Znak Politechniki Warszawskiej

3D Printing Research Circle – they will print whatever you want

phot. Koło Naukowe Druku 3D

In three weeks they created a full-size openwork replica of the Ferrari Lusso. They did it using 3D pens and this is just one of the many projects, on which they have worked or are still working. The queue of people counting on support for subsequent initiatives is still growing.

“It was a great adventure and a chance to strongly integrate our team,”
Ewelina Zaremba, the president of the Circle, recalls working on the Ferrari.

The model was created especially for the 3D Printing Days held in March in Kielce. The idea came from our students' sponsor – WOLFix. The printed replica was supposed to stand next to the real car. However, there were no specific guidelines on how to conjure up a Ferrari using pens. Primarily because there is only one such replica of a car known to be in existence, but this is, first of all – of a different brand (Nissan Qashqai), and second of all – practically nothing is known about how to do it. Therefore, a group of twelve Circle members had to rely on the sponsor's tips and their own creativity. The students experimented a lot. Among other things, they modified the 3D pens to streamline their work. “We wanted them to print faster, so we made some minor changes and it worked,” says Mateusz Maszkowski.

It was not easy, as it took 20 hours to print just the tire, without the rim. They succeeded, though the pens’ last movements occurred during the Printing Days. “Interest in the project was huge. Most people were looking at our model, not the real Ferrari right next to it,” says Dr Eng. Michał Kowalik, patron of the Association and initiator.

phot. BPI

Effective word of mouth

The Circle has been active from November 2016. Moments earlier, in October, the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering launched postgraduate studies under the name Academy 3D – 3D design and printing. These are run by Dr. Kowalik. The establishment of a research circle specialising in this subject could be considered as a natural turn of things. “I told two students about these plans and more than 30 people came to the organisational meeting,” the scientist says, “The news spread by word of mouth.”

The Circle is a part of the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering, but students from the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering are also counted among its members. Their knowledge, coupled with that of enthusiasts of automation and robotics, aerospace, mechanics and machine construction form the perfect mix needed to work effectively on the Circle's projects.

Printing prostheses

Recently, the students have started printing hand prosthesis, which can serve children who have lost limbs. “These are not fully functional medical models,” Ewelina Zaremba explains, “They are supposed to help in doing the simplest actions. When a joint is bent, the fingers tighten, so children can, for example, hold a cup, bike handlebar or open a door.”

Such experiences will make it easier for patients to transition to fully functional prostheses in the future.

The Circle's members are not authors of the design. They print models available on the Internet, and these are not always perfect. So they test the ready designs and evaluate them. They are learning, because they intend to introduce their own modifications. This will require using highly specialised knowledge of biomechanics.

Printing simple prosthetic limbs is an initiative of E-Nable, an organisation originating in the United States and still fledgling in Poland. Students from the Warsaw University of Technology heard about its activities in April, literally a moment after finishing work on the Ferrari replica. Krzysztof Grandys, a doctor from Cracow, talked about the idea at the Printed Health conference. “All such prostheses available in Poland came out of his private printer. There were about 30, but only 6 are in use,” Ewelina Zaremba says, “The problem is that physiotherapists and rehabilitators don't want to use them in working with children, don't know how these devices work, and don't trust them. We want to help change this, so we started working with the Warsaw Medical University and we are in touch with their research circle specialising in orthopaedics.”

Even though the project has only been underway for a short time, quite a few printed prostheses can already be found in the student lab. The largest resembles in size the forearm and hand of a well-built man. “Printing the longest part, the forearm, took thirty-something hours,” says David Morawski, “To make it faster, we printed it flat, put it into boiling water and could then adjust the thickness to the hand as we saw fit.”

phot. BPI

Valuable help

Members of the 3D Printing Research Circle have been supporting many colleagues at the Warsaw University of Technology with their knowledge and experience.

Elements used by the Student Astronautical Circle are their work. These are the housing for the Gaja rover camera, which Michał Kazaniecki took on the first Polish analogue mission to Mars and the PW-Sata2 model – a satellite that will be launched into orbit this year. “It's a 1:1 scale model, prepared, including a mechanism that shows the opening of the deorbit sail,” explains Bruno Najder, “SKA needed a model to visualise the current state of work.”

The Biomedical Instrument Research Circle has reported that it needs help in printing housing for electronic components (it is needed in their design for a sensor that tests the level of drugs in a drip). Meanwhile the “Bionik” Research Circle asked for support within the scope of mechanics. There are also physicists wishing to use 3D printing to produce new boluses used in radiotherapy. Such improved intermediary layers between the radiation beam and the patient's body are expected to make it easier to reach tumour cells, thereby increasing the treatment's effectiveness.

Aeroplanes, jump ropes and own machines

However, the 3D Printing Research Circle does more than just print. They also perform mechanical research on materials. “We are slowly entering the field of optimisation of mechanical properties,” says Dr Kowalik, “Topological optimisation was not possible with techniques entailing material loss, machining. In additive techniques such as 3D printing, it is real. The idea behind that optimisation is that for a given geometry placed under load, unused fragments of material are removed.”

Under the supervision of their patron, the students are engaged in optimising components of unmanned aircraft. For this project, they are collaborating with the Department of Aircraft and Helicopters from the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering and the MELprop Propulsion Research Circle. “They give us additional instructions about aerodynamics and we tell them what 3D printing is and how it can be used,” Dr. Kowalik explains.

At the beginning of June, students will make an appearance at the Science Picnic organised by the Polish Radio and the Copernicus Science Centre. For this occasion, they are preparing interesting 3D printed gadgets for youngsters, for example a jump rope. The event will be a great opportunity for the Circle's members to prove themselves as promoters of science.

phot. BPI

However, this is not the end of their plans. “We want to start constructing 3D printers, not standard ones that can be put on a desk, but larger models that use new and interesting solutions,” Ewelina Zaremba explains, “We're also thinking of building our own scanner. We want it to have advantages that other similar devices do not. That is what it is all about. Why copy something that is already there?”

The group active in the Circle consists of: Ewelina Zaremba, Mikołaj Jankowski, Maciej Kozłowski, Jarosław Krawczyk, Mateusz Maszkowski, Michał Młynarski, Dawid Morawski, Bruno Najder, Michał Nazarczuk, Brian Ndamira, Monika Szleszyńska, Adrianna Tandecka, Paulina Tomaszewska, Hania Tuchowska, Karol Wędrowski and Michał Wołek. You can follow their work on their fanpage.


Agnieszka Kapela

Office for Promotion and Information