Another Unusual 3D Print

Recently, I was contacted by some high school students (Hammad Sadiq, Harsha Chittoor, Yash Bhalla) about the possibility of me 3d printing something for them. That, in and of itself, is not entirely unusual- when students hear we have a 3d printer they are prone to asking if we can print them a cell phone case/iPad case/random other object. There’s some novelty involved, and that’s pretty normal. This wasn’t that.

When I probed for more information before committing, I found out they were AP Biology Students with Mr. Wood, and were working on a final project for the class. They had already located the 3d file of the object they needed printed, and were more than happy when I told them they should email the file to me and I’d have the part for them in a day or two. Of course I was willing to help with a final project. The questions that followed were not exactly what I expected- questions about if we had access to any cast-able silicone and if I had any experience with that.

Huh?

It became clear that the part they wanted printed wasn’t actually the part they needed- it was the mold to cast the part they needed. The part in question was to be highly flexable, and as such they were going to use silicone. We didn’t have any of the specific material they needed, so that was ordered, and I set about printing the mold. It was a relatively simple print from a technical perspective, and in an hour or two it was ready. I returned a few days later, and they had cast the part, though it wasn’t ready yet, and I made a note to return in a few days.

The part in question is actually a combination of three parts- the molded part, a top/closing layer, and a seal between the two. When inflated with air (or liquid as well, I presume) the device ariculates and moves, much like a tenticle or sucker on some bizzare marine lifeform. Words begin to fail here, though a short video should explain.
Besides the inherent newness of 3d printing, this project touches upon a wide variety of skills and experience for the students. All of these, it’s worth noting, are well outside and above the scope of what would normally be experienced in a Biology class.

A small selection:

Research into 3d printing file types and restrictions
Manipulation of 3d files
Research into binary castable liquids
Experience in casting binary liquids
Experience with iterating on a hypothesis and testing

I’m very happy to have been able to contribute (in however a small way) to the learning of these students.

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