3D Crowd – October Update – Including BIG news!

3D Crowd – October Update – Including BIG news!

Hi All

Your friendly 3D Crowd CEO here the rest of the admin let me out of my cage briefly to update you. There’s some BIG news, some updates and some housekeeping to get through so grab your soy latté, pull up a chair and let’s get started.

First the housekeeping – Slack / Discourse 

Slack was meant to be ending in a few days but they have kindly given us another 90 days till end of December for free (don’t ask I’ve already rewritten this section twice) so although there isn’t the mad hurry to get everyone onto Discourse it would be enormously helpful if you could familiarise yourselves with it if you haven’t already done so – until we sort out a long term arrangement with Slack or find some other alternative that gives us everything that we want for free, at the moment Discourse seems to offer the best long term option for us.

Sign up

If you haven’t been reading the regular updates from our Internal Comms and seen the invite to Discourse here it is:


If you decide you don’t want to keep in contact it’s okay we won’t take offence but if you later change your mind you can always find us again on through the website and sign up through that:


3D Crowd Updates


Okay so you’ve all had a break from printing face shields 24 hours a day and at the moment we aren’t getting any panicked calls for more so I presume you are reading this to see if we have any future plans and keep in contact with the group. We know you joined 3D Crowd to help the community and provide solutions to problems through your technical prowess by printing something really useful and not at all because you bought a whimsical expensive toy advanced technical engineering equipment and couldn’t think of anything to print on it other than a replacement part for your fridge or another Gorath the Goblin for the weekly D&D session. 

We currently have four and a half projects ready and waiting for you to help on, we know you want to get on with printing the rest of Gorath the Goblin’s clansmen but if you’re looking to do something a little more meaningful with your 3D printer here’s a breakdown:

Tetra – Ventilator Splitter

What is it?

At the real cutting edge of what the group can presently do we have the Tetra Ventilator Spitter, it functions by splitting the airflow from one ventilator to support four separate patients, with separate flow controls, electronics, manifolds etc. The group is working across four continents with us, a team of engineers in the US and doctors and hospitals wanting to test it in South America and Africa. Have a look at the website https://www.tetrabio.org/ – yeah that’s right a bit of a step up from a face shield, isn’t it?

What can I do?

Because of the tolerances and critical nature of the device, the 3D printed parts for this need to be resin printed and we also need some metal forming so if you have literally just acquired your first Ender 3 maybe this isn’t one to volunteer for (it doesn’t mean you can’t join the group and learn from more experienced hands – to be honest it’s way above my level so you’d be in good company). We need resin printers – we need to build prototypes so you don’t have to have a Form 3L to help you can offer to help with an Elegoo, Anycubic or Sonic etc but we will also need those Forms and Peopoly’s when we are ready to spend a fortune on the resin. We also need someone to help with the metal forming.

As with the face shields, we will be looking to cover the costs of resin used for the project and the costs of any prototype supplies.

Look at the Project Tetra – Overview and Tetra Call for Help group in Discourse to see what has happened so far (or to lurk). Shout that you want to get involved and get invited to the weekly meeting.

Project lead: Jamie Waters

Disaster Relief

What is it?

This project offers real potential for our organisation to make a material difference. Our unique ability to move quickly and in volume is unmatched by any other entity as we have been built on breaking the rules and finding new and better ways to do things. If you want evidence look at the face shields – we were churning out the same number of units as an injection moulder but two weeks before they were able to come online and in disaster zones two weeks is an eternity. People need help in hours and days not weeks.

We can offer the possibility of printing filters for plastic bottles to clean water, adapters to construct shelter out of debris – the field of humanitarian relief is a wide and varied project space. Involvement might range from exporting prints to crisis areas, setting up and supporting local maker spaces, the redesign and production of equipment to upscaling printing capabilities near or on crisis sites.

Currently, we are talking to major charities, NGO’s, strategists and humanitarian volunteers working in the field to better understand their needs and the complex environment better.

What can I do?

Join the group and monitor it to give us a critical mass of volunteers, an NGO will thank someone politely and send them to someone else if we offer the help of five people but offer them a thousand able to supply and fix a shortage of something that the relief workers on the ground are crying out for and we become the go-to group and more importantly the only group who can fix the shortage. Every NGO under the sun can turn up to a disaster site with bottled water – we may be the only one that can turn up and fix the water supply.

Once we have identified an area where we can help in a meaningful way we expect this area to move very quickly – possibly branching into multiple projects depending on the type and location of a disaster and need. 

We need help in reaching out into the humanitarian community to build relationships with humanitarian organisations large and small to better understand how we can help.

Join the Disaster Relief (Overview) group in Discourse to register your interest and increase our numbers.

Project lead: Richard Len


What is it?

Less of a specific project and more of a melting pot and ideas factory. Aura have already provided us with a solution for somewhere to send our failed prints and the less than successful perfect shields that some of you inadvertently included with your shipments. They are looking at masks for COPD sufferers (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – google it), hydroponic walls, wall bricks and a bunch of other excellent uses for our printers

What can I do?

Look through past updates for instructions on where to send failed prints, but keep your disasters and consider stockpiling them till you have enough to send up to Hull that way we can show our recycling credentials as well as actually doing our bit to save the environment. Keep an eye on Future Print Ideas from Aura for any new developments here.

E-Nable – prosthetics

What is it?

E-Nable (http://enablingthefuture.org/) are an existing worldwide group supplying prosthetics (mainly upper limb) for those that need it, swapping and upgrading designs and working with healthcare officials to identify and supply suitable candidates. As E-Nable work with a cell structure we can work alongside them without competing with them and considering the work they have done on existing designs would be a bit stupid if we decided to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel (instead we can jump to the development of the internal combustion engine and help them design the Ferrari equivalent – or Porsche if you’re that way inclined). We can run multiple cells under the 3D banner.

What can I do?

Quite simply a lot or a little as the project has been going for some time they have quite a developed system. For each recipient one of the following is needed:

Relationship Lead

This is an iterative process, devices will need to be adjusted and updated, rather than a one-off transaction, so establishing a strong, trusting and lasting relationship with the recipient is important (not a lot of good if we supply an arm it breaks the following day and that’s the last they hear from us whilst the group are basking in the glow of their own polished halos).

The relationship lead:

  • Co-ordinates with the recipient and their family
  • Answers their questions
  • Helps them fill out their details and measurements on eNable Web Central (https://enablewebcentral.com/ )
  • Helps them get the approval required from their medical professional (GP, Consultant or Occupational Therapist)


Someone with CAD skills who:

  • Works with the Relationship Lead and recipient choosing the right device
  • Customises the design to the recipient’s taste and needs
  • Sizes the files
  • Makes any modifications or adjustments required to the design

For example, this was a Frozen design. 


Someone with access to a 3D printer (we’re kind of presuming a few of you have one of these) who:

  • Prints the device
  • Assembles the device
  • Sources parts from the Bill of Materials

The above three jobs are covered by a single cell but the whole project as a whole needs:

  • A Responsible Person – Someone with a background in manufacturing who can oversee the process
  • Project Manager – who will help track the progress of devices and relationships, prompt if necessary, maintain the design lists and bill of materials (Needs to be recorded for each device for compliance reasons)
  • People to help with outreach, contacting limb-difference organisations
  • Experience Designers and developers to help with improving the online experience of e-Nable Web Central

What can I do now?

If you are interested in any of these roles or if you have any questions please let us know in the discussion or by reaching out directly.

For those interested in being a Maker please print a test device to familiarise yourself with the process.

Most recipients are using either the Unlimbited Phoenix Hand: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1674320 or the Unlimbited Phoenix Arm: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1672381 (Stringing instructions here by Shed of the Year 2017 Finalist Stephen Davies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIHpqqgybss)

Let us know if you have any issues with printing or sourcing materials.

Look at Prosthetics (Overview) and  eNable Prosthetics – What we need

Project Lead: Ed Greig


Okay so that is a (very) brief outline of each of the projects but each group will require help with logistics, marketing, comms, fundraising, IT and general admin so if you became part of the group to help people and are still confused by the all the talk of nozzle size, bed levelling and Marlin we still need your help you can either get in contact with a project lead or contact one of the admins to help out on a more general capacity any help gratefully accepted.

Biomass reactor

An exciting project that we can help from the cradle. There’s a lot of research into algae happening around the world at the moment because of the whole range of products it can help with. Microalgae can feed the future population, provide chemicals and fuels that are not derived from fossil fuels and reduce the destruction of rainforests for human use. However only a few amount of the thousands of algae species have been properly researched as the cost of a full sized PhotoBioReactor and equipment is prohibitive. Well guess where we fit in.

One of our number has come up with a design for a cheaper scalable model that incorporates numerous 3D printed parts and even better it uses recycled plastic bottles. Add to that factors like copper components can’t be used (it has a tendency to kill the algae) and we have a project ready made to demonstrate the benefits of our little goblin making kits.

What can I do?

No surprise here by now join Discourse and have a mosy around the Algae/Biofuel project, we are looking to trial a Discourse alternative for this project called Zulip (I know multiple forums is a pain but if you can work out how to level a print bed we reckoned you could cope with two different websites) – in there you’ll find a link to the 3D Crowd Zulip forum sign up shout that you want to get involved, there is potential here to need hundreds and if the project is a success thousands of parts so if you’re wary of printing bits that are to be used in a ventilator or not sure your parts are going to stand up to the rigours of a child demonstrating their superhero arm to all their classmates this may be the project for you.

Project Lead: Matthew Shearn

Face Shields 

We’re now officially over 200,000 units delivered now so congratulations to each and every one of you for your help in achieving this outstanding milestone. We’ve even managed to help some other countries who don’t have the same access to a similar 3D community with a recent supplementary shipment to Namibia through their consulate – shout out to Max Lee for all her hard work getting the shipment prepped to go out. This area isn’t dead yet though we’ve been having a couple of conversations with some government type people who may have a need for more in the care home sector and they are keen to work with us on helping some of the countries in Africa who are still short so pay attention as we may well need to turn the taps back on.

So the big news…

The BIG news

It took ages to apply for, involving an inordinate amount of work by a small highly motivated and dedicated team.

People questioned the wisdom of bothering – before the government reminded everyone of the rules and everyone else stopped being able to help because other groups hadn’t or couldn’t do what we had.

So whilst other groups shuttered and stopped we were able to continue to supply hospitals, care homes dentists and doctors when they were having to turn others away.

But we have it. Our face shields are official. We have CE Approval. That’s right, we are no longer in the limbo of the application process, having to explain to our recipients that it’s okay to take them really. We can stand up and say our units are CE approved, no longer do we need to deliver to the side door (not that we ever needed to). We can march in through the front door (with a mask on obviously) to deliver – we have a certificate and everything.

Okay so I get it, right at the moment you’re thinking it’s a bit late we stopped delivering three months ago and that is where the big news fits into the big picture. We have not just got CE approval for our face shields, we have got CE approval for what we believe is the first distributed manufacturing device ever and that is a massive milestone for 3D printing. Yes Prusa got CE approval but they had to be manufactured in the Prusa factory, other companies and universities got CE approval but they had the same restriction. Our CE approval is for the creation of the face shields by thousands of separate manufacturers – provided that they followed our processes, methods and guidance operating under the 3D Crowd banner and that is a significant step that allows 3D Crowd and each of you who contributed to taking our place in history. To anyone who says distributed manufacturing isn’t possible we can now point them to this approval to prove it is.

Congratulations and a massive thank you to Tom, Mel, Pete, Ed and the rest of the team that enabled this.

Let’s use this accomplishment to build on, to get the projects we have set up to achieve their own goals and make the world better through our hobby, demonstrating to the world the capabilities that individual people can make using technology… and maybe print a quick figurine or two of Goraths clanmates as a reward but strictly to check for calibration of course.

Thanks for reading.


CEO 3D Crowd