The prospect of medical teams being able to print replacement body parts is exciting.  As someone who has experienced reconstructive surgery, the idea that surgeons can perfectly recreate an exact match brings great hope.  Patients would no longer have to rely on artistry and good fortune - or repeated surgeries - to obtain symmetrical, life-like results.

New 3D printing technology created by a team at Wake Forest University in North Carolina is showing great promise reliably printing human tissue and organs. Bioprinting, as it is known, is a big leap for medical technology and is now coming into its own as an effective and beneficial means of healthcare and healing. The bioprinter works similarly to other 3D printers, but instead of printing in metals or plastics, it prints hydrogels containing human cells. What is special about this new printer is that the tissue that it prints is able to accept blood vessels and therefore essentially keep the cells alive. This research is especially exciting for the medical community, which is already looking to the future and the potential that this technology has for us.

AuthorRenee Eaton

Cardiologist Wilson King, who works at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis has been using 3D printing to make models of patients’ actual hearts. By using medical images generated from techniques like Heart CT scans and Ultrasounds, King is able to render 3D models of his patients’ actual hearts. This ability enables doctors’ and surgeons’ to anticipate and prepare for diagnoses and surgeries. Additionally by making a model, doctors are able to physically practice placing devices into each individual’s heart. When patients have unique anatomy or particular heart conditions, 3D printing can be used to more comprehensively understand each case.  

As RapidMade has reported before, another benefit is patient and physician education - explaining complex medical procedures is much easier when one can see and touch a replica - and what could be cooler than seeing and touching an exact copy of your own organ.  

This case is jut another great example of why 3D scanning and printing have become so widely adopted in medicine.

Educators at Wellesley College and elsewhere have embraced 3D printing as a way to educate students in a variety of subjects. “Makerspaces” are designed to allow individualsto create and learn beyond the scope of a classroom. Some Makerspaces have started including 3D printers, enabling users to create physical objects for educational or creative use. From biology and archaeology to history and art, 3D printing has been used to better educate students.  An added benefit of this experience is that some have ended up expressing interest in the logical and engineering issues that 3D printing itself creates. Many in the field hope that greater access will encourage more students to seriously consider STEM careers.  In any case, the ability of 3D printers to create such a variety of unique objects will continue to influence education as more teachers and students adopt this technology.



AuthorRenee Eaton

Thomas Davis, linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, may be playing with a 3D printed brace on his recently broken arm during the Super Bowl today. Davis, who is having one of the best seasons of his career, still wanted to play in the game, and his team wanted him too. After doctors surgically installed a plate and a dozen screws in his arm, the question was how to further protect his healing arm from additional damage. The answer came in the form of a 3D printed arm brace. His arm was 3D scanned which was then sent to engineers to develop the brace. It had to be comfortable, light, breathable, and abide by standards set by the NFL for braces. Since receiving his brace, Davis has been spotted utilizing it in practice and testing its durability. It is still not guaranteed that he will play but if he does then 3D printing may affect the outcome of the Super Bowl this year. 3D printing is revolutionizing the way we approach sports medicine in addition to the myriad other medical applications it has already proven to have.

It is now easy to make your own custom solder-free circuit boards through 3D printing. An independent creator on DIY website Instructables has 3D printed its own personally designed circuit board. The circuit board was created in CAD, printed, and its trace channels lined with conductive material. Once built, this circuit board does not require solder to establish working electrical connections, an easier and cleaner way of building your own circuit boards. This is perfect for hobbyists but also indicative of the many custom applications 3D printing can have in technology development. Read the article for more details on how to build your own custom circuit board.

3D Printing, Manufacturing and Engineering

RapidMade's services now include:

Product Design and Engineering

  • Simple static part design to fully automated mechanical and electrical equipment
  • Design for prototyping and manufacture
  • In-house prototyping capabilities for faster iterations and overnight customer feedback
  • 2D and 3D drawings, tolerance and other manufacturing specifications, technology transfer and patent application documentation, equipment manuals, FDA and other compliance as well as other specialized engineering work

Rapid Prototyping

  • 3D printing, quick-turn machining, traditional metal and plastic forming, short-run castings
  • Thermoset and thermoplastic manufacturing, hard and soft metals, composites available
  • Full-color concept models, functional prototypes, assembly and embedded electronics
  • Quotes generally in under 24 hours, parts in days

Contract Manufacturing

  • Production quantities ranging from one to tens of thousands
  • A multitude of available manufacturing processes 
  • Expertise in selecting the right manufacturing process for you
  • Personalized attention to detail and top quality customer service
  • Tooling and part library for easy re-orders

3D Scanning and Reverse Engineering

  • Extremely high accuracy 3D digitization of parts as a reproducible STL file
  • Available reverse engineering to create fully defined parametric files and 2D dimensioned drawings
  • Inspection of manufactured goods to identify deviation from the original design
  • Full-color scans also available

Industrial Pattern and Toolmaking

  • Highly accurate tools in days, not months - at a lower cost
  • Patterns and tools available for all standard manufacturing processes: Injection molding, urethane casting, sand and investment casting, sheet metal stamping, plastic forming and much more
  • Additional finishing capabilities available

Displays, Exhibits and Promotions

  • Full color 3D printing can be done as quickly as under 24 hours
  • Print directly from renderings in CAD or BIM modeling software
  • Great for architecture, store display and marketing customers
  • Very fine feature detail and beautiful aesthetic quality

Finishing and Coating

  • A wide range of finish options including paint, powder coat, plating, media blast, tumbling and much more
  • Clear coat and dyed plastic available for cost effective finishing of prototypes and manufactured goods

Congratulations to our Portland-based neighbors at Laika who recently learned they will receive an award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at its Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on February 13.

“This year’s honorees represent a wide range of new tech, including a modular inflatable airwall system for composited visual effects, a ubiquitous 3D digital paint system and a 3D printing technique for animation,” said Richard Edlund, Academy Award®-winning visual effects artist and chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. “With their outstanding, innovative work, these technologists, engineers and inventors have further expanded filmmakers’ creative opportunities on the big screen.”

Laika's Brian McLean and Martin Meunier are being recognized for

pioneering the use of rapid prototyping for character animation in stop-motion film production.

LAIKA’s inventive use of rapid prototyping has enabled artistic leaps in character expressiveness, facial animation, motion blur and effects animation. Through highly specialized pipelines and techniques, 3D printing capabilities have been harnessed with color uniformity, mechanical repeatability, and the scale required to significantly enhance stop-motion animated feature films.

Additive Manufacturing is changing the way manufacturers design and create tooling. Robotic arm end effectors are just one (great) example.

Advantages of 3D printed robotic arm end effects are:

Engineers can ignore the rules of DFM (Design for Manufacture.)

  • Vacuum channels were built into the part that could not have been machined into the center of the tool if traditionally manufactured. These tubes would have had to be on the outside of the part and would likely be damaged over repeated runs.
  • The tool would also have to be designed from machined billet blocks, fabricated sheet metal and stock components, then welded and assembled. Design simplification makes for less work on the part of the engineer.
  • The simplified end component is lighter because all excess material that would be in a traditionally manufactured design can be removed and that actually reduces cost instead of adding cost through additional CNC machining time. Lighter end effectors allow for larger payloads for smaller arms and much better motion control by reducing the torque on the end of what is effectively a very long lever.

Manufacturers make no concessions while realizing cost and time savings.

  • The end effector tool is just as durable as a traditionally manufactured tool and is expected to last for just as many cycles.
  • The traditionally manufactured end effector takes hours of fabrication on multiple machines and a lot of labor assembling and welding.
  • By switching to an additive manufacturing method (FDM) in this instance, the customer was able to reduce manufacturing time from 20 days down to 3 (85% reduction in lead time) while also cut fabrication costs by 94%!

Check out the video for the whole story on Robotic Arm Tooling.


Here is an excerpt from the Portland Business Journal article that appeared last week:

It wasn't long after Renee Eaton was introduced to 3D printing technology that she saw a business opportunity. Why not purchase 3D printing equipment and then add those services to her company’s offerings? As Easton saw it, owning the high-end equipment would allow RapidMade to provide local, sustainable and innovative manufacturing capabilities to small companies and individuals who couldn’t afford them otherwise. And so, RapidMade’s innovative business model was born. Here’s some more detail about RapidMade from Eaton herself.


How would you describe your business model? Unlike traditional manufacturers and online 3D printing service bureaus, our complete range of 3D technologies, combined with our in-house design/engineering, and personal service, deliver targeted, effective results ... that help clients create new products, accelerate development, improve quality and lower costs.

What’s unique about the manufacturing process? Unlike traditional manufacturing, where an object is made by taking a material and cutting it away to create the piece (subtractive manufacturing), digital fabrication builds it, layer by layer, as directed by a CAD file. This process is ideal for items made from expensive materials like titanium, customized and complex designs ­— that often cannot be machined traditionally — or assemblies which can be eliminated because the component is printed in one piece. And the lead times required to produce prototypes, parts, molds, patterns and tools are reduced to days from weeks.

What differentiates your company in the marketplace? RapidMade uses these advanced technologies as a means to an end. If a client comes to us, and we believe 3D printing (additive manufacturing) isn’t the best solution for him or her, we always say so. And if it isn’t, we can still provide traditional manufacturing alternatives. Another distinction is our in-house engineering staff whose experience enables them to design and create prints to maximize the effectiveness of this technology. Unlike many service bureaus that simply print what they get, we evaluate clients’ files to ensure they get what they want, not just what they upload to us.

Who uses your service?  Although we get the occasional enthusiast, RapidMade works almost exclusively with businesses and entrepreneurs.  We are very proud to have worked with a number of Fortune 100 companies as well as small- and medium-sized firms on some very novel projects.  Our work tends to focus on 3D scanning and reverse engineering, product development, low-volume production (replacement and finished parts as well as tooling, patterns and molds), architectural, artistic and sales models and customized figurines and promotional items.

Suzanne Stevens is Editor of the Portland Business Journal, overseeing the newsroom and guiding all news operations.


Come join us this Thursday to celebrate (details below)!

When: Thursday, October 29th | 7:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

Where: Sentinel Hotel | 614 SW 11th Ave. | Grand Ballroom


The Oregon Manufacturing Awards are intended to recognize Oregon Manufacturers. This is one of the few public awards programs for manufacturers in the United States.  We're honoring manufacturing firms from all over our region for outstanding operations, products, facilities, and most importantly, the best manufacturing workforces in the world.

As part of the awards program, Tim BoyleCEO of Columbia Sportswear will be joining us for a live Q&A with Publisher Craig Wessel. Tim is at the helm of the 70 year old sportswear apparel giant which his grandparents began in 1938. Although it is a public company today, Columbia remains a family affair. Boyle's 91-year-old mother Gertrude, aka "one tough mother" is chairman of the board, and both his son Joe and sister Sarah Bany are on the board. Tim started working at the company after his father passed away, helping his mother Gert run the fledgling retailer while he was finishing college. He took over as CEO in 1989.

Don't miss this conversation with this fascinating Oregon company, and discussion on where Columbia is headed in the future! 

Companies being recognized this year are:

  • Beaverton Foods
  • D.R. Johnson Lumber
  • Energy Storage Systems
  • Evo, Inc.
  • FEI
  • Indow
  • Microchip Technology Inc.
  • Pratt & Larson Ceramics
  • Premier Press
  • RapidMade
  • Shwood
  • Townshend's Tea Co.
  • Valliscor