Challenging the mainstream while exploring the possibilities

Challenging the mainstream while exploring the possibilities

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3D printing and Industrial Design will fundamentally change this century from an endeavor of mass production back to the arena of craft and repair. Some have called this shift ‘digital craftsmanship’.”

Brook Kennedy - Associate Professor, Virginia Tech School of Architecture & Design

Making 3D printing meaningful

Additive manufacturing is becoming easier and more prevalent than ever. For the 3D revolution to be truly meaningful, it must move beyond industrial prototyping or something just for hobbyists. To showcase the potential of 3D printing as a mainstream means to create viable and functional products for real markets, the Eastman Innovation Lab (EIL) joined Mass Portal and ColorFabb in sponsoring a 3D printing challenge for students at Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture & Design and College of Engineering.

“In this challenge, students were charged with the concept of user personalization or mass ‘customization,’ which entails creating parts tailored to your body or sole needs. The teams also explored several promising scenarios for making custom products that highlighted the unique material characteristics of Amphora: heat resistance, shock resistance, as well as food and body safety
amongst other qualities,” said Brook Kennedy, associate professor at Virginia Tech School of Architecture & Design.


ColorFabb & Mass Portal


ColorFabb has worked closely with the EIL to purposefully engineer materials for the 3D printing market based on the community’s need for beautiful color, toughness, functionality and ease-of-use. For this challenge, ColorFabb provided the filament made from Eastman Amphora™ 3D polymer AM1800, a low-odor, styrene-free choice that is uniquely suited for additive manufacturing applications.

Mass Portal

Mass Portal, a privately held company that designs, manufactures and sells high definition "open material" desktop 3D printers,donated several printers to the challenge.

Material Solution

Enter Eastman Amphora™ 3D polymer

The goal was to prove that materials matter and how a functional filament makes all the difference in creating useful 3D products. The task for Virginia Tech’s best and brightest was to design products that solve
real-world problems. The teams needed to create a prototype as well as a presentation that describes the product, the rationale for creating it, the problem it solves, and how it leverages the advantages of Amphora.

Eastman Amphora 3D polymer is a low-odor, styrene-free choice that is uniquely suited for 3D printing applications, empowering designers to make truly functional items with an attractive gloss, vibrant colors, and excellent toughness and temperature resistance. It exhibits a high melt temperature but is printable at 240° to 260°C. Its low shrinkage leads to better warping performance. With good dimensional stability, Amphora delivers advanced bridging capabilities to create stronger and more detailed items—all with low odor and low emissions. 


Form follows function

In an engineering field dictated by the notion that the shape of a product should be based on its intended purpose, customization is a sweet spot for the burgeoning additive manufacturing industry. Unlike mass manufacturing, 3D printing allows for 
one off manufacture of products made to personal specifications. 

Eight teams got to work. The results were prototypes for a golf grip trainer, an ergonomic computer mouse, a glove that
can house biometric sensors, a finger splint, sunglasses frames, a rotating trivet, an insulated water bottle, and a protective athletic cup—all customized.

As it turns out, the two winning entries sported similar forms for very different functions.

The team consisting of students Lane Smith, Nathan Sharpes, and Ricardo Cruz was awarded for its computer mouse shell. The
team spearheaded by Courtney Tamaro, Roshelle Wijeratne, and Nicole Norris
was recognized for its work developing custom protective athletic cups.

As presented by the mouse team, “With the increased amount of computer-based work, the amount of fatigue related to hand injuries
has also increased . . . Traditional manufacturing methods and current 3D scanning technologies limit the level of achievable customization.” Their solution used “a computer vision algorithm and additive manufacturing to create a custom mouse shell based on the user’s hand dimensions.” The product would be based on a smartphone app that translates a photo of the user’s hand into CAD model.

With no personal experience to go on, the women who developed the protective athletic cups interviewed more than 80 male athletes
who said cups are uncomfortable, lack sizing options, and impede performance. The team developed a 3D printed solution that offered customization of not only size but also venting, color, and personalization.

Both products need to exhibit a ,desired durability, whether ,in defense of direct impact or repeated use. As cited by the teams, Amphora offers the toughness required for truly functional products.


Shaping new markets

“The future of additive manufacturing looks bright, especially because it’s going to be advanced by the kind of students we see at Virginia Tech,” said Alex Dudal, market development manager at Eastman and a judge at the VT challenge. He continued, “They all have a keen understanding of the design, engineering, and materials necessary to make 3D printing viable.”

According to Dudal, what impressed the judges about the winners was their thoroughness in trying to develop not just a design, but a business model as well.

“In a short amount of time, they identified opportunities, researched customizable solutions, crafted elegant, yet functional designs, determined costs, and tested their prototypes,” said Dudal. “It’s exciting to introduce a material like Amphora to aspiring designers and engineers like those we met in Blacksburg.”

”The significance of this project is the fact that the material properties drove the design process. The first question became what would these material properties be useful for? This helped narrow the field of possible 3D printing applications,” added Kennedy. “Efforts like the EIL Amphora Challenge enable students to push the boundaries of possible use for 3D printing technology while at the same time teaching them that the materials you use to bring your materials to life do indeed matter.” 

“I think the overall takeaway of this challenge for the students is the realization that Industrial Design (ID) can fundamentally change this century from an endeavor of mass production back to the arena of craft and repair. Some have called this shift ‘digital craftsmanship.’ ID will enter the arena of one-off production and repair by virtue of the capabilities of 3D printing. One needs to look no further to see the kinds of things being produced  as a result of this challenge to see how ID in the 21st century can become known for "Individualized Design" not
just "Industrial Design."