Here's a robot video that I found interesting:
A "Nomikai" is a gathering of people with like minds getting together in a casual setting, usually with considerable facilitation by alcoholic beverages, to share ideas, perspectives, and opinions.
For the February meeting I was asked to give a brief presentation on 3-D printing and why I am so passionate about it. The title "Using 3-D printing to improve your life -- practical applications of personal 3-D printing" encapsulates my approach to 3-D printing.
As a 6'7" American living in a country where I am in the extreme minority from the perspective of culture, language, and size, I know from personal experience that "one size never fits all".
That truism applies to more than just buying clothes. Mass-produced consumer items, like smart phones, televisions, cars, and even the food we eat, are targeted at the average consumer. They fit most of the people well enough, but never quite fit any individual completely. We've become accustomed to making do with 80 or 90 or even 95% satisfaction, to the point that we don't expect to be extremely pleased and delighted by new products.
This really hit me when a friend on Facebook posted about an iPad stand that he wanted to buy. But, there were several problems. First, the manufacturer was in the US and didn't ship outside the country. Second, their stand only works with the latest iPad configurations. I was using a first-generation iPad in one of the stock Apple iPad covers, and I didn't want to remove the cover just to put the device on its stand. I knew what I wanted, but there wasn't any manufacturer marketing a product that would satisfy my needs. So I decided to make it.
Of course, I took my inspiration from the Internet photos of the iPad stand that my friend had mentioned on Facebook. The first step was to capture some real-world data. I could've taken a lot of measurements and done some analysis, but instead I went back to my kindergarten drawing classes where you put your hand on a piece of paper and then trace around it with a pencil.
Using paper with a grid, I drew a desktop, then positioned my iPad in its cover at the angle that I thought would work best. I added the outline of an Apple wireless keyboard, since I often use the two of them together. Once I had them roughly positioned where I wanted them, I sketched the outline of the stand I wanted.
Using the Shot Note iOS application, I was able to take a photo of the sketch and automatically correct any distortions in the image. That allowed me to bring it into my CAD program and scale it to the right dimensions. Then it was easy to quickly create some points on the photo and connect the points with curves to create the 2-D outline of the stand. For this particular part making it 3-D was as simple as extruding the part outline upwards along the Z axis.
I could then output the STL mesh needed to print the part. I used Kisslicer to convert the STL mesh into the Gcode for the printer.
Like all designs, it was a process of trial and error. The part dimensions were right the first time, but after playing with the printed part a little I decided to open up some of the dimensions a little so that the keyboard would just snap into the stand rather than having it slide along the edge.
In fairly short order, I had a product that was exactly what I wanted. And, since I did the design and created the files, I can easily go back and modify it later as my needs change.
It's all about fulfilling your own needs, because in the end only you really know what satisfies you. The smallest, yet most important, niche market is you. Also, if you don't do it, no one else will....
Here's another example. All the furniture here in Japan is designed for the average Japanese height, and, all the tables are too low for me. I have resorted to placing bricks under the table legs to raise them up high enough so that I don't bang my knees when sitting at the table.
That works okay, but it has its limitations. It looks kind of hokey, and during the big earthquake a few years ago my work table slid off the bricks and dumped a bunch of my robots and test equipment all over the floor.
After I started using 3-D printing, one of my first designs was to create stable replacements for those bricks. They slip over the ends of the table legs, are very stable because they are designed to exactly fit the legs, and I can print them in any color I want.
An unintended consequence of applying 3-D printing in this way is that you find it removes stress from your life. Things that don't quite fit us, continually irritate us. A great product may satisfy 95% of your needs, but that missing 5% will irritate you at a low level for as long as you use the product. The better a product satisfies your needs then the lower your stress will be.