Deepak and Ritik
Removing the barriers to entry for 3D printing is one of the most important challenges that faces the industry today. For the last 5 years I have taken it upon myself to help to remove some of the hurdles, so that more and more people could benefit from additive manufacturing. Initially the obstacles were more regarding clarity of information, access to technology and skill gaps. This lead me to build out a network of 3D printers in Antwerp using 3D Hubs, organising events to raise awareness and teaching youth basic CAD skills, tasks slowly taken over by my son, Ritik.
In this journey, my son was my most valued prototype: his confrontation with the technology and insights, led me to a path that was far ahead of most. Realising early on that teaching design and modelling skills are crucial to avoid a new digital divide. While the world is gearing to teach kids to program, the big missing skill for them will be to bring the digital back to the analogue world. Something Andy Middleton of Stratasys recently acknowledged at CECIMO in Brussels.
Ritik's 3D Printed Glasses
When Ritik decided to start working on a line of commercially available eyewear (www.irixs.com), he was confronted with the retail requirement of a CE-mark for his glasses. Upon research into the matter, we found that there was very little documented in this matter and that nobody in the industry offered CE norming on their materials or machines. Generally, 3D printed products are exempted under hand made or small-scale productions, but this does not instill a great heap of confidence with the end consumer. This leads to uncertainty and doubt on behalf of the small-scale innovators, who are left with the burden of writing their own norms and hoping that is sufficient. The lack of certification is impeding innovation and halting smaller businesses leveraging the power of AM in order to democratise manufacturing capabilities.
Certification for additive manufacturing is not an easy job, but it can be done: a quick peek at the EOS materials site and you see that some of the metals are certified, but none of the plastics are. Defining the right combination of machines and materials printed under the right controlled environment should be certifiable. Testing the printed samples would give you the data needed to certify the design and provided it is printed in the similar situations the future products should pass the tests as well.
A while ago, I got the opportunity to raise this issue with CECIMO and I hope that the industry will come together to offer a platform so that certification of prints would become easier. This would lead to more people using the technology and creating safer products.