Everything you need to know about 3D printing rockets

As you may have heard, about a week ago Marshall Space Flight successfully tested a rocket injector that was 3D Printed. Well actually the first tests were earlier than that, but everyone took notice when the video posted below (and others taken at the same time) were posted.

What you might not know is why this is just now a “breakthrough” when 3D printing in metal isn’t new. Shapeways has been printing metal pieces since 2009, and the technology was first patented in the 80s. The biggest difference is that traditionally 3D printing in metal has been done using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) whereas this injector was printed in Inconel using Selective Laser Melting (SLM). If the difference isn’t clear… in SLS the laser fuses the metal powder together through a localized reaction, whereas SLM essentially melts (or welds) all of the metal in the part. There is a little bit of research going into the difference in properties etc. between the two. The two processes are being improved daily, but everything I have read or seen shows SLM to be stronger (though only marginally in most materials). If your curious, Marshall uses the M2 Cusing by Concept Laser. So the technology specific to printing this part is very new. Marshall just started testing out the technology a year ago.

Enter SpaceX. Yesterday SpaceX posted the video below showing off there cool Iron Man inspired 3D model viewing technology. At the end of the video they print a part to scale in inconel using SLS (specifically using this printer).  So SpaceX posts a video where they 3D print an inconel engine part and everyone is too distracted by the shiny sci-fi-esque toy  to really grasp that, while the call the part a “prototype”, it is a functional prototype and they could (& probably will) make the end product the exact same way. The only thing left to be seen (from my perspective) is if the SLS printed parts will hold up just as well as the SLM parts.

Oh, and did I mention that one of the SLM printed rocket injectors is currently at Stennis and I have been given the opportunity to handle it and give feedback? If you know me, you know how much I love both 3D printing and rockets, so of course I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to tweet/post pictures at the time but I was told no :/   I guess I’ll settle for writing this post, even though I have to leave out some of my coolest thoughts/opinions on the matter 😉

Is a cord free mp3 player and a klout perk enough to save Walkman?

If you were alive in the 80s, then you probably rocked the Walkman at some point, in some fashion before the end of the 90s. My most recent Sony Walkman was a “waterproof” CD


player that looked something like this. It lasted me through high school and into college; through snowboarding, wrestling meets, dorm rooms, and the general precocity that plagues teenagers and the tech they own. Since the death of that CD player I’ve owned one mp3 player after another and haven’t looked back. Looking back now, I realize that I left Walkman behind like a forgotten child’s toy. They were a good brand, I loved the product, and they had a huge market share… so what happened? I’m not a historian, and my profession has nothing to do with sales or marketing, but if I had to guess, I would say “the iPod happened”. Apple did an amazing job of crushing every company that tried to compete in the mp3 game for a long time.

Sony Walkman W Series MP3 Headphone

Sony has recently release the W Series, which could optimistically be seen as a “comeback”. While I know a good bit about economics, marketing, and R&D costs, I really don’t want to get into economic forecasting about whether or not a single product could “save” a brand. Particularly considering that Walkman never officially went away, and Sony is definitely not going anywhere. What I do think is very interesting is the product itself, and how they are using Klout Perks to garner support for it.

If you are interested in the product and my assessment of it, you can read my review here. Bottom line: 2GB, water-resistant, 8hr battery life, NO CORDS, & I’ll probably use it tell the day it stops working.

For those who don’t know, Klout is a site that monitors your activity on various social media sites to gauge the level of interaction to your content, and how influential you are. There are a few sites that do this, but Klout seems to be the most prevalent. Again, first to market has something to do with it, but their Perks also have something to do with it.  If you’re unfamiliar with Klout Perks, it’s a lot like it sounds (unless you are thinking of something sexual &/or illegal); they give you free stuff.  The Sony Walkman W perk isn’t my first Klout perk.

Though I actually really like the Packers gear, the Sony Walkman perk is on a different level than any perk I’ve received, and most that I’ve seen for a couple of reasons:

  1. 5,000 is a lot of freaking devices to give away. If I were a full time tech blogger I’d bother to look up what is normal, and what they most given away is… but I don’t have time for that, sorry :/
  2. This perk is actually a contest. Five of the 5,000 people who claimed the water-resistant Meb Keflezighi edition W series will be selected to receive the waterproof W series that hasn’t hit the market yet. “Klout will be tracking entrant’s Tweets and ReTweets of the Message on Twitter, Facebook comments, likes, and shares. Five potential winners will be determined based on the content created” (more official rules here)

Maybe this is a common thing, but it is new to me, and dances around an interesting issue with giving away free product; how to get people talking about it as much as possible without them coming across as car salesman? At first it may seem like generating copious amounts of content and berating your followers would be the way to win, but since Klout is based on influence, getting the most engagement is probably the best way to win. Sure a lot of people might not reach that conclusion, but if they were selected (hopefully) they understand how Klout works and try to generate engaging content focused around the perk and the #FitnessWalkman hashtag. The easiest way to ensure that people generate sincere content based on giveaways is to not ask anything in return, but that doesn’t always ensure that said content will be engaging, or happen at all.

Merry Christmas for @GE #industrialinternet

For the record I’ve received a Google chromebook from a TechCrunch giveaway, and GE occasionally gives gifts to their followers who contribute to the community. Neither of which asked that I generate content, but it’d be rude not to say thank you 😉

In my product review I said earlier that there is nothing in it for me to say nice things about the Sony Walkman; I still mean it. The winners will (most likely) be those who generate the most influential content. I would laugh until I cried bitter tears of irony if Dr. Poinsett won one of the five sets. She is one of the only who is outspoken against the headphones, and any troll will tell you that the fastest way to get engagement from other users is to swim against the current. For the record she is not a troll, just a concerned MD who thinks “distracted walkers endanger teens”. Also given that there are 5,000 people out there, a good portion of them with higher Klout scores and more followers. I find my odds of winning very slim, whether my comments are good or bad shouldn’t affect if I win or not. So why write what is probably my longest blog to date? Because I really want to answer, “is this going to save Walkman?” I really find all of this interesting.

While I’m neither psychic, nor a tech/econ expert, but I think that it might work. If it does succeed I honestly think that it will predominantly hinge on the product itself. It is a good product, priced under $100, and I think there is a demand for it. How many people would drop $20 on a pair of headphones because they forgot/lost theirs and another $40-60 on an mp3 player if they thought they would use it? Again, I don’t have the market research to back it up, but I’m sure Sony does.

As for the perk, I think it is a fantastic approach to get people engaged. I think that within a few months my father-in-law and my wife are both going to get one (because I’m not sharing mine). Unfortunately, despite giving away 5,000 devices I’m not sure that it generated the buzz they were hoping for. According to Hashtags.org there were less than 100 tweets using the hashtag over the last 24 hours (estimate). I did my own estimate (average number of tweets per page, number of pages in twitter search over the last 24 hours), and I come up with 320 tweets. Take that back further to Monday, when the perks started arriving in people’s mailboxes, and there are approximately 650 tweets. In either case, if each of those tweets belonged to a single user (which they don’t), barely one tenth of those who received a free product even tweeted about getting it. According to Statigr.am 160 photos were posted to Instagram with the #FitnessWalkman hastag. Hardly a viral campaign. Note: These numbers were as of the afternoon of April 4th. According to the rules of the perk the cut off for generating content is midnight of April 4th. It seems as though many people are still receiving their headphones today. It seems like a shipping/coordinating problem on their end. It’s hard to generate a buzz in 2-3 days, especially if most of your product testers don’t even have the product until after the contest is over. Update: these numbers were compiled in the middle of the day on the 4th (the last day of the contest), as of midnight on the 4th the numbers had changed (slightly). A total of approximately 826 tweets were generated with the hasthag #FtinessWalkman. 294 of those were on the last day, since the end of the contest only 91 tweets have used the hashtag. If their goal was to try and make the hashtag trend then making the delivery coincide with the last day of the contest might have made sense, but it doesn’t look as though it worked out for them. It would have been more productive IMO to let people review the product for a full week or a month before the end of the contest. That may have very well been there intention, with early production volumes of this kind (for product giveaways) there can often be delays.

If I had access to better analytic tools I could probably come up with more relevant and interesting statistics (not to mention prettier looking), but I don’t believe it would change the outcome much :/

P.S. If I do win the waterproof headphones they are going to my wife 🙂

too good to tinker with (right now)

3D printing in schools

A fellow I met through a LinkedIn 3D printing group, Davvid Lewis, posted this in the group a while back, I thought it was awesome to see the curriculum they are forming around 3D printing. I honestly thought I hit the publish button… but apparently I didn’t.

Original thread.


Here is a copy of the way we are teaching CAD & 3D Printing at Discovery School this semester. Please keep in mind that I have only 50 minutes, once a week with the kids.

3D Design & Printing at Discovery Charter School

Class size 12 (four groups of three)

Objective: Introduce the students (and their parents) to 3D Design & Printing through the use of Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs on the computer and the physical “printing” of their designs on the 3D systems 3D Printers.

Student Expectations:

– Be on time (crucial since we only have 50 minutes a week in class)
– Access the CAD software from home
– At least once a week, look for news about 3D Design or 3D Printing in the news
– Work in their teams
– Join the off site labs for printing of their final class project designs

This semester we are breaking the program into four blocks

Block 1: Introduction & Overview

– What is CAD
– What is 3D Printing
– Selecting your software
– Your first “print”
– In The News

Block 2: Learning to use CAD

– Selecting the software
– Creating initial designs
– Modifying designs
– Rotations
– Lofts
– Cool stuff

Block 3: Semester project

– Team assignments
– Project Definition
– Project Scope
– What you WILL do
– What you will NOT do
– Timeline

Block 4: Production (to the timeline)

– Design the parts
– What WILL print
– What is HARD to print
– Test a print
– Revise as needed
– Schedule team build days
– Print the parts
– Assemble it
– Options for “printing”
– Cubify Service
– Other outsourced printer services
– Presentations of projects

2013 Goals

So I have spent the last few weeks working on my goals for 2013. They aren’t perfect, but I’ve come to realize (or re-realize) that goals are moving targets. They should grow and evolve as you get closer to reaching them. So rather than postpone this post until the end of the year I figured I would post them now, and then follow up at the end of 2013.

Posting these here isn’t about bragging (especially since I know many friends who will set and achieve higher goals this year). It is an attempt to make myself more accountable for these goals.


I am 6 months into an 11 month Executive MBA program at the University of New Orleans.

University of New Orleans Privateer logo

I can’t think of a much better mascot for an MBA program than a Privateer

Graduation is December of this year. So my number one goal, and my largest time commitment outside of work, is to graduate. During my undergraduate career I honestly didn’t care that much about my GPA. I cared about learning (both inside and outside the class), paying for school (I worked at least 2 jobs and graduated with less than $5k in loans), my research, and my social life.  But this time around I care about my grades, what I’m learning, and the connections I’m making. I have a number in my head of what GPA I want to achieve. Lets just say more As than Bs and no Cs.

200 pages a week

My brother Tac Anderson had a goal for 2012 to read 52 books, 1 book per week.

I like the idea of setting a reading goal, because reading good content is a great stretch goal for any individual. If you read/learned something new every day of your life not only would you know a lot by the end, but you would stay forever young by ingraining the openness and collaborative nature of learning in your character. But with my MBA, work, etc. I felt like a goal of 52 books was ambiguous because of the drastic difference in length of the books I read. I also fear that I would finish or select books based on the goal. So after much thought the idea dawned on me to set my goal by number pages. That way whether I read a 7 page scientific journal article, a 1-2 page blog (actually read, not just skim), text for my MBA course, or science fiction, the total number of pages I digest in a week from any source would add to the goal. To help make this goal more real, track it better, and hopefully get more out of it, starting next week, I hope to have a weekly blog post of the 200+ pages I’ve read. It will hopefully be a brief (1-2 sentences per source) digest of the pages I read during the week.

I hope the weekly digest of the 200+ pages/week I read, will be useful to everyone as I hope to summarize dozens of blogs, a handful of science articles, and large chunks of fiction and non-fiction in a sentence or two each.

Run a 5k 


You may or may not know that in September of 2008 I as hit by a car while ridding my bike.   In the accident my the bike frame was thrown into my left knee dislocating it, and worst of all doing bone damage to my the femur at the joint. Since then I have had two knee surgeries. The first to replace my torn ACL, micro-fracturing of the bone in an effort to induce new cartilage growth to cover the damaged bone, and repair the meniscus and MCL. The second surgery a year later was to repair a bucket tear in my lateral meniscus . Because of the location and size, removing it would have left me with almost no meniscus.

When I was hit I was training for a triathlon and hoping to work up to an Ironman before I turned 30 (I turned 30 this last year). I ran cross country in high school, swam my first 2 mile competition when I was 14, and have always been and avid cyclist (usually mountain biking). So it has been hard to not run. Both of my doctors have told me that I will eventually need a knee replacement. It is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. And that the more running I do the sooner I will need it. My first surgeon said “you should save running for the sports you do”, when I responded that “running is my sport” he recommended that I “find another sport”. He suggested cycling, but as you can imagine a month after getting hit by a car I wasn’t too keen on getting to heavy into that sport. Currently I cycle more (not as much as before the accident) but I am still weary of any and all roads, especially now that I live in the south where the apparently don’t believe in bike lanes. I currently can’t run faster than a jog and for more than a few dozen strides at a time. If I run pushing the stroller to stabilize and support I can currently jog almost a mile. But that is progress that I’ve made within the last year.


My goal is to at least run a 5k by the end of the year. There are several training methods I have in mind to help me reach this goal, it largely depends on the progress of my knee as I go through strengthening, pre-running, and other rehab exercises. One of my biggest problems with training is not pushing myself too hard. I know there are athletic people out there who are shacking their heads and possibly yelling at there monitors that you have to push yourself, let me clarify. I have found out that I either have a high threshold for pain, or I have a neurological block. I’m don’t want to give examples for fear of sounding like a on-upper, so let me just say that I have a history of pushing to the point where I do more bad than good, I’ve been told in those instances that what I was doing should have been painful, but for me they weren’t particularly painful.

This goal includes several sub-goals. I have more specifics in writing right now (including a training calendar etc.) but as it is a living goal I will list just the higher level stuff.

  • Achieve and maintain weight of 170 pounds or less than 12% body fat. I hope to further reduce that, but for this years goal I think this is sufficient.
  • Exercise 5-10 hours per week. That is both an upper and lower goal. I don’t want to work out more than 10 hours in a week for fear of getting burnt out and/or interfering with my other goals. When you are training for long distance running it isn’t that hard to put more than 10 hours in in a week. If I start getting to that length of training I will re-evaluate the goal, but I honestly feel that if I am spending 10+ hours/week running that; 1) my knee is obviously feeling better, but that is still probably more running than is good for it, and 2) I need to rethink how I am training.

As time goes on I hope to post the things I am doing as part of my training and knee rehab. Not sure if I should start a separate blog just for my knee, but seeing as I don’t even blog here often enough I don’t think I’ll keep up with two blogs any better 😉

give up single player games

As much as I love Angry Birds, Sugar Crush, and Lego Lord of the Rings, playing a game by yourself is an addictive waste of time. There is so much more I would love to do when I manage to get a spare minute to myself. Between my MBA, work, a startup (shhh it wont launch for a few months still), a 2 year old, and a loving wife, I have to dedicate a lot fo time to the things I love; leaving fleeting few minutes to myself. So why would I spend them doing something that doesn’t matter? Of all the things I will wish I had done more of on my death bed, Angry Birds will not be one of them.

– List of things I’d rather do with my spare time:

  • Read books.
  • Make things. (the 201 & counting Instructables I’ve bookmarked in hopes of doing later)
  • Watch Battlestar Galactica. That’s right, I’ve never seen it. I’m almost ashamed to admit it openly, hopefully they won’t deny me tickets to comic-con, or revoke my engineering degree. The good news is that Haley and I started watching it, we finished episode 2 last night.
  • Write
  • Do any of the numerous things I’ve been putting off… or maybe I’ll just continue to postpone them in favor of something else on this list.
  • Watch all the movies I want to see but I know my wife doesn’t want to. Including Will Ferrel’s last two movies Casa de mi Padre and The Campaign 

There are a few more goals, but these are the big ones.

Sub absolute zero materials

russia walrus ice melt

This picture has nothing to do with the article.

I just read an article on Nature.com about a study by Ulrich Schneider, a physicist at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, demonstrating stable sub zero “Quantum Gas”. And when I say “sub-zero”, I mean bellow absolute zero!

In most of my science classes growing up I was taught that it is physically impossible to go below zero Kelvin, so obviously I had to do some digging.

The blog by Nature did a good job of describing the science:

Lord Kelvin defined the absolute temperature scale in the mid-1800s in such a way that nothing could be colder than absolute zero. Physicists later realized that the absolute temperature of a gas is related to the average energy of its particles. Absolute zero corresponds to the theoretical state in which particles have no energy at all, and higher temperatures correspond to higher average energies.

However, by the 1950s, physicists working with more exotic systems began to realise that this isn’t always true: Technically, you read off the temperature of a system from a graph that plots the probabilities of its particles being found with certain energies. Normally, most particles have average or near-average energies, with only a few particles zipping around at higher energies. In theory, if the situation is reversed, with more particles having higher, rather than lower, energies, the plot would flip over and the sign of the temperature would change from a positive to a negative absolute temperature.

As I have just started educating myself on the topic I don’t want to speculate too much, but it is all very exciting. But for your reading pleasure I have found online PDFs of the original journal articles referenced in the Nature blog. I know that I always prefer to read the scientific facts rather than journalists interpretations  even if they are much more difficult to understand at times 🙂

1. Negative Absolute Temperature for Motional Degrees of Freedom The original article references the article as if it was published concurrently with the blog, but it was published in November. Having been through the publishing process I’m familiar with how it feels like an article gets “published” several times as it goes through several stages of publication (peer review, digital publication, journal publication, and sometimes a separate print publication)

2. Spin gradient demagnetization cooling of ultracold atoms This is the 2011 work of Nobel laureate, Wolfgang Ketterle (though he’s the last name on the article…?) Which is referenced as early demonstration of super cooling below zero Kelvin.

3. Equilibration rates and negative absolute temperatures for ultracold atoms in optical lattices. Referenced as the article where Achim Rosch proposed the method used by Schneider, Published in 2010

4. Interacting fermionic atoms in optical lattices di use symmetrically upwards and downwards in a gravitational potential Article Published in 2011 suggestion that materials below absolute zero could exhibit anti-gravity and other interesting properties.

I hope to read all of these articles and report back on my thoughts before too long, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the mean time.


Same Passion, Different Generations

My father in law came over last night w/ an Ardruino Uno and asked if I had ever heard of

Arduino uno

Ardruino, and if I would like to help him out with a project. I had to use a lot of self control to keep from jumping over the couch and hugging him right then and there. Before I had a chance to explain that I love Ardruino, and that at times the only reason I hadn’t quit my job and taken up hacking/inventing using Ardruino platforms is because I know my beautiful wife would be very sad (I actually don’t think she would leave me, she loves the mad scientist in me; but she also loves me not spending money we don’t because I quit my job on more stuff that takes up 99% of the garage). Before I could tell him about laundry list of arduino projects just waiting for an excuse good enough to justify doing. Before I could tell him about the Raspberry Pi, or the Beagle Board. Before I could gush about all of my excitement, he said “ya know, ardruino is going to change everything”. My response; “it already has”.

world maker faire poster

This might seem like a random rant but it sums up a social/generational situation that I have run into at least explicitly at least a dozen times this month, and indirectly almost every day. The “Maker movement” and baby boomers. Boomers honestly are the best people to have involved in a Makerspace, hackerspace, project, startup, whatever; because they have so much experience, and “making” is what most of them grew up doing. Only when they were younger it didn’t have a title per se, it was just tinkering or getting the job done. You don’t see enough boomers in the make/hack/startup community because of a variety of reasons; but the problem I face constantly is trying to communicate how big of a deal things, like 100kGarages and Make, are despite the fact that they feel so familiar and common place to a generation that has spent their evenings in garages making stuff.

festival for little makers

IMO the Maker Movement is about moving (some) production from factories in China back to your back yard/garage. It is a work ethic as old as time, an inventive nature innate in so many people, and technology younger than the Millennial  coupled with skills and trades older than the Boomers even.

Making stuff is timeless, but faces change with time.