5 09, 2013

Frank Mini-Me Piller: Get Yourself 3D-Printed, Keep Your Young Self Forever

By | 2018-06-14T06:33:55+00:00 September 5th, 2013|3D Printing, Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, Design, Fabbing, Technologies & Enablers, Virtual Models|

Doob 3d printing
has developed far beyond a trend by now. Potential applications are manifold, ranging from medical gear to entire houses. And now you can even have a detailed replica of yourself printed in a variety of sizes, a kind of 3D printed Mini-Me, to give it away to your friends or just place on your shelve to keep a memory of your young, energetic self for the decades to come.

In Germany, there are several companies offering this service. I used Doob, or Deep End Productions, located in Duesseldorf, Germany. Founded by Vladimir Puhalac and Torsten Bernasco Lisboa, the companys offers 3D photographs to everyone. While standard sizes go from 15 to 30 coms, you can also get a lifesize figure (for 15K Euro onwards, the 30cm version go for about 300 Euros).

All you have to do is to show up in their studio and be photographed from all sides, simultaniously, by a 50 cameras (this process is called Photogrammetry"). These pictures than are transferred into a 3D model, which then is hand-modelled into the final 3D file. This file then is placed on a standard 3D systems prototyoing machine that can print in full color.

The founders are coming from the medical field and have a strong background in 3d modelling. Their first company is providing replicas of ears, noses, and breasts to unfortunate patients who lost these bodyparts. With this background, they discovered the stereo litography, and developed a quite efficient procedure to develop your "doppelgänger". After the photograph, a 3D model is created that then is manually prepared for the final print. While the later procedure takes about 2 hours, I believe it can be brought down.

They now opened a first store in Duesseldorf, but plan to enter the US and Japanese market, too, within the next months.

The result is really stunning, and while I belive that in general people like to see themselves, it really is a great feeling to have yourself as a mini-figure. But also everyone else found this really cool.

This is why I believe that this kind of 3D printing service may become the killer application that makes 3D printing a mainstream business application:

  • Established market. Our parents all used to go once every few years to a professional photographer for a family picture. While this market has almost disappeared, this 3D printing service may foster its revival.
  • Fast. The print is based on a photograph, not a 3D scan. This means you can also have a child, dog, or something similar quickly moving on your arm.
  • The quality is really stunning. You can see the pattern of your t-shirt or even your tatoo perfectly (I almost feel sorry that I did not have a tatoo to be printed on my figure).
  • Prices will go down rapidely. While the current price of 200-300 Euros is quite high, there is plenty of room for adjustments (I estimate that material costs are below 10 Euro).
  • There are many more options for business model innovation: You and your favorite soccer star in one print; you and your baby belly (very popular with German moms to be); the partners of a law firm greeting their clients on the reception desk, you holding a poster and a bunch of flowers proposing to your wife to be, …
  • Local production: While delivery in the moment takes a couple a weeks and is done in a central facility, production can be brought down to a couple of hours, opening an entire new market in malls and amusement parks.

So when you have the chance and like to experience a reall fun application of 3D printing, then get your doob, too.

Update: Here are some other posts about this technology and the picture taking:

Captured Dimensions and Twinkind (similar services)

– Report about COKE Israel advertising campaign featuring Mini-figures


27 07, 2012

Updated and realistic market data on personal 3D printers

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:42+00:00 Juli 27th, 2012|Cases-Industrial, Design, Fabbing, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

3D printing or additivae manufactuing is a hot topic today. Recently, I found this absurdly expensive market study on 3D printing (never had the idea that you can charge $100 per figure). But since many year, my best source about this topic has been Terry Wohlers.

TerrywohlersTerry is president of Wohlers Associates, Inc., an independent consulting firm he founded more than 25 years ago. Through this company, Wohlers has provided consulting assistance to more than 170 organizations in 23 countries. Also, he has provided lots of advise to the investment community. And on top, he really is a great guy!

On his blog, Wohlers Talk, he regularly posts interesting news from and views on how the industry evolves, put into perspective by matching it with his years of professional experience.

Recently he published some interesting thoughts on 3D-printers. As can be seen from the latest Wolters Report on the state-of-the-art and development of additive manufacturing and 3d-printing, sales figures of said 3d-printers have been dramatically increasing over the past years.

The report states that especially personal 3D-printers sales have grown by 289% in 2011. Yet, this is said to account for not more than about 26 million USD so far, making this market appear to hold a lot of potential.

However, in his post, Terry describes the market potential for presonal 3D-printers in a rather disillusionating yet more realistic fashion:

Wohlers Talk: Why Most Adults Will Never Use a 3D Printer

Many have speculated on whether everyday consumers will purchase and use a 3D printer. With prices dipping to $350 for a kit and $550 for an assembled system, they are certainly affordable. Some believe that a 3D printer will someday be in every home and used to produce replacement parts as household products break or wear out.

As shown by Shapeways, Materialise, FutureFactories, Ponoko, and others, consumers are definitely interested in products made by additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Shapeways claims to be producing more than 90,000 parts (about 25,000 products) per month by AM, with a high percentage going to consumers. For years, Materialise’s .MGX division has offered striking lighting designs, sculptures, and other products, with consumers paying hundreds of euros for one of them.

Indeed, consumers have an appetite for products made by additive manufacturing. However, most consumers will never own or operate a machine to produce these products. Instead, they will go to Shapeways, Amazon, or to another service or storefront to purchase these products. Most will not know, or even care, how the products were made—no different from the way they now purchase products. Consumers only care about receiving good value.

Someday, a company will offer a very low-cost, easy-to-use, and safe 3D printer targeted at children. This market opportunity, I believe, is very big because children like to imagine, create, touch things, play, and entertain themselves. These kids will be producing vehicles, action figures, puzzles, and just about everything imaginable. They are our future designers, engineers, and manufacturing professionals.

Most parents and adults are not candidates for a 3D printer. They do not want to mess with the data, manufacturing process, clean-up, and finishing of parts and products. Even if they owned or had access to a machine, it would probably not be capable of producing parts in the right material with the mechanical properties, color, surface finish, and texture needed for the part(s) they are trying to create or replace. These types of parts will continue to be produced by industry professionals and that’s why most adults will never use a 3D printer.

Source: Wohlers Talk, http://wohlersassociates.com/blog/2012/07/why-most-adults-will-never-use-a-3d-printer/ (July 26th 2012)


9 11, 2011

Start the #MCPC2011 With An Innovative Pre-Event and Networking Reception at #TechShop

By | 2018-06-14T07:15:23+00:00 November 9th, 2011|Events, Fabbing, MCPC2011|


Great news: TechShop is hosting a pre-MCPC 2011 networking reception and mixer — and offers unique opportunity to tour their San Francisco space.TechShop changed the world through open access to the tools of invention… With the advance of inexpensive access to powerful and easy to use tools,
the invention of physical products has never been easier, cheaper, or speedier… particularly if you have a $100 a month membership to TechShop.

During the MCPC Conference, TechShop CEO Mark Hatch will share more about this unique approach to open innovation. But on November 15, you can experience this life:

TechShop is hosting a pre-conference in the San Francisco facility, 926 Howard Street, just 3 blocks from the Powell Street BART station (http://techshop.ws/tssf.html), on Tue, Nov 15, 7pm.

Conference participants staying in the Conference hotel (Marriot  SFO) will be picked up at the hotel at 6:15pm by a shuttle arranged by Techshop.

At TechShop, the program includes some light refreshments & beer, wine as well as non-alcoholic beverages at the Techshop! At 7:30pm and 8:30pm a short tour will be offered in the facilities. The
bus will bring you back to the hotel at 9:15pm.

This event is open to all MCPC participants. To register for the pre-event at tech-shop, please sign up here
Note: MCPC participants only., conference regsitrations required for check-in at TechShop!

12 02, 2011

User innovation and co-creation are taking over the world — recent articles in The New York Times and The Economist

By | 2018-06-14T09:44:41+00:00 Februar 12th, 2011|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Fabbing, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

User innovation in the press In the last few days, two of the leading global media outlets, The New York Times and The Economist, had quite extensive articles on user innovation, customization, and co-creation.

On February 10, 2011, on page C1 of the New York edition of The New York Times, Patricia Cohen writes about "Innovation Far Removed From the Lab",

The article is a great praise and acknowledgment of the work done by Eric von Hippel: Here are some quotes from the article I liked most:


[…] Since the Austrian economist Joseph A. Schumpeter published “The Theory of Economic Development” in 1934, economists and governments have assumed that the industrial and business sectors are where ideas for products originate. A complex net of laws and policies, from intellectual property rights to producer subsidies and tax benefits, have flowed from this basic assumption.

However, pathbreaking research by a group of scholars including Eric A. von Hippel, a professor of technological innovation at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, suggests that the traditional division of labor between innovators and customers is breaking down.  […]

Financed by the British government, Mr. von Hippel and his colleagues last year completed the first representative large-scale survey of consumer innovation ever conducted.

What the team discovered … was that the amount of money individual consumers spent making and improving products was more than twice as large as the amount spent by all British firms combined on product research and development over a three-year period.

[…]  Carliss Y. Baldwin, a business administration professor at the Harvard Business School, called the research remarkable, adding: “What makes Eric’s work so significant is that it is unprecedented to try to measure the extent of user innovation. He shows that we’ve had on a set of mental blinders.”

This is the UK study the NYT is referring to is: Von Hippel, Eric A., De Jong, Jeroen and Flowers, Steven, Comparing Business and Household Sector Innovation in Consumer Products: Findings from a Representative Study in the UK (September 27, 2010). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1683503

The Economist takes on another aspect that somehow is complementing user innovation: Fabbing and the rise of additive manufacturing technologies for the average consumer.

In the Technology section of the Feb 10th 2011 print edition, the article "Print me a Stradivarius: How a new manufacturing technology will change the world" reviews the recent developments of aditive manufactuing and what this means for the world of manufacturing. Nothing less than a revolution, the Economist suggests.

Again some quotes from the article:

"[…] By reducing the barriers to entry for manufacturing, 3D printing should also promote innovation. If you can design a shape on a computer, you can turn it into an object. You can print a dozen, see if there is a market for them, and print 50 more if there is, modifying the design using feedback from early users. This will be a boon to inventors and start-ups, because trying out new products will become less risky and expensive. And just as open-source programmers collaborate by sharing software code, engineers are already starting to collaborate on open-source designs for objects and hardware.

A technological change so profound will reset the economics of manufacturing. Some believe it will decentralise the business completely, reversing the urbanisation that accompanies industrialisation. There will be no need for factories, goes the logic, when every village has a fabricator that can produce items when needed. Up to a point, perhaps. But the economic and social benefits of cities go far beyond their ability to attract workers to man assembly lines. […]

Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750—or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950—it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing. But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches. Companies, regulators and entrepreneurs should start thinking about it now. One thing, at least, seems clear: although 3D printing will create winners and losers in the short term, in the long run it will expand the realm of industry—and imagination."

Both articles also show why the new "Open Source Hardware" definition is so important: It will become the intellectual underpinning of user innovators using the new fabbing technologies to produce — and distribute — the next wave of innovation collaboratively.

4 12, 2010

3D-Printing and Additive Fabrication Reaches the Consumer: Visit at EuroMold

By | 2018-06-14T09:45:08+00:00 Dezember 4th, 2010|Customization Trends, Fabbing|

Euromold01 On my way to the MCP-AP in Taipei, Taiwan, I stopped in Frankfurt for a keynote presentation at Terry Wohler's 12th Annual International Wohlers Conference. It takes part of EuroMold, a large trade fair dedicated to product development, tool making, and rapid manufacturing. The conference itseld was very interesting, a great group of individuals and pioneers. But this was what I expected when an expert like Terry gathers people.

But my surprise was the EuroMold show itself. It had been a typical specialized BtoB tradeshow in the past. But since 2009, it is open to the general public at its last day (today).

With a special exhibition area “e-production for everyone”, the organizers have taken into account the positive development and the enormous growth of additive technologies.

The exhibits in Hall 11 provided a detailed insight into trends and future fields of application of additive technologies. I planned for too little time at the show to cover it all, as I did not expect so many interesting things to be there.  But from the exhibits and the way these have been presented, we are clearly entering a consumer world of 3D printing!

There also was some interesting stuff to see from art schools. The design department of the University of Applied Science and Arts in Hildesheim, for example, presented a vehicle which was printed in one piece and is driven by a cordless screw driver. And a "Designbar" (strongly related to Apple's Genius bar concept) offered an introduction to everyone in the topic of additive technologies.

In a press release, the president and CEO of 3D Systems, Abe Reichental, projects a market potential of one billion Euro in the next 3 to 5 years. Additionally, affordability and ease of use are beginning to intersect with intuitive content capture and creation tools so vital to the democratization of 3D printers, said Reichental in the statement.

This, however, was the missing link at the show: The software providers exhibiting at the show did mainly cater for a professional audience with some design skills to make a model. What was lacking were exhibitors that translate the new manufacturing skills for the average consumer.

24 11, 2010

The Ponoko-Google Challenge: Show the World How Easy It Is to Manufacture What You Like

By | 2018-06-14T09:45:15+00:00 November 24th, 2010|Fabbing, Long Tail, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

Googponoko2 If have written several times about Ponoko here, a platform where designers, users, and manufacturers meet and enable to production of cool items in a very democratic way. It allows you to turn the stuff you dream up into physical objects that you can hold in your hands.  "User manufactuing" at its best!

Ponoko now has teamed up with Google in a user contest to get people educated about the opportunities available for anyone to design things and turn them into real products — without the help of any "large" company! With Ponoko's new "Personal Factory 4", the process got even easier.

The Google-Ponoko challenge is to produce a piece of instructional content that’s equal parts enlightening and entertaining. Each entry must be titled “How to use Google SketchUp for Ponoko 3D printing,” but aside from that, the format is pretty open. Text, images and video (or some combination of the three) are all fair game.

The competition deadline is four weeks from now; all entries are due December 17, 2010. Visit the official announcement page for all the details, and have fun making the world a more interesting place to be.

24 10, 2010

The Business Impact of Additive Manufacturing: Conference at Euromold Frankfurt

By | 2018-06-14T09:45:18+00:00 Oktober 24th, 2010|Events, Fabbing, Technologies & Enablers|

Additive manufacturing explained I have been invited to keynote the "12th Annual International Wohlers Conference: The Business Impact of Additive Manufacturing", taking place on Friday,  December 3rd, 2010, 09:30 – 17:00, at Frankfurt/Main, Germany, as part of the EUROMOLD Trade Fair.

Additive fabrication (AF) refers to a group of technologies used for building products from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) data, medical scans, or data from 3D scanning systems. Unlike CNC machines, which are subtractive in nature, AF systems join together liquid, powder, or sheet materials to form parts that may be impossible to fabricate by any other method.

Additive manufacturing (also: rapid manufacturing, fabbing, 3D-Printing, laser sintering) is a key enabler of mass customization. Recent developments have shifted this technology from prototype state to a full-scale manufacturing technology. Hence, today developments in additive manufacturing (AM) are influencing strategic decisions in aerospace, defense, medical, dental, automotive, motor sports, consumer, and other industries.

The idea of this conference is to provide an overview how AM technology is presenting vast opportunities for product development and manufacturing around the world. Speakers comment on the business impact of AM and how recent activities and trends are fostering ideas that were unthinkable in the past. The conference is organized and chaired by AM guru Terry Wohlers.

Full conference program here.

Registration Form here: http://euromold.com/index.php?id=115&l=1

21 06, 2010

Mass Customized Art — Can Art be Co-Created?

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:08+00:00 Juni 21st, 2010|Co-creation, Customization Trends, Design, Fabbing, MC & Art, Technologies & Enablers|

Art logo A long time ago, I wrote about some artists that have applied the ideas of mass customization and personalization for their works. Now, a much larger initiative has started. Called A.R.T. (for "Art-ReThought"), Donald Rattner, an artist turned architect, has created a new online shop for customizable modular art. He also recently launched a sophisticated new blog on modular design and architecture.

"Is art still art if the artist’s hand never touched it?" This somehow is the key question Rattner's site asks, and while he definitely has answered it with "Yes", I am not so sure if his offerings really meet the definition of "art" for many people who may call this more "decoration".

But the lines are blurring. And in any case, Rattner perfectly illustrates how digital innovations in manufacturing are impacting art and design. Mass customization, co-creation, modular design, production on demand, digital design, robotics, and other computer-driven technologies are changing the way things are made (and as a result, the way art is thought about).

Rattner calls this mixture “The New Industrialism". "As with so many things in our lives, a lot of the historical attitudes toward the creative disciplines are falling away under the influence of modern technology. For instance, today people are demanding more involvement in the creative experience, whether it’s collaborating in the design of their own clothes or specifying a new computer for purchase. Eventually we’ll see that sensibility infiltrate the art world, which until now has reserved the right to creation to the artist alone." Rattner recently is quoted in a press release. There is a great illustration of the "new" and the "old" art in the catalogue for his customizable items (download).

In his online shop (with a small configurator), he is selling Wall Art, a hanging modular wall sculpture system that comes in square, reticular and rhombus modules and Shelf Art, a simple, expensive but wonderful personalization option for home libraries (I love those!). Nice, fredh idea — and a further sign of the broad appeal of mass customization.


5 02, 2010

Ponoko opens manufacturing network hub in Germany. First step to original „mini factory“ network idea

By | 2018-06-14T11:07:51+00:00 Februar 5th, 2010|Co-creation, Design, Fabbing, User Manufacturing|

Products by users produced via the Ponoko manufactruing network A few days ago, Derek Elley from Ponoko gave me the good news that Ponoko has finally signed up a network partner in Europe.

I wrote about Ponoko several times. It is an online marketplace for everyone to make real things. Just like eBay provides the marketplace for buyers and sellers to engage, Ponoko provides the marketplace for buyers and sellers of product designs and digital making services. More than 40,000 user-generated designs have been instantly priced online, made and delivered since Ponoko launched in late 2007. It is a perfect illustration of the "user manufacturing" economy that Chirs Anderson features in the recent WIRED title story.

A core idea of Ponoko is that they want to connect a network of independent "mini factories" where the digital creations of users are turned in the moment. For a long time, this vision only worked with the two making hubs owned by Ponoko in in San Francisco, California and Wellington, New Zealand. But now, the first independent network hub has opened — and I am please to notice that it is in Germany.

Here, Ponoko now has partnered with fabber Formulor to open a making hub in Berlin. It means EU-based creators using the Ponoko online making system can now choose to have their products made in Berlin – paying just a fraction of the shipping costs which has made ordering products from Ponoko’s US and Pacific-based making hubs prohibitive.

The development also opens up the European market for creators around the world. Items can now be produced in the EU and shipped locally.

“It provides a glimpse into what we see as the future of Ponoko,” Ponoko CEO David ten Have  is quoted in a press announcement, “Over time we see our role expanding to be about connecting creators, digital fabricators, materials suppliers and buyers of goods rather than simply providing manufacturing services ourselves. So just like eBay provides the marketplace for buyers and sellers to engage, Ponoko provides the world’s first marketplace for buyers and sellers of product designs – and now digital making services.”

Ponoko is working with other digital making service providers to add more making hubs around the world.

The big question, however, is: Is this development particularly relevant given HP is now selling 3D printers and you can have your own manufacturing hub in your home?

Yes, I will argue.

  • Shipping costs between the US and EU are reduced from $60 to $9 for for smaller goods — so before you buy your own 3D printer, you can first try it out and get experience.
  • US creators (like ESTY and Adobe users) can ship their products to EU customers at 85% less cost, and with less environmental impact.
  • And the quality of home 3D printing and cutting may still be inferior to producing your stuff at a professional outlet.

But this is a very interesting question for research, one for which I hopefully will find time to think about more in the next months: When will you produce at home, when use a mini factory hub like Ponoko, and when just buy a standard product from your local superstore.

20 09, 2009

Distributed user manufacturing network started: Ponoko and ShopBot announce partnership to provide users access to over 6,000 digital fabricators around the world

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:01+00:00 September 20th, 2009|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Design, Fabbing, MC Alternatives, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|


During the 2007 US Presidential debates, journalist Tom Brokaw asked candidates Obama and McCain whether our challenges would be best solved by … "funding a Manhattan-style project or by supporting 100,000 garages across America to encourage the kind of industry and innovation that developed Silicon Valley?"

A new website takes the second approach! Inspired by Tom Brokaw's question to the presidential candidates, 100Kgarages is a community of workshops all over the world that are run by "Fabbers", with digital fabrication tools for precisely cutting, machining, drilling, or sculpting the components of any user  project.

The site has been launched on Sept. 16 by Ponoko and ShopBot, expanding the opportunities for ordinary users to get almost anything custom made and delivered from local state-of-the-art digital makers.

I have written several times about Ponoko in my blog, an online marketplace for everyone to make real things. It brings together creators, digital fabricators, materials suppliers and buyers. Since its launch in 2007, more than 30,000 user-generated designs "have been instantly priced online" (the official wording in the press release, I believe this means "uploaded and finished", but not ordered and delivered).

ShopBot is a manufacturer of affordable, high-performance CNC tools for digital fabrication of wood, plastic and aluminum products. With more than 6,000 ShopBots in thousands of shops in the US and 54 countries around the world, ShopBot is one of the largest producers of CNC routers in North America.

With the cooperation of the both companies and the launch of the 100kGarages website, anyone can get their ideas made locally with the click of a mouse, and delivered within just a few days.

Users can go to the site to get things custom made by searching a map for a local garage workshop, or submitting a request and choosing from bids placed by a range of ShopBot owners to make almost anything. It’s free for everyone to search and submit requests, and for fabricators to post profiles and bids.

People are creating a wide range of products like tables, chairs, cabinets, car parts, signage, boats, musical instruments, gaskets, sheds, housing and all of those impossible to find things made from wood, plastic, metal and composite materials.

“Our partnership means everyone now has easy access to their own local 3D fabricator. This is the first step to providing a solution for the doers and makers out there who want to join in re-building America, one garage at a time.”, says ShopBot’s President Ted Hall in the press release.

In the moment, the site still looks a bit beta, but it is a great starting point and another sign of the coming age of user manufacturing.

14 04, 2009

Democratization of Manufacturing: Great Article in ASME’s „Mechanical Engineering“ Journal

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:46+00:00 April 14th, 2009|Customization Trends, Fabbing, General, MC/OI on the Web, User Manufacturing|

Asme In the recent issue of Mechanical Engineering (April 2009), the journal of the powerful American Society of Mechanical Engineering , Associate Editor Jean Thilmany has published a great article on mass customization. His conclusion: Mass customization is part-way here; when the rest will arrive is anyone’s guess.

The article provides a great comparison of traditional consumer-co-design driven mass customization (you designing your shirt in an online-configurator), traditional engineer-to-order and small-batch production, and the new opportunities provided by 3D printing and rapid manufacturing.

As Thilmany observes in the article:

"Pine’s definition
[of mass customization] can get a bit muddled, what with the growth of rapid prototyping and related technologies such as 3-D printing. Is a rapid prototype an instance of mass customization? Does an object printed on a 3-D printer qualify?

If the printed piece is meant to be used as an end product—not a prototype—it’s an example of a mass customized product, Pine said.

“I always believe words have meaning,” he said. “It’s called rapid prototyping because you’re making a prototype.”

But say you design an object using an online service like Shapeways of Eindhoven, the Netherlands? That company allows you to upload your own 3-D models. Shapeways prints your object on a 3-D printer and sends it to you. You’ve created your own custom product, Pine said."

But what is the future of mass customization?

Donal Reddington, who runs the Web site MadeForOne.com, is quoted in the article on this:

"So far mass customization—of varying degrees—has supplemented mass production, Reddington said.  So why, in this age of the Internet, hasn’t it come closer to replacing mass production in both the retail and engineering sectors?

“The consumer society is very much based on the idea of gratification. I walk into a shop, see something I like, and walk out with a sense of satisfaction at having bought it,” Reddington said.

“But the predominant mass customization business model that’s gained root since the mid-1990s is the online model, which provided customers with the facility to go online and configure the product, order it, and get exactly what they wanted delivered after one week. Or maybe two or three weeks,” he added.

And where will this lead to?

Despite the impediments to adoption, all the experts interviewed expect mass customization to grow.
“Going into the future, the Internet will facilitate a new wave of mass customization, where customers will create and trade designs for physical products in the same way they trade music files,” Reddington said.  

And not only will consumers find ever-more Internet-based design tools at their disposal, they’ll continue to see advances in the capability to build their own products to their specifications, Piller said.

For the full article, available for free online, head to:

25 03, 2009

Interview: The Next Generation of Architectural Design: Daniel Smithwick from Physical Design Co on a great way to build the garden house of your dream … and much more

By | 2018-06-14T11:10:07+00:00 März 25th, 2009|Co-creation, Fabbing, Furniture - Home, Interview, Open/User Innovation, User Manufacturing|

Daniel Smithwick
Daniel Smithwick
is the co-founder and CEO of Physical Design Co., a Cambridge, MA, startup that wants to start a revolution in building structures. His vision: To empower every consumer to transform nearly any custom design into easily assembled physical structures delivered to your backyard! This could be your next garden house project. Before, you either had to purchase an expensive standard house at Home Depot that was not only labor intensive to assemble, but often ugly and not fitting exactly your requirements. Or you could get your hands dirty and start a complicated DIY project, constructing it with 2x4s and nails. As a last alternative, you could hire a contractor to build you your dream house … but this comes with a heavy price tag and often delays of the construction crew.

Daniel wants to offer another alternative: You design your dream in SketchUp, the free CAD software by Google, and his company will translate your uploaded design in a custom kit of interlocking CNC-cut parts that you can then easily assemble after delivery. His promise: "With Physical Design Co Web Platform anyone can design, remotely manage production, and assemble their own full-scale inhabitable creations!"

In an interview, Daniel shared more information about his project and company and what he regards as the future of mass customization.

Daniel Smithwick is an architectural designer by training and he is currently a graduate researcher at MIT where he is a member of the Smart Customization Group and the Digital Design and Fabrication Group.  Daniel co-lead the latest research project by the Digital Design and Fabrication Group called, “Digitally Fabricated Housing for New Orleans,” a project commissioned by and exhibited at the MoMA in New York for their 2008 show, Home Delivery, Fabricating the Modern Dwelling.  Before coming to MIT, Daniel worked professionally as a designer for leading architecture and design firms including: Pompei Architectural Design in NYC, Loom Architects in Minneapolis, MN, and Howeler + Yoon Architecture in Boston.

FTP: Daniel, what is the idea behind your startup, Physical Design Co?

1 PHYSICAL DESIGN CO_Get Physical Process
DS: The central idea behind Physical Design Co. is to provide consumers with easy-to-use online tools that engage them in the design and manufacturing process and enables them to become the producers of their own architectural-scale designs.  Our web platform also allows consumers to utilize local manufacturing via our distributed fabrication network which not only reduces carbon emissions, but it also strengthens local economies.  Essentially, we’re re-thinking how our built environment is designed and constructed – with the Physical Design Co, online users, whether they live in rural China, or they are busy professionals interested in design, they can now play an active and participatory role in the built world around them.  

Through our web platform, anyone can upload and transform their digital design – any inhabitable accessory structure, from doghouses to backyard art studios – into a customized kit of interlocking parts that are locally manufactured and that can be easily assembled.  Consumers no longer need to rely on the traditional labor-intensive and wasteful construction process: with the Physical Design Co all you need is a rubber mallet to assemble your creation.

FTP: How is this different to existing companies in the field like Ponoko, Replicator or Shapeways?

DS: The Physical Design Co distinguishes itself in two ways. First, we provide consumers with the ability to custom design, and have fabricated, life-size and inhabitable scale structures, as opposed to only hand-held items like fashion accessories and table-top objects.  We’re interested in offering consumers more than just personalization; our web platform engages the consumer in the design, manufacturing and delivery process – giving them the tools to make smarter decisions about how they impact the built and natural environment.

Second, we have developed a patent-pending technology which automatically translates the user’s design into a unique kit of interlocking, easy-to-assemble parts.  For example, let’s say you wanted to design a backyard shed.  Instead of having to digitally model all of the individual parts, consider how they all attached together, worry about the structural integrity and verify that it is indeed possible to put it all together, with the Physical Design Co., all you have to do is model the shape of your design.  Our technology automatically and digitally translates the design shape into a kit-of-parts that can then be CNC fabricated and subsequently interlock together without the need for nails, screws or any additional hardware.  

PHYSICAL DESIGN CO at the Maker Faire 2008
FTP: Dan, you recently presented your company and some creations at the Maker Faire of MAKE magazine, a large gathering of hardware hackers and DIY enthusiasts in Austin, TX. Can tell us some more about this exhibition and the feedback you received?

DS: In October of 2008 the Physical Design Co., in collaboration with ShopBot Tools (an innovative manufacturer of user-friendly CNC machines) designed, fabricated and exhibited the ‘Austin Shed’ for the Maker Faire in Austin, TX.  This is the world’s first digitally fabricated shed.

The feedback we received from the Maker Faire attendees was incredible.  Most were simply amazed at how structurally strong the shed was without any nails, screws or hardware holding it together.  However, the most rewarding feedback we received was from children.  At the faire, we pulled a few of the ‘skin’ panels off to reveal the grid structure of the interlocking ribs so that visitors could understand how it was assembled.  What surprised us was that 10 year-old kids would pick up the removed parts and correctly replace them back on the shed without any knowledge of how the system worked.  We were delighted to find that our assembly process is intuitive enough that children could put it together!

FTP: How do you master the manufacturing process; who are your cooperation partners?

DS: The great thing about the Physical Design Co and our manufacturing process is that we don’t need to build any new large and energy-inefficient factories to produce our users’ designs.  In fact, the manufacturing infrastructure already exists worldwide – it’s the tens of thousands of individual CNC owners around the world whose machines are online.  These are our cooperation partners.

Through our web platform, these CNC owners become members of our distributed manufacturing network through which they can promote their existing and on-going services.  This is how we enable the users and designers on our web platform to have their structures locally manufactured – which greatly reduces delivery costs both in terms of money and energy use. 

FTP: What are the next steps for your company, and how do you expect to grow it in the coming months?

DS: This summer, in collaboration with ShopBot Tools, Make Magazine and Google SketchUp we’re hosting a competition called the Get Physical! Design Competition which will take place at the Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA.  The top 3 winners will have their designs digitally fabricated using our web platform, assembled and showcased at the upcoming Maker Faire.  Keep an eye on our blog for more details over the next couple of months.

FTP: What are other trends you see with regard to mass customization?

DS: When answering this question I like to quote Eric von Hippel from his book, Democratizing Innovation:

“When the cost of high-quality resources for design and prototyping becomes very low, these resources can be diffused widely, and the allocation problem diminishes in significance.  The net result is and will be to democratize the opportunity to create.”

I think we’ll continue to see an increase in user-engagement not only in the design process but also in the production process of our built environment as the availability of digital fabrication equipment exponentially grows.  In addition I think we’re just beginning to understand the power of online user communities and crowd-sourcing.  Rather than just offering product mass customization to isolated individual users, we are starting to see that by enabling them to interact with each other through a web platform, their collective intelligence is boundless.

For more information, contact Daniel at dan@physicaldesignco.com



9 03, 2009

New toolkit for 3D printing: Turn digital pictures into 3D art

By | 2018-06-14T11:10:11+00:00 März 9th, 2009|Co-creation, Customization Trends, Fabbing, Personalization, User Manufacturing|

I previously reported several times about Shapeways, a spinn-off from the Lifestyle Incubator of Royal Philips Electronics, located in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The company provides 3D-printing capabilities to everyone.

Part of their mission is to provide users a set of toolkits that allow also the average consumer to create 3D objects without any CAD or programming skills. Today, Shapeways has introduced their so called "Photoshaper", a service that allows anyone to turn digital photographs into 3D printed objects.

Users can logon to Shapeways.com, upload any photo and order their creations directly from Shapeways. Now you not only can see your girl friend in your wallet when you are on a business trip, but touch her in 3D!

“Shapeways really makes 3D creation fun, easy and available for everyone,” commented Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of Shapeways is quoted in a press release. “With Photoshaper we have empowered the average consumer to tap into technologies that used to be out of reach. In doing so Shapeways redefines online consumerism with direct access to unique and individually customized products that were never available before.”

Based on the contrast of the picture (light and dark) the Shapeways Photoshaper automatically creates a depth-layered 3D object that can be printed by Shapeways with the latest in 3D printing technology (I believe with a little bit of photoshopping before uploading the pictures, results can be improved a lot). The 3D photo will be produced and delivered globally within 10 days and costs between $40-50 (USD), including shipping. For best results. use a 1.5 megapixel or better picture. The size of the 3D photo is 13cm to 9cm (5.11” to 3.5”) landscape and portrait.


8 01, 2009

Term Wars: 3D-Printing, Additive Fabrication, Fabbing, Rapid Manufacturing, Layered Manufacturing

By | 2018-06-14T11:10:45+00:00 Januar 8th, 2009|Fabbing, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

Ecample of additive fabrication
In an interesting contribution to the "Rapid Prototyping mailing list" (rapid.lpt.fi), Terry Wohlers, CEO of Wohlers Associates, Inc., a technology consultancy, comments on the difficulties to find an appropriate term for a technology that has been covered often in this blog, as it is a key enabler of both mass customization and new forms of user innovation.

This technology refers to the group of processes that builds parts layer by layer direct from 3D data, without the need for tools or molds. Terry, who prefers the name additive fabrication, describes these technologies as follows on his web site:

Additive fabrication (AF) refers to a group of technologies used for building physical models, prototypes, tooling components, and even finished series production parts—all from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) data, medical scans, or data from 3D scanning systems. Unlike CNC machines, which are subtractive in nature, AF systems join together liquid, powder, or sheet materials to form parts that may be impossible to fabricate by any other method. Based on thin horizontal cross sections taken from a 3D computer model, AF machines produce plastic, metal, ceramic, or composite parts, layer upon layer.

I previously used the term "rapid manufacturing" for these technologies. This term should show the evolution from "rapid prototyping". For many years, AF technologies have been used in most cases to quickly build a prototype during a new product development process. Today, however, prototyping is only one of many applications for these technologies. In his posting to the mailing list, Terry discusses what the best term is – and concludes that it should be "3D-Printing". Here are some excerpts (in rearranged order):

AF processes are being used for a range of applications including concept design and modeling, fit and function testing, patterns for castings, and mold and die tooling. They are also used for fixture and assembly tools, custom and replacement part manufacturing, special edition products, short-run production, and series manufacturing. Prototyping is one of many applications and that's why "RP" is no longer suitable in most instances as a catch-all term. In fact, many companies resist the idea of using a prototyping method for part manufacturing, so using this term could stifle AF's transition to manufacturing applications.

This may be the reason why he also resists to the term "rapid manufacturing" (and, when reading his comments, I also agree that this term is not precise enough, as also a good old injecting molding process is very "rapid"! The term also has been used for very different manufacturing concepts). EOS has been proposing the term "e-manufacturing" to focus on the fact that the parts are produced directly from 3D-data. But also a CNC machine is doing so.

… A growing number of people are using terms such as "additive fabrication" or "additive manufacturing" …  The mainstream press — when our industry is lucky enough to get included in it — uses "3D printing" most frequently. Among industry insiders, 3D printing refers to a group of AF processes that are relatively low cost, easy to use, and office friendly …

The term "additive manufacturing" is fine, although because manufacturing is an application and not a technology, I believe it is plagued with problems, similar to "rapid prototyping." Consider, for example, this sentence: "My company is using additive manufacturing for manufacturing." It's confusing. Now, consider this: "My company is using solid freeform fabrication for manufacturing." Much cleaner.

I'm not suggesting that we use "solid freeform fabrication;" I'm using it here to illustrate a point. I believe it works much better when the catch-all term does not include the name of an application. That way it can be used cleanly for all applications of the technology.
Since 2005 I've used the catch-all term "additive fabrication" in our company's publications, presentations, and communications. It's not perfect, but it works. In the future, I truly believe that "3D printing" will become the most popular term. When I'm describing AF technology to … someone I'm seated next to on an airplane, I use 3D printing because there's a better chance that he/she will understand what I'm saying. It's simple and easy to say. I prefer it over alternatives, but 3D printing currently means something else to many people in our industry.

This is likely to change. An estimated 74% of all systems sold in 2007 were classified as a 3D printer and each year this percentage increases.

I believe these comments make a lot of sense. I cannot promise that I will not any longer use "rapid manufacturing", but I think that "3D printing" (in a non expert environment) and additive fabrication in a technical context are very good terms to describe where I am excited about. And fabbing is nice jargon when you want to refer to additive fabrication and stay cool.

And Google is confirming this claim. Here are the number of hits when you search for the terms:

3D printing 7,930,000
Rapid manufacturing 567,000
Additive fabrication 441,00
Fabbing 88,000
Layered fabrication 36,400

Rapid Prototyping: 1,620,000

This said, however, an important disclaimer: I do not think that these new technologies will solve all problems of MC manufacturing or become the dominant fabrication technologies. For rather a long time, they will remain niche technologies, and low-cost or advanced subtractive technologies like laser cutting or CNC machines still provide plenty of great opportunities for customized manufacturing.

23 12, 2008

Angel Yourself – Print Yourself in 3D This (Well, Next) Christmas

By | 2018-06-14T11:11:00+00:00 Dezember 23rd, 2008|Co-creation, Fabbing, User Manufacturing|

Piller-elfYes, this posting is late, too late. It may have saved your day and really provided you with the ultimate Christmas surprise. But I messed this up and posted this much too late. Sorry! However, just imagine a world (comimg soon) where everyone has a 3D printer at their home. Then you actually could DO this now in time for Christmas Eve what now you only can do for the next year ….

 Anyhow, this is what you could have done in time for this Christmas:

Mini-mesTons of goods are being personalized this Christmas. While there are many companies do personalized gifts, JuJups is taking this to the extreme – a personalized gift of the person itself! JuJups, a Singapore based user manufacturing workshop, launched a new "Print your self into an angel" product. On their website, you can upload your portrait photo of your family and friends (and even yourself) which then be printed as cute figurine ornament.  JuJups' on demand figurine ornaments are made as you order with special 3D printing technology. Currently JuJups has an Angel, Santa and Elf figurine.

JuJups is a rapidly growing online co-creation platform that connects prosumers, content owners and manufacturing companies globally, to serve customers locally. JuJups is owned and operated by Genometri. Genometri is a Design Technology Company based in Singapore focusing on building tools for co-creation. It is funded by NVS and SPRING Singapore.

Context: In Germany, fabidoo is offering a similar service.