Open Source - Stay The Course

If the iconic corporate American structure is a bull-dozing Tank, then the ever evolving Open Source system is a F22 Raptor. The speed of information and idea exchange is absolutely amazing and getting faster and attracting more individuals and companies every hour. Yes, Open Source is the new way to make your ideas go and grow using a world-wide base of experts who believe that sharing information is better than keeping the advances in technology a secret. 

Open Source is counter intuitive to the standard create, design, patent and keep under wraps process that is typical of the corporations that spend Billions of dollars a year to keep their information proprietary. Corporations hold dear their patented processes as they need to stay ahead of their competition and also protect their shareholders vaule in their company. 

EIC has been a proponent of Open Source sharing as we have been slowly moving our 3D Printing equipment selections to the Lulxbot TAZ4 open source 3D printers. These units are extremely well built, can print in more than 8 different materials and can be modified to fit our specific requirements if we need to do that. And, the Lulzbot forum group offers an active group of like-minded individuals who are continuously experimenting with different materials and 3D design concepts. In addition, there are 3D groups and small companies around the globe that openly share their insights, ideas and failures with anyone who wants to reach out.

EIC recently acquired our 3rd Lulzbot TAZ4 3D printer and placed it at Lemon Bay High School, in Englewood, Florida. We have one in our facility and North Port High School, one of our first EIC program schools, has the other one. We anticiapte purchasing more of these units and the new MIni-TAZ units coming out in January of 2015.

As EIC continues to add more Schools and organizations to its "Connect-to-the-Community" programs we move closer to the Open Source systems and process as we belive this is the way future companies and creations will be built. This is not your Father's buisiness world anymore.

 

Open Source

We purchased our third 3D Printer 8 weeks ago. The new Lulzbot, TAZ4 made by Aleph Objects of Ft. Collins, CO. is a unique machine in that many of tthe parts are actually printed. Also, this unit, which has a large build platform; 11"x11"x11", can currently print the following materials; ABS, PLA, HIPS, Nylon, Wood, Ceramic and soon Bronze.

The unit has a large power pack which allows for addition of a second print head if needed and the build platform can be expanded both up and out if you have the right materials and technical know-how. The software is Printrun or Pronterface and the slicing program is Slic3r, a very popular open source program that is updated often and usually to resolve issues suggested by the faithful following.

Open Source really means that you have access to the ideas, modifications, print materials and other aspects of 3D printing from individuals and companies around the world. If someone in Bulgaria comes up with a better method of printing a certain type of part, this is shared on the Open Source network and accessible by anyone who wants to use it.

Unlike our MakerBot printers which are locked into a preprietary software operating system, our TAZ4 unit can use any number of packages that can position, slice or provide high degree of modifications to the print program.

Slic3r offers a wide range of options for printing. Aside from the Configuration files that give you set temperatues and fan settings for different materials, you can change the infill, layer height, shells, diameter of filament, temperature ranges during printing, and specific instructions when printing with materials that require temperatures above 240 degreee C. 

Currently, if you need to change the horizontal rotation of an item you can use Cura, an Ultimaker software program that allows you to take the .stl file and change its position and scale prior to sending it to Slic3r. So in some cases you make use three software programs to print. Sounds complicated but it really is easy and offers a lot of options  especially when using files from other sources.

EIC can now offer a much better product print based upon the capibilities of the TAZ4 unit. We are already seeing an increase in the number of individuals who want us to make a replacement part for something they can no longer purchase or locate at a reasonable price. Open Source is one way that a small operation like EIC can compete globally from our small operations in Englewood, Florida. 

On Being An Economic Ostrich

All I See Is Sand!

 

One of the distinct features of the Ostrich is its ability to run quickly at speeds up to 43 miles per hour when threatened by a predator. It will also lay down on the ground with its head slightly buried in the ground to look like a mound of dirt if it finds itself in a position where it can’t run or hide. While this does nothing to protect it from the reality of being attacked it believes that if it can’t see them they can’t see the Ostrich.

 

Here in the greater Englewood area we look at new business ideas as a predator and bury our proverbial heads in the sand, ( because we believe this will solve all our problems) while the start-up companies in California look at sand as silicon… and there-in lies the problem. The sun, water and sand are just one aspect of what makes southwest Florida communities viable. What’s missing, is the energy, determination and collective risk involved in turning OUR sand into silicon.

 

Fixing The Barren Landscape

 

When I started EIC in August of 2012 the mission statement included the statement, “changing the economic landscape,” when referring to our goal for the greater Englewood area as a business incubator. That has not changed. One of the main reasons I felt our type of organization was necessary was the lack of effectiveness by the Economic Development Commissions in both Sarasota and Charlotte counties. This is not to say those individuals who head up those organizations are not trying to make a difference. I personally know these people and they are working hard at trying to bring new companies into our area. The problem is the tools they are using in their sand box are shovels and pails, just like the ones used 50 years ago.

 

In the past 5 years only 80 companies across the entire U.S. made any significant move to another state or location. Every state is trying to lure companies in their direction. Why? Because they understand the only other option is to grow their economies organically…and that is more difficult and takes longer to affect economic change. Yet this is the only way to change the landscape. The sand box must be removed and replaced with something that makes us uncomfortable, a silcon box.

 

The Digital Divide

 

There is no doubt that the advent of bringing 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing) into EIC’s operation was a great turning point in our program. We now have the right tools ( in our silicon box ) to take the digitally wired youth and entrepreneurs and turn their ideas into hard products overnight. The ability to create a prototype of a 3 dimensional drawing is perfectly suited to the new “digitally wired” generation. In addition, those individuals who previously had to spend thousands of dollars to have someone design and fabricate a prototype of their ideas can now have that done ( in most cases) for less than $100.00. This opens the door for more innovation and the real potential to develop new products and create new companies right here in Englewood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 2. Economic Ostrich

 

This connection tool ( printer) is also important because it is quickly becoming the most disruptive technology on the planet and the adaption rate of the younger generation to this technology is absolutely astounding. One of the challenges I have when discussing our program and this technology with many of the local businesses and older retirees is their inability to see our vision.

 

It has always been my nature to seek out those individuals who were “smarter than me” in areas of technology that I needed to use but which I had little knowledge or technical understanding. Over the past 40 years I always looked up to those senior engineers and experienced technicians to assist me in developing new products or solving technical problems.

 

Today, I mostly look down. Down to the Middle school and High school STEM engineering students, down to those young people who can write computer code, down to those geeky kids that can make a 3 dimensional file of an object in less than an hour and send it to me via email so I can send it to our 3D Printers, down to those 8 year old students at Englewood Elementary school who can design simple objects on Tinker Cad and print it out on their new MakerBot Replicator 3D printer. Yes, if we are going to change the economic landscape in our community these young people and entrepreneurs are the ones who will help us get out of our sand box.

 

It has often been said that one can’t soar with the Eagles when they hang out with Ostriches. While the Ostrich can run fast and does have feathers, for all its effort to try…well… it just can’t fly.

 

 

Additive Manufacturing Adds Up

Now that 3D Printing has started to move into replacing traditional reductive CNC fabrication process the ability to change tthe economic landscape in towns and cities not originally part of the manufacturing centers in the U.S. can keep their small town feel but have a high tech economy. No smoke stacks, no large, ugly metal buildings and no dirty work environments. The use of additive manufactuing allows someone to produce a wide variety of products from many materials in a building that doesn't have to be in an industrial park.

EIC has been working for almost 9 months to generate interest in using 3D Printing ( additive manufacturing) with the local school systems in both Sarasota and Charlotte counties. We acquired our first 3D Printer from MakerBot. This is their new Replicator Fifth Generation unit that prints in PLA only but has a lot of features that make it very easy to use, even for the novice. That unit was followed by a MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental unit that has two print heads and prints in ABS.

We recenlty ordered a new unit from Alpha Objects called the LulzBot TAZ4. This has one print head with the option to add a second print head. It also prints in PLA, ABS, HIPS, Nylon, Ninja Flex, Wood and Ceramic. It has a larger build platform than the MakerBot units so it will allow us to build some larger prototypes and designs.

EIC has exerted its influence to a number of schools in the greater Englewood area and as a result there are now 14 3D Printers in place in a 10 mile radius from EIC. Even the elementary school in Englewood has jumped on the bandwagon. And why not. 3D Printers are the perfect tool to take that creative idea generated by that young mind, put it on a computer screen which is a comfortable technology even for 5 year olds, and then send the creation to the printer and viola! They  can now hold their idea in their hand.

With faster printers coming on the market that can print in resolutions as fine as 20 microns ( ours print at 100 microns) the ability to not only quickly design and build a prototype but actually make viable, saleable products. To that end EIC is now using the High School STEM engineering students to design one-of-a-kind promotional items for a number of local businesses that generate revenue and at the same time connect the students skill sets to the real commercial world.

It is our belief that additive manufacturing will grow exponentially over the next 10 years with major shifts in manufacturing techniques taking place in 2015. 

For more information on EIC and our business incubator programs go to our website at: http://www.englewoodincubationcenter.org

Contact Details

Englewood Incubation Center, Inc.
P.O. Box 465, Englewood, FL. 34295
Phone:  317-796-7617

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.englewoodincubationcenter.org

 

EIC, P.O. Box 304, Englewood, FL. 34295

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