3D Printing for Parenting

What is it? Think Parenting Needs.

Did you take a guess? Well,  I’ll tell you what it isn’t.

It doesn’t have moving parts. It doesn’t have complex geometry. It doesn’t push the envelope.  It doesn’t make people ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’.

At GoEngineer, you’ll find a number of 3D Printed parts, projects, and experiments.  The best ones are created by our 3D Printing magicians.  They feed the machine an STL file and out comes an assembly that can fold laundry for you.  You’ll also find really mundane 3D printed items, such as our material swatches, but we need those to do our job.

Before you read any further, let’s set the expectation…my project is just slightly SLIGHTLY more interesting than material swatches.

Let me tell you what happened.

I once took my 2-year-old twins to Stride Rite to get fitted for shoes.  The journey was like enduring a nightmare with my eyes open.  They were moving in two different directions, licking the window, and helping themselves to shoes that are twice as big as their feet.  I was the mom in the room receiving side-eye from normal moms.  I was the one that can’t control her kids.  It was joyful.  It was then that I realized I suffer from a chronic condition called Mommy’s-About-to-Lose-It.  I tucked each kid under my arms and bolted.  Thanks to aerodynamics, they were carried horizontal, so that increased my Lift and allowed me to exit faster.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know their shoe size.  Surely I can’t be the only mom with this problem.

Attempting a project

I decided to download a few online shoe size charts and make a shoe sizer.

Shoe Sizer

Figure 1 Shoe Size Chart, uneven spacing

Turns out these sizes are not technically evenly spaced.

  1. That’s weird.
  2. That’s inconvenient. I was really hoping to throw a linear pattern on and be done with it.

And then I had to do some WIKI-ing.  Wikipedia said something about barleycorn units – whaaaaa?

The barleycorn is an old English unit that equates to  13 inch (8.47 mm). This is the basis for current UK and US shoe sizes, with the largest shoe size taken as twelve inches (a size 12) i.e. 30.5 cm, and then counting backwards in barleycorn units, so a size 11 is 11.67 inches or 29.6 cm

Because I don’t speak barleycorn, I complied with the chart that has actual numbers on it, and sacrificed even spacing.  This is painful to the average engineer, but hooray to Ordinate Dimensioning for the win!

How I did it

I needed a normal-looking footprint, so I stole one from Google images and inserted it as a Sketch Picture.  I rotated it a little bit to my liking and then I just grabbed the spline tool and went to town sketching over it.

Then I added the horizontal sketch lines, adhering to the chart measurements.  This was not tedious at all. [insert sarcasm]

I added the sketch text and did an Extrude Boss – Thin, Mid-Plane to evenly divide the material.

Finally, I added the heel which needs to lie beneath the origin point of my size measurements.

And of course, I need a keyhole to hang it on the wall.

Interested in printing this for yourself? Submit your info and we’ll get a file over to you.

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Shark Tracking & 3D Printed Devices

The team at MBARI is a nonprofit oceanographic research center located up the coast from the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. In pursuit of solving a decades old mystery of Great White Shark migration patterns, a group of researchers from MBARI approached FATHOM recently with prototype and production needs, aiming to create an innovative “event-triggered” video capture device to be used on sharks off the coast of California. In this featured blog post, learn about how the team at FATHOM helped researchers use additive technologies throughout product realization, from prototyping for form, fit, and function testing, to taking a tool-less manufacturing approach that significantly lowered overall costs.

  • 3D Printing for Faster and Lower Cost Prototyping
  • Additive Manufacturing as a Cost-Effective Solution for High-Value, Low-Volume Applications
  • Direct Digital Manufacturing Strategy Enabling Production Agility

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About the Team at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Researchers at MBARI have set out to achieve and maintain a position as a world center for advanced research and education in ocean science and technology. Founded by David Packard as an advanced center for ocean research and technology development, using cutting-edge technologies to capture meaningful and measurable results is critical to upholding its mission.

As an early-adopter of 3D printing for research applications, there are many situations for the MBARI team where design freedom is crucial to the function of a part. MBARI often makes manifolds which are difficult or impossible to CNC machine due to long through holes, internal channels, and sharp internal corners. 3D printing has enabled MBARI to freely fabricate these types of parts that otherwise would require extensive work holdings or bonding parts together. The MBARI team has also used 3D printing to create molding tools to pour syntactic foam parts, a material often in oceanography because it is very tolerant to pressure and does not change dimension at 1500 PSI.

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The “Great White Shark Café” Challenge

The Great White Shark population endemic to California coastal waters have a consistent yearly migration pattern, traveling from the coast of California to the Hawaiian Islands and back. Each year, the sharks “hang out” in an underwater region nearly equidistant between their migration points, hundreds and hundreds of miles from the nearest coastline, which has raised many questions from marine biologists and shark experts.

The underwater region, dubbed the “Shark Cafe,” has been an unsolved mystery because the area is known to be essentially an underwater desert—lacking in the flourishing marine life that typically attracts apex predators like Great Whites. About 900 miles off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, the sharks have displayed “interesting behavior at the Shark Cafe,” including sessions where they “rapidly swim up and down between the surface and about 250 meters with occasional pauses at various depths.”

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To solve the mystery of this behavior, and discover the attraction of the Shark Cafe region, MBARI researchers proposed a tag-and-record approach that would involve constructing a video attachment for each targeted shark (pictured above—researchers tested a prototype in 2015 of their shark-cam tag on white sharks in South Africa).

For this next concept, every attachment needed to be durable enough to survive up to 10 months in an underwater environment. The video module specifications also included a max depth of 1200 meters and a photo/video depth of up to 200 meters. The housing needed to be durable so researchers could successfully capture up to eight hours of footage using a Great White Shark Behavior detection algorithm to trigger video and high res data sampling.

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The Solution

FATHOM Account Manager Chris Lem worked with the MBARI team throughout product development, advising on the advantages and disadvantages of different 3D printing technologies. For prototyping, the team opted for VeroClear parts using PolyJet Technology, which allowed the researchers and the FATHOM production team to iterate and improve the video attachment design with an almost see-through material. Iterating in PolyJet up-front allowed the team to make critical changes and understand the interplay of separate components before committing to a final design. Before completing the initial design, the MBARI team also iterated with Nylon parts using SLS Technology for additional strength-to-weight ratio and durability testing. For producing the final parts to be used for field-testing, 3D printing in engineering-grade plastics using FDM Technology proved to be ideal for MBARI’s application because of its high-performance and durability.

3D Printing for Prototype & Additive Manufacturing for Production

MBARI-Blog-(Shark-Cafe)-CAD-FilesBy taking a “front-loaded” approach during the prototyping phase—engaging in many iteration cycles—MBARI engineers could increase knowledge and decrease assumptions faster, earlier in the concept development process. After proving out the design, the team chose to take a direct digital manufacturing approach for the production of the final enclosure because using a traditional manufacturing method for only 20 parts would have increased costs by as much as three times. FDM not only met the critical requirements of the application, it proved to be the most cost-effective option with the greatest flexibility—the MBARI team can 3D print on-demand without having to hold inventory or incur additional costs for design changes in future production runs.


To learn more about the migrating shark population near the California coast and the team at MBARI, check out the institute’s website. Curious to *deep dive* on some other projects from the FATHOM team? Follow us on Facebook // Twitter // LinkedIn // Instagram // YouTube.

Oxfam launches VR film, trials 3D printing and sensor tech

Evelyn watches the Oxfam film, which she stars in, using a Samsung Gear VR headset.

International charity Oxfam is leveraging new technologies to spread the word about crises happening around the globe, as well as exploring the use of 3D printing, drones and internet of things sensors as new ways of delivering aid and solving problems in the developing world.

On Tuesday, Oxfam is set to launch a virtual reality film called Evelyn’s Story, allowing viewers to experience the arduous journey of an 11-year-old Kenyan girl searching for water in the drought-ridden Turkana county.

When Oxfam filmed the short film (which was made in conjunction with the Sydney-based production company Flimgraphics and Alt VFX), the young girl’s family could only get access to clean water for about two hours every eight days, so were often forced to risk diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, using whatever they could find.

Oxfam Australia director of public engagement, Pam Anders, told The Australian Financial Review it was the first time it had used virtual reality, but if it goes well it will continue to use them to help show what it is trying to achieve.

“Virtual reality is something that’s become more accessible in the past 12 months in terms of people being able to access headsets off the shelf, so it was a great opportunity for us to look at because it gives the viewer an amazing opportunity to be virtually connected,” she said.

“It’s like you’re there. It’s very disorienting when you first put the headset on and you’re able to direct what you see. You can look beyond the subject to see what’s above or behind you. Many of my staff and myself were emotionally moved.”

Inspiring experience

Watching the film in virtual reality, the viewer feels like they’re in the bare, arid desert of northern Kenya desperately searching for water alongside Evelyn. Ms Anders hopes the immersive experience will inspire people to donate more money.

Besides virtual reality, Oxfam has also been utilising new technologies in Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Since the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the organisation has been trialling 3D printing of water pipes and fittings in partnership with the not-for-profit Field Ready and a local 3D printing company. 

“What we’ve found is it’s been a much quicker way to produce the spare parts. We want to keep doing this, but the challenge now is how to get the right materials locally, so it’s more sustainable and weather-proof, and how to keep the costs low, and where along the chain of vendors it’s best to introduce 3D printing. It’s going well so far, but there are still elements to resolve,” Ms Anders said.

In Sri Lanka, Oxfam has also been placing sensors in dams and water pipes to measure the amount of rainfall in real time. This is helping farmers to make insurance claims during floods. If rainfall hits a certain level in the dam, farmers in the region receive an SMS generated by the sensor.

“One of the problems this was trying to solve was that local insurance schemes were really difficult for farmers to access because they didn’t have evidence of the rainfall or flooding. Since we implemented these sensors there’s been an increase in payouts to farmers – last year there was over 110,000,” Ms Anders said.

Other charities adopting new tech

Oxfam’s use of cutting edge technologies is just one example of ways that not-for-profit and inter governmental organisations are using new-age tech to help tackle problems in developing nations and countries plagued by internal conflict.

In May the United Nation’s World Food Programme concluded a trial using the ethereum blockchain, giving Syrian refugees resources by giving them cryptocurrency-based vouchers to be redeemed in participating markets.

Oxfam’s 2014 Even it Up report found that seven out of 10 people live in countries where the gap between rich and poor is greater than it was 30 years ago. Oxfam has also found that over the last 25 years, the top 1 per cent has gained more income than the bottom 50 per cent put together.

World Vision has also been building up its technology capability and has partnered with US companies Fieldworker and Intermec to build the Last Mile Mobile Solution (LMMS), which helps the charity to register and verify aid beneficiaries, distribute food, prevent duplication errors and reduce inventory losses.

The LMMS devices work in remote locations without electricity or internet access, but let aid beneficiaries register and receive their own barcoded ID card.

The system has let World Vision deliver materials like food, tents, hygiene kits and mosquito nets in up to 50 per cent less time than through manual methods.