The team from Airwolf 3D broke the world record for simultaneous 3D printers printing in 24 hours, contributing 201 Robohands to charity on December 12-13, at their headquarters in Costa Mesa, California.
The origin of this charitable shot at glory goes like this: The team at Airwolf 3D was brainstorming which charities to contribute to during the holiday season, when Robohand was suggested. As Airwolf 3D is a manufacturer of 3D printers, the team figured that they could really do a lot of good for Robohand USA, maker of 3D printed prosthetic hands.
How? By 3D printing as many Robohands as they possibly could, of course.
They contacted Ty Esham, of Robohand USA, and she was blown away by the idea and expressed her willingness to attend and help organize the logistics of the event.
Inspired by Ty’s response to their idea, the Airwolf 3D team decided to figure out a way to snowball their idea into something larger. After some careful thought, the Airwolf 3D team came up with the idea to host a Print-A-Thon, with Erick Wolf initiating the concept of a “3D Flash Print”, involving Makers the world over working together at the same time for this one common cause. The concept was hashed out as being similar to a flash mob, except with 3D printers, not choreographed dancers or actors.
According to Eva Wolf, CEO of Airwolf 3D, “The amount of Robohands that we wanted to contribute required an army of 3D printers. When we assessed the number of printers that we had in house, paired with the contributions we were anticipating from the public, we realized that we would reach a record setting number of 3D printers. We thought this would be such an exciting element to add to the event: Make history while helping to enable hundreds of people. The record at that time was 102 printers running simultaneously, and we had two weeks to make it happen.”
The day before the event, however, the team from Airwolf 3D found out that the former record holder (Letourneau University) claimed to have broken their own world record several days prior with 158 3D printers. Rather than be discouraged, Airwolf 3D decided to step up and attempt to top it.
Eva said, “We received an enormous outpouring of support from the community. Everyone from engineers to high school teachers volunteered their printers to contribute to the cause. Matterhackers, for example, came through by delivering seven printers. They were among the many local makers and enthusiasts who heard about the event and brought their own 3D printers to make sure Airwolf 3D had enough. A couple of volunteers drove around buying all available 3D printers in Orange County. Even the neighbor industrial designer ‘Andesign’ came over with 3 machines.”
Having collected 170 printers, the stage was set to beat the previous simultaneous 3D printing record. Over 50 guests attended the event to support the cause, including teachers from local high schools, faculty from universities, engineers, and Makers all ages.
“Our Costa Mesa headquarters was full of music, laughter, and excitement as volunteers shared printing tips and packaged printed Robohands,” said Eva.
From Cerritos College of Design, Department Chair Dr. Miodrag “Mickey” Micic and his students were able to contribute six printers to the Print-A-Thon. One of the school’s students, Jonathan Valdivia, brought along his unique and fully-automated Robohand that he programmed to bend and point its 3D printed fingers. Dr. Micic was very excited about this prototype and said, “This is really the future of 3D printed prosthetics. One day they will all be automated.”
Airwolf 3D did indeed break the world record with 161 printers working (we should hear results about their submitted evidence, which they immediately sent to Guinness for review). With Jeff Cain from the USC School of 3D design serving as an expert witness and members of the Orange County 3D Printer Meetup serving as stewards to officiate the record attempt, it should be official very soon.
201 Robohands were printed and Airwolf 3D is continuing to print a variety of other sizes so that Ty will have a full stock of Robohands for those in need. Working with Water is Life, an international charity that has been stationed at orphanages in China for the last nine years, Ty will travel to their camp and teach volunteers how to make the custom castings for Robohand in February. These castings will be sent back to her in Georgia, where she outfit them with Airwolf 3D printed Robohands. On top of that, the “Flash Print” contributed another 30 or so Robohands from participants hailing as far as Nigeria.
Robohand has dedicated a large wall in its factory to commemorate the event and its contributors. It features a stamp in honor of each contribution, detailing the maker’s name and location.
Airwolf 3D designer Cameron Williams said, “Even though I have been in the 3D printing industry for over 6 years, I had yet to be a part of something as exciting and rewarding as this.”
Hailing all the way from Decatur, Georgia, Ty Esham of Robohand USA traveled to California to help package and label the multitude of Robohands as they became ready to be counted and shipped.
As the 24 hours wound down, Eva Wolf presented a $2000 donation to Robohand USA, along with a huge thank you to Ty for her selfless dedication to the cause. The Print-a-thon definitely raised awareness of the Robohand cause to a higher level. I hope 2015 sees a lot of similar events in the 3D printing industry.
“It was nice to be able to interact with our customers in such a positive way,” said Marilu Flores, head sales representative for Airwolf 3D. “We are part of a community, and when we get together we can really make a difference.” Mark Mathews, president of Airwolf 3D, added, “Everyone has a certain talent or gift, and the key is using it to help people out. We happen to be experts at 3D printing, and this is how we can help people.”
The impact has also made a difference on Airwolf 3D’s manufacturing practices. They are now considering adding an additional four hours to their current 20-hour testing protocol. According to Eva Wolf, “This will enable each printer that is built in our Orange County headquarters to produce a Robohand before it is shipped to its future owner. They “want to provide continual support to what we believe is truly noble cause.”
She continued to sum up important lessons learned from the 24-hour event, saying, “We have tons of experience and tribal knowledge about 3D printing because of our novel manufacturing methods, whereby a machine makes another machine. Yet, we learned so much through the process of printing these hands. My favorite part was when we had to quickly replace micro SD cards in 45 printers and we put three 8-year olds to work. It was fun to watch them run from 3D printer to 3D printer and quickly put out these little cards with their small fingers. We were so thrilled that we were not only able to contribute to Robohand, but that we were able to unite people using this technology in such a positive way. It was inspiring to be able to illustrate just one way that 3D printing can connect people thousands of miles apart to make a dramatic difference in the world.”
If you happen to be at CES 2015, you’ll have a chance to talk to the Airwolf 3D team in person to learn more.