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More Than Meets the Eye – Rushil Pawar’s Venture into 3D Printing

Rushil Pawar’s science-fiction fuelled shape-shifting fantasies were ingrained in his mind from a young age. During his second semester in MIT, his fascination with hardware and magically creating objects out of thin air caused his vision to find itself a place in real life. Assisted by an online community of 3D Printing enthusiasts and, at key moments, by his father, Rushil created ‘Glow’ – his first functioning 3D Printer – in his hostel room.

From disassembling a washing machine stand to create the bones of the printer, to arriving at the frustrating conclusion that a simple ‘true’ or ‘false’ statement could make or break his project, Rushil Pawar ventured the internet and beyond to create a 3D Printer that could be accessible to the masses.

He shifted his focus on creating his own product rather than simply making use of another’s design. Building on an early adulation of science-fiction, he explained, “Back then, my idea of converting one object to another felt like a huge deal. It seemed revolutionary.” He realised that his past, mildly ingenuous idea had a certain weight to it, and that the notion of creating new objects – seemingly out of thin air – wasn’t as far-fetched as he thought it was.

Having founded a start-up ‘Rapturise’ which aims at turning manufacturing into a household activity, Rushil envisions a future where you could print a cell phone in your living room.

This is the start of an epic multi-dimensional quest.

Rushil with his 3D Printer, ‘Glow’

 

In his ninth grade, Rushil Pawar began research for a pet project called ‘the Ultimate Cell’. This idea was a manifestation of science fiction and a newfound knowledge of physics and applied sciences. “The fundamental unit of everything is the same – atoms,” he explained. He dreamt of learning how to shape-shift objects like pens into tape, and this was an idea that stuck with him throughout high school.

Building the Dream

When Rushil started working on his 3D Printer in the second semester, his focus shifted to hardware. To build his fantasy, he grounded himself to research. Reluctant to take help from open source material available online, he decided to pursue the project all on his own – and, after a few iterations, he could come up with the first prototype. A perfectionist at heart, Rushil feels that he may never stop tinkering, “This will continue until I come up with a version of the printer that I feel satisfied with – one with minimum glitches and faults.”

The base materials he used were ordinary – household objects that were easy to acquire. You would think that this made his job easier, but think again. He used iron rods from a washing machine stand by completely disassembling it, which wasn’t a task for the weary. While the iron did serve the purpose of supporting the structure of the 3D printer, it couldn’t provide complete stability to it – which led Rushil to other materials such as aluminium and ultimately mild steel.

He did hit snags on his way. One time, he couldn’t control the upward and downward motion of the bed on which the 3D printed specimen is formed. “It was so frustrating to be stuck at something so fundamental – just a messed up true or false.” he sighed.

What kept him going is his dedication to hardware. We asked Rushil for soft renderings of his work, to which replied that he prefers to build rather than simulate. He tried finding components and material that are local, instead of relying on the internet’s unobtanium.

In this way, whenever he struggled with a technicality, he relied on the fact that he already had a very real and very working printer. All he had to do was keep improving the design.

Fiction No More

© MakerBot

 

Aside from his shape-shifting fantasies, Rushil feels that 3D Printing has real potential. Manufacturing processes are ever-evolving, and 3D Printing can dramatically reduce the prototyping cost. There’s also no wastage of materials and filament. The now currently-used alternative to 3D Printing is subtractive manufacturing, which involves cutting material to form the product. 3D Printing is additive manufacturing, which as the name suggests will involve creating the product from ground up, rather than top-down – as is the case with subtractive manufacturing.

Courtesy: Joshua Harker

 

Another major advantage of 3D Printing is the ability to produce intricate objects like the one shown above. This is not possible using traditional machining. Add to that the sheer number of filament materials and colours available, and the possibilities are endless.

Courtesy: Rapturize

 

Some intriguing products that Rushil has made so far are half a dozen phone cases in an array of colours. The cases have an inbuilt air tunnel that amplifies the sound produced by the phone’s speakers – effectively acting as bigger speakers at almost none of the price. The most exciting thing? The phone cases are available online, ready to download.

What Lies Ahead?

 

Rushil’s future plans include pursuing 3D printing in the field of dental sciences. His venture into 3D Printing has caught the eye of many an investor. His ultimate aim is to make 3D Printing a viable option for the masses – by making it cheaper and more accessible. While the concept of 3D printing is not new to us, its various zany purposes are unknown to most.

 

3D Printing with graphene. Courtesy: Pawel Ślusarczyk

Another area Rushil may branch into is printing with graphene – a very conductive element. With this, it is possible to print circuits. Extrapolate that a little further, and you may soon be able to print a cell phone in your room.

After spending a solid year in research, followed by months of working with hardware, Rushil has seen his toil paying off. To everyone who is struggling with starting a project of his own, Rushil says, “Just start.” Once you invest time and money in it, and see your work gradually coming to fruition, you will want to see it to the end. All it takes is the first step.

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