EcoWash: Combining Industrial Design & 3D Printing

By Samantha Bild on

Our engineering intern Chris Brewer, a senior at Appalachian State University, recently collaborated with TriMech’s application engineers to bring a design studio project to life with 3D printing.

Designing a Solution:

Anybody who has ever done laundry using liquid laundry detergent (rather than the new pods) understands how frustrating and messy it is to carefully and cleanly dispense liquid laundry detergent. As an industrial engineering student, Chris designed a three-part solution that made it easier to accurately measure, cleanly dispense and store your detergent using the traditional laundry bottle.

Chris was encouraged to take a fresh look at his design from sophomore year. With new eyes, he imported his original design into SOLIDWORKS, where he began the process of re-engineering the part. It was a win-win because Chris had the chance to familiarize himself with SOLIDWORKS while updating his old Rhino model.

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Original Design Modeled in Rhino

Integrating SOLIDWORKS and solidThinking Inspire 2016:

After creating the SOLIDWORKS file, Chris started working in another program by solidThinking called Inspire. The main function of Inspire is to perform analyses on a model and then subtract material that isn’t needed. This feature supports and ecourages additive manufacturing.

Once the user highlights important parts of the design that can’t be changed, he/she can add weight and pressure forces to simulate forces experienced in reality. The program will take it from there. Finally, after excess material has been removed, the user is left with a very rough shape with many holes. This perspective moved Chris to think about his project in a new way.

Inspire then allows users to go in with CAD software and re-render their design based on this rough shape with the goal of creating something more organic and smooth. Ultimately, Inspire produces a shape to trace. It’s important to keep in mind that if you have multiple working parts, you will want to work this back into your model in SOLIDWORKS.

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Initial Inspire Model (left), 1st Generation Model (center), 2nd Generation Model (right)

After rendering a smoother model in Inspire, Chris imported the design file into SOLIDWORKS, looking at the different ways the lofts could work and the ways in which the pieces could connect. His main concern was how they were going to look with the parts he couldn’t change. During the design process, there was a base block that supported the design for this device, and he wanted this new organic part to look like it fit with the block and like they weren’t just add-on pieces like Inspire originally generated.

“My main goal of working with Inspire on this project was to create something that could only be 3D printed. I wanted a very organic, functional piece that could only be produced one way,” said Chris.

Testing Prints with MakerBot:

Chris used the MakerBot Replicator to test print the lid to make sure the threads would screw into an existing laundry detergent bottle. He was pleased with accuracy of the MakerBot part.

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Designing for 3D Printing: 

Once he had completed all necessary testing, Chris sat down with one of TriMech’s engineers to check the functionality and ensure it could be printed. It was important to Chris that the pieces were printed in such a way that they wouldn’t sacrifice the functionality of the model.

Designing for 3D printing is similar to designing for any form of manufacturing, but requires you to think in an additive vs. subtractive mindset. 3D printed parts can be made lighter, thinner and incorporate complex geometries. Having the ability to 3D print some parts in one piece out of different materials can eliminate assembly requirements.

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Non-Processed 3D Print Assembled Pieces Before Finishing

Revisiting Final Thoughts:

Chris told us that Inspire taught him to think about his design differently. Not only was he able to see what he created from a new perspective, but he was able to re-imagine the future possibilities for his design. Within solidThinking’s Inspire software, the ability to add and subtract material lead to a new streamlined concept that Chris couldn’t have imagined his new design without. 3D printing and new CAD software allowed his original vision to grow and evolve from his studio design course.

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Final 3D printed model. The large white vessel was printed on the Stratasys Fortus 450 from ASA, a material with high mechanical strength and UV stability. To achieve the glossy white finish, the model was sanded and painted in a spray booth. The ball and cap were printed on a Stratasys Connex3 with VeroClear and Tango materials. The PolyJet parts required no post-processing.


How it works:

The concept is the same as a tea or coffee pot. Press up on the ball releasing liquid through the cap’s valve. Using the lines to measure the amount of laundry detergent and throw the ball in to the washer. The detergent leaks out through the vents in the top, and the ball is cleaned with the clothes. Once used, simply return back to holder until the next wash.

Interested in a 3D printer but need a little assistance in figuring out which one is right for you? Download our Entry-Level 3D Printer Buyer’s Guide.