• Five Things We Learned from Building a Global 3D Printing Network – Medium

    An exceptional example of our humble campaign came from Antwerp, Belgium resident Deepak Mehta, who called upon his friends using various social media platforms after seeing our earlier presentation at Singularity University. In less than fourteen days, twenty 3D printers in the Antwerp community had signed up, and Deepak himself even organized the local Antwerp launch event.

    Source: Five Things We Learned from Building a Global 3D Printing Network – Medium

  • Doodle3D Review

    Thursday morning I got envious of @3dhubs for posting the below tweet: 

    Unboxing of the doodle3d wireless print box! #3dprinting http://t.co/GunBy7fLGA
    — 3D Hubs (@3DHubs) November 14, 2013

    I want one too! And that evening when I came home, there it was… a little brown box, slightly smaller than the AppleTV packaging… Opened it up and inside was a white box with bright colours scribbles saying Doodle3D!

    Backing this on Kickstarter was a great experience: tons of feedback and an exciting product and great people. Great fun to see them at Ohm2013 afterwards as well!

    In the words of Ritik:

    The device is a small box which has it’s own Wi-Fi and it’s connected with the printer with the USB cable, and when you’re connected to that Wi-Fi you can draw something and then send it to your printer so u can print from any device which has that Wi-Fi. 

    How it works:

    The Doodle3d works with an HTML5 app that you access by pointing a browser to http://draw.doodle3d.com/It works on all kinds of devices from Desktops to iPhones and tablets.


    Setup is easy: you connect the box to the printer using an USB hub that comes along with it (something to do with USB1.0/USB1.1/USB2.0 stuff). You then power the box and wait till it lights up all green LEDs. Point the browser to http://draw.doodle3d.com/ (it picks up DNS calls to this and points them to the box, provided you use the DHCP-based DNS settings). Then comes the bit where you get a guided tour of the interface and then select your settings:

    • Type of printer
    • Bed size
    • Wall thickness
    • Layer height
    • Print speed
    I found these 5 settings to be the most important one to get the prints coming out nice and clean. Wall thickness helps greatly in the strength of the piece and print speed is also very printer dependant (I lowered mine to 30 on the leapfrog)

    Start Printing:

    Ritik‘s impression on the setup procedure was clearly simpler:

    Once it’s setup it’s quite easy to draw something and print it, it’s just needs to be plugged in and u can start , first u connect to the Wi-Fi then u go to your web browser and go to the link draw.doodle3d.com and u can start drawing.

    Our Opinion:

    I asked Ritik to praise and then be critical:


     It’s nice that you can select how thick you want to print the perimeters so that you don’t print thing that when you take it off the bed it breaks. And then it has some strength.

    Intersecting paths: 

     The software also works with intersecting parts. If you have for example a infinity sign it would go over the sign as we would draw it. It would not do one half and then go to the next half.

    Even more, it allowed for traversals where it would not print, but move to the next bit

    Multiple Devices compatible: 

    Once you print a objet from one of the device’s you can’t print from any other so there’s no interference with the device’s and if you print something but the connection is lost, it’s okay cause it send the file to the box and then it’s being send from your device anymore.

    But at the same time it allows multiple devices to draw stuff and wait for the printer to come online.

    Extrusion control:

    … There’s no such button where you can control the extrusion. So if want to change filament, you can’t do it from the device. so it if they add a extrusion button that would be useful.

    In fact a better printer control panel would be amazing to allow you to fine-tune the printer or home the printer and extrude filament before you print.

    Everything is about Z0

    When it prints, the distance between the bed and the extruder should be perfect, otherwise it would not print properly especially because it’s a one perimeter print. 

    Apparently the whole 3d-printing world revolves around the first print layer, so why would be doodle3d be an exception?


    There are 3 things I find should be added

    • Add .stl : if you could just upload an stl so you can print files that u already have.
    • Add normal shapes : It would be nicer if you get a certain amount of shapes and that you could edit them afterwards.
    • Add .svg : It would be also cool if you could just upload a .svg file and this would be a lot easier if you want accurate drawings.


    Beyond that I would love to have some kind of indication before I print of the size of the doodle… Sometimes I draw a ring, which then prints like a bangle… Great fun, but a grid or measurement would make doodles better life up to the expectations.

    DualExtrusion Doodling

    Wouldn’t it be great if you can print in two colours and take advantage of the dual extruders on most new printers.


    I could not help but wonder if there is a way to hack the Doodle3d to also enable you to dump gcode on the box and use it as a print-server of kinds… But more on that, if I ever get the time to dig into the device!


    All in all a great device to have around for workshops and parties, to quickly show people the power of 3dprinting without having to learn to model anything… A great way for smaller kids to see their creations come out of the screen and into the printer…

    [Please note that this is the first post in which I am taking my son’s help to slowly introduce him to blogging his own opinion on 3d printing and products… I hope you can read past the “cooler” language. If you have a product that needs a teenager’s opinion, don’t hesitate to contact us! Slowly I want to move out of the Editorial role and let Ritik write his own posts here!]

  • Copyright issues are obsolete

    In the last few days everybody is buzzing about the fact that copyright issues will hit 3DPrinting pretty soon (actually it has already hit 3DPrinting!)…

    I find that the whole issue is going to be obsolete and I will illustrate by example what I mean:

    Take the recent trip of Makerbot to the Met … A lot of statues have been scanned and put up on the thingiverse website… Now people could complain about this, but hours after the designs were posted, people started replacing heads, fusing multiple scans into new designs and all kinds of wonderful stuff … Now the Met can complain that people will not visit to see the originals anymore and that they will lose revenue, but this is more like the images of the Mona Lisa by the Louvre: it creates a whole new level of interest into the original work and gives people the freedom to experiment with the masterpieces themselves.

    So now take this out of the ancient artifacts context and into say a movies context: would it hurt if somebody posted the carbonite print of Han Solo on the internet? Or would that create opportunities to pose different models in carbonite? What if Han Solo pulled a funny face a Darth just before the carbonite hit? Maybe they could have optimized the carbonite, by stacking in some extra ewoks into the empty space… What about the Lego Starwars Hansolo?

    The first case of DCMA take down in thingiverse was about the Super8 cubes. Now that was a missed opportunity to put designs online and allow kids to create their own cubes… Which could have made the cubes into a cool customized lego version for Super8, but rather than that the lawyers stuck to defending the turf and leave it barren.

    The issue of copyright will be obsolete because nobody will want to bother printing the standardized objects that they can buy off the shelf for cheaper (minus the overhead charge of the “enterprise” a.k.a. lawyers). People will want to customize the designs they print and tweak them to make something funny or personal. So when it is no longer Han Solo in carbonite, but Bre Pettis holding a makerbot does this still infringe on the StarWars copyright? How about the StarWars StormTrooper Helmet?

    I would like to see how somebody is going to copyright every iteration of a generative design? And what is the value of my user-input into a generative model? Did the model maker create the design or was it me, who inputted the parameters that made this one specific object?

  • Mass customization by parametric variations

    When I was a small child (nearly 30 years ago), we went to Kashmir on vacation and we saw a lot of wonderful and the thing that is still with me is a set of 6 chairs and 3 tables.

    The unique thing about them is that they were all handcrafted in wood and that made that the back rests of none of the chairs has the same carving: every backrest is different even front and back! In this day and age nobody would even bother going through so much labour! This makes them so special as opposed to the homogeneously designed chairs you get now.

    blogger-image-1823763601 I think 3d printing will bring back part of that uniqueness. You will be able to make generative designs that will turn out different every time based on randomised parameters. A few examples…

    Imagine the magnificent dresses of Iris Van Herpen with complex build structures. Now imagine a dress where the elements would change size and shape based on the shape and build of the person who will wear them… This could be parametrised into the 3d model… So create once and make many different. And all that with a spinge of randomness so that every dress looks slightly different regardless of the build as well.

    Another example would be a house that would change the outer shape of the building based on the internal layout of the rooms: intelligently placing the rooftop based on where the living room is, so you have the highest part of the house in te living room… And now add beams from the living room to the center of every room and your house looks totally different from your neighbours’ houses even though the whole suburb is based on one parametrised model…

    Other examples are ample in areas like watches, jewellery and prosthetics. Imagine a chandelier full of glass flowers, with each flower having a slight variation of the petal formation and a slight variation of color…

    If you are doing things like this, please leave a comment with your work, so we can all get inspired…

  • Enter the Age of Designers.

    When you look at the history of manufacturing, there are three distinct stages:

    The first stage was the age of the marketeers: A very monolithic manufacturing process which made products sub-optimally, but the lack of quality was compensated by the power of marketing… The Ad-men sold whatever you could produce and you produced whatever your factory could make with the resources available to you… It wasn’t great, but it was better than nothing.

    That stage evolved into the age of the engineer: now manufacturing got optimized and you started to offer a product of better quality and optimized the resources. This led to a higher quality of product, but now rather than the marketeers, the engineers told the customers what they needed to buy… The perfect example is the ultra-thin watch: at one stage, the Swiss watchmakers started a headlong race to make the thinnest mechanical watch to compete with the quartz watches. Everybody competed to make the thinnest watch possible, but nobody listened to the customer’s needs: which was not thinner, but more functionality (complications) to compete with the quartz watches. Maybe you can see the same thing happening in Ultra-books, where people are making thinner and smaller laptops, but out-compromising the functionality that discerns the Ultra-book from the Tablets.

    Now comes the third age: the age of te designers. When additive manufacturing delivers on all the goods, the only major constraint will be the design of the product, not the resources, not the fixed set-up costs, not the production efficiency. This will mean that you will actually be able to efficiently produce what the customer wants. This does not mean that marketeers and engineers will become obsolete overnight, but the importance of design is going to become larger as technology progresses: right now a designer may design a very cool car, but the engineering filter will look at production efficiency and remove design elements and then marketeers will smooth out the non-conformist elements to make it sellable and you end up with just another car. Now designers will be at the consumer end of the production line, rather than the far side.

    There are of course some human limitations to this scenario, which mainly has to do with attention-span and time. Humans only have so much time and energy and would only spend it on things that they need to survive or are passionate about. This is the very reason why “interactive” TV never worked: you do not want to control the outcome of TV, you just want to sit and watch… So people may not want to design their own doorknobs, but they would want to design their own wedding rings (at least for their first marriage).

    the second human limitation will be ability: some things you can design yourself on a piece of napkin, but when it comes to making your own car, you would not want to sit on top of the fuel tank… Some products will need expert guidance. Some of this expertise will be stored in design software parameters that will make sure you can only design within safe boundaries, but some designs will need human expert checks.

  • 3DPrinting and the new luxury

    Working in a domain that is the epitome of luxury, I have seen that the face of luxury is changing over time. The old concept of luxury was created by a scarcity of materials: gold and diamonds were rare in those days. But of late it seems that those materials are not so rare anymore.

    Firstly there is the fact that the materials do not degrade over time, so the existing stock of the world’s luxurious materials at least stays constant: this was the inherent reason why our forefathers desired these materials for value retention. Constancy in an expanding world would not be so bad…

    Were it not that secondly some of these luxurious materials are at the verge of being synthesized: diamonds can be man-made now and who knows how many gold and platinum-filled asteroids can be harvested in the coming decades…

    Combine the last facts with the fact that more and more of the world’s population is aspiring to the material luxury and the material supply is also enabling that aspiration, and you see that material scarcity is an illusion that is only veiled by the desire to aspire.

    So what scarcity will define the next luxury?

    According to me the next scarcity is going to be human. Let me explain: our lifespan is still capped; In an age when we will be able to design or customize everything we want, time to do so is going to be the ultimate scarcity… We will only design (or co-design if you are less creative) the things that we feel passionate about, customize the things we like and the “meh” products we will buy off the shelf. This is the scarcity of human attention.

    Now if you can not design the product yourself, you will pay dear money to have an expert design it for you. An average designer is fine, but the true luxury will come from convincing busy people to take time out of their regular life and design that little special thing for you: say ask a manufacturer of slow cars to make a race car and then name it after his daughter. That would be another human scarcity: the scarcity of human expertise. This scarcity is becoming very obvious in the watch-making industry where watches hand-made by Swiss watch-makers are fetching significant premiums due to the scarcity of that expertise.

    This does not mean that gold and diamonds will lose their value overnight and that you will still need a golden wedding ring with diamonds for the church to bless (if there is such a thing as church left, but that is not for discussion here!)… But a nice saying, I recently overheard said: “You will own less, but with more value.”

  • 3Dprinting in Education: when? how? why?

    People often ask me at what age children should be confronted with #3DPrinting and where?

    Seeing the interest of my two Deeplets, I decided to introduce more children to 3DPrinting by doing a talk and workshop at TEDxYouth@Flanders 2011 for children aged 11 to 18 years. And even convincing Ritik’s 6th grade teacher to let Ritik do a talk for career day on 3DPrinting (due this Friday). This was before the technology hit Belgian mainstream media and it became acceptable.

    Current convention is to introduce children to 3Dprinting during higher education, but my view is that they should get in touch with this technology a lot earlier. It should be at a stage when their imagination is still wide open and not in a mere design-oriented environment. 3Dprinting is not only about design, it also sparks interest in engineering and software programming.

    As a matter of resources, I can understand that targeting a small set of design students is easier and more effective that addressing all the primary school students, but specialty events like TEDxYouth and local Belgian ikanda, would be ideal platforms to reach out to children.

    There should be a standard package for schools to get involved: a sponsored printer, which could be assembled as part of a class effort and a package of lessons which can help children get started. Websites like tinkercad.com could be great catalysts there to help children grasp the basics of CAD design. All the elements are available separately, but they need to be packaged into one solution for schools, so that they are easily applied. Maybe even do the program with loaner printers, which could stay at the school for 1 month for the children to get acquainted with an option to buy one if the program is well received.

    The idea of building your own printer may not be relevant for too long, since assembled solutions are amply available and it will allow you to focus on the printing rather than the printer. But assembling your own printer does give you insight into the technology and also is a nice way to explain the basics of electronics to kids in a very applied manner.

    One of the hurdles in general acceptance of Additive Manufacturing is the reluctance of the current engineering corps to adopt the technology. It is fine for Rapid Prototyping, which is an outlier process, which is often outsourced. But the moment the tech comes on the work floor, people are skeptical. This needs to be changed in the next generation of engineers, who need to see Additive Manufacturing as an additional tool on the work floor for a much more flexible manufacturing base, not as a threat to their existing way of working.

    We as a generation may not have been able to solve the world’s problems, but that should not prevent us from raising a generation of children who may!
  • the next generation of 3D Printers.

    One of the challenges I am facing at the moment is the replacement of the current Makerbot Cupcake printer: the printer is a year old, but the requirement of me and my kids are pushing the limit on the machine… Upgrading the hardware would work, but the cost of that would come close to half that of a new printer and the new printers offer so much more…

    Currently there are four contenders:

    – The Makerbot Replicator: a nice printer with a proven community behind it and fully assembled with dual extrusion that is supported by software and hardware. The replicator has the features you need: dual extrusion, large print volume, heated build platform and standalone operations. It lacks in compactness (versus build volume) and price ($2000)

    – The BitsfromBytes Rapman: an interesting printer with the basics covered: dual extrusion, standalone operations and a large build volume, but it lacks in a heated build platform and also does not have great Mac software… Community support will of course become more of an issue with 3DSystems now backing the Cube printer.

    – the Ultimaker also covers some basics: large build volume, compactness, standalone operations, but again lacks a heated build platform and dual extrusion. Software support is less of an issue with ReplicatorG and Cura support. As a community I would rate the Ultimaker community as #2 after Makerbot with a lot of inspired tinkerers to push the platform further. Their vision of only implementing features that are robust is a sound way to build a good platform of machines, but still allowing the operators to tweak their machines to the cutting edge, if they want to.

    Leapfrog’s Creatr is a newcomer on the scene: it has the best of features: large build volume, heated build platform and rudimentary dual extrusion support (Slic3r only supports the second extruder for support material). It is not compact and has no standalone mode, but the machine is built using quality parts and that shows in the prints generated. And considering the huge build volume, it is relatively compact… But it would occupy the better part of my current desk, if I were to put it on the desk. The service looks to be quite good (they respond to emails promptly and have solutions worked out for most issues). I can imagine that over time leapfrog may become a player to contend with, if you are looking for a robust platform with commercial support. But they will need to work out some kind of community as well and I wonder whether the community will gain enough critical mass: this will be a challenge for leapfrog after they roll out the first 50-100 machines.

    Printer Heated Build Platform Dual Extrusion Compactness Software Community
    Makerbot Replicator Yes Yes (full) Yes ReplicatorG Mac/Win/Linux #1
    BitsfromBytes Rapman No Yes (full) Yes Axon Win #3
    Ultimaker No No Yes ReplicatorG & Cura #2
    Leapfrog Creatr Yes Yes (support) No Pronterface/Slic3r or Cura<?> ???

    Faced with these options, the question of community comes up: During my workshops at the TEDxYouth@Flanders 2012, I told kids who were interested in getting a printer, that you  were not just buying a printer, but joining a community. The community was a great value for helping you tweak your printer to the best possible results and also helped you evolve your machine to your requirements.

    But now we are evolving towards assembled machines: these machines will need less tweaking and will print most objects equally well on all printers. The cutting edge will still need a community to develop different extruder heads, higher print speeds, better print qualities, but the most people will be able to use the assembled printers out of the box without much tinkering.

    I will keep my Cupcake for the tinkering part, but I want a robust printer for my kids to experiment on the development part rather than the printer part… The idea is to buy a printer that works and works well, rather than a printer than you need to make work and tinker well.

    Please note that I have experienced none of these machines in real life and that all the information here is from the company websites and/or communications. Please do correct me, if you find any errors.

  • How it all started

    About 10 years ago, I first got in touch with 3D Printing when I investigated the use of resin printers for jewellery model making… At the time the players to look at were Envisontech and 3DSystems and each of them had their individual strengths and the capabilities were bettering every time I saw the machines.

    For some years my interest stayed on that level… A tool for industry to make resin models as an alternative starting point for wax loss casting. Becoming more and more efficient over time and more and more capable. But still a supportive tech for an old way of making jewellery as it has been done for centuries… That is what the industry likes, doing things the way they have always been done.

    In the meantime, I got interested in the virtual worlds as a means to communicate more immersively and as a collaborative tool. Co-creating in 3D was something that was going to be necessary in the future, but the tools are still too crude for consumer adoption…

    Then I got in touch with the Makerbot community and the fact that you can actually own a 3D Printer at home… This opened possibilities, but I was still waiting and watching the tech maturing… What would be a good time to leap in?

    The year 2011 brought changes… the first was Baselworld 2011, there in the basement of an outlier building were the guys from Concept Laser demoing their DMLS machine… The stand was only about DMLS and they admitted the tech was not ready for prime time yet, but close enough to start generating interest… This got me excited… finally 3DPrinting as I had seen it: a new production method rivaling wax loss casting rather than supporting it.

    Next came TEDxKids@Brussels… I registered my son for it and they gave him some homework: a website 3DTin on which they needed to make some stuff… Ritik did not need a lot of nudging to get started… the interface was cumbersome and frustrating, but slowly and surely he got to building. His creation: glasses with his name on them… Something he would always have wanted, but would never be able to buy in any store, since his name is not conventional!

    The glasses were part of Joris Peel’s workshop on 3DPrinting for the kids… they got to see their creations printed and this got Ritik fired up… “You could make so many cool things!”. The next thing I see is a sale of Makerbot Cupcakes for Father’s day and being a good father, I bought one for Ritik.

    From then on, it has been one big roller coaster ride… I feel like I am 12 again and I got my first computer with a dot matrix printer… All the other kids used tapes and TV screens and I used a Mac with a mouse and floppies and could print stuff… Pretty soon, I was making my homework on the computer and got the printer to do color by swapping ribbons and lining up the paper… next came scanning using the Thunderscan and all kinds of tweaking: printing on thick paper and then soaking it in water.

    Now with the 3D Printer, Ritik is doing similar stuff, but still under parental supervision: but the parent is also a kid trapped in the body of an adult! The transformation I saw in my children by introducing them to the 3D Printer, is something I wanted to share with more people, so I did a talk and 2 workshops at the first TEDxYouth@Flanders 2011 and it was amazing to see how easily the participants accepted the fact that you could print in 3D.

    This is a short intro about who and how… Why? Because at the Materialise World Conference I saw that a lot of people have some part of the solutions and that everybody needs to share their ideas and solutions to get this thing working… And I want to do my part on this and showing what the technology is about and what cool stuff can be done with it…