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Are you up for an all-nighter that promotes 3D Printing to more people and businesses? Then the 24-hour 3D Printathalon is the perfect event to be! In conjunction with a 3D Printing showcase event in the Capital District area of New York, Albany, the 3D Printathalon will be going on September 18, 19, and 20. Here in this episode to tell us more about it is Colton Robtoy of CD Printathalon. With $20 billion infused into regional schools from semi-conductor manufacturers, GE, and various public and private ventures, the Capital District is ripe for producing some of the next great advances in additive manufacturing. Colton discusses the benefits these sponsorship brings as well as participating in the 3D Printathalom to the entire 3D Printing industry. This episode is another great reminder never to undermine participating in regional events, be it as exhibitors or sponsors or as attendees. So why not pull an all-nighter in the 3D Printathalon and get the exposure not only for you but for the 3D Printing space also?
Listen to the podcast here:
3D Printathalon – Pull An All-Nighter With Colton Robtoy Of CD Printathalon
Think all-nighters are just for college students? Think again. In conjunction with a 3D Printing showcase event in the Capital District area of New York, Albany, a 24-hour 3D Printathalon will be going on September 18, 19, & 20th. With $20 billion infused into regional schools from semi-conductor manufacturers, GE, and various public and private ventures, the Capital District is ripe to produce some of the next great advances in additive manufacturing. Colton Robtoy talks to us about the benefits of sponsorship by 3D Printing related companies and the excitement of participating in the 3D Printathalon, or just cheering on from the sidelines. As we have mentioned multiple times before on our Podcast, we have seen great benefit from participating in these regional events as both exhibitors/sponsors and as attendees. It is a great way to get exposure, make some connections and why not pull an all-nighter in the 3D Printathalon!
It is events week.
We found out scanning through our most popular episodes that events are what people are most interested in finding out more about. We’ve decided to add some more details to that on an ongoing basis. We decided to do a whole week about events.
We got an interview with Colton Robtoy, who is a college student in the State of New York and we didn’t know that when he first solicited us for the interview that he was so young.
He was so professional over in LinkedIn, which is great. That’s what you want in this. He’s organizing an event and the website looks great. I would never have known unless he had told us he was a college student.
I was impressed when I talked to him. We’re going to have an interview with him about this 3D printing event in Albany, New York.
The thing is it seems odd why a couple of podcasters from California want to be talking to a guy from Albany, New York. This is something that we want to stress to everybody during events week is that these regional events are so important. We’re spreading the word about 3D printing to local students, parents and businesses who are interested in seeing it. It’s one thing to hear and read about it in Fast Company or The Economist, but it’s another thing to see it in person. These regional events are critical to that. They’re also fairly low cost in terms of booths, set up and things like that. If you’re a young vendor, 3D print manufacturer, materials supplier or whatever it is that you do, these are also good low-cost events to get your feet wet, get your booths going, and understand what your market is most interested in.
Also, to market your product and materials.
Get the word out. We think they are critical and that’s why we’re profiling this.
You’ll find the interview interesting even if you’re not in the Albany area or able to attend it. Let’s discuss it on the other side.
Colton, thanks for joining us. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and the Capital District Printathalon.
I’m glad to be here. I go to a school in New York right in Albany called SUNY Poly CNSE, which is an acronym for the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. I worked at GE and I worked with the head of Additive Manufacturing, Prabhjot Singh. He gave me a book with these designs for a little mini jet engine about the size of a milk jug. I made those all in CAD and I printed them out. We tested it by blowing some compressed air to make sure all the tolerances work and it came out great.
How many iterations did you go through printing that before you got it to work when you blew air into it?
In some pieces, 3 to 5 and the other ones are 20 to 25. In my YouTube video, I didn’t make a super video. It was the front view of me blowing air in for ten seconds showing that it spun. In the description, I put a Dropbox link where there are five pictures. You can see probably half the parts that ended up being useless. They were good to say, “I messed up and often, they don’t fit.” It allowed me to get to iteration 25 and say, “Everything fits together and we can put it together.”
How long a period of time from start to finish of that project? I know you have school and other classes but realistically, how long did it take?
I did about an average of twenty hours per week and then to finish it, maybe four months.
This is the most common misconception we have with a lot of people like, “It’s just 3D printing. You’re going to download a file and you’ll just print it out.” It’s not that it’s not worth the time. It is worth the time. It’s just that it’s unrealistic to say it’s that easy.
My major is Nanoscale Engineering, which is semiconductor manufacturing. The biggest thing for me was I didn’t know anything about jet engines. I had to work with all the aerospace people and have them explain it to me so I could consolidate the parts because the book directions were 40 parts, “You can make this in your garage,” and things like that. I got it down to seven. Since I knew how the jet engine, compressor wheel, low pressure and high-pressure turbine works, I was able to consolidate it to get it down to seven parts.
You didn’t take those instructions and go through it in verbatim. You modified it.
I said, “All of this doesn’t make sense to have five different parts.” I’ll make it into one. Some of the tough parts, 2 or 3 of the drawings were wrong. They have different views and the dimensions would be different and coupling that with me not knowing anything about a jet engine. It was stressful in the beginning.
It sounds like a great project. What a wonderful learning experience.
This is typical because we’re product designers. We never know what our clients are going to throw at us next. One day, we’re designing a gaming accessory and the next day we might be designing a baby product. Sometimes you don’t know something about the category you’re in. That research, finding that out, doing the testing and iterative process becomes so important in figuring out what to do. Our design process doesn’t change, just like your thought process didn’t change as you were figuring out and trying to improve things all along. That always stays the same and that’s the most critical part about designing anything or engineering anything. What type of printer were you using to print those parts?
At first, I was using the Form 1+ because it was a toy they had and I had been watching it for a while. I wanted to play around with it, but then I used the CAD Dimension 1200es. That’s what most of the parts are made out of. It had nice resolution and nice dissolving supports. It’s an FFF. It’s about the size of a refrigerator.
It’s one of the more industrial-sized FFF machines.
Is that what got you hooked on 3D printing?
That was about a year prior I got into 3D printing, but this was one of the big things I was able to do with it.
You had to see the application of it and that excited you. Tell me a little bit about the lab at your school. I’d love to hear about that. Do you have them in your classrooms or do you have the 3D printers in a lab? How does that work?
I was in one lab doing research for an internship and there’s one in there but other than that, nothing else.
You don’t even have them, so where are you using these?
I bought one and I played around with it at my house. I got a Replicator 2X and I was already good at 3D modeling. It was a fun and cool learning experience and transition into using a 3D printer. I’m all self-taught. I met a great guy named Mike Fancher. I said, “I like 3D printing. What is there to do in it?” He said, “At GE there’s something where they’re doing 3D printing. Do you want me to try to get you in?” I didn’t know anything about aerospace or jet engines, but I said, “I’ll take the opportunity and I’ll learn.” I realized, “3D printing is fun. Maybe other people in the area would find it fun,” which led me to create the Capital District Printathalon. It’s a three-day event all about 3D printing in the Capital District, which means Albany and the local surrounding areas. That would be at SUNY Poly CNSE in Albany. We have an auditorium reserved and our speakers are going to be the people who sponsored our event and got a booth. We’re going to have them talk about what their company does, how they provide value or maybe discuss what they’re going to be exhibiting. They’ll have 15 to 20 minutes to do that spotlight on them.
What kind of people are you hoping to get to this event?
We want kids, high schoolers, college students and parents who might be interested in 3D printing. We want the kids there because they can learn things a lot faster. If we can get the kids interested, they can innovate much quicker in 5 to 10 years once they’ve learned a lot more because we got them interested early.
We couldn’t agree more. We were starting our six-year-old daughter on it already.
They’re so much smarter. I watched a video by a guy called Destin. He does Smarter Every Day on YouTube. He tried to learn how to ride a bicycle that had handlebars that went the opposite way.
We’ve seen that video and we loved it.
His son learns so much faster. I was like, “This event makes sense to bring the kids because they can learn a lot faster. Their brains allow that.”
Because we’re designers, we have the same process. The education process, especially as you get into higher education, it builds out what we call successful failure. It doesn’t reward the idea of failing as you are learning, but kids don’t have that preconception that that’s a bad thing. When it goes wrong, it’s still cool and it’s interesting, “Look what I did.” They know how to improve from there because they know what they want to do and they’re open too. When they see something going on and it went wrong, they’re more open to flexing and figuring out a different path. Whereas as we get older, we get to be adults and we have all that stuff screened out. We’re like, “That’s a failure. Let me try something completely different.” They don’t learn from what they did find out. That successful failure process is important and 3D printing is a great cycle of that because it’s so iterative.
Continuing with the event, we want to try to have 3D printing manufacturers, 3D modeling software companies, 3D printing education companies and 3D printing marketplace services.
Colton, you’re still trying to fill all the spots with those vendors, I would imagine.
We started doing outreach when I’m close to finishing the website. I had an interview with a big local paper.
You may not have them all lined up yet but tell us a little bit about your idea for this speaker program. Do you want them to be on a one-on-one beginner level? Do you want them to be more technical? What are you thinking?
That’s going to be more technical for the adults because they’ll be late at night and the kids maybe want to watch TV or something else. We want the companies for 15 to 20 minutes to say what their company does and how they provide value. We’ll give them a chance to get early brand loyalty in the Capital District. Our area had the highest SAT growth in salary for 2014. This area is getting huge and people will want to become more involved in technology.
You had mentioned that there’s going to be some competition.
Tell us about the Printathalon part.
The competition will run from noon Saturday to noon Sunday for 24 straight hours. This part is meant to appeal to the high school and college kids that already have experience and they say, “We don’t want to watch company X just print out a frog or something. It gets boring.” We want them to come up with a team of 3 to 5 people and bring their own printer. We’re going to allow them a max of two FFF printers. They’ll bring their own materials. We’re hoping six teams, so we’ll have six tables and set them up in a corner of the room. We’ll give them free food and free drinks for the whole 24 hours. We’ll give them a category like camping and they’ll have 24 hours to make the coolest thing with that.
At the end of the 24 hours, we’re going to stop the whole event and have them come up on a little small stage with a mic and present to everyone, all the attendees, all the judges and all the media. This serves two purposes. One is to show the kids, “Here’s the 3D printer. Make stuff.” You’ve got the high school and college kids that say, “We made something cool with it,” and the kids will see that. Also, it’s for the companies who are trying to expand and looking for people they want to hire. The kids who like 3D printing, the high school and college kids, the ones who are passionate about it and are already involved, you can come to see their great creative ideas and maybe you hire them one day.
We think this is the future. That’s one of the main reasons why we’re saying we’re going to start our daughters. We have two young daughters and we’re starting the six-year-old on 3D printing because the 3D design and 3D printing is going to become the core of what the future is going to hold. Even if you’re not going to be using them on a daily basis, having those skills and those understandings of how to develop products and how manufacturing might work in the future is going to be such a critical skill and make you so much more hirable than anyone else.
Another selling point for the universities is a lot of them don’t advertise heavily, “We’ve got BS in 3D printing,” or something like that. Not yet at least but some of them have small 3D printing operations maybe through their design or art department. The pitch to them is we’re going to have the FIRST robotics teams here. FIRST is the National Robotics League. These high school kids are looking for places they can go to college. Maybe it’s hard for them to find Additive Manufacturing programs or 3D printing programs. If you’re at this event, you’re meeting directly with those kids who are looking at schools.
That’s good too. It’s recruiting.
The big thing for the companies is, “Come and sell and come and recruit,” and then for the schools is, “Come show off what you’re doing, and come and recruit.”
For all those young students and for parents bringing their kids there because if you’re going to get a lot of kids, you’re going to get a lot of parents. Supposedly locally in New York, parents would like the idea of the State University of New York because that’s a more reasonably priced education, especially if you live in New York State.
What kind of judging and what do you have lined up for that?
For criteria and who will be judging it?
For judging, I’ve talked to some of my friends at GE. Probably the head of tech for my old high school, which is in the area. I wanted him to be another judge. I wanted to get Congressman Tonko. He’s the congressman for our area in New York State and he was an engineer from Clarkson. He likes the FIRST robotics and all the engineering stuff. He’s another judge I want to have. As for criteria, the big thing we want to focus on is functionality. Can you make something that works and improves camping? Maybe it’s a way to hold your hammock on a tree if you somehow forget those supplies. Something that allows you to carry more objects strapped to your backpack, not necessarily in it but dangling off. When they think to do that, we need to provide them with some super glue and maybe some other supplies so they can make larger more functional parts.
We went to Rhode Island School of Design, so we have a 3D design course that we took in our freshmen foundation and they always do that. They give you a limited set of supplies and a premise, but you are free to design whatever within that. Sometimes giving them a premise like camping is an interesting idea, but maybe tightening it a little bit and saying that it needs to be something for survival. You think about these 3D printers that are being deployed out in space. Our 3D print contest winner is from Africa and they only have fourteen hours of power on average per day. You can imagine the trouble and the issues that you may have with that.
The constraints that it puts on the project.
Sometimes our prints take nineteen hours when we design them. This is more challenging on the design side to make it print quickly, and you will need to make them in parts. That’s going to happen.
Twenty-four hours is fast not only to design, engineer something and start printing it, but to print it as well. That’s going to put a significant limitation on how large any of the items can be. That’s a great project. We were at a tradeshow in Burbank that had a little competition with the software 3D modeling.
ZBrush had a great booth and they were doing some competitions for creating files to print.
I thought it was interesting and great. There were lots of sculptures doing some beautiful 3D models and everything. In the end, they should have printed them. It would have been interesting to see if they printed, and I’m not sure that they would print well. Certainly not in FFF. This is a great challenge because it’s not only the design and the engineering of it, but it’s also the printing of it. You’ve got to do all at once.
We thought that 24 hours would be stressful with one printer, so I talked to some people and we’ll put it up to a max of two.
That’s a good idea, especially if there’s a team of 3 to 5 people. You’ve got someone who can be running and testing and then other ones are still working on the design, so two make sense. This is going to be a great regional event. Getting this kicked off and kicked out right is going to be important for you. We’ll do everything we can on our end to help you promote that.
Colton, good for you. It’s a great initiative, going out, making it happen and doing what you want to do, even getting involved and helping to organize this event, Capital District Printathalon. Hopefully, you get a lot of attendees and have a great event. Colton, thank you so much for taking the time to talk and share with us your little adventure and education into 3D printing and about this event.
Also, the growth of the Capital District area in New York. That’s the most interesting thing that I’ve learned. I didn’t know it’s resurging like that.
Thanks for allowing me on your show.
I’m not the techie or geeky one here.
Are you implying that I’m the geeky one?
Yeah. What did you ask him? All the questions about the jet engine and that’s what you got excited about. Don’t get me wrong. I get excited about the results of those. The thing is that those applications of 3D printing are exciting and interesting. It’s where a lot of the growth is happening and where a lot of the jobs are. Any kind of event that’s encouraging that is important, as well as encouraging STEM or STEAM, youth, both things. I’m most excited about this Printathalon. It’s a cool idea because part of the misconception about 3D printing is that it’s easy and it’s a plug and play print out a bunch of files off the internet. It’s not. The file creation is the hard part.
Quite honestly, it’s ambitious and challenging to try to organize a 24-hour Printathalon event. However, challenging as it may be, I love it. I’d be interested to how that goes if it succeeds well. If not, I’m sure they’re going to learn how to maybe make it better. Narrowing the scope of what this project should be would help.
Let’s think about it this way. The challenging part is the printing part. You designed your tie and it took about almost 200 hours. Is that right?
Somewhere close to 250.
You’re one person for 200 hours. They’ve got maybe a team of five people. If they’ve each got twenty hours, that’s 100 hours right there.
That’s only leaving about four hours to print something and that’s not a lot.
I understand that, but we print in stages too. If you narrow the scope enough on what you’re printing, it’s possible, but you need the extra manpower.
I participated in competitions like that in high school. At the time, I was more into industrial design, which I’m an industrial designer. Industrial design wasn’t so well known then. I was doing all these architecture competitions and things like that where you’d go for a weekend event and it’s not even 24 hours. It’s within the course of maybe 8, 10 or 12-hour day. You’d be given a set of materials, asked to construct something. They give you criteria of a tower or something. You get a certain kit of wood, glue, and materials to go for it. You design and build on the fly and judged on that in one day. That teaches a lot of problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. There are many good things that that does.
What it’s going to show to the community who’s interested in 3D printing is the process that it goes through, how critical it is to get that 3D modeling under your belt, and how important the design and engineering part of this is. Sometimes we think a printer is this magic push-button and things start printing out. It comes out and there it is, but it’s not.
It’s only as good as the content that’s created to print on it and that’s always our big thing. What we are supposed to learn from that is that we’re big on content. Colton impressed me as an individual because clearly, he’s lucky to have parents who were willing and had the resources to buy him his own 3D printer out of high school. He’s practiced, learned a lot and taught himself CAD. These younger kids teach themselves things like this CAD all the time. I don’t think that’s a struggle for them as much as maybe it is for adults. He goes and finds these instructions for a jet engine model, but he doesn’t just go and build the instructions verbatim. He goes and improves upon it, changes it and uses his own mind to determine what would make it better.
He learns from trying to print it and it not coming out, which is so critical. What you have to do is learn from those mistakes instead of saying, “Abandon this thing. This thing is junk. It doesn’t work. These instructions don’t work on them. I’m moving on over here.” That thought process and product improvement process is so critical to quality in every type of manufacturing process and every type of design process.
I found it interesting that he started using a Form 1+ printer, which is a resin printer. For any of you that might not know, it’s not an FFF printer. It’s an SLA printer. That one, he felt didn’t meet his needs and it wasn’t working well for him. He went to an FFF printer to get the quality that he needed. That surprised me.
Usually, it goes the other way with a lot of people.
I talked to a lot of engineers that far prefer the SLA to the FFF printers.
He also does refer to a video about learning how to ride a bike. In Smarter Every Day, the guy who runs these videos is amazing.
Tracy and I watched this video and had long discussions about what this means beyond just a bike.
If you haven’t heard of it and haven’t seen it yet, you must go and see this because it is a great insight into how our brain gets so stuck in the paradigm of how you do something.
That illustrates the point why it is so important to get youth into learning CAD, learning about 3D printing and having these tools in their toolbox as they grow up and continue their education.
We’re going to keep spreading the word. There’s a bunch of opportunities there. If you have a regional event you want us to know about, we have a resource page on our website and that’s HazzDesign.com. It’s under 3D printing resources within that. If you want to be listed, let us know. If you want to have coverage and have us talk about your event, we’re happy to do that as well. Send us an email or tweet us or something. We’re @HazzDesign everywhere on social media.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to us. A college student reached out to us and we do have an aggressive schedule. We’ve got topics planned out for months, but we felt that was important. There are interesting and unique things to talk about with different events, so serve it up to us.
We’re always happy to help spread the word about 3D printing anywhere. Also, if you have any questions, don’t forget about Ask Us Anything. Send us a message and ask us questions if you want us to find out an answer for you.
Send us a voicemail over our website or reach out to us in any way and we’d be happy to address your issue.
Thanks again for reading.
- Colton Robtoy
- SUNY Poly CNSE
- Additive Manufacturing
- Smarter Every Day
- @HazzDesign – Twitter
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- Hazz Design Twitter
- 3D Startpoint YouTube