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Today on the SciShow Talk Show, Ben Malouf shows off some of his 3D printed designs and talks with Hank about how he got into the world of 3D printing. Then Jessi from Animal Wonders joins in to share Holmes and Watson, the northern walking stick insects.

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 3D Printing

HG: Hello and welcome to another edition of the SciShow Talk Show. Today we're talking about 3D printing, and we have lots of examples of 3D printing because of our guest. 

BM: Hello!

HG: Whose name I forgot.

BM: Ben Malouf.

HG: Ben Malouf. Sorry. 

BM: That's OK. 

HG: This is amazing stuff that you have brought to us. 

BM: Thank you. 

HG: So, tell me about what you do.

BM: I essentially 3D print for a living. So, I, uh, I work for a company called Acuity Design, and we prototype - we design and prototype products for people and companies. I think, I, uh, guess I brought one thing that is actually a prototype for somebody. This was like a skateboard wheel core.

HG: So they're just designing it?

BM: So that was going to encased in urethane.

HG: Right.

BM: Yeah. So, so they designed it. They sent the file to us. We printed it and sent it off to them, and then they can test it. 

HG: And then they would have it mass produced in some other way. 

BM: Right. Yeah, they would have it injection molded - 

HG: Yeah

BM: Or whatever. But, so, yeah. 3D printing just enables, you know, relatively cheap production of plastic doo-dads. Obviously there's, you know, the - the higher end 3D printers can do metal - 

HG: Right

BM: And things like that. But we don't - we don't have that capability yet.

HG: So, how did you get into this? What, what do you know that makes you good at this?

BM: I was getting my graduate degree in media arts, in integrated digital media, and the school bought a Maker Bot thing-o-matic, which was sort of the first, consumer level, mass marketed 3D printer. I basically ended up being the one that did most of the assembly on it. So, I was the first person to run a print on it, and then I just, you know, just sort of blew my mind, and -

HG: Right.

BM: I was already doing 3D modeling and 3D animation before that. So it was all of the sudden this way where I could say, "OK, well if I, you know, if I model this squirrel," which, I didn't, but... If I had modeled this squirrel in a computer, you know, it's stuck - stuck in that 2 dimensional plane, you know. You can rotate it around, but you can't touch it. And all the sudden you can -

HG: Make it a real thing

BM: Make it a thing, so...

HG: That's pretty great.

BM: Yeah. So, after - for - so that's sort of - my thesis changed to 3D printing and then next thing I knew, I was prototyping things for people and need to buy a bigger printer. So I bought the parts and built a printer. Then I joined up with a team of mechanical engineers and started a company.

HG: Nice.

BM: Yeah.

HG: So, some of this is your work, and some of it is not?

BM: Mhmm. Yeah, like these - basically all these vessel forms are things that I've designed. So... and then I guess these - these are sort of half my work, half work of famous-

HG: Half the work of Michelangelo.

BM: Famous artists. Yeah. But he had - I, see, I gave him a kitty.

HG: Right, yeah.

BM: Yeah. 

HG: Well, he's going to be much happier now.

BM: Yeah, he- well he is obviously, he's smiling. He's wearing a little bunny hat. So that's, I mean that's one of the amazing about 3D printing too, is you can take these objects, you can sort of take possession of objects that-

HG: Right

BM: You formerly had no dominion over. 

HG: Right.

BM: Because along with 3D printing, we also have 3D scanning. And so, with these it was scanning cheap, dollar store stuff and smashing them on to priceless works of art.

HG: This has been my favorite thing so far. I just picked it up, and I was like, "does it come apart? What does this do?" And then if you twist, it - gears around into another cube.

BM: Yes. Amazing.

HG: That's amazing.

BM: Mhmm.

HG: I feel like there's maybe some Rubik's Cube technology that's going to be added to this, and then - 

BM: It - you would, yeah, you would think that that would be the next logical step. There's currently just sort of one website that hosts a lot of these files, and that's
So, it's the universe of things, and so that object was designed by a person who goes by the - the name of Emmitt, and he designed this cube -

HG: Amazing. Weird.

BM: made of gears, and shared it on thingiverse.

HG: How much does this cost to print in the materials?

BM: In materials, probably a dollar or two.

HG: Wow. 

BM: Yeah, the - the material for the - for most of the consumer 3D printers is about - it's about 40 bucks a kilogram. So, maybe 3 bucks, but not much. 

HG: I'd totally buy this for more than three bucks. 

BM: Yeah, yeah, exactly. But you probably wouldn't buy it for how much I'd need to charge for it. That's kind of the interesting -

HG: Just because of the cost of the machine and your labor putting it together.

BM: Yeah, and the time and - 

HG: Yeah. 

BM: So, you know, I've - I've seen those sold online for as little as 20, but those people are probably not - 

HG: Not making a lot of money. Yeah.

BM: Not making money.

HG: Neat.

BM: And, yeah, and then of course that's easy.

HG: This one is actually powered, so it just - it just moves itself

BM: The automated version. And this was another thingiverse design, where somebody said, "well, if you just print this part and put it on a geared motor, you can have it sort of run, and-"

HG: Run on its own

BM: on its own. 

HG: That's awesome.

BM: Yeah.

HG: Now I get to show you an animal. 

BM: An animal?

HG: Yeah.

BM: That's exciting. 

HG: Yeah.

 Special Guest

HG: And now we have some - somewhat frightening animals crawling across your 3D printed items.  How did that happen? It must be Jessi's turn.

J: It's my turn with my weird animals friends. These are Holmes and Watson. 

HG: Oh, good. Can you tell the difference?

J: No, I can't. 

BM: Yeah, I was going to - okay.

J: This is Holmes and that's Watson, that's - yeah. Yeah. Back and forth, nope.

BM: Do you think that offends them? 

J: I don't think so. I think they're just fine. These are Northern Walking Stick Insects. 

HG: Okay. 

J: So you can see that they're insects. Can you count their legs? 

HG: They have, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. 

J: Yup. 

HG: These are not antenna, those are antenna. 

J: But look at that, look what he's doing right now. 

HG: He's making them look like antenna. 

J: It does look like antenna, doesn't it? They hold them up like that, yeah. 

HG: Stop touching me, man. I have to be a stick. 

J: They're trying to be sticks. 

HG: That's my job.

J: They have amazing camouflage. Ah, to blend in, now if they were on, okay. We have a ficus tree that these guys live on and it sometimes takes me, you know, I want to sit there, I - I don't give up easy, so, you know, I don't spend five minute and walk away. I've been there for 20 minutes trying to find these guys they are amazing at camouflage. 

HM: They're very patient. 

HG: Yes. No moving. 

J: But they have amazing - look at that, they can hang upside down. 

HG: Oh, yeah. 

J: But his abdomen, you know, is a little bit heavy. 

HM: What do they eat? 

J: These guys eat what they live on, so they eat leaves. That's all they eat, they don't have mouth parts to be able to eat anything else besides that. They have amazing little antenna up there too. But they do most of their feeling with these front two feet here.
They have little hooks on their feet and also suction pads. Little sticky pads, so they can climb up any surface and hang upside down like this. 

J: Now they actually have to hang upside down to be able to moult. So insects, they moult, they have that exoskeleton and they have to - to grow bigger, they moult about 5 times in their life cycle, but in order to grow bigger they have to moult and they're so weak they don't have much muscle in those legs that if they don't have something to hang upside down on and use gravity to help they'll get stuck and they won't make it through that moult. So they actually don't have much power in those little, flimsy little legs. Would you like to feel them? 

HG: Why does it have so much body? Where are you going? Whoa, now you're moving. Now you're moving. It's just got a lot of body, it's a big animal. 

J: A lot of body. So this is all abdomen, and then the thorax is right there where all the legs attach to and there's its head up there. So the females are going to be larger than the females are going to be larger than the males and they need that extra space in their body to hold eggs. 

HM: And these are females? 

J: These are females, yup. 

HM: Okay. Are they fully grown? 

J: They are fully grown and I - these are very large Northern Walking Stick Insects. I mean, I think they're in their last moult. They've moulted twice while we've had them. What's really neat is these guys, they're mimicking plants so they'll get eaten by birds and things like that. Actually bats prey on these guys too; they tend to be nocturnal trying to avoid predators and bats use echolocation they don't use eye sight to see them so the actually are pretty good predators for these guys.

J: So they're mimicking plants to protect themselves and help them live, what's really cool these guys do is their eggs have a little piece of, like, sugary type substance attached to them and it mimics a seed that a plant would drop so ants come along and they take that little, what they think is a "seed" but is actually an egg, and they take it back into their little ant hill and they eat that part that's good for them and they throw the egg into their waste pile and then these guys 

HG: And then they hatch

J: they hatch out of it. 

HG: They hatch out in the little ant waste pile. Which has probably got some good stuff in it. 

J: Yeah, so they actually they're really, really mimicking plants. 

HG: Your face, is terrifying. 

J: It's pretty crazy isn't it. 

HG: Yeah. I - We need to get - and you're trying to get me he's like... UHHHHHH!

J: I'm going to eat you. They look like a sci-fi show, crazy, alien. 

HG: Yeah. 

HM: If it was any bigger I'd be 

HG: Leaving. 

J: There are actually, so, stick insects there's quite a few different species, there's about 2700 of these species. Look at his abdomen. 

HG: I can feel him tugging on my skin. 

J: But the largest stick insect is 18 inches. 

HM: Whoa. 

J: That's a huge bug. 

HM: That's a big bug. 

J: So these guys aren't - aren't that big. This is about as big as they're going to get. 

HG: These are huge insects. 

J: They're pretty big. 

HG: So, you cannot say that they're not that big. 

J: They are big. 

HG: I cannot believe that they live in America and, like, you just never see them. 

J: You don't see them because they blend in so well. 

HM: The color is

J: they even go all the way up to Canada, sorry

HG: Amazing.Yeah, I mean it looks exactly, like I'm looking at it the closer I get, okay, now it looks like a bug. But anywhere else it just looks like a bunch of sticks. What are you doing?

J: He's feeling around.

He's like, god it feels good. Yeah, stretch. 

J: Be a stick bug 

HG: What, what's out there? You don't have very good eye sight, huh. 

J: No they don't. 

HG: There's no leaves here at all. 

J: So these guys can even, if they're going to really try hard to pretend they're a stick some will wave a little bit, you know, pretending they're a stick 

HG: In the breeze 

J: in the wind. 

HM: I noticed that. When I bumped Michelangelo there 

J: They'll move a little. They'll even go so far as sacrificing a leg to still pretend that they're a stick. 

HM: Wow. 

HG: Wow. They'll just stay there. 

J: He'll just be like, there goes my leg, but I'm really a stick. 

HG: I'm still a stick, I'm not running. 

J: They can regenerate it. 

HM: Oh they can. 

HG: What, these can grow legs back? 

J: Yeah. And we recently talked about poop and you can, the back end there is going to deposit eggs and also poop and it actually kind of just opens up and this little round ball comes out. 

HG: Little round poop ball. 

J: Yeah. 

HG: Nice. 

J: Actually quite amazing when they do it. 

HG: Where did - where do you find these? 

J: In America in the Northern part of - 

HG: Where did you find these? 

J: We find these, these guys actually came from a friend that lives in Pennsylvania. 

HG: Gotcha. 

J: And these guys, there are - they are illegal to own for a normal person they are a terrible invasive species. The Indian Walking Stick is probably the worst invasive species they have, people think they're really cool, teachers have them in their classrooms. They can lay hundreds of eggs and then they would throw out the substrate and the little eggs would hatch and just decimate plant populations in areas. 

HG: Wow. 

J: So now they've put a ban on these guys. 

HM: Yeah, I see. It's just sort of as they walk they shift back and forth 

HG: Yeah, they can go like 

HM: I'm just a stick.

HG: You're just a stick. These are fascinating. I can't believe it's on me. Can I like--

J: Try and lift them off and you can feel the--

HG: He's like, what, nope. Nope. 

J: You can feel the little, uh, hooks-

HM: The hooks, yeah. (mumbles) not like those

HG: Oh, I didn't like that. You're supposed to be pretending to be a stick man, don't run away. 

J: Run away, run away. 

HG: Now he's on my shirt. 

J: Pretend to be a stick somewhere else. 

HG: Is the shirt super sticky. 

J: I think you found a new friend, Hank. 

HG: You're like a parrot. He's like, I gotta get to the highest spot. Got to get on the shoulder. 

J: Kind of blends into your shirt there. 

HG: He blends into everything. He's a stick. 

J: Except Michelangelo. 

HG: No, he did not blend in.

HM: He did not blend in to Michelangelo. I still think he should grow... (mumbles) let's go, let's go, let's go...

HG: Come here. Let go, let go, thank you. Whaaa!

HM: Whoa. 

HG: Throw your hands in the air. Throw your. Thanks for showing off your stick bugs with us. 

J: You're welcome. 

HG: I love you. Except your face. 

J: Scary face.

HG: I don't want to see your face anymore. Thank you for joining us, this has been really fun episode of SciShow Talk Show. 

HM: Thank you. 

HG: Yeah. You're welcome. 

HM: For having me, it's been great. 

HG: When else do you get to have a stick insect on your hand. 

J: Thanks for inviting us. 

HG: And thank you for watching. If you want to keep getting smarter with us here at SciShow you can go to and subscribe. Wave goobye.