Tag Archives: 3D printing conference

Shapeways CEO: Become a Creator of the Products You Care About – 3D Printing Conference (Part 8)

Shapeways CEO 3D Printing Conference

Shapeways CEO Gives an Update on His Company

Peter Weijmarshausen, the CEO and co-founder of Shapeways, a leading consumer facing 3D printing service company, started his keynote address today at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York with the question, “What do you really want?”  He went on to explain that the problem with mass manufacturing is forcing individual consumers to buy products that are identical to what other people buy, even though everyone has unique preferences.  To illustrate this point he showed a picture of a custom car.  “This is a labor of love, and extremely costly,” he said, pointing to the picture.  3D printing, on the other hand, makes customization easy.  And that makes it a very valuable service.

Shapeways Growth

So far it appears that Mr. Weijmarshausen is correct, as Shapeways is growing fast, and planning to grow even faster in the future.  Last year the company hosted Mayor Michael Bloomberg to open a new factory on Long Island, and just today it announced an additional $30 million in venture capital funding.  However, Mr. Weijmarshausen prefers touting slightly different metrics.  Today Shapeways has over 10,000 designers and over 300,000 community members that submit and purchase 60,000 new designs every month.

Yet it is not just the ability to upload and purchase designs that excites the people at Shapeways.  As shown in a brief demo of the ‘sake set creator’ app, the real vision is for consumers to be able to customize template designs in user-friendly applications.  Today it might be something as simple as a coffee cup or a lampshade, but Shapeways believes this is just the beginning.

The Future of 3D Printing

When asked what he hopes for the future of 3D printing, Mr. Weijmarshausen paused for a moment and then said new materials and larger scaling of the industry at large.  3D printing, as he pointed out, is still a very small industry.  The faster it grows, the more people will become aware of it, and in his opinion this will be good for not just Shapeways but also for consumers everywhere.


Authored by Brian H. Jaffe, founder of Mission St. Manufacturing and contributor to On 3D Printing.

3D Printing in K-12 Education: Virginia Leads the Way – 3D Printing Conference (Part 7)

K-12 Education 3D Printing Virginia

Innovating in K-12 Education with 3D Printing

3D printing has been around for three decades, but only recently has the cost of 3D printers been low enough to think about putting this technology in classrooms.  Now a partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia, Univeristy of Virginia and the City of Charlottesville has led to the creation of CED (Commonwealth Engineering and Design) Academy at Buford Middle School, a new type of school built specifically around project based learning with the help of new technologies such as 3D printing in K-12 education.

The new program, which opens this August after a $3 million renovation, will have one 3D printer for every 4 students in a classroom, but that is just the beginning.  As Glen Bull, Gavin Garner, and Greg Lewin from the University of Virginia put it, “The challenge is to find a curriculum to go with it.”  Speaking at this week’s Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York, the trio emphasized that, “You can’t just take a 3D printing lesson plan and drop it into a middle school and say, ‘here you go.’”  And this is why the involvement of University of Virginia is so important.

Faculty and students from UVA’s Schools of Engineering and Education are working together to develop and test new curricula for critical STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education that makes use of 3D printing.  One of their first successes was a project in which middle school students designed and built a fully functional speaker.  Teams were broken into two halves – one to design and test a high frequency tweeter and another to design and test a low frequency woofer – and then at the end of the project the two teams were forced to integrate the two parts into one integrated speaker.  In another project, currently still in a pilot stage, undergraduate engineering students are challenged to program a computer controlled pen that was made with a 3D printer.

Overall, the speakers were both optimistic about the future of 3D printing in the classroom, especially the availability of various funding sources, but also cautionary that curricula are difficult to develop and take a lot of time and testing.  What is clear is that the Commonwealth of Virginia is taking 3D printing very seriously, and that they are leading the way in 3D printing education.


Authored by Brian H. Jaffe, founder of Mission St. Manufacturing and contributor to On 3D Printing.

Sculpteo Cloud 3D Printing, iPhone Cases, and More – 3D Printing Conference (Part 6)

Sculpteo 3D Printing App

Sculpteo Launches Services to Grow their 3D Printing Marketplace

Sculpteo is a 3D printing marketplace that is innovating on 3D printing services. Sculpteo was formed in 2009 with operations based in France and San Francisco, CA. The majority of Sculpteo’s sales are outside of the US, but they are growing their US operations.

While much of the 3D printing media coverage focuses on 3D printers, guns, and organs, there are companies who are innovating on the very important concept of how do I 3D print and what can I 3D print today?

We sat down with the team at the Sculpteo booth at the Inside 3D Printing Conference to see their new services.

3D Printing for iPhone and iPad

Sculpteo published a free iPad and iPhone app that lets customers design 3D printable ideas, like iPhone cases and coffee mugs. The company partnered with designers to develop templates that can be easily customized by users. Cases cost $25 to $30 to produce.

The result (shown in photos in this article) are highly personalized and affordable goods that are accessible to the average consumer.

3D Printing Cloud Engine

The power of the cloud is coming to 3D printing with Sculpteo’s white label service, called Cloud Engine. Think of this as a “click to print” service that can connect your designs to a remote 3D printer connected by the Cloud. For users who want 3D printed objects but don’t own a 3D printer yet, this is an option. Websites and mobile apps can also embed the service.

For example, Autodesk embedded Sculpteo Cloud Engine in its 123D Creature app.


Below is a photo gallery of custom iPhone cases and more.

Topology Optimization in Additive Manufacturing: 3D Printing Conference (Part 5)

Topology Optimization 3D Printing

Topology Optimization Key to Additive Manufacturing

Topology optimization, an industry term that Wikipedia defines as “A mathematical approach that optimizes material layout within a given design space,” could be a critical motivator to create industrial designs specifically for additive manufacturing.  In a captivating presentation at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York City, Jim Hassberger and Tony Norton from solidThinking explained how a technology inspired by bone structure research done over a century ago combined with the power of modern computing has led to a new way to optimize load-bearing structural designs.

The results of topology optimization are structures that have outward dimensions identical to normal load-bearing elements such as beams, yet have interior dimensions that look very different from traditionally manufactured parts.  In place of triangular or circular voids, these parts have remarkably organic, almost bone-like shapes.  The reason is, topology optimization software systematically analyzes the stresses on these shapes and then removes the most superfluous material from the design.  This process is repeated over and over by the optimization software, and by the end the computer design leaves only a skeletal interior structure.

Topology Optimization 3D Printing

Image from compumod.com.au

So what makes these specially designed parts so special?  Why design a part that is so complex?  The advantage of parts made with topology optimization is that the same strength characteristics can be created with less material, and this yields a greater strength to weight ratio, an important property across most industries related to transportation.  As a practical example, structural rib elements in an Airbus wing designed with topology optimization saved over 500kg in structural weight, which translates to significant cost savings.

The computing power to run topology optimization software became available in the 1990’s, but the technology did not spared as imagined by its creators.  Reflecting on its limited success twenty years ago today, Mr. Hassberger and Mr. Norton note that the real difficulty wasn’t in designing parts, but in producing them.  Three-dimensional designs created in such a way were often highly irregular with strange voids and curved interior surfaces, making them all but impossible to machine or cast using traditional manufacturing methods.  And that’s why they are so excited to reintroduce the technology today.  Additive manufacturing, a process in which “Complexity is free” according to 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental, makes producing these highly complex forms as easy as producing straight, right-angled beams.

While there is still some cost associated with adopting topology optimization, not least of which is a software license starting around $6000, a process that used to be “by PhDs for PhDs” and almost prohibitive to manufacture can now be incorporated into designs after only four hours of training and access to additive manufacturing.  And as apparent proof of its value, these designs are already being incorporated into biomedical, Formula 1, UAV and traditional aerospace assemblies.

So will topology optimization be the latest catch phrase at the next Maker Faire you attend?  Probably not.  However it does promise to demonstrate to industry that additive manufacturing can bring even greater design optimization to existing products, and that is good news for everyone who hopes to see even wider adoption of this paradigm-shifting technology.


Authored by Brian H. Jaffe, founder of Mission St. Manufacturing and contributor to On 3D Printing.

Cover images from solidThinking.com

Inside 3D Printing Conference: Day 1 Top Stories

Inside 3D Printing Conference Entry

Inside 3D Printing Conference: Day 1

Day 1 of the Inside 3D Printing Conference was a big success, with great networking and inspiring speakers. Here are the top stories from Day 1.

3D Printing’s Apple 1 Moment: 3D Printing Conference (Part 1)

“3D printing is in its Apple 1 moment,” said Brian Evans as he showed a photo of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (above). The first Apple 1 was just a circuit board. Customers had to build a plywood case around it. “Who knew that in 30 years we’d all be carrying iPhones?” Evans mused.

Keynote Declares “Complexity is Free”: 3D Printing Conference (Part 2)

Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, opened this week’s inaugural Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York City with the declaration “Complexity is free.”

3D Systems: Geomagic Design to Advance CAD and 3D Printing

3D Systems announced availability of Geomagic Design, a new suite of affordable CAD design solutions.

Invest in Bioprinting to Get a 3D Printed Ear or New Hip: 3D Printing Conference (Part 3)

Two well-respected speakers in the medical 3D printing field presented today at the Inside 3D Printing conference on bioprinting.

Demo Exhibits Open-Source Complexity: 3D Printing Conference (Part 4)

In a demo at the Inside 3D Printing conference, Brian Evans exposed the complexity of low-cost, open-source consumer 3D design and 3D printing.