Bathsheba Grossman is a community member of ours. She joined the 5th of August last year. I did not have to look that up. I know the date, because I was jumping up and down like crazy once she joined. You have absolutely no idea how awesome it is that Bathsheba not only became a Shapeways community member but also opened a Shapeways Shop and participates actively in the Shapeways community.
She is without a doubt the pioneer in bringing 3D printing products to consumers. She is also the pioneer in 3D printing/rapid manufacturing art. She is the first artist to experiment with 3D printing, exhibit her work, sell it extensively and have success with all these things. She also has a deep knowledge and understanding of 3D printing technologies and makes inspirational work.
Joris: So, Bathsheba tell us something about yourself?
Bathsheba: Well, that's awfully general.
I'm in my mid-40's, currently spending winters in California and summers in Boston, artistically also between projects. I plan to continue working with CAD/CAM and geometrical sculpture, but I see everything else changing: the physical media, the software, and not least the business model.
What software do you use to design in 3D?
Many different tools: mathematical freeware such as Surface Evolver, mesh conditioners including Magics, and a lot of Perl scripts which I write myself. But everything tends to end up in Rhinoceros, and when I model by hand that is what I use.
Would you recommend it?
Yes, though not exclusively: it's more important to have many tools, and to use tool that you enjoy, than to have any specific tool. Rhino is not a revolutionary modeler, but it imports and exports a plethora of file formats, and it has a broad toolkit which can work with both NURBS and meshes. I especially like that it has a fully scriptable command line, as well as its own programming language and the ability to write plug-ins -- if you have some background in programming, that's very friendly.
You are the pioneer in making art with 3D printing: since when have you been doing this?
After many frustrating years of attempting to make my sculpture by hand, I started working CAD and using Z Corporation's cornstarch printer in 1997. It is possible to cast bronzes from starch prints, though with some difficulty, and for several years that is how I worked. I couldn't make a living at it, and the work did not achieve great currency, but there was enough interest that I kept trying.
I should say that I am by no means the first sculptor, or the first geometrical sculptor, to use CAD/CAM. I am one of the first people to have even modest sales success with 3D prints considered as direct products, rather than as one-offs or prototypes.
Are you able to do this full time?
Yes, by the grace of my beloved customers. My sculpture site, plus a site for laser-etched molecular structures at crystalprotein.com, support me and two part-time assistants.
What's a laser-etched molecular structure? And what does one do with it?
In this medium I draw all types of intractable 3D data, from astronomy, biology, physics and mathematics. Protein and small-molecule models are a particular specialty -- many researchers have favorite molecules which they study, and also many biotech companies. It's a good business because it is not dependent on the art market, so it is still there when the economy deflates.
How did you first get involved in 3D printing/rapid manufacturing?
In several different ways. My early experiments in bronze began straightforwardly, I simply sent a CAD model to Z Corporation, got a free sample (which was customary at that time ), then paid some money and got started.
In 2000 I bought a 3D printer, a high-resolution wax printer intended for jewelry design, and operated it as a service bureau for several years. This was not a good plan -- the next time I buy a 3D printer it will cost less than $1000 and fit on my desk.
I began to work with metal printing in 2003. Ex One (then Extrude Hone) approached me when their Prometal process was in beta testing, and after a few pilot pieces it soon became clear that there was some market.
In reference to running a service bureau you say "This was not a good
plan." Did you run into maintenance issues with the machine?
Yes, it wasn't possible to keep it running more than about 70% of the time; and jewelers are hard to satisfy. It just wasn't a profitable business to have only a single machine.
What is it that you make?
When things are going well, money! All the time, objects. Ideas are also involved, but I prefer not to talk much about them: if they get into the objects, you may find them there.
"but I prefer not to talk much about them", why don't you like to talk about ideas?
Selling art is a very public business -- I put my thoughts online and offer them for money. I am not an extroverted person and find the entire marketing process rather distressing. The way I make this art is very solitary, very nonverbal, and I prefer to keep it that way. It's one of the few private pleasures of this job.
What kind of customers do you have? Where are they from? How did you manage to find your first customers?
When I was starting out with handmade bronzes, I sold mostly to mathematicians and scientists whom I knew personally. However, I noticed even when in school that this type of design appeals to surprisingly many people. I would always carry a few sculptures, and show them to the bartender, bus driver, garbage man and so forth, and I found that almost everyone at least likes them. Some more than others of course, but almost no one reacts badly, and a surprising number of people who are not involved with math at all enjoy them very much. This broad appeal is why I decided to go into the business. I knew that there would be a huge customer base for this work, if I could make it cheap enough. Most of that base is still untapped.
Now, of course, I sell online and do not meet the vast majority of customers. Many are tech people with whom I share some culture: math, science, computer science, geeks in general. Many more are not. There are, for instance, people who feel a spiritual connection with geometry and experience my designs as sacred symbols. I try to remain transparent to all possible approaches.
You seem to be primarily inspired by shapes and math, or am I wrong about that? How do you balance art and mathematics?
Well, to start with I draw a distinction between purely algorithmic pieces, where I have very little design input and the model is entirely computed, and art pieces where there may be computation in the process, but the main design is my invention.
The math models are a simple case: there is as much art in them as in a scientific illustration. No less, no more. As to the art, all I can say that my creative engine appears to be deeply symmetrical. It's impossible to say whether this is because of my studies in mathematics, or simply a personal inclination.
There have been many excellent geometrical sculptors with no formal training in math -- my mentor Robert Engman was one, Brent Collins is another -- so it is not a singular type of creativity. I'm part of an artistic lineage which has never been large, and is not always fashionable, but is very vital and goes back to Neolithic times.
When you switched from sculpting by hand to sculpting using software did your work change? your process?
The process changed in two steps: first I sculpted by hand and cast in bronze; then I sculpted by 3D printing and cast in bronze; now I 3D print directly in metal.
My style changed very little, except that I was able to do more complex things. There is a secret page on my site with some photos from before 3DP and you can see it's not too different.
You have a MFA Sculpture and were also Laboratory Assistant at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Is that kind of combination, that kind of divergence as rare as I think it is?
I think most artists have a day job at some time in their lives. Mine lasted a long time, for me it was more than 10 years between art school and making money as an artist, so my day job turned into a little career in scientific programming.
Rodin worked as a stonemason half his life...in an age where software is a fully developed art medium, working as a programmer is not so different!
What do you think the future will bring for 3D printing?
I hope for more materials, better resolution, and freer geometry. I expect slow, incremental advances punctuated by occasional jumps as new patents develop. The hardware business is slow-moving, especially compared to software. We think, oh, it's been six months, there should be a new release that fixes these bugs! But that's not how manufacturing works: tooling up a new process, or even a slightly different process, takes years of time and huge investments.
Will everyone use 3D printing to make everything? Or will it still be a niche?
I think it will remain specialized for many years, for the foreseeable future. It's very difficult to compete with mature mass-production technologies in quality, materials, and especially price. And it turns out that customization is not immediately an economically compelling motive. Useful individuation requires a lot of human attention (which is expensive), and for a mature product it is often not necessary or does not add much value. With existing technology we can now custom-form the handle of everyone's toothbrush, but is it worthwhile? Not for some time, I think.
Why have you been so helpful to us and the Shapeways community? Shapeways enabling people to make and sell their rapid prototyped items could pose a threat to your livelyhood?
That's true in the short run, but one must take a long view. I had good luck in getting into metal printing early and forming a strong relationship with Ex One, and that's been helpful to my business in the last several years. But it's always been obvious that eventually production will become more available and more streamlined, and then many more designers will enter this market.
Shapeways' advent marks the beginning of a shift from a production/sales business model, to a royalty-based business model in which customers demand and pay for production in the material, size and location of their choice, and I contribute only the design. I have seen this coming for many years, and although the transition will be complicated, at the end I become a pure designer and do not have to be involved with manufacturing issues, and that's all good.
What do you think of Shapeways? What are some things we need to change? What needs to stay the same?
The main change I'd like to see is more targeting on customers who are not themselves designers. The site is now made to appeal almost entirely to makers, people who both upload and buy models. This is good for building a base of designers, but the far greater customer base is appreciators: people who may be interested in the technology, but mainly want to own near-custom models, be in touch with the cutting edge of object making, and get work from artists and designers that they like.
I'm not sure that a single site can appeal to both sets of people. Maybe there should be a completely separate storefront for non-designer buyers, with almost independent publicity and a more selective gallery.
Where you're strong now is in getting manufacturers on board: producing good prices and growing material choice. That's fantastic, but it won't mean much -- and the great prices won't be sustainable -- if you can't also produce a lot of customers. If there are just have a few hundred to a few thousand designers on board, we'll soon exhaust what we want to buy from each other: we need hordes of civilians. My own marketing experience shows that they're out there, but they need a well curated selection, and a straightforward site aimed at them.
Two very useful plugins were recently released by Pixologic. Decimation Master can reduce the polygon count in your model to manageable proportions (remember we have a 500,000 polygon limit per model here at Shapeways). 3DPrint Exporter allows you to correctly size and export your model to STL or VRML, both of which formats are accepted by Shapeways.
Both plugins are free and come fully documented. At the moment of writing, they are Windows-only. A Mac version should be coming soon, according to the website.
The models are 3D printed in Stainless Steel, then infused with bronze and later polished. We think it is amazing that we can offer this to you right now.
There are however a few caveats: the models will take 21 working days to be delivered, the finishing is a bit more organic/handmade looking than steel objects that you have seen before. We can also currently do this only for the models in this gallery. Because this process is so new, we have to check each model by hand first before putting it in the gallery.
If you have a Shapeways Shop you can email newmaterials (at) shapeways (dot) com with the link to your model and your username and we will get right to checking them.
Having said that this is truly some exciting stuff. 3D printing itself has been around for a bit(10-20 years) but this is really really new in comparison. More importantly the price we've got for you of $10 per cubic centimeter makes it very cost effective. You can now order and buy a unique item that is 3D printed in metal for $5, $10, $20.
Each one of the Rings above costs $7 including shipping. Madox has several more great examples in the gallery also.You know how in the first year DVD players were a $1000, and Blue Ray players were like that too, yeah we kind of skipped that step with this technology.
The bead above is $5, including shipping and it fits the common "bead bracelet" systems! So for some items we are becoming price competitive with retail stores.
Reclining wink above for example is $20. $20 for a 4-4-2.5 CM model that is printed in Steel.
In third place with a wonderfully creative Escheresque Face peeling by BAROBA. We loved the concept behind the model and think it would look great as a 3D print, this is 3D printing meets art.
In second place is Airbender Monk by Blendroid. This was a very expressive face and the bust almost feels like it could come alive.
In first place: King Polygon bust by mendelheit. This model was a great 3D printing bust, using familiar concepts such as a polygon lattice in an unfamiliar way as a structure for the bust and back of the head. Congratulations to our top 3 on winning!! And a special congratulations to Mendelheit for his $300 in 3D printing!
The Shapeways 3D parts Database is a resource where you can download files from. The files are free under a Creative Commons license and you can use them to work quicker and build even more exciting models. We currently have compression springs, gears, gearboxes, coil springs and leaf springs for you to download. All the models in the 3D parts database have been tested by us and printed out to make sure that they work.
Anyone who is logged in to Shapeways can use the database. In the future we want to extend the database's functionality so that you can use it to share your work by adding to the database.
We hope that this allows more people to get into designing for 3D printing and that we will see a lot of exciting work in the months to come based on these models and the models that we will add in the future. This is a small step towards making Creative Commons work for things. Enjoy!
So you want to give a gift to someone or to yourself. You want to indulge with something creative & unique? As of today and until the 5th of July you can make Sterling Silver Ringpoems and Cufflinks.
The Silver used is Sterling silver that is 92.5% pure silver. The entire model is made up of Silver so your words will be too! You can check out how it works or make one yourself here.
The Sterling Silver Ringpoems cost $129 & the Sterling Silver Cufflinks cost $99 including shipping. It will take us 15 working day to deliver them to you.
The process is wax 3D printing plus the lost wax process(investment casing to be more precise). The wax 3D prints of your designs are used for a mould and then molten silver is poured in to make your custom made Ringpoem or Cufflink. There are some more details on how that works here also.
This evening I'll be going home to Amsterdam from Eindhoven. I asked Elena, who is in charge of our supply chain, to give me a sample of our White, Strong & Flexible material to take home with me so I could see if I could dye it while it is in its powdered form. This is what I find on my desk this morning:
I now have a Kilo of fine white powder in a Ziplock bag, and I'm going to be taking it to Amsterdam.This should end well.
I can totally see it now: "Yes, officer this is a polyamide powder used for 3D printing. A lot like Nylon. 3D printing? You could use this powder to make anything, anything at all. How much does it cost? $1.68 per cubic centimeter. Yes, it is cheap. We really want to make this as cheap as possible so everyone can use Shapeways. Well, the Selective Laser Sintering process....Officer, what are you doing, officer?"
The DAVID 3D scanner is do-it-yourself 3d scanning kit. It uses a line-laser, a webcam and the DAVID software to 'read' the depth information of a scene. Once you've made multiple scans of an object, it can stitch them together to get a to get a full 360 degree scan.
The cool thing is that you can use the basic DAVID scanning software for free (albeit limited in resolution). The stitching software ('Shape Fusion'), though, is commercial and is included in the professional version of the software which starts at € 199,-. So if you have a decent webcam and a line-laser (which you can buy starting at € 19,- in the DAVID shop), you can start experimenting with 3D scanning on a really tight budget.
I was curious to see how well this worked and if the scanned models would work with Shapeways, and requested a DAVID starter kit for review. This kit sells for €399 on their website, and contains everything you need to scan and stitch your objects:
Several calibration panels (for different scan sizes).
A red line laser, battery operated with adjustable focus.
QuickCam Pro9000 1600x1200 webcam including a stand.
Update: watch the movie for a 1 minute to see what this is all about:
If you're not familiar with QR codes they are basically a new form of bar code. With any camera phone and the right software you can take a picture of the QR code and it will take you to a website for example. You can try it now with the QR code above and one of these tools.
QR codes were supposed to be the next big thing: a bridge between the real world and the web. You could put the codes anywhere and people could then save the information on their phones for later or find out more about a building, a t-shirt at that moment. Like human tetris and tentacles QR codes are currently only really mainstream in Japan though.
FluidForms a while back made a QR code Belt buckle and inspired by them we decided to do something QR codes too.
I made a 3D printed QR code stamp, now I can stamp anywhere and people can take a photograph of the stamp and will then be directed to my website.
2. I opened the saved image in the Gimp and flipped it to horizontal(under image-transform).
3. Uploaded it to the Shapeways Stampmaker, ticked the for use with light box and ordered it for $25.
4. Shapeways 3D prints the stamp and ten days later I get it, and now I can stamp my QR code anywhere.
The whole thing took me 10 minutes.
This is what you get from Shapeways, a 3D printed flexible stamp sheet, 9 by 13cm. We also give you a small acrylic block to use as a back for the stamp, the stamp sticks to the block but you can remove it and exchange it for other stamps if you want.
You also will need stamp ink pad. You can use any ink you like. I made my QR code very large, so I needed to use a bigger block than the one I got for free but you could just make smaller QR codes and place lots of them on the image that is to be Stampmaker-ed.
Here's how the scanning of the stamp works:
Arno has a Nokia E71 and it has barcode tool on the phone as standard(menu-tools-barcode). He could read my stamps virtually all the time on lots of different surfaces. Here is a list of Nokia phones that come standard with the Nokia barcode reader. The page also shows you where you can download other readers for any other smartphones for free. I downloaded QR Reader for the Iphone and paid a buck for it, I was not as lucky with that tool as it only worked rarely.
ProTip: you do in all cases have to apply pressure slowly but surely and be careful not to move the stamp sideways while stamping. If you have a lot of light areas or gaps in the resulting stamp then it will not work. Some porous & uneven surfaces are hard to do. Smooth concrete works fine, uneven concrete is hard. Steel girders, smooth walls, painted walls, painted floors, tile, board, tables, plastic, paper all work well. Enjoy.
Although we'd really like for you guys to try this out, please be aware that we only advocate using the Shapeways Stampmaker to stamp your own property, and accept no liability la di da da etc..
For someone working at a 3D printing start up I am a bit of a technology skeptic. I think it comes from being promised too much, from the whole "in five years.." thing. It is now 2009 and still my fridge does not go on the internet and order my food from Webvan for me. I still have to go out and buy my clothes from an actual store and not boo.com (which by the way is now a social/community travel site). I am waiting for my own cold fusion reactor but do not spend this time having company meetings on Second Life. The present is always so much more mundane and less sparkly than the future. One of my favorite T-shirts sums this up quite nicely.
My skepticism is also reinforced by all the awesome production processes, 3D apps and other technologies that we scout out at work only to discover that the concept is wonderful but they just do not work. In the hype cycle I am almost permanently skating down the "peak of inflated expectations" towards the "trough of disillusionment." Side note: where is the hype cycle currently on the hype cycle?
With this in mind..this is the future:
1. Virtually everyone will be able to make their own real stuff. The items that will be made will be 'gifts' (to themselves and others) whereby the cost of customizing & creating the item shall be roughly half the utility of said item and comparable to the cost of a mass produced item with obviously demonstrable less utility. For some, the customization itself or the benefit of making your own product might be fun and this will change the equation and enable them to give more design time to the product or expect less utility from it.
2. Furthermore, many people will become their "brand of one" and rather than working for a design bureau or IKEA will directly retail their own products using services such as Shapeways for selling art, design objects, household objects & other products.
So, it is not exactly a pithy battle cry or memorable manifesto sentence, but in comparison with those I think that this has much more than a coin flips' chance of actually coming true.
Not everyone will do this. Some can not, some will be unwilling.
We will not be able to make everything. Below are six rather broad categories of items and why and how they would be suitable for on demand creation:
Mega technologically complex: It does not, regardless of the technology, make sense for one person or a group of interconnected people online to make a Boeing 777. The regulatory & liability issues would be immense. The undertaking of such a project would also bring about so much complexity in the organization of it that synergies of collectively working on the project would evaporate. The financial burden would also be excessive.
Mechanically complex but modular: Anything less complex: a car, light airplane, boat, bike, etc. could be & will be created, eventually. For these items most of the utility comes from scale but a lot can be added by customization and on demand creation. For this category however it would be more logical to combine a lot of mass produced components, select other mass produced components and combine them with a customized body for example. The creation on demand for this category of items would be in the assembly.
Electronically complex: Flat screen TV's would also not really work since the price would be so
much much higher for a custom made one and the utility of said item
comes almost completely from scale. For such an item it would be much
more logical to create a "press on cover" for the television, to
customize the software or simply hack an existing one. The on demand
creation for this category of items would be in the post production
"hackability" of the device.
Pure scale: We also will not make Happy Meal toys, this is an example where scale & cost outweighs the benefits of design & on demand creation. Certain "happy meal-like" items are really more of a distribution challenge than a production one so will never really be suited for make on demand.
Pure design: Any item with a core utility derived from the design of that item, the shape of it, would be eminently suitable for on demand creation.
Pure design + easy integration: Any pure design item that could easily be combined with readily available components in order to make it more complex would also be very suitable. A design lamp with a standard LED light for example.
With gifts I mean "items designed to make someone happy." Getting a figurine could be a gift to yourself, as could getting art, and a set of nice kitchen knives or a hammer. All provided that the person getting it likes art, cooking or DIY, respectively. Or that the gift is unique and in so being becomes valuable because it is a nice gesture or solves a unique problem.
If you've read my Milk analogy and the Singer problem posts you realize that I do not say all of this lightly. If you've used Shapeways on the other hand you know that this is already possible today, to a certain extent. This "certain extent" is always the problem. It is why only security guards have Segways and why we don't ask our ovens what the cooking time is for a dish or why the "hydrogen economy" is still today about as real as a Jelly Baby economy.
There are thousands of products & designs on Shapeways, and one that to me solves the certain extent problem is Dennis Roffe's Cubicle Cell Phone holder. This design to me shows the way forward and that on demand creation is here, right now.
Dennis made the holder because, "I designed the cubicle cell phone holder after hearing numerous cell
phones around the office buzz and bounce around on coworkers desks. I
thought it would be a great idea to be able to somehow mount a device
to a cubicle wall that could support a cell phone. With desk space at a
premium in small cubicles I thought it would be worth while to try and
utilize wall space to move items off of my desk."
The device is, as far as I know(and I've looked, as has Dennis), unique. Dennis made it for himself, for a use case of one, for a series of one. It took him 8 hours from idea to upload. He used Pro-Engineer & Blender(and Virtox's awesome Blender pricing script). Dennis ordered the phone for $10 including shipping. He later put it in his Shapeways Shop for $11.68. Eight hours previously there was nothing, except an idea. Eight hours later Dennis is able to buy his own product and also sell it worldwide: to anyone, anywhere.
The two things that make Dennis' product so suitable are: that the use case falls within the bounds of what can be created on demand currently and the price of $11 and 68 cents, including shipping makes it a cost effective item(I must say here that the minimum order size is $25 on Shapeways). This is why I think that he has gone beyond the "certain extent" problem with the Cubicle Cell Phone holder. For Dennis the eight hours he spent on the holder were worth it because it was, "very rewarding to have my prototype produced by Shapeways and be able to use it on a daily basis." The item was a 'gift' to himself to help de-clutter his desk. The fact that he could hold his own design in his hand made the 8 hours spent designing it more than worthwhile.
Most of his products fit squarely into the "pure design" category and the sheer variety of the items is only limited by his imagination and the time he is willing to give to designing them.
I think that the Cubicle Cell Phone Holder is a great product that points us straight at the future. Dennis, "would love to see one of these in everyone's cubicle at work someday", and we will do what we can to make that happen.
Dark has made a Nano Magnetic Blade Balancer with Shapeways. You can check out the video of it below, very nifty. Here are some pictures on an RC forum.
Buho 29 ordered another 3D printed helicopter from us. Here you can see it flying. And here on our forum you can see the myriad of parts he needed to order in order to make it and how he put it together.