FilaFind - Discover 3D Printing Materials for Your Next Project

03/07/2016

Background and History

Here I present a story of the definition and interraction of three nouns known universally:

Discovery [n]: "the action or process of discovering or being discovered"
Material [n]: "the matter from which a thing is or can be made"
Idea [n]: "a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action"

The Idea

I believe it should be easier to find available consumer 3D printing materials. This may sound super specific, but it is well known within the 3D printing community and performed over and over again without a good source of technical or price information. In short, it is a process ripe for disruption, so I decided to step into the game. What I created is a regularly updated database of available consumer 3D printer filaments based on your project needs that you can search, and from those search results be immediately guided to a website where you can buy the material as well as data for how to properly process it using your own 3D printer.

The other part I want to stress in this article is that you shouldn't be deterred by the scope or magnitude of a problem. Take it step by step, make simplifications as you need, and determine if the idea is still viable based on your capabilities. If it is outside your capabilities, you can either learn, or try your hand at convincing others to work for you. This article will focus on the former approach.

The Implementation

I didn't want to invest my entire life in building a product that may become obsolete or copied in a matter of years. I wanted to get it out there to the public quickly so users could see an implementation of the idea that actually works right now, and is even globally accessible. I wanted to get there first, so I quickly built the system off of proven frameworks.

Sometimes you want to build a car, and sometimes you just want to build a cart. You can spend a lifetime building a car and it still might be a piece of crap, so why not just build a cart and start getting some benefits now? I REALLY wanted a single-point of reference where I could look up all available 3D printing materials based on my project needs. Since nobody else had done it yet, I simply had to go and make it happen!!

You can filter by 13 parameters, the most useful being "tags". Tags allows you to return materials with properties like: "carbon-fiber", "dissolvable in water", "flexible", "tough", "food-safe", "metal", etc. Other useful filters are "composition", "diameter", "color", "opacity", "nozzle diameter" (for compatibility with composite materials), "supplier", "location", "opacity", "ideal bed temp", "ideal nozzle temp", and "price range".

FilaFind Materials Database was made possible by using components of the Spark 3D Printing Platform. The SPARK components are included on the server-side to provide materials database schema and filtering options, and these components are accessed by the client through a RESTful API. The server runs nodeJS, and is hosted remotely using Heroku Apps. DNS for filafind.com was modified to point to the heroku app URL, and the nodeJS server returns the index page upon client request. The index page loads angularJS as the client-side control, and when the client makes a change to the user inputs the angularJS control file triggers HTTP GET requests to the server URL. The server responds with a set of materials that comply with the client's selection, and those available materials are updated on the page. When the user selects a specific material, the angularJS controller extracts the detailed processing parameters for that particular material, as well as a direct link for the user to be routed for purchase from the supplier.

Take FilaFind for a test-drive over at FilaFind.com or

Closing

An experienced software engineer once told me that software isn't rocket science, but it is difficult. While this is anecdotal, I took his statement to heart. This industry is inventing and re-inventing itself on what seems like a monthly basis, so what are you waiting for? It is difficult, but now is the time to jump in and build off of architectures made by the experts. Become a part of our future in the immediately connected world.

If you have an idea, or you want to learn how to do something new, just keep pushing. You will arrive at the destination. With software more than anything else I believe most anything is possible.

If you need more motivation, check out my article on beer and innovation. If people say it isn't possible, do more research and find someone who says it is possible. Then make it happen.

Tags: 3D Printing, Materials, Database, Data Mining, AngularJS