Connector RenderI’ve owned and been writing about my MakerBot Replicator 2 for almost a year now.

During that time I’ve downloaded and 3D printed countless items from Thingiverse.

Although I’ve also designed many items myself, mostly using Tinkercad, a lot of this stuff has been customised items, like keyrings with names on or other items which wouldn’t be much use to anyone else.

Since discovering OpenSCAD a few weeks ago I’ve been playing around with it quite a bit and am becoming quite a big fan of it. I’ve used OpenSCAD to design and 3D print a few little test objects but up until now, nothing too useful.

The Smallest Thing I’ve Ever Designed

Whilst fixing up a rental property recently, I noticed that three of the roller blind cords had lost their connectors. Nothing unusual there, as most tenants seem to enjoy trashing the place in any way they can think of, this just being one of the many.

I managed to find some injection moulded connectors online but I really wanted them now and as I have six such blinds in the property, thought it might be a good idea to make my own as I’d need more in the future.

After spending a little while searching Thingiverse I found no such connectors, so I was left with designing my own. Ok, so at this point I might have been better spending a little cash and just ordering them online, but where’s the fun in that?

Connector DesignOut came OpenSCAD and I started my design.

When I’d finished, after a few little prototypes and tweaks, I posted it on a few of the social networks.

To my surprise quite a few of my friends said that they’d broken or lost some of these themselves and asked if I could send them some.

I guess the beauty of making these myself is that I can make them in any color to match the blinds, not just in white or clear, which most of them injection moulded ones are.

Uploading to Thingiverse

If these little things are actually useful and I couldn’t find any on Thingiverse, then why not upload it to Thingiverse myself?

So I just did. It’s not the most exciting thing in the world but for me it is, as it’s my very first Thingiverse object.

Connector 3D PrintsHave a look at it here: Roller Blind Beaded Cord Connector on Thingiverse. I’ve also included the OpenSCAD file so you can see exactly how it’s designed and modify it if needed.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my first impressions of OpenSCAD if you fancy a go with it. It’s free open source software and I know we all like ‘free’.

Uploading the .STL, OpenSCAD files and images to Thingiverse is surprisingly easy. Just enter some text too to help people make your items successfully and you’re good to go.

I don’t expect you to rush to download my connectors and make them now, as they’re only useful if you have broken or lost some yourself. What I did want to achieve from this article though is to encourage you to design your own stuff and then share it with the rest of the world if it’s useful.

For me, that’s what 3D printing is really all about, empowering people to design, make and share their own items.

In the spirit of this, please feel free to Like, Share and Comment on this post if you found it interesting. Also feel free to download my FREE Beginners Guide to 3D Printing at Home eBook if you need more inspiration or a helping hand.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this.


NecropSynthWe all remember that frog in our biology classroom that we dissected so eagerly to learn about the inner workings of living organisms.

However, while the procedure increased our knowledge, it left us with a feeling of guilt for sacrificing the ill-fated frog in the name of education.

Dissection of animals (termed necropsy) has been an integral component of the study of biology for a long time. On one hand, biology teachers emphasize the value of the hands-on learning that students gain from dissecting animals while on the other hand, ethicists scoff at the idea of killing fellow living beings just for the sake of education.

Both the biologists and ethicists may be satisfied and students may be spared feelings of guilt by a novel solution offered by a start-up company from Maryland called NecropSynth that aims to design and sell artificial 3D printed models of animals for dissection.

NecropSynth is actually a combination of two words: “necropsy” which means an autopsy performed on an animal and “synthetic” which means something made artificially. Thus, the name of the project itself makes its intent crystal clear: to manufacture artificial 3D printed models of animals, as similar to real animals as possible, to replace living animals in classrooms and laboratories.

The idea was conceived by a multi-disciplinary group of people who have dedicated their lives to necropsy. With Bart Taylor as their director and lead designer, the NecropSynth team includes a veteran lab technician and a synthetics fabrication specialist. In consultation with several veterinary specialists and computer designers, this team seeks to liberate human beings from the questionable practice of killing animals for education and research.

Naturally, designing artificial models of animals is no easy job. You might remember Scott Camazine’s Project and how even printing only skulls of animals was such a complicated process. NecropSynth’s project is much more complex.

3D Model RatThe team wants to design an entire animal with its skin, blood vessels, bones, muscles and organs.

It wants to ensure that when a biology or veterinary student opens up their artificial model with a knife or a scalpel, he is greeted with blood vessels and organs just as he would be if he were dissecting a real animal.

3D printing was selected by the team as the manufacturing method since it is the only method that can ensure the complexity and accuracy that the team is hoping to achieve. Explaining the usefulness of 3D printing in a Facebook Post, NecropSynth writes:

“The variety of printing materials and resolutions that can now be incorporated into the three dimensional printing of objects makes it possible to simulate differing densities and even the insufflation of fluids mimicking blood, bile, and other bodily fluids.”

The next question the team faced was which animal they should design first. Frogs are the most commonly used animals for classroom dissections, so it would make sense to design a frog model first.

However, the NecropSynth team was more familiar with the anatomy of rats. On account of this familiarity, they decided to design a rat model first.

They have named this model synthDawley after the most commonly used rat in biomedical research called “Sprague Dawley”. According to their website, synthDawley will be a macroscopically accurate model of an adult female rat. The team is first working on the most complex structures namely the blood vessels. The team doesn’t simply want rigid pipe-like structures; it wants to fill those pipes with artificial fluid to Mimic Blood Vessels Filled with Blood.

After this, they plan to design skin, organs, interstitial substance, muscles and bones. Furthermore, Bart Taylor has told that that he’s not satisfied with plastic materials such as ABS commonly used for 3D printing. In order to mimic biological structures, something more organic is needed. He says:

“Right now we want a biodegradable, hydrophobic alternative to the flexible filaments we’re experimenting with and the team is looking into it right now.”

NecropSynth 3D PrintThe Progress Report on their website shows that they’ve almost completed the vascular system and are moving on to other systems.

If everything goes according to plan, NecropSynth will release the finished design of synthDawley by November of this year absolutely free of cost!

Perhaps you’re skeptical of this project. Indeed, why go through all the hassle of creating artificial models of animals when we can acquire living animals so easily from their natural habitats or breed countless numbers of them in laboratories?

Well, there are a number of reasons. The first, as already mentioned, is the problem of ethics. As noted by National Antivivisection Society (NAVS), as many as 6-12 million animals are killed each year for education. With artificial animal models, this practice is bound to decline thus saving precious animal lives. Another reason is that animals are prepared for dissection using a number of chemicals, many of which are harmful for students.

With artificial animal models, students will be protected from these chemicals. The biodegradable material used in their manufacture will ensure that the entire exercise is as safe as possible. Furthermore, biology and veterinary students would be able to print animal designs as many times as they would want. This will provide them a first-of-its-kind opportunity to learn the internals of animals to their heart’s content.

What can we expect from this ambitious start-up in the future? After synthDawley, the team plans to create artificial models of other animals. According to NecropSynth website:

“Our eventual goal is full production of commonly dissected models (frogs, fetal pigs, fish), less commonly dissected models (cats, dogs), and specific situational models (pathological abnormalities; certain diseases).”

Human Anatomy ModelNecropSynth envisions a future where every biology class will uses artificial 3D printed models for teaching anatomy.

Bart says that the team might even consider extending their designs to human models for use by medical students and surgeons!

In the distant future, such artificial models may even make their way to laboratories and may become the source of new discoveries into the mechanisms of diseases.

Sprague Dawley is an albino rat known for its calmness and ease of handling. First bred in 1925, scientists at that time would never have guessed in their wildest dreams that this little creature would provide valuable insights into human diseases such as diabetes and neurological diseases. In time, synthDawley may prove to be even more useful.

This is an era where humans will experiment and learn on Artificial Anatomical Models without doing harm to their fellow living beings. It will bear testimony to the Unlimited Utility of 3D Printing.

What do you think about this project? Do you think it will change the future of education and research? Do let us know in Comments. Also Like and Share this article with your friends.


OpenSCAD: Awesome 3D Modelling Software for FREE

April 11, 2015

A few of my blog post ideas start with me browsing Thingiverse and finding something amazing to write about. This one is no different and to cut a long story short I was browsing some of Emmetts creations when I found OpenSCAD. Emmett is famous on Thingiverse for his Gear Bearing amongst many other things. What I […]

Read the full article →

Hobbes the Three Legged Dog to Receive 3D Printed Leg

April 3, 2015

Over the past decade, additive printing has introduced several new prospects to the field of medicine. The things that were considered science fiction not long ago, have since become reality. Bioprinted Tissues and Organs are visible at the horizon and are giving hope to thousands of patients waiting for organ donations. Recently, however, a new medical prospect […]

Read the full article →

3D Printing a Working Toyota 22RE 4 Cylinder Engine

March 28, 2015

Over the years we have seen many outstanding three-dimensional objects designed and printed courtesy of the additive manufacturing technology. Usually though, the objects made are those designed by 3D printing aficionados who are simply looking to spend the free time on their hands doing something constructive. These often involve fairly simple to create objects that […]

Read the full article →

Clear Your Driveway with a 3D Printed RC Snow Blower

March 7, 2015

Flakes of snow falling from a white sky can appear beautiful and poetic. But once on the ground, snow can prove to be quite inconvenient. As roads get covered in feet of snow, transport is severely affected. It becomes impossible to drive; even walking becomes a challenge. Life comes to a halt until large expensive machines […]

Read the full article →