Mark Champkins, Inventor in Residence, looks at how 3D printing helped him bring to life a young inventor’s bright idea
Have you spotted an unusual looking yellow and pink device sitting among the wall of 3D printed people in our current exhibition? Known as the Pediclean, the object is a prototype for a manual foot shower product, designed by Sophia Laycock, the winner of a competition we ran last year – which called on young people to come up with an invention to solve a problem they encountered with the great British summer.
The competition had an amazing response. From submersible beach shelters (to keep your spot on the beach even after the tide has come in), to suncream dispensing sunshades, we were bowled over by people’s creative ideas.
Choosing a winner was a challenge. Along with my fellow judges from the Museum, Phill Dickens from Nottingham University’s 3D Printing Research Group and Atti Emercz from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, I spent an inspiring morning discussing the inventions and admiring their ingenuity.
In my experience, the best inventions are those designed to address a specific problem, are easy to use and look visually appealing. On this basis, it was easy to pick Sophia’s idea as the winning entry.
However, my biggest challenge was working out how to translate Sophia’s drawing of the Pediclean into a real working product. How could I harness the power of 3D printing to make this a reality?
It occurred to me that it might be nice for Sophia to be able to print her very own Pediclean products on her new Makerbot printer – the prize she won for the competition. To do this I had to ensure that the Pediclean could be assembled from components that could all be printed successfully on a Makerbot. Essentially, this involved splitting up the device into six individual parts which could each be printed on the Makerbot. Each piece took approximately two hours to print. When all the parts were printed, I then screwed them together to form the finished Pediclean.
Luckily, Sophia’s design was brilliantly well thought out, containing detailed instructions – even down to the placement of the water nozzles designed to clean the foot. I was able to copy the sketch exactly to produce a final product that worked beautifully well.
You can see the Pediclean and lots of other examples of how entrepreneurs, artists and designers are using 3D printing to realise their dreams, in our free exhibition.