Fast prototyping

Some of you might be familiar with lean management, less may have heard about the emerging concept of lean startups! As there are probably as many startups as variations of this new concept, I will not try to precisely define lean startups. However I can give multiple examples drawn from my own experience to illustrate some fundamental principles of this concept. Arduino plays a major part in this concept as it is not only a piece of electronics, but also a simple suite of applications packed in one simple interface that most call the IDE. More than this, Arduino is this extraordinary large, rich, fast pacing community of designers, makers, technicians and even scientists who enrich the concept with their creativity, knowledge and good will.

Ahem, except one, who tried to spoil this community after stealing code, using a little makeup before re appropriating it in perfect violation of the GNU licenses. I will get back to you Mr. L.B. so that you learn your lessons a better way, whoever you are, whatever your position.

Back to nicer things. As I was working on a top priority project, I deadly needed to exercise various types of vibration sensors. In this domain, the setup of the sensor is at least as important as its electronics and the related data management. Problem is that the active elements of these sensors have various sizes and must be placed at certain positions. Some are heavy some are light, some other ones do not include the least means of fastening.  Not so easy. So far, you would have to spend hours in your workshop, trying to find some convenient parts from the scrap box and designing a fine but mostly ugly part.

Except if you are a visionary person who perceived that the crazy 3D printing technology could be of any help to your awesome projects! And it does!

Taking the example of the sensor holders, I took me no more than an hour between the moment when I decided to make a sensor holder and the exact exciting moment when you take it hot from the oven. That’s one of the most exciting experience for whoever is dreaming at making as you think. Software was eligible to this principle, it is now time for hardware to get in this principle too. Although 3D printers are still missing the “Cancel” key which would rewind the ABS wire on its cartridge, changing some sizes and shapes and printing again last few minutes and costs less than sending new plans, placing a new order and waiting for a new part.

The printed parts are surprisingly strong and their shapes rely well on the expected sizes. Here is an oversimplified sketch of the part making sequence:

Get the part, check sizes.


Draw part using a 3D drawing tool. I personally use ProIng. Save part as an STL file


Convert File to G format. The ultimate Makerware revision locks up my computer so that I must run Replicator G. Convert to x3g format and copy file to the SD card


Insert SD Card in the 3D printer and launch a “print from card”. And here it is!


Mount the sensor…


Clean! Isn’t it?

Here is another example of use which involves a geophone sensor




Just fine!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.