Shapeways interviews Janne Kyttanen of FOC

Janne Kyttanen is one of the very first people to seize upon the opportunity to make designs for consumers using 3D printing. Janne is the founder of Freedom of Creation. FOC is a groundbreaking and inspiring design label that is ahead of the pack with regards to 3D printing & design. We were happy to interview him to find out what Freedom of Creation is all about and how Janne views the future of design and 3D printing.  

Joris Peels: What is Freedom of Creation?

Janne Kyttanen:A pioneering design company busy with a new industrial revolution

Joris Peels: How did you get into 3D printing?

Janne Kyttanen:I saw it on some fair in the mid 90’s. I had my first computer when I
was 8 years old and have been pretty much counting polygons ever since.
When I saw the first 3D printer, I immediately saw every object around
me in wireframe and realized where this whole thing was going to go. I
got quite obsessed with it quite early on and skipped making products
by other means. For me it was so clear, that I didn’t see any point
making anything by hand anymore. 

Joris Peels: What kind of products do you make?

Janne Kyttanen: Everyday something new and the list is very long. It can range from exclusive furniture to surgical guides to Iphone covers to buttons to whatnot.

Joris Peels:  What was the first thing you 3D printed?

Janne Kyttanen: A hanger for my house and a lamp.

Joris Peels: Ultimately do you want to make “high design” products or products for everyone?

Janne Kyttanen: Define “high design”. When something is custom made for a particular person, for me that is high design. No matter what the price would be. I have no respect for brands and somehow that makes a product “high design”. There a perception in people’s minds though for what they are willing to pay for particular products. We might sell a light for a few thousand euros, but it would be more difficult to sell a doll house, which has the same volume. That’s why we started with lights.

Joris Peels:  What is your favorite rapid manufacturing process and why?

Janne Kyttanen: From a commercial perspective, Laser Sintering. Because it is the most standardized, reliable, cost effective, most widely spread and speedy process

Joris Peels: Your favorite rapid manufacturing material?

Janne Kyttanen: From a commercial perspective Laser Sintered nylons. Artistically they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Depends on the project and product really. (White, Strong & Flexible on Shapeways)

Joris Peels: A lot of 3D printed design items are lamps. Any idea on why that is?

Janne Kyttanen: Probably because I went to Materialise 1998, they liked my lights and I was able to convince them to invest into a new department, initially focused on making lights.

Joris Peels: What are other home deco items that “would work” as 3D printed design items?

Janne Kyttanen: Anything really.

Joris Peels: Why the fascination with fabric?

Janne Kyttanen: Not my idea. Jiri Evenhuis came to me 1999 when I was busy with my graduation project, called Freedom Of Creation. He proposed that we try to make fabrics with 3D printing. I thought it was the greatest idea, but since he had limited technical knowledge in 3D, I ended up making most of the designs. So in others words no real fascination with fabrics, just one of the applications. Nobody believed it would ever work, like most of the things we do around here. Now they are part of several museum collections around the world due to their ground breaking nature. We can indeed one day maybe make needle and thread obsolete.

Joris Peels: Do you have any advice for designers getting started with 3D printing?

Janne Kyttanen: Don’t hold yourself back. Make your wildest dreams come true.

Joris Peels: Given that using 3D printing you can make any shape, is that actually a limitation in disguise for designers?

Janne Kyttanen: Most designers can only solve problems rather than create new ones. It is much more difficult to start from a blank page. If you can make anything you want, then why bother really making anything in the end. I have no real value for products, since for me it is all just data

Joris Peels: You also helped found the MGX label. Why was MGX founded?

Janne Kyttanen: I went to Materialise 1998 at first to show them, that there was much more in this rather than just making some prototypes for car parts. I wanted to create a company, which would specialize in the exploration of the possibilities what we could design and produce with 3D printing. I proposed to them that if they could just use a file extension (*.MGX) as the new brand, they could be involved with each product globally being produced in this way…since they create software pretty much for all machine manufacturers, this just made perfect sense to me. People hated the idea at Materialise at first. Rest is history of course.

Joris Peels: What do you see as the major technical developments that will have an impact over the coming years?

Janne Kyttanen: Gradient materials and software which can automatically calculate weight reduction on all parts.

Joris Peels: What do you think  of Shapeways?

I think it is a good initiative to wake the industry a little bit, which has been making a lot of money with at least 10 fold too high prices. Just don’t forget that in the end it is not about the technology, but the ideas people come up with.

Joris Peels:  What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong?

Janne Kyttanen: Starting a vast community is a good thing. Not understanding the impact what good design can mean for sales is not the right approach

Joris Peels: Will everyone be a designer?

Janne Kyttanen:No

Joris Peels: Do you see a risk of a future where all products will be “MySpace-like”? ie customized in a semi-automated way without much aesthetic sense or thought? We would then create a world that is exactly as we would want it but ugly at the same time.

Janne Kyttanen: All beauty is in the eye of the beholder…sounds corny, but I see no other way. If it so happens that all products end up being customized etc. so be it. I will not fight against any change, which is inevitable. Like the music industry. I see very well, that all our files will be sold or given away for free in the future and people can do whatever they wish with my designs

Joris Peels:  Is FOC Collection the focus of your business?

Kyttanen: No. Once you focus too much, you start limiting yourself as a
. We have a very powerful technology in our hands, which can in
the future enable people to make anything they wish for. So I wish to
focus rather on generating new applications all the time. But the truth
is somewhere in the middle of course. If I keep on making new things
every day, then there is no time to commercialize them anymore.

Joris Peels: How will FOC Producer be different from existing 3D printing service bureaus?

Kyttanen: Producer was started to maximize the production capacity we
have available and by producing our products together with our clients,
it becomes cheaper for everybody. The industry is running, I feel 80-90
percent on empty
, so there is plenty to improve and best way to do this
is by playing 3D tetris in the most effective way.

Joris Peels:
FOC has recently gone from being a design label to lots of different
services such as Producer Talent etc. Why the change?

Kyttanen: There is no change. I first started creating lights for
myself many years ago, which I liked. I then proposed them to different
lighting labels, such as Flos, FontanaArte etc. in order for them to
take them on board. All this was very new to them, so they wanted to
think it over. I realized back then (about 10 years ago), that it would
take them more time to keep on thinking about it, rather than me
setting up an entire global production, sales and distribution network
from my sofa
. Thus being a design label was never the intention, but
since nobody wanted to commercialize  my designs, I thought of just
doing it all by myself. Since we are able to make so many thing with
this, there will be a lot more new initiatives what you currently see
on our website.

Joris Peels:  On your site you say you “believe in a future where data is the design product and where products are distributed in the same way as images and music travel through the internet today.” So the service bureau has no future? Why start up FOC Production then?

Janne Kyttanen: That is exactly what I mean. I think you have misinterpreted our producer. We will probably be the last company on the planet to buy 3D printers. We believe in a distributed manufacturing across the planet. Our producer is a service, which combines production capacity around the world and makes it more economical for everybody.

Joris Peels: How can I as a single designer protect my Intellectual Property?

Janne Kyttanen: I don’t believe in IP, trademarks, patents nor copyright.

Joris Peels: On your site you say, that through 3D printing “You will only produce what you need.” Surely impulsive people might actually end up with much more stuff?

Janne Kyttanen:My point exactly.

Joris Peels: Isn’t there a risk that all the objects surrounding us will become disposable? That the democratization of production will end up making people still crave products while being less attached to the products they own leading to much more production.

Janne Kyttanen: People are very smart. They will find their way around this. I can’t really predict what the future will hold, but I do know that all will change in ways, we never predicted they would.



  1. Michiel Cornelissen

    Very nice interview… and very funny how it coincides with a certain remark that Joris received from me earlier today. I don’t know if the interview was up at that time, but I swear I didn’t see it yet, in any case…

    For my own sanity, I sometimes replace the word 3d printing with ‘claying’. Just to keep things in perspective.

  2. Anonymous

    Is it just me, or is this guy pompous?

    When he is asked why there are so many 3D printed designs are lights, this is his response:

    “Probably because I went to Materialise 1998, they liked my lights and I was able to convince them to invest into a new department, initially focused on making lights”

    Could it not be because a hollow white sculptural form makes a beautiful lamp? Could it not be because many 3d printing materials have a great translucence? Just because he had the privilege to be one of the first to have access to 3D printing, he was one of the first to make a lamp with the materials available. Pioneers make the first things that come naturally to human thought patterns. The real “innovators” come later.

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