In a case study demonstrating the customizability of additive manufacturing, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia has used a large-format 3D printer from the Germany-based BigRep to create a ‘fingerprint stool’. Specifically, Dr. James Novak, who was at the time a postdoctoral researcher at UTS, used the BigRep ONE 3D printer employed at the UTS ProtoSpace fabrication lab to create the customized end-use product.
Novak set about manufacturing the stool in order to produce a unique design that tests the BigRep ONE’s capabilities. Thus, in order to highlight the potential to produce personalized products on the 3D printer, Novak created the stool from he and his wife’s fingerprints, which are incorporated into the design using a complex geometry. “It was designed when my wife and I got engaged and features the ring fingerprint impressions from both of us,” explained Novak. He notes how the nature of the intricate design can only be achieved through additive manufacturing:
“As the fingerprints merge through the center of the design, an organic form emerges that can only be manufactured using 3D printing, and there is no support material needed.”
Capturing the intricacy of fingerprints using 3D printing
Novak opted to incorporate fingerprints within the project due to their absolute individuality, in order to showcase the level of personalization that can be achieved using additive manufacturing. The fingerprint stool features an organic design with fingerprint ridges connected by supports between the empty spaces. Both fingerprints then merge in the open mid-section of the design.
The process of 3D printing the stool was simplified with the use of a support raft, which helped to ensure that the first layers of the design didn’t warp, as these layers are initially unconnected. However, Novak comments that the stool can still be 3D printed without a support raft using the the right build platform adhesive.
According to BigRep, Novak’s personalized stool also demonstrates the potential of large-format 3D printing for lean manufacturing, where customized items can be produced in small batches. Multiple independent designs can be implemented within the same production run on the BigRep ONE’s build volume. The company’s website states: “Combined with accessible price points and transferable design skills, large-format additive clearly presents an enviable solution at all levels of business.”
Large-format 3D printing from BigRep
BigRep’s large-format systems include the BigRep Studio, Edge and Pro, as well as the ONE. Recently, at RAPID + TCT 2019, BigRep introduced its newest 3D printer, the STUDIO G2, as a successor to the BigRep Studio.
As well as the fingerprint stool, the large-format 3D printers from BigRep have also been used in other case studies seeking to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology. In June 2019, the company’s NOWLAB initiative developed a 3D printed wall with an inbuilt water and drainage system featuring a complex design. At Formnext 2018, BigRep also introduced the fully functional NERA e-motorcyle. This 3D printed design earned BigRep and NOWLAB the Creative Use of the 3D Printing accolade in the 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards.
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Featured image shows the 3D printed fingerprint stool. Photo via BigRep.