Tag Archives: Brian H. Jaffe

Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York – A Retrospective

Inside 3D Printing Conference Entry

Inside 3D Printing Conference

In a context that felt a bit like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, this week 3D printing went to New York for the first ever Inside 3D Printing Conference.  Over two full days at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, a broad array of industry leaders, innovators, academics and analysts gave keynotes, led seminars, and showed off their latest products to over 3,000 conference attendees.  For many in the crowd, this was a crash course on a technology that has been exploding in the public consciousness over the past two years, and for others it was a chance to network, hear from big names in the industry, and get a sense for where 3D printing will go next.

In a role that seemed fitting given his company’s leadership in the industry and status as the conference’s primary sponsor, 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental opened the conference with the declaration, “Complexity is free” in a 3D printed world.  Never before, he underlined, has a manufacturing process been indifferent to geometric complexity, and to him this is the single biggest reason 3D printing will continue to grow and expand into sectors ranging from education to medical devices to automotive and aerospace.

Cornell Prof 3D Prints Human Ear

Much of the conference’s focus was on these different segmentations of 3D printing, and breakout seminars throughout the two days took a deeper dive in a variety of subjects.  Some of the more memorable seminars explored integrating 3D printers into K-12 education, topology optimization – a complex but very impressive design tool that appears to be a perfect match for 3D printing, consumer desktop and cloud 3D printing, and bioprinting human tissue for medical applications.  Longtime industry analyst Terry Wohlers and Shapeways CEO Peter Weijmarshausen also gave keynote addresses highlighting their vision for the industry’s future.

Sculpteo 3D Printing

3D Printed iPhone Case from Sculpteo

Outside the seminar room the conference also had a distinctly hands-on element.  A bustling exhibit hall hosted dozens of booths showing off a variety of consumer and enterprise 3D printers along with more curious technologies like 3D scanners and novel CAD input devices.  3D printing service companies were also eager to engage with potential customers, showing high quality parts available for remote ordering online.

While many sides of the industry were highlighted at the inaugural Inside 3D Printing Conference this week, the underlying theme was very clear: while 3D printing technology may have existed in research labs and niche applications since the 1980s and ‘90s, it is only now beginning to truly change our lives in meaningful ways.  And from the number of times speakers said “Nascent,” “Just the first inning,” or “Only scratching the surface” to describe the state of the industry, it is clear that insiders see the eventual impact that 3D printing will make on the world to be profound, far-reaching, and on a larger scale than most casual observers can imagine today.


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

Read our full coverage on the conference: Day 1 and Day 2.

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.

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

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

3D Printing Conference Keynote

3D Printing Conference Keynote: Complexity is Free

Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, the world’s largest 3D printing company, opened this week’s inaugural Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York City with the declaration “Complexity is free” in the world of 3D printing.  For the first time in the history of manufacturing, he explained, “The machine doesn’t care how complex of an object it makes.”  This was only one of many provocative and forward-looking declarations he made in his thirty-minute keynote to open the conference attended by over a thousand industry insiders, enthusiasts, investors and media followers.

Mr. Reichental’s address focused on the many industries that he sees being disrupted by 3D printing.  In design and manufacturing, for instance, he said that two-thirds of professional engineers still do not use 3D printing at all, meaning there is considerable opportunity to further penetrate 3D printing’s traditional marketplace.  However, in other industries ranging from medical devices to education to fashion to candy making, Mr. Reichental sees even more opportunity to expand 3D printing’s footprint and create fundamentally new and exciting products and businesses.

Other highlights from Mr. Reichental’s address:

  • He predicts the 3D printing industry will grow by 8-10 times in the next decade.
  • The combination of higher R&D spending, lower time-to-market, higher complexity, greater democratization, and increased focus on sustainability fuels the rapid expansion of 3D printing.
  • No single 3D printing technology will address every solution; therefore multiple technologies need to be advanced.
  • “Mass-complexity” of designs will fuel demand for 3D printers in industry as much as “mass-customization,” specifically in strength-to-weight concerned industries such as aerospace and automotive.
  • Patient-specific medical devices will become the norm thanks to 3D printing.

While at times Mr. Reichental’s address was clearly promoting the achievements of his own company, he successfully made the point that 3D printing is expanding outward from its core in multiple directions and at a very high velocity.  And at very least, he made the case for all the conference’s attendees that to better understand 3D printing is to better understand the future of multiple industries, and indeed a very worthwhile way to spend the next two days.


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