“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, is a common phrase that many people use to explain that whenever you face something challenging, you should try to make the most out of it. Austin Otto, a mechanical engineer at the University of St. Thomas, has the ability to turn a problem into a solution. When working with a 3D printer, there are two things that you’ll face, “choosing the correct material for the job and making sure that the tolerance is right for the parts. I run my school’s rapid prototyping lab and see this challenge daily,” Otto said. Otto began taking interest in 3D printing after watching “a few videos on YouTube of 3D printers. I was very intrigued and started to explore if it was possible to build one. I found a 3D printer on Kickstarter called Solidoodle 2 for a cost of $500. It took 6 months after funding the project to receive the printer, but it was probably the best $500 I’ve ever spent,” Otto said. Ever since then, “it has sparked a journey that has opened so many doors.”
What he enjoys the most about 3D printing is the ability to “show people how 3D printing works and seeing their faces be amazed and in wonder as a part is being made,” Otto said. One of the challenging models that he’s created is his electric longboard. He began to build the board in his college dorm room in the fall of 2015. “I did all of the design work in SolidWorks. It was all an educated guess as I had never built or even rode a longboard. The board was composed of about 30 parts that were all printed on my Solidoodle and homebuilt delta printer,” Otto explained.
Although it took him about a month to complete, he would spend every day after class to work on printing the board. Since he interned at Stratasys, he requested to run some tests on their Legacy machines so that he could print his longboard all in one piece.
“I printed two different designs, three boards in total. The first design was printed using a Nylon 6. Due to a design and material flaw the board failed and broke. This led to printing the current design out of Ultem 1010. The first try at making it failed due to a support material nozzle clog. However, after the second try and six days of printing, the existing board was created. The internal structure of the board came from six 8 mm steel rods that ran through the center section of the board. Since the completion of that project, I have been interested in building longboards via unconventional methods,” Otto explained. Even though it took him a month to complete and he went through several failed attempts, he never gave up and always tried to find a solution to the problem. William E. Hickson once said that, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try again.” Otto never lost sight of what his end goal was and wasn’t discouraged by his failed attempts. He kept on working on this project until he was finally able to create an electric longboard. Although it is easy to just give up when you fail, never give up, always do your best, and always keep on trying. Check out Austin Otto’s YouTube channel. See here for his website on prototypes.