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Making 3D printing affordable for everyone

By Hiroko Sato

Scott Winroth of Ayer received an honorable mention in Create the Future Design Contest 2015 for his low-cost 3D printed linear motion system. Organized by NASA Tech Briefs magazine, the contest annually draws more than 10,000 product design ideas from across the world. Owner of MakerStrong, a company that provides 3D printing services, says he strives to find ways to make professional-quality 3D printers affordable to everyday consumers. Raised in Hopedale and married with two children, Winroth has a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from UMass Amherst and a master’s of science in plastic engineering.

Q: Why are you interested in 3D printers?

A: You could basically create almost anything. It’s ready-made for you in a matter of hours

Whatever you are thinking, you can draw it in the CAD program and made for you almost instantaneously compared to other manufacturing process.

Q: How low-cost 3D printer became the focus of your project?

A: I won another contest called The Uplift Prize (a few years ago) for creating a low-cost 3D printer that is pretty much printable so it replicates itself. That got me started thinking along the line of trying to make everything low cost.

Q: How low-cost do you want them to be?

A: The goal is below $200 (per printer) — to make it a typical household item.

Q: Why is it difficult to reduce cost? And, what do you need to do to reach your goal?

A: When you have printer that moves in three different directions, you are talking about a lot of (components). A motor itself costs between $15-30. Typically you need four motors to control movement and three dimensional axis and extruder. Components cost add up. Even if you can build for $200, you have to mark it up somewhat (for a profit). So you can have to be able to make it significantly less than $200. The goal is to reduce the cost of all the components. It’s a very challenging endeavor.

Q: What is the special thing about your design that was recognized in Create the Future Design Contest?

A: It’s a linear motion system that you can use to make many different things. It’s also the most expensive highest-cost component of a 3D-printer.

It runs along a standard threaded rod that you can get at a hardware store for a coupe of dollars. It’s a way to make a linear motion system that is low cost. It integrates the guiding portion (of a 3D printing system) and moving portion into one system without a need for additional power.

Q: What does your company do?

A: I do 3D printing services through website called 3D Hubs. People go on there either with 3D models that they designed themselves or downloaded. The website allows you to get in touch with local printers.

Q: Who are your customers and why do these people need 3D printing services?

A: They are small business owners, engineers or students with projects or 3D artists. (They typically need a) first-run prototype or something that is not cost-effective to build using machines or some other manufacturing methods.

Q: What type of products have you printed?

A: There are all sorts of stuff. There was a portable case for gaming device. There was also a Dachshund statute. Someone designed a 3D model of a dog and printed it out.

Q: What’s the thing to keep in mind when designing a 3D print?

A: You build it from the bottom up. Some 3D printer have supportive materials that work like scaffolding, but there always has to be something underneath (a protruding part of an object).

Q: Why do you enjoy about your work?

A: I like creating things to help people. I would like to help people with their own ideas.

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