When art and science come together, some amazing things can happen. If you add 3D printing to the mix - watch out! Let’s take a look at how the magic of theater and the science of engineering merged into the company known as R3D Shifters in our latest MatterHackers Minute.

Started by Netanel Bellaishe and Angelo Soriano of Manhattan, New York, R3D Shifters was born from separate passions; Netanel comes from an extensive 3D modeling and animation background, and Angelo is immersed in the world of RC drone piloting. Their abilities combined to help them both solve issues they were hard pressed to find solutions for in the drone community. They focused their energies on utilizing their art and design capabilities, and the joy of flying drones, into R3D Shifters.

The origin of their story has its roots in the spotlight on Broadway, where they are both performers in Disney’s Aladdin. Very soon after acquiring their first 3D printer, they were asked by the props department of Aladdin on Broadway to design a life-size saxophone for use in one of the musical numbers to replace an existing prop that had a bad habit of breaking. Even with the design constraint of having a small print bed, the final product was a huge success. 3D printing was able to prove that even with that small bed, almost anything had the possibility of being printed and assembled.

Using their FlashForge Inventor, which they have updated with a glass bed and all-metal hotend, they primarily print with NylonX, a carbon-fiber infused nylon, MatterHackers PRO PETG, and NinjaFlex for some applications. Aside from common sanding, filling and priming finishing techniques, they have also had success using Resin Bond to join 3D printed parts - similar to using acetone on ABS to create bonds.

After many years of using 3D Studio and Maya, they decided to switch to Blender in support of its amazing developers and the free 3D community. Blender is incredibly powerful, and though lacking in some areas, it makes up for it with exclusive amazing features and it’s consistent and active development by the developers.

With all of this design knowledge and experience, why 3D printing? Netanel explains, “3D printing marries both art and engineering for us. The ability to create means a lot more than the production of parts but the creativity behind it, the joy of innovation and the excitement behind a successful development. Seeing an R3D Shifters drone frame up in the air utilizing all the benefits of NylonX and receiving praise from professional pilots was the most rewarding to us.”

“Once you realize, even on a personal non-commercial level, that you can create any part you desire, it becomes an absolute joy to improve and modify everything around you. From add-ons to the printer itself, to custom mounts for an electric scooter, better wheels for a boosted board, or a custom turn-signal system using conductive filament and embedded electronics, improving upon mechanisms and replacing broken parts that otherwise would have required replacing the entire item.”

But is their creative energy focused purely on business aspects of 3D design and fabrication? Not always! “Friends and family often need something that does not exist. The ability to create on demand has the power to do things that are otherwise not achievable. There have been many examples of rather simple requests that make 3D printing the ultimate tool. For instance, a friend to our business turned to us asking if it would be possible to make an ornament out of a few foam stickers he made with his children, something that obviously held great sentimental value. A day later we handed him 3D printed backings with mounting holes, tracing the shape of each sticker. We love those “Can you make me a...” requests as the answer always seems to be “Yes”.”

They have also arrived at innovative solutions more than once for the Aladdin on Broadway show. The wig mounts that were constantly being used in the show would continually crack and break down when the wig was clamped onto it. Not only were they able to manufacture a replacement at a fraction of the original cost, but they also improved upon the design by 3D printing the cones with TPU (a rubber-like filament) rather than hard plastics that crack; problem solved!

The mainstay of their 3D printing business is creating exciting new drone models that are extremely light, customizable, and inexpensive. From their R3D Carbon frame, their Whoop frame, and their Elf frame, the passion for design and the engineering of their prints is apparent. Frames from only 3.2 grams are available, and they create a variety of accessories and upgrades for their drones as well.

Netanel and Angelo have also moved outside of drones into the personal transportation arena with accessories like the R3D Light; a USB rechargeable E-Scooter signal light that attaches to each handle. They are also designing and upgrading Boosted Boards with their R3D Wheel All-Terrain airless tire. With electric skateboards and other varieties of e-boards on the rise in New York, options like these are extremely popular and useful to a great many people!

In conclusion, Netanel says, “3D printing technology has come a long way in bridging the gap between desktop 3D printers and industrial manufacturing. There are two things we would love to see improvements in the coming years, one of them being print speeds. As filaments develop alongside printers, we are already able to print on a production scale, but we can’t help imagine what the capabilities would be like years from now. The other issue that comes to mind is the complexity of support structures and use of support materials. Some printers have addressed the issue of double extrusion with completely independent print heads or print heads that lift when not used, but it would be great to have a bulletproof technology in printing supported structures, maybe something outside of the world of double extrusion but still within FDM technology.”

We look forward to seeing the new and exciting innovations that Netanel and Angelo come up with for personal and professional use with R3D Shifters!

To learn more about Netanel, Angelo and R3D Shifters, visit their various website pages:

Facebook and Instagram: @R3DShifters

YouTube: https://youtu.be/XI8EKzCVJ7U