Maria Esquela led a discussion of people who came early to the conference. This included a group from the First 1511 Team from Rochester NY, a group from Enable Evansville, a couple of presenters from Florida Atlantic University as well as individual members. Maria showed us a prototype and several revisions of a Gripper Thumb as well as a few other hands. This one is the first prototype of one of the latest designs. I see it called the Gripper Thumb and the Jedi Hand. I was hoping to print our hands in nylon as I thought it would hold up really well. She mentioned that nylon absorbs oils and dirt from sweat Perhaps the material is not be best for our farmer and auto worker after all. This hand is a “reverse grip”- you have to apply power to it to open it and its resting position is closed. So, if you want to grip and carry something, this is more comfortable. The strong bands hold with a strong grip. The original hand had all the fingers connected. In the later design, the fingers have been separated so that a glove may be put over the hand.
Over the next few days, the morning sessions included calls to different eNABLE Chapters across the world. I can’t do justice to the content of these sessions. A few highlights will be mentioned.
Syria: We discussed with Syria the problem of power going out frequently. Trying to 3D print parts that take many hours is difficult when power is unstable- not just blinking off, but staying off for hours and being unpredictable.
It was noted that Syria won’t accept hands that are not pretty enough. The hands will sit un-donated rather than be used. Elastic does not last well in this region- elastic will not last even a day.
Haiti: Haiti was provided hands by a group of scouts. There is a doctor stationed in Port a Prince to work with the users. Haiti has a printer and prints in TPE. Haiti has issues with getting a consistent water supply. They use Indian Wells pumps that have frequent breakdowns of their gaskets. Haiti is printing gaskets to keep these pumps in service as that is a big need and the best use of their printer. They also mentioned something called a Plumcase. This is a mobile power and connectivity case that can give you a hot spot even with very low signals.
Since power outages are common in many areas, knowing how long a partial print can sit before being resumed is critical information.
On our way to our next session, we caught a glimpse of this:
Spacecraft flight simulator!! It was difficult to walk on by! More on that later!!!
The next session was tearing apart a Cube 3D printer and comparing it to ones that were more open and easy to see. It was sturdy, elements covered and hard to get to, and the electronics were well supported and secured. But it was noted that the HOT extruders were right by the electronics boards with no vents (all was solidly encased in the plastic shell) or fans. Other than that, it was basically the same extruder, filament feed, and print bed as other printers.
The next tour that we wandered into was one of the many 3D printing labs at U of M. This group is in charge of all the printers on the U of Maryland campus and they put printers where they will be most used, so there are various types near the groupings of labs (such as for the biology majors, engineers, health care, etc., In this room, they mainly had one kind (the Makerbot replicator because it can be networked and all controlled easily from a central station). The workers here are the experts in printing. The students design what they want printed and the workers take care of it. The workers let them know if there are problems with the files that would prevent them from printing.