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…

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