A spotlight has been put on 3D printing and distributed manufacturing these past few weeks. We are witnessing the extraordinary life-saving applications of the technology in meeting the supply chain shortages of PPE and other healthcare equipment for frontline healthcare workers.

We’re also witnessing true crisis innovation by many makers in the community as they rapidly put their design skills and manufacturing capability to work for social good. We’ve collected some of largest initiatives that you can support here. In line with this creative spirit, we’d also love to share the story of a brilliant young maker in the Reflow community. A short time ago Reflow met with a promising young talent called Jan. He’s only 16 but is a massive 3D printing enthusiast who uses Youtube and Twitch to review different filaments, printers and showcase his interests and projects in tech. He is also producing PPE for his local hospital and is quickly scaling up this initiative. He recently appeared in the local paper for his work on this, stay tuned for more on this.

Jan & Ronan at FormNext 2019

He was one of the first, and certainly the youngest, reviewers of Reflow filament and has become a close collaborator and reviewer for us.

In February, we invited Jan to Reflow HQ to spend a day with the team, understand what we do and how we work. He even ended up working with our CTO Rahul in the workshop, making spools. We think the passion and talent Jan showcases is really unique and exciting, so we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions and learn more about some of his projects. We discussed applications for 3D printing, the importance of sustainability and the future of this great technology.

Have a read of our conversation below:

When and how did you become aware of 3D printing?

Well, the first time I saw a 3D printer was at my friends house. Their father is a CAD designer. I was very impressed and together with my dad Michael, I built my first Prusa i3 MK2S in 2017. After that I found out more and more, often searching for this information on my own. Today I also design my own 3D models and modify 3D printers.

What about the tool makes you so passionate?

I love 3D printing because there are so few limits. I've always wanted to create my own things - as I was never really good at working with materials like wood, but more with the computer. That' s why it is the perfect hobby and tool for me.

Governments and businesses are heavily investing in 3D printing. Do you think it’s a career of the now and future?

I think it's good that development in 3D printing is progressing. It's much more efficient to simply print out prototypes instead of directly injecting them. I think people should start printing everything, whether it's holders, mobile phone covers or tools. They are easier to customise, and the more people get involved, the more the subject is explored. The community in general is very important for me.

How did you come across Reflow and what drew you to try our materials?

I read about Reflow on Kickstarter for the first time, but at that time you were already financed. Then I saw the report from the German channel ZDF. At this point I was very enthusiastic. Environmental protection and sustainability are very important for me and I had never tried rPETG before so it was clear that I needed this material.

How important is sustainability for you when choosing materials?

When I started with 3D printing, I did not think about it. Over time I thought more and more about it so when I tried Reflow for the first time, it was clear that there are no differences (except that reflow colours are my favourites). However, I also have to say that I try to print very carefully, i.e. only when I really need something.

What do you look for from 3D printing materials. Which ones do you love?

I think as a standard PLA and PETG are very good. PLA because it is easy to print, PETG because it is more heat resistant. I like green like mint but also blue colours very much.

So what projects have you been working on Jan?

I have had a busy few months of printing. At Prusa Printers there is a nice competition where I uploaded a fully printable DIY Pasta Maker collection together with my little brother. I am also advanced programming in Python via online course and have been working hard on my project batteRE, where I also had a lot to print.

Tell us about your BattRE project?

The batteRE project started out by taking apart some old laptop batteries. I noticed that far too many of the cells inside were not damaged at all. I disassembled more and started to develop my own recycling processes. Since we have the competition "Jugend forscht" for students here in Germany, I registered it there. In this project, 3D printing plays a crucial role as well, because I print mountings or boxes for the cells. I won the first competition by taking first place in the physics category, so I will soon be going to BASF where the project will be presented again.Reflow rPETG was my go to for the project. I also get a good feeling from using the materials because your team think a lot about the future and how we can recycle waste. The quality is as good as that of any manufacturer so it was a natural fit for my project.

How have you been responding to the COVID-19 crisis with your work?

Well, in the past 2 weeks, a friend and I started searching for designs and are now printing face shields for local hospitals. It’s evolving really quickly and other makers are offering their printers and support. My fathers company Satware AG is also helping with printing so it’s very exciting. Several doctors have donated to our cause and our project got lots of positive press last week, so the orders are coming in quickly. It’s great to actually be able to support these healthcare workers in the brave work they are doing and with something I love doing. I will have updates of the whole initiative and the chain of production soon to share with you soon. Looking forward to putting more Reflow filament to good use!

Do you think this shows 3D printing can be a more integral tool of industry in the future?

I think that 3D printing is becoming more and more popular, not only for hobbyists and designers but especially in industry. In addition, it is currently being shown how easy and fast high-quality parts can now be produced with 3D printing.Certainly, there will be some people and companies that are now interested in 3D printing, but one should make sure to have a great system where print applications like masks can be outsourced.

What would you say to a friend if they asked you for advice on starting to use 3D printing?

First of all, I would clearly recommend everyone to start 3D printing. If you're just interested and don't know what you want to print, I would recommend contacting a local Makerlab or a friend with a 3D printer and have a look at it, maybe you can print your own thing there in line with your interests. If you do want to have your own printer, I would suggest (if you have the time) to assemble one yourself. If you have a printer, you can read up on the topic in forums like from Prusa Research. Also, your first few models can be taken from databases so you get familiar with the settings. In general, I would advise you to check social networks because there you will find many tips and ideas. If you have questions or problems, you can always contact well-experienced people via the internet or social media. More often than not, they’re really passionate and more than willing to help you explore the technology.

Tegan

Social Media Strategist
Plugged into the matrix, ex professional ballerina, aspiring trivia samurai and Margaret Atwood fangirl