Community Spotlight: Mike Doell, Industrial Designer #3DThursday #3DPrinting

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For our Community Spotlight this week, we share some insights into the role of 3D printing for project development from a very talented industrial designer, Mike Doell, that we have been able to get to know through a number of projects for Adafruit, from the iNecklace to a few recent injection molded enclosures for the Raspberry Pi. (And more to come!)

Through his efforts to find the best manufacturing routes to suit the designs he creates, he has learned quite a few things about producing objects in a professional manufacturing ecosystem that now involves 3D printing to a heavier degree than in previous decades, both on the prototyping and parts production side of the equation.

Here’s one of my favorite stories he shared when we spoke earlier this week. A project he created a few years back tested the possibility for using a 3D printed tool (instead of milled metal tool) for injection molding. While he estimates that his tool was only good for about a thousand cycles and offered its own unique complications, this solution perked up a lot of industry interest because of the potential savings for the production of the tool. Photos of this project have circulated for years, and he now finds himself approached by sales people trying to sell him on a “new route for manufacturing” — by sending him a photo of his own project as an example of what they might do for him! 😉

Mike was a special guest on Ask an Engineers — another great chance to learn about his past projects and expertise. Here is selection from an interview from earlier this week!

Interview with Mike Doell – October 7, 2014 (Matt Griffin)

Hi! Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Mike Doell and I am an industrial designer from Toronto, Canada.

What are your go-to machines? (Desktop printers, services, hand tools, etc!)

Olfa knife, blue foam, foam core, renshape, sherline 4 axis mill, replicator 2, replicator mini, solidoodle2, Arburg injection molders. I’ve been working in this field for a long time, but every once in a while I need to get a sense of scale. The Rep 2, the parts, you know what they’re like, but I find that now clients actually like them. When I first started working with Adafruit, I created prototypes using CNC. The shipping and duties added up quickly. Then Phil suggested that we just get a printer each. I print everything and check it, send you guys the files and then we can both look at the same parts. I know we’ve saved shipping cost beyond the cost of the machines, and it has been a big time saver.

And what software do you use to get your work done? (Design packages, CAM software, slicers, host software?)

I am Pro E guy but I also use Solidworks, Rhino, MasterCam, MeshCam, Makerbot Desktop.

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What is one (or what are some) of your designs that you’d like for everyone to check out?

The original Adafruit Raspberry PI case, Umbra Sink Caddy.

What are you working on right now?

Well, I just finished one for an explosive detector (Smiths Detection NGI 600). They just released it [earlier this week], and I’ve been working on it for about 2 years. They’re going to switch it over to narcotics detection, probably in the next 3 months. It’s an easy fix. But I did the external shape of it, and then the mechanical. All the subframe and everything. It was a pretty cool project for a company called Smith’s Detection. I’m also rebuilding a welder for Lincoln Electric that is about 70 years old. It goes in the back of a truck for welding pipelines. It’s diesel powered, so it’s got a big engine in the back of it — and it looks pretty cool. Those are two big ones, and I have lots of smaller Adafruit projects going.

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What are design challenges that you have faced when creating your work?

Trying to put the end user needs before my own goals. Making something that looks great and is useful.

What challenge do you most look forward to tackling in the future?

Always my next project.

Any pointers for those just starting out with design and 3D printing?

Fail fast.

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Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!

Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!

The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! We also offer the LulzBot TAZ – Open source 3D Printer and the Printrbot Simple Metal 3D Printer in our store. If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!

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