Additive Manufacturing (aka 3D Printing) is said to be unleashing a third industrial revolution, due in part to the entrepreneurs who are bringing exciting new products onto the market aided by this technology. These are unique products that aim at niche audiences worldwide who are inadequately served by mass production. One of these entrepreneurs is Rein van der Mast (SOLide), an Industrial Design Engineer from the Netherlands. Van der Mast has been working with Additive Manufacturing (AM) since its early days and, thanks to recent advances in materials and technologies, he felt it was time to bring something new onto the market. As van der Mast explains, “I found a product that matched perfectly: an item that is luxurious, certainly when personalized, and valuable. A product that truly combines art and technology: the fountain pen.” When it came time to make his plan a reality, van der Mast knew that he could count on Materialise to help him get the job done.
A High-Value, Customized Product for the Individual Customer
Supported by Materialise, LayerWise, CNC Consult, and Innplate, van der Mast has successfully produced an exotically sculpted pen in a way that allows every single product to be one of a kind. As he explains, “Manufacturers of consumer products can finally start listening to individual clients. When manufacturers digitally link all their machines and stocks, they can have every single product configured separately. It can be rather appealing to have the individual customer decide on the final shape of a part instead of opting for a general design. AM allows this to happen.” Van der Mast’s pen concept is one in which the essential parts differ only slightly. Small series and even single pieces would be made based on themes requested by clients. Small series would include several differing elements, such as the user’s monogram or initials, in 3D – which is much more pronounced than with an engraving. In order to test his concept, he set out to make a pen based on a theme close to his own heart: the Cavalry and its patron saint, St. George. As such, the pen depicts the legend of St. George and the Dragon in which St. George slays a dragon in order to rescue a young girl.
From Concept to Reality with the Right Software… and AM
After sculpting the pen in 3DS Max, assisted by Evgeny Bazurov, an animator from Moscow, van der Mast was left with impossibly large low level files to deal with in Rhino. Van der Mast used Materialise’s Magics software to reduce the number of triangles of those files and to manually handle some minor improvements. The resulting pen’s body was then successfully printed in titanium. The cap on the other hand, was printed in both plastic (in SL) and titanium. As you can see in the image below, the walls are not only quite thin, but there are also four integrated, titanium springs on the inside which allow for a perfect fit and ‘click’ when placed on the pen.
In order to produce a case fitting of his pen, van der Mast continued with his cavalry theme, for instance, creating a manifold hinge of 16 parallel sword blades. He combined the box, the hinge and the cover into a single 3D print. Printed separately were the little rubbers under the case as well as the frame on top of the pen and the depiction of St. George, both of which were successfully silver plated. “The most thrilling aspect related to the case,” he continues, “was however, not the manifold hinge, but its surface finish. I did not want to spend a lot of time on finishing, so I needed a texture to mask all laser sintering related roughness. In cavalry, there is only one appropriate texture: shagreen, which mimics the skin of the stingray. Stingray skin was popular on the grip of swords as it provided the owner with grip during a fight, even with blood all over the sword.” He ran various tests with Materialise, using the 3D texturing feature in 3-matic in addition to tests on the printed result, and found a new way to achieve the finish he desired. For the rubber-like inside of the case, van der Mast turned to rapid tooling, creating a mold using stereolithography at Materialise.
Tried, Tested, and Ready for Market
Pjotr pens start at 7,000.00 Euros, depending on the complexity of the design and additional materials applied - like precious stones. Van der Mast: “With this concept, the customer decides what his or her design should look like. Or better even, the customer can tell me exactly what they wish. With their preferences, l can demonstrate how the theme can best be depicted, also considering the budget, and if they agree, it can be materialised.”