If you’ve seen Iron Man, you may remember the scene where Tony Stark is coping with a hapless fire extinguisher-wielding robotic assistant. There are days when I feel that way toward some of our 3D printers.
Don’t get me wrong: first, I’m no Tony Stark (if I was we wouldn’t be crowdfunding) and I also appreciate the cost, flexibility and amazing innovation that is possible with 3D printing. The ability to create a three-dimensional object from a digital file has transformed the medical, automotive and aerospace industries, as the cost of 3D printing has fallen and its accessibility has broadened. And that trend is accelerating, as 3D printing fuels the imagination — and the prototypes — of entrepreneurs such as myself.
But if you’ve ever worked for long periods of time to design and test a new product with multiple components using CAD, 3D modelling and a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printer, you know that alongside the possibilities you will experience frustrations.
There are days when I find myself talking to our 3D printers, almost in the vague hope that they are voice-activated or voice-responsive (they aren’t), or rushing across the room in response to the sound of a potential material jam, or cursing as I blow on my scorched fingers (the temperature reaches 420 Fahrenheit ).
The upside of 3D printing? We’ve been able to develop, test and redesign sturdy and field-ready prototypes. And when I say “field-ready,” I mean just that — we have tested our AfterDark Flag Football kit with dozens of children, aged six and up; with college intramurals, competitive weekly flag leagues; and weekend beach leagues.
While I may not be a billionaire playboy or have much in common with Tony Stark, we do have one connection: he graduated from MIT, which is one of our intramural test partners. But while Tony Stark may have had to fight Obadiah Stane, Vanko and the Mandarin, he never had to wrestle with a 3D printer.
As I’m not a billionaire, we are crowdfunding so we can move to injection molding. You can support us and save my burned fingertips by backing us at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/951441376/catch-the-night-with-flag-football-afterdark