCAD or the new Fusion360. But just recently the FabLab made good use of Meshmixer, the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for 3D meshes. The software allows manipulating meshes in a more user-friendly way. It is possible to add spikes, flatten parts, and combine solids together interactively. Although Meshmixer is not advertised in Autodesk’s products website, it can be found through their R&D site or at www.meshmixer.com where it’s offered for free.
Meshmixer’s capability of solid body interaction is notable, it is known for it’s ability to create lion-headed bunnies and bobble-headed characters, but what caught Fabber Octavio’s eye was the built in support generator. It claims to optimize support generation geometrically, adding and combining pillars at angles and reducing contact with the actual 3D mesh, this would prove an advantage when 3D printing features that require intricate support since support removal can be tedious and result in damaging the printed parts.
We made a trial print using the default settings in Meshmixer, and then compared the print specs of default vertical supports and Meshmixer’s. We found that the printing times and material would be very similar, but the surface finish from the trial print proved to be noticeably smoother than that resulting from regular support use.
It is quite remarkable that a software like this one is available not only to students and academia, but to everyone for free. Here at the UVM FabLab we are eager to use it again, and surely enough some funny bobble-heads will be made!
Bamboo is an appealing material for many purposes and worldwide because it is reliable, inexpensive and grows rapidly in varied conditions. As a 2015 Barrett Scholar undergraduate Civil Engineering major Sara Dorr created unique molds using the FabLab’s 3d printers that mimic the internal patterns bamboo fiber. These molds provided opportunities to experiment with novel distributions of materials like carbon fiber. The potential outcome is newly engineered composites that can be used to optimize lightweight energy harvesting structures such as wind turbines.
In bamboo there is a higher density of structural fibers near the stronger exterior surface; this density gradually decreases in fiber concentration moving inward and away from the exterior. This graded pattern is considered to be the critical contributor to bamboo’s remarkable strength in resisting lateral wind loads.
The Alternative Energy Racing Organization (AERO) uses the FabLab almost daily during the school year to prototype different parts on their alternative energy racing car, Greenspeed. The machine they use most is the laser cutter. The laser cutter allows them to create quick cardboard prototypes to ensure proper geometry and measurements for car parts that will later be machined.
“The rapid prototyping tools of the FabLab make it easy for AERO to iterate and prototype quickly,” says team member Emmie Bolt. Access to the FabLab provides opportunities for the group to be creative and customize designs.
Photographed here is the AERO car steering wheel, printed on the FabLab’s Stratysys Dimension 3d printer in 2013. Through multiple years of racing competitions it has held up extremely well and will hopefully steer the car to victory at this spring’s annual International Formula Hybrid Competition.
A challenge in many parts of mathematics is that of visualizing structures that live in four dimensions and higher. Such visualizations are crucial for intuition as often important mathematical intricacies do not arise in lower dimensions. In this project, the CEMS UVM FabLab helped Professor Warrington make a 3D print of a four-dimensional hyperplane arrangement called the rank-3 Shi arrangement.