Tag Archives: Francis Bitonti

Inside 3D Printing Chicago Conference – A Full Retrospective

Inside 3D Printing Chicago

Inside 3D Printing Chicago – What We Saw

Looking ahead to the next Inside 3D Printing conference in San Jose (September 17-18, 2013), we’ve identified some of the key takeaways from the most recent Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo in Chicago.  The below summary lays out both what we learned during the conference about recent developments in the 3D printing (additive manufacturing) revolution and some of the core challenges still facing the industry.  Through their insightful remarks, Inside 3D Printing’s speakers made clear that this technology is capable of unleashing human creativity beyond the limits of what we consider possible today.

Inside 3D Printing Chicago

Professor Hod Lipson emphasized during his lecture that the future of 3D printing is one of portable, instant manufacturing where complexity is free, and we can create any object we are capable of imagining with zero constraints and zero lead time.  Prof. Lipson’s lecture, along with keynotes by industry heavyweights and a range of tutorial presentations, made clear that the industry continues to make significant strides forward.

Among these positive developments is the fact that, according to Lipson, better, cheaper and faster machines continue to be introduced in a wider range of materials.  Conference exhibitors presented machines capable of printing in alternative materials like copy paper, wood, and rubber-like plastic materials, among many others.  Speakers also emphasized that makers and scholars are working to increase the use of natural raw materials in 3D printing processes, which now include sawdust, salt and wood, among others.  It is also possible to print in more environmentally friendly materials such as bioplastics and in live materials such as human cells.

It is also worth noting that today’s 3D printers can print functional parts in multiple materials seamlessly and with no assembly required.  These parts have already met with a wide range of applications, including engine parts, prosthetics and outer casings for electronic components, among others.  Prof. Lipson anticipates that future printers will be able to create and combine new forms of materials, as well as print integrated systems containing electrical and later digital components.

3D Printed Fashion Dita Von Teese

Importantly, 3D printing has allowed designers to consider a new approach to design.  Inside 3D Printing made clear that the concept of “design for manufacture” is starting to fade with the onset of 3D printing.  Conference presenters Isaac Katz, Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti noted that artists and designers are now able to design and 3D print virtually any geometric structure their minds can conjure.  This ability, when paired with the high precision capability of virtual effects and CAD software, now allows designers and makers to think about creating as nature does.  The ultimate impact of this exciting development is that the objects we make can now reflect the organic, layered, fluid and undulating structures found in nature – structures that would be cost prohibitive or impossible to make otherwise.

Inside 3D Printing also provided an opportunity for Michael Raphael of Direct Dimensions to update participants on the impressive capability of 3D scanning technologies.  Raphael noted that, 3D scanning technology has also seen ”massive change” over the past three years thanks to the growth of the 3D printing industry and other technologies like smartphones and GPS.  Scanning equipment has become more powerful, portable, and affordable.  In the past three years, the price of high end scanning equipment has decreased dramatically, with gear that formerly carried a price tag of over $100,000 now available for purchase for under $1,000.  Mobile and video game applications like 123D Catch and Microsoft Kinect have also made 3D scanning technology more widely available and this trend is expected to continue with the release of the Kinect 2.  Applications for 3D scanning technologies are also wide ranging, from current uses in high definition surveying to potential future uses in mass customer apparel.

Avi Reichental Keynote Inside 3D Printing Chicago

At Inside 3D Printing Chicago, attendees were able to watch industry leaders engage the market in new ways.  For example, 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental announced during his keynote speech a new strategic alliance with Deloitte to assist companies in adopting 3D printing design and manufacturing solutions.  Disney Entrepreneur in Residence Cydni Tetro also evaluated the role of 3D printing in retail and illustrated how the Disney Company has applied 3D printing technology to create premium retail experiences like the “Carbon-Freeze Me Experience,” which allows Star Wars fans to purchase a 3D printed image of themselves appearing to be frozen in carbonite.

In addition to highlighting these and many other exciting developments in the industry, Inside 3D Printing also raised a number of questions about the future of the technology and its impact on existing processes.  As the technology develops, 3D Printing has identified several key questions for industry participants to consider moving forward:

  1. How will materials experts within the industry, as well as the maker community, continue to harness the technology into practical applications and make it widely accessible?
  2. What will be the environmental impact of 3D printing, and how will the ability to print objects in more varied and earth-friendly materials develop?
  3. What will be the social impact of this technology?

Ultimately, despite the naysayers, Inside 3D Printing provided an opportunity for speakers, exhibitors and attendees to share their progress, identify key priorities, and show how 3D printing will transform our future.


Authored by On 3D Printing contributor Lisa M. Pérez, co-founder of Heart Design Inc.

For more coverage on the conference, read our top stories from Day 1 and Day 2.

3D Printed Fashion: From Fantasy Gowns to Accessible Couture – Inside 3D Printing Chicago

3D Printed Fashion Dita Von Teese

3D Printed Fashion Stuns in Chicago

As part of our coverage of this week’s Inside 3D Printing Conference in Chicago, On 3D Printing brings you an industry perspective on the latest developments in 3D printing for fashion and retail.  In addition to providing an in depth review of their successful collaboration with Shapeways in creating the first fully-articulated 3D printed gown, designers Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti encouraged the 3D printing industry to continue its pursuit of applications in the fashion industry.

Schmidt and Bitonti’s articulated gown was custom designed and famously worn by burlesque star and style icon Dita Von Teese, and unveiled this past March during a showcase event at the Ace Hotel in New York City.  Describing the dress as a “flight of fantasy” inspired by Fibonacci’s golden ratio, Schmidt welcomed the opportunity to work with 3D printing technology.

Schmidt and Bitonti emphasized printing process and material selection as critical to their success. Having ruled out a range of the available 3D printing technologies as incompatible with their design ends, they moved forward with laser sintering, which they felt would provide the necessary flexibility.  While it took several months to develop the concept and code for the dress, the printing process itself took only four days.  Because the dress applied the Fibonacci’s sequence throughout the design to create a truly custom fit to Ms. Von Teese, no two parts of the dress are alike.

All told, the dress is made of 3,000 printed nylon joints, which were printed in 17 sections using a selective laser sintering process, whereby layers of nylon powder are selectively fused together by a laser.  While most custom gowns require at least several rounds of fitting to ensure a perfect fit, Schmidt and Bitonti were pleased to discover that “the dress fit really well right out of the box.”

Illustrating the importance of post-processing and hand finishing, Schmidt and Bitonti indicated that the printed pieces were expertly extracted at Shapeways to remove the nylon powder residue from within each joint in the dress.  After the sections were printed and shipped to Schmidt’s studio, they were rip dyed, joined together by a hinged mechanism (also 3D printed) and hand encrusted with over 25,000 Swarovski crystals.

While Schmidt and Bitonti’s articulable dress stands as a testament to what’s possible, the designers also addressed the limitations of current technology.  ”We are limited at the moment to these fantastical garments.  We aren’t able to print in materials that have the qualities of a successful garment until we develop these materials to meet the needs of the body itself – that’s the holy grail,” Schmidt said.

One of the biggest issues in Schmidt and Bitonti’s view is the need to build fluidity of movement into the printing process itself, as the current selective laser sintering process renders the nylon powder stiff.  They also noted that current technology does not provide the option to print in organic materials like cotton or silk.  Both designers are hopeful for the future of the technology, however, and are currently developing a line of jewelry.

Below is a video of the 3D printed dress being displayed at the Inside 3D Printing conference in Chicago.


Authored by On 3D Printing contributor Lisa M. Pérez, co-founder of Heart Design Inc.