Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Z Corp’s Dedicated Channel Partners

This guest blog is by John Kawola, Z Corporation Chief Executive Officer.

We just wrapped up our three regional 2011 ZNet channel partner conferences in Denver, Istanbul and Phuket. We had a fantastic turnout. First I want to thank the many people involved in organizing and pulling off all of the meetings conducted in the past six weeks. They required a lot of work and travel, but it was clearly well worth it. Equally important, I want to extend a special word of thanks to our partners.

I am often reminded when I attend these events of the importance of the relationship with our channel partners and customers. While we often think about Z Corp in terms of our technology and what we can do for our customers, none of this would work without the dedication of our dealers and distributors worldwide and the personal relationships we have built with them.

Many of our partners are small business owners. They have invested their own time and money into building something truly great. The fact that they carry the Z Corp product line, demonstrates their commitment and investment in us. We know it’s our job to return that favor by delivering a strong lineup of products, providing first-class support and training and, perhaps most importantly, being their partner.

Live Webcast: How did a leading aftermarket auto parts manufacturer cut product development time by 40%?  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Designing and 3D Printing a Functional Kamen Rider CRD Helmet

Today’s guest post is by Russ Ogi, Chief Operating Officer of Z Corp Partner, RAPID Technology LLC.

Developing the Concept
Born and raised in Hawaii, I had the benefit of seeing both Western and Eastern superheroes. I grew up with American superheroes like Spiderman, Batman and Superman, but I was also exposed to Japanese superheroes like Kikaida, Inazuman and Kamen Rider.

The latter fall into the genre of Tokusatsu, Japanese live-action shows that involve superheroes. This genre spawned an estimated 3 - 4 billion dollar global industry that eventually made its way into all corners of the globe from Asia to Europe and the Americas. In the United States, the original Japanese shows eventually got watered down (due to US TV standards) into what most in the States know today as the Power Rangers.

So, what does a superhero geek do when he grows up and you give him access to a prototyping studio and some of the most talented artists in the industry? He makes superhero armor.

The idea behind the Kamen Rider CRD helmet was to create a more contemporary version of the original Kamen Rider V3 character from the 70's. The goal was to create a 1:1 scale wearable helmet based on this concept.

The Kamen Rider CRD Helmet
Sketching the Helmet Design

Concept pencil sketch for the "Rider CRD" design.

I worked with Calvin Lac, an Application Engineer here at RAPID Technology, on the design for the helmet. Calvin is an award-winning model maker and artist.

We tried to take original elements from the character and give it an edgier, more mature feel using antiquing techniques to make newly printed Z Corp 3D printed parts appear old. Calvin, an avid Gundam fan, tried to incorporate Gundam design elements as well.

I have a deep appreciation of Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger's work and wanted a bio-mechanical feel to the overall design. Some areas were to have organic, fluid looking curves, while other areas would have hard edges and well-defined lines. Above all, unlike some remakes, I wanted it to preserve the spirit of the character and pay homage to the original show, keeping long-time fans happy and hopefully winning some new ones.

Designing the Helmet in 3D CAD
Once we had the idea hammered out, we began designing in 3D with the CAD program Maya. At this stage, the helmet went through several changes and then was engineered for 3D printing.

Maya rendering showing computer-generated model half as a surface render and half as a wireframe.

"Rider CRD" 3/4 scale helmet prototype.

3D Printing the Helmet
The 3D model was printed on the ZPrinter 450 in parts. We created the lower jaw separately to allow the helmet to be worn and retain a tight fit on the wearer's head. We finished the 3D printed helmet prototype with ZMax to provide extra strength to the helmet so it could be used as a true functional part in production work. Finally, we assembled the helmet and prepared the surface for gloss painting.

Rider Helmet prototype emerging from ZPrinter.

Test Fitting the Jaw

Fit adjustments for the faceplate.

Test fitting the jaw.

Painting the 3D Printed Helmet
We kept to the original color scheme of the character as much as possible. The original Kamen Rider V3 had a grey lower jaw. We opted for silver because we thought it would match the mechanical aspect of our design better. We also selected darker colors to give the character a more mature and contemporary feel. The helmet was painted in layers and sections.


Applying Bondo to the prototype.

First coat of primer and spot patching for the faceplate and jaw.

"Rider CRD" in his first coat of sanded-down primer.

Smoothing, joint patching for "Rider CRD."

Silver base coat laid down on "Rider CRD" helmet.

Metallic red overcoat going on the helmet.

Rider CRD in red metallic paint.

Casting the Resin Eyes
The Rider eyes were cast in resin. The masters were 3D printed and silicone molds were made. Then we mounted the resin eyes in the helmet.

Rider CRD... green eyes.

Adding Lights and Antenna
We added lights in the back of the eyes in order to give them a glowing effect. Finally the antennae were added to complete the look. Some of the smaller details were created in Z Corp’s ZBuilder Ultra plastic prototyping system and then painted.

Completed, functional 3D Printed Kamen Rider CRD Helmet: "Hmmm...something's missing..."

Next on the list, creating the entire suit?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Role of 3D Printing and Scanning in the Community Development of Automobiles

Today's guest blog is by Scott Harmon, Z Corporation VP of Business Development.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share a very cool webcast about using 3D scanning and 3D printing in custom automotive design. The company is called Local Motors. There are a lot of companies out there that make short run replica cars, like Factory Five and ERA Replica Automobiles. These cars are very cool, and people buy thousands of them every year.

Local Motors' approach is very different. Instead making a replica, they’re using a community development model to create a new car. Their design community creates the concept for the car, and the Local Motors' team designs and fabricates it. In the detailed design and fabrication process, they determine how to integrate mass manufactured components and custom designed components. It’s a fascinating combination of re-engineering the as-built parts, and designing entirely new components. The combination is completely novel, and thanks to some smart engineers and some great tools, Local Motors can do it at a price that’s less than many stock cars.

Obviously 3D scanning and 3D printing are critical enabling technologies for these processes, and it’s no surprise that Local Motors uses ZScanning and ZPrinting to quickly and efficiently create an entirely new kind of car. The webcast goes into more detail about how they make cars and the tools they use.

Please let me know what you think of the webcast, if you have questions or want more information.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

3D Printed Trebuchet

This week’s blog is by Nick Stone, Z Corp. Project Leader, Mechanical Engineering, Research and Development.

When I was 15, I saw a PBS program on trebuchet’s and decided to build one in my backyard. Honestly, it was disappointing. My trebuchet threw a tennis ball about 10 feet and sliced a trench into our lawn.

I always wanted to give it another try, so I decided to 3D print a fully-functional trebuchet. I printed all of the parts on a ZPrinter 650. The axels ride in plastic bushing that are used in the ZPrinter 650 feeder assembly. The wheels do turn and are supposed to give you a little extra push. I found a video from the History Channel which provided some good advice on relative lengths, as well as a good way to hang the sling. The length of the string controls the release point as does the weight of the projectile. The heavier the projectile, the earlier the release, and thus the higher the angle. I’m not sure if this is typical of all trebuchets or unique to my sling.

Fully-functional trebuchet 3D printed on a ZPrinter 650

I’ve been threatening one of my fellow engineers, Guy, with my trebuchet since I started designing it. He finally had enough of my taunts and began ZPrinting his own trebuchet. His is about 20” tall and seems strong enough to launch a baseball a good distance. And so the arms race begins…

I decided that, because I had proven trebuchet technology, and since Guy was still perfecting his trebuchet, I’d be best served by improving my projectiles. I had been launching Delrin balls and drywall anchors, but decided to really strike fear into my enemies/co-workers. We have a low melt temp metal on hand, so I ZPrinted some molds and waxed them. I used a heat gun and hot plate to melt the metal and pour it into my molds.

ZPrinted mold for trebuchet’s metal projectile

A flying spiked metal ball is pretty scary (and dangerous, so here’s my disclaimer: Neither I nor Z Corp recommend you try this; if you do, you do it at your own risk and we cannot be held liable for any adverse results!). If Guy starts mobilizing his trebuchet, I might be forced to hold a demonstration near his cube. Until then, I think it’s enough that he knows I have the capability and am crazy enough to try it.