Solving A Drinking Problem with 3D Printing

by Amee Meghani

Solving a drinking problem with 3D Printing

Mark is one of our IT specialists and is an integral part of our PLM hosted systems team here at GoEngineer. Fun fact, he is also our resident DJ for corporate events and is the BEST!  Mark recently acquired a nice coffee mug from Altair.  Altair is the parent company of one of our topology optimization tools, SolidThinking Inspire, which uses bone-growth algorithms to generate geometry based on expected loading conditions.

Using the new Altair mug is an improvement for him because he’s eliminating the endless use of paper or Styrofoam cups. While doing so, he’s also honoring our new GoGreen company-wide initiative to lower our carbon footprint.

But now, Mark has a drinking problem.

What’s the problem?

His coffee cools too quickly!  While the conductivity of the mug is an advantage, the effects of arctic office air conditioning negate its value.  Convection doesn’t know its place sometimes.

One person’s problem is another person’s opportunity.  Erick Vega seized the opportunity to solve this problem.  Or seized an excuse to run something on our Stratasys 3D printers?  

Erick designed a lid for Mark’s coffee mug, but there’s something very interesting about his prototyping process.  (More on that later.)

For the first iteration, Erick designs a snapping lid with 2 tabs.  Let’s dissect that for a second.  There are so many lid options:  suction, twist, slide opening, etc.  Which one is the best?  Which is preferred?  If you’ve ever read The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, you’ll understand that end-users perspective and feedback is often overlooked.  A snap, is auditory feedback to the user letting them know that the lid is securely placed.

Design Challenge

Unfortunately, the size was not accurate for the application, but Erick was able to manipulate this first prototype to calculate the right size needed.

(You can assess accurate and parametric sizing in SOLIDWORKS by applying In-Context Design)

For a second trial, Erick added a third tab and increased the interference of the tabs.  Our SOLIDWORKS Simulation software (non-linear analysis) can help you determine whether snap fits are sized appropriately, or whether you can expect to see failure.

This second prototype was a success with a perfect fit and so he went forward with the final design.

3D printing a coffee lid

Erick printed this on a Stratasys Fortus 250mc in ABS PLUS.  However, we recommend a non-colored PLA material since it would be safer (material derived from corn, tapioca, and potato, etc).  Repetitive use should be avoided with this material, but given that the function of this is a lid (to trap heat) and there will be minimal food contact (only condensation), Mark should be okay.  I mean, he showed up for work today.

PS – Did you notice how he didn’t print the entire geometry for the lid for his ‘fit check’?  Knowing that these first two tests were prototypes, he printed the minimum material required to see if his design fulfills the intent.  Erick perfectly demonstrated how to “Engineer Responsibly”.  And Mark perfectly demonstrated how to “Drink Responsibly”.


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