I love crazy ideas. The kind where people have a vision for something they want to accomplish but have no idea how to do it. THAT I can relate to. Jesse and Co. at UC Irvine has this kind of idea. I couldn’t help but jump in and help them navigate the uncharted waters.
Jesse wanted to build a bot farm for a variety of projects. One of their first is to print a few variations of building blocks that can be assembled by hand using magnets for an upcoming art exhibit at the university. The blocks can be used to make a low-res version of about any form you can think of.
These blocks were inspired by a Frank Lloyd Wright design (my favorite architect) that enabled people to build their own house using a variety of concrete forms to make concrete blocks that could be combined in a variety of ways to build your house on site.
The values of Frank’s organic architecture (check out FLW’s John Store House to see the first use of his block system in Hollywood in 1923!) and Jesse’s project were similar: give the tools to people on site to let them create anything they want, and any result looks like it belongs together.
Instead of FLW’s concrete idea (which Jesse did successfully use for a previous art installation), 3D printed plastic was his weapon of choice for this project. It’s a good match, since people will stand in as the “builder” or final 3D printer, if you will. Plastic is light and magnets are much more forgiving than threaded steel rods to fasten everything together.
Jesse needed a bot farm. One that could produce thousands of fairly large parts in a few short months. The budget, timeline, and their evaluation against the competition brought him to Printrbot! He now has 30 Printrbot Simples cranking out part after part, on schedule, to complete the project in time.
They put our printers, and others, through the paces during their evaluation phase. They wanted a 3D printing partner that built great products and offered excellent features, reliability, reasonable pricing and value, …you know – the works. We are proud that Jesse and his team chose Printrbot. When we’re stacked up against “Made in China” or “overpriced compared with value,” Printrbot excels. We make products we actually want to use ourselves, and have our own expectations about how well they should perform.
If you have ever run a bot farm of 30 printers, and it’s a small club I happen to be in, you find out very quickly that it doesn’t always go smoothly. And it didn’t. It turns out that details matter… how you hang the filament, the surface you choose to print on, even how you tune your machines. Since their project began, they have printed roughly 80 miles of filament and are over 472 operating hours on each of the 30 printers!
As always, Printrbot stepped up and got them sorted offering free replacements when things did break and advice when they hit a wall. I even gave them bad advice once due to my lack of clarity and had to help correct my mistake! Now everything is humming along, with the occasional grumpy bot but the knowledge that every challenge can be overcome. It’s important to mention, education and pushing the envelope of what is to come with 3D printing is near and dear to me and the entire Printrbot team. We are there for teachers and students in a way that no other company can or will be, period.
Jesse and his team are my kind of people. They tackle big problems. When I arrived on campus, the first thing I saw was a plastic recycling project. I hopped on a stationary bike and helped power a generator to charge up batteries that powered a filament extruder to make filament that would eventually make its way to a printer. Crazy cool. But besides the big problems they are tackling, they have that maker spirit that I know and love. They are stubborn at problem solving, they hack things together that function (form, be damned!), and they have a great attitude the whole time. It’s really rewarding to be a part of a team like this.
So after seeing the whole production in person, and recovering from my Kickstarter flashbacks, I continue to root them on toward their goal. I can’t wait to see them cross the finish line and share this first amazing project with the world!
My hat is off to you and your team, Jesse!