$20 3D Printed Mobility Walker

High school students use generative design to come up with new 3D printed structure

3D Printed Mobility Walker on the left and original version from Make: on the left. (photos by Benjamin Peters)

Benjamin Peters, a Drafting class teacher at Nekoosa High School in Wisconsin, had his students build an open-source mobility walker, based on a recent Make: magazine article “Walk This Way”(Vol 88, page 100). It’s a mixture of 3D printed connectors and wooden dowels.

Student building the original mobility walker

When his students built this open-source walker, with the supplied plans, they realized that most of the material cost was from the wooden dowels. Peters wrote: “Initial print-volume calculations and simulation showed my students that they could build an all-plastic walker that was stronger and less expensive than the partially wooden one. I challenged my students to create a strong 100% 3D printed walker for under $20 material cost.”

Student working on the designs

Peters wrote on Thingiverse: “Ideas for the initial design's structure were derived by topology optimization via a Fusion 360 simulation. These generative design structures were discussed by the Drafting class and a refined 3D model was built and tested at 1/5 scale.”

1/5 scale 3D printed model

Peters added: “The design was refined over many iterations; the final iteration is able to nest with more versions of itself, like a shopping cart.” The full scale model was tested at a local senior center.

Fully 3D printed model and original mix of 3D printed connectors and wooden dowels

“If you can find filament for $10/kg, this walker can be manufactured for about $20,” said Peters. He posted the files for this project on Thingiverse here. It’s great to see how students doing one project can experiment with ideas that improve on the original, which can found here.

Benjamin Peters and Marcus Wilcox co-run the Tech Ed Department at Nekoosa High School.

The Dormant State of the Nation of Makers

For a over a year and a half, the Nation of Makers, a non-profit organization, has been dormant - its website unchanged and the board of directors list removed from the site. Ever since Dorothy Jones-Davis left, which I covered in an interview with her in November 2022, there was an expectation that a search for a new Executive Director would soon follow. That didn’t happen.

I began asking what happened to Nation of Makers earlier this year and while I got answers, no one who was involved with Nation of Makers wanted to say anything in public, except to acknowledge that nothing was happening.

Earlier this week, a statement was issued from Nation of Makers and sent to people on their mailing list. It was signed by Chad Elish, Kipp Bradford, Stephanie Santoso, and Ian Cole, who were identified as current or former Advisory Board members, and Dorothy Jones-Davis, Past Executive Director.

The statement explains what happened. Formed as a non-profit in 2016 at the end of the Obama administration, Nation of Makers was set up with Strong City Baltimore as its fiscal sponsor. NoM began experiencing problems in the Fall of 2022:

  • Nation of Makers had challenges in working with Strong City Baltimore and the core issue was ongoing financial mismanagement by that organization’s leadership.

  • In August 2023, the former CEO of Strong City Baltimore, Reginald Davis, age 40, of Baltimore, Maryland, was indicted on charges for wire fraud and money laundering relating to the submission of fraudulent COVID-19 CARES Act loan applications. Link.

  • Because of the indictment, NoM’s assets were frozen, as were other organizations affiliated with Strong City Baltimore. NoM was unable to access the balance of funding that it still had and it could not even accept new funds.

  • NoM halted activities in 2023.

My understanding is that Nation of Makers had no money to pay Dorothy Jones-Davis and that is why she understandably left. As one of the former advisory members told me, the organization technically doesn’t exist because its fiscal sponsor has gone away.

The statement from Nation of Makers invites community members to join a virtual community meeting on Monday, May 20, 2024 at 8:00 p.m. ET. It will be a facilitated working session to explore what the future of Nation of Makers might look like. RSVP here.

At least now we know what happened. Time to move on.

Maker Faire Kyoto this weekend

The Maker Faires in Japan always have such distinctive projects. This weekend Maker Faire Tokyo takes place, and a standout project is BonsaIoT from students at Kyushu University. Its description states: “We are combining the traditional Japanese culture of bonsai with the latest technology to enhance the appeal of bonsai and develop a device called "BonsaIoT" for more people to enjoy.”

"BonsaIoT" is a bonsai-specific cultivation support system that collects and stores the watering techniques of Japanese bonsai craftsmen as data, and aims to reproduce and automate complex watering techniques. In addition, by developing 3D growth records using 3D reconstruction technology, we are proposing new ways to enjoy bonsai and new possibilities.

Bonsai, which has existed in Japan for a long time, is popular not only in Japan but also overseas. However, growing bonsai is very difficult, and even if you buy a bonsai at a high price, it dies within a few years, and in some cases it takes more than 100 years to grow a good bonsai.

The biggest challenge when caring for bonsai is “daily watering”, and in the bonsai world there is a saying “three years of watering”. Mr. Utsumi points out that this is a “wall” that prevents people who are interested in bonsai from starting to grow bonsai. The need for watering varies greatly depending on various conditions such as the type of tree, season, and weather. Ultimately, BonsaIoT aims to develop an automated watering system that takes these factors into account. We collect and analyze data such as temperature, humidity, and soil moisture content to determine the optimal watering timing for the health of your bonsai.

Additionally, since we view bonsai as an art form, we are attempting to generate 3D data through video recording in order to capture the four seasons that come within a single bonsai tree as a 3D model. Having a 3D growth record opens up a variety of possibilities, such as storing unique bonsai trees that change every day as an archive, viewing and sharing them remotely, demonstrating care, and holding an online world bonsai competition.

Shinobu Utsumi, Aya Horie and Hitoshi Takeno (link)

Street Mini 4WD

This looks like fun!

Street Mini 4WD (Mini Yonku) is a competition featured in the manga "Dash! Yonkuro," where participants use a guide stick similar to a hockey stick to control their Mini 4WDs and aim for the goal. The rules were proposed in Italy and the competition is also held in Japan. This time, we will have a Mini 4WD race on the slope in front of the venue. Anyone can participate, so please bring your Mini 4WD on the day of the event!

There are three other Maker Faires this weekend, all in Europe.

Retro Tech Issue, Volume 89. at the Printer

Here’s a preview of Volume 89, which we’ve sent to printer. Subscribers should begin receiving it in early May.

Volume 89 Retro Tech Issue

See you in May.