Space travel to startups, 3D printing without limits – PHX Startup Week

Photo contribution Thomas Hawthorne
While the majority of us won’t become astronauts, we can certainly learn to 3D print like one. In December 2014, NASA emailed a design file of a ratchet wrench to the International Space Station where the astronauts 3D printed the first tool in space. Back here on Earth, if you want to design a special tool or part to fix your own four-wheeled spacecraft, it can be as easy as downloading a computer-aided design (CAD) file and clicking print.

As part of the Phoenix Startup Week events, Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation (CEI) at Gateway Community College, and Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT), a provider of product development and rapid prototyping, opened up their 3D Startup Lab at CEI to showcase the endless possibilities of 3D printing and what entrepreneurs can do to bring their innovation to fruition.
The Lab houses eleven 3D printers with a total value around $1 million and includes all the latest printing technologies. One of the printers can be used with biocompatible materials and another in multimaterial (soft, hard, multicolor, etc.), and the largest printer can build a single 16”x14”x16” object.
“With our Lab being a part of an incubator, it gives the startups the opportunity to take that sketch, print it, and make a business out of it,” Greg Bullock, CEI Marketing Director, said.
READ: 3D Printing a Beginner’s Guide
Unlike maker shops around town like TechShop where one can go and tinker around, “CEI Gateway has a niche focus for those startups and entrepreneurs that take the products they are building and create new businesses, or enhance existing businesses,” Bullock said.
For those interested in designing something for the healthcare field, Bullock said PADT has a dedicated medical design team that can help build ones’ concept. SynCardia Systems, a privately-held owner and manufacturer of the world’s first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart, was one local startup that built their prototype through PADT services.
One CEI client, Smart Phocus, an iPhone accessory company that created a mobile movie studio in your pocket, utilized the Lab to design new products to keep up with the ever-changing smartphone market.
Bullock said that CEI clients receive special discounts on printing and access to PADT engineers.  PADT also offers open office hours for clients and the general public at CEI during the week.
Whether it be for space travel or building your own Millennium Falcon, the opportunities for 3D printing are endless.
“You don’t have to follow the rules to innovate how you want,” Andrew Miller, engineering project lead for medical devices PADT, said.
Learn more about 3D printing at AZTB
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