Tag Archives: prototyping

THE SECRET WORLD OF 3D PRINTING

IMG_9570 bJohn Jonelis

What happens when, instead of manufacturing a product with cheap labor overseas, you can select a design from the internet and download it the same way you purchase music and then create the product at the point of sale? Good-bye supply chain. Hello customization.

Sound like sci-fi to you? Well, you can do it right now. Some say it’s the next industrial revolution and the structural changes it promises are staggering.

  1. No factory
  2. No warehouse
  3. No shipping

That’s the future promised by 3D printing.

I’m at the MIT Enterprise Forum’s 3D Printing event, listening to Mike Vasquez PhD of 3D PRINTING REPORTS and Julie Friedman Steele of THE 3D PRINTER EXPERIENCE, both right here in Chicago. Julie’s the gal who’s writing the Encyclopaedia Britannica section on the subject.  And yes, you can go to her place and experience it for yourself.

Julie Friedman Steele portrait

Julie Friedman Steele

I’ll brief you on the whole thing, then show some videos for those who want to dig deeper.

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What’s Different About It?

The idea of printing rather than machining a bolt or a gear may seem counterintuitive. We’re accustomed to the SUBTRACTIVE process—starting with a block of material and whittling it down to the desired shape. 3D printing is ADDITIVE. Layer upon layer is added till the product is built up to its full shape. Almost no waste. Complexity is free. Users enjoy huge amounts of geometric freedom and can build designs once thought impossible.

3-Gears that Don't Work - Henry Segerman - YouTube

For example, here’s a drawing of three gears that can’t move in the real world. They bind each other.  The design is just as impossible as the slogan printed on the graphic.

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Triple Gear - Henry Segerman - YouTube

Triple Gear – Henry Segerman – YouTube

In contrast, the Triple Gear is printed in one piece and actually moves as a unit—something entirely impossible in the recent past. A video on this design is posted below.

Prototyping is where the industry got its start because it’s such a simple way to create complex one-of-a-kind machines. You design your product using software then print it like a letter off a word processor. But instead of paper and ink, 3D printers work with materials from plastics to ceramics to bronze, copper, gold, and stainless steel alloys, to human biological tissue.

Hospitals use the printers to create titanium hip replacements. Bio-printing is another exciting prospect—printing with human cells that the body won’t reject. One burn victim received a new ear copied and inverted from the other side. Cartilage can be built—dental implants are already routinely made.

There’s even a competition to print edible meat.

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Who Uses it Now?

NASA, GE, Boing, Ford, BMW, Caterpillar, Nike, and Reebok are all working with this technology.

IMG_9552

Burton Snowboard invented the winter alternative to skiing in the ‘70s. Now they constantly improve their products using 3D printing. Under the old design standard, prototypes cost tens of thousands of dollars and took months to complete. Using 3D printers, the process goes from months to days. They iterate prototypes the way they used to iterate sketches. They print out products and test them under actual conditions.

Early adopters are already bringing 3D printers into their homes. Even the Chicago Public Library boasts one. But according to Steele, if you want to operate one, you’d better be capable of building one. “This is a robot with a lot of moving parts that all need service…Unless you’re capable of building a printer, don’t own one…Low-end models melt plastic and that causes bad things in the air—similar to smoking plus hydrogen cyanide…Filtration and a lot more research is needed.” The message is clear: Don’t try this at home—this is for professionals. But don’t despair. Steele suggests that you bring your project to a service provider that keeps up their own printers and takes jobs on contract. Dozens of these exist in Illinois alone.

3D is huge for restoration. Jay Leno, prints hard-to-find parts for his antique cars.

Tiffany and other jewelers are already using it to reduce inventory and create product. But it also brings fear to the industry. It’s now possible to design and produce wedding rings to the match each happy couple’s whim. How many jewelers can afford the equipment?

A high-end laser sintering machine can print within tolerances of 100 microns and produce stronger parts than traditional manufacturing. Such machines cost from $250K to over $1M. Low-end machines can be had for under $5K but their utility is nowhere near the high-end equipment. There’s an active government initiative to create an invent space with less expensive machines.

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Who Knows the Technology?

According to Steele, “By and large, the general public knows nothing about it. You actually have to make something to understand the process. The purpose of THE 3D PRINTER EXPERIENCE is education. That’s how to get mass adoption. Education is the least profitable but the most important.”

Mike Vasquez PhD

Mike Vasquez PhD

During his talk, Dr. Vasquez shows a video of Markus Kayser, an artist who built his own 3D printer for a few thousand dollars. In the Egyptian desert, he used the sun and a huge Fresnel lens in place of a laser. For material, he took what he found—the plentiful and entirely free sand of the desert. Kayser’s video is posted below as well as his talk at TEDx.

Markus Kayser - Solar Sinter Explained - TEDx YouTube

Markus Kayser – Solar Sinter Explained – TEDx YouTube

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The Hackers

One of the great things about the MIT Enterprise Forum is the chance to meet extraordinary people. It turns out that a thriving community exists just for the love of creation—creation of the complex products only possible with 3D printers.  These are the hackers.  Hackers are the early adopters.

I talked at length with Keith Earl Weber II of DRAGON R&D. He uses 3D printers for research and his company takes in jobs. This could be a way to get your project off the ground.

3-D Printer in action - Barnacules Nerdgasm - YouTube

Barnacule Nerdgasm’s Printing Project

I came across a video that demonstrates the practical potential of this technology with great clarity. It’s from an individual that goes by the internet handle of Barnacules Nerdgasm, but don’t let that deter you. His video is posted below.

So, are you ready for a 3D world?  Check out The 3D Printer Experience and find out.

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Contacts

THE 3D PRINTER EXPERIENCE

Julie Friedman Steele on Wikipedia

Julie@The3dPrinterExperience.com

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3D PRINTING REPORTS 

Mike Vasquez PhD

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DRAGON R&D

Contact Keith Earl Weber II  – Kewiiq2@gmail.com

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MIT ENTERPRISE FORUM, CHICAGO

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Video

THE 3D PRINTER EXPERIENCE

Our speaker, Julie Friedman-Steele

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BARNACULES NERDGASM

A hacker prints a transmission.

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HENRY SEGERMAN

First example of a triple gear, as shown at tonight’s event.

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MARKUS KAYSER

Homemade printer using the sun and sand to create products, as shown at event.

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MARKUS KAYSER AT TEDx

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Photo credits – You Tube, The 3D Printer Experience, 3D Printing Reports, Julie Friedman Steele, Mike Vasquez PhD, Markus Kayser, Henry Segerman, Barnacules Nerdgasm,

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THE LEAN STARTUP

blacksmith hammer - The Hammer SourceMichael Pollack of Rocket Fuel Labs

Verbatim, Part 4 – John Jonelis

“If it doesn’t work, get a bigger hammer.” – Butch Fischer, Local #1 Boilermaker Foreman

Entrepreneurs need a wide array of management and technology talent to build truly extraordinary companies. How do you fill those gaps while remaining lean?

What if you could draw amazing talent from a common pool as needed? What if that source was a fully functioning development studio?  What would that look like? A number of pictures spring to mind:

  1. Lower cost for each company due to pooled resources.
  2. Increased success because talent is there when you need it.

This is the picture I’m getting of Rocket Fuel Labs. They are part development studio, part incubator, part product-development resource, part innovation think tank. I’m continuing a conversation with Michael Pollack, their CEO, and he’s indicated that he wants to hone in on specific concepts.

.Rocket Fuel Labs logo - Large

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Discovery

John—Okay, let’s say I’m a customer that meets your criterion. What am I buying?

Mike—Sure, let’s walk through it. The first step is discovery. And discovery is, I think, hard for a lot of entrepreneurs. But at the conclusion of this process there’s a discovery doc, there’s a lean canvas.

Typically the start of this process is something that doesn’t get enough attention but is really the most important thing you can ever do—customer development.

Most startups fail. Not because they don’t build enough product. Most actually build too much product but never identify who their target customer is. The first step in discovery is, “Who are we targeting?” And once that’s been addressed then, “What are we building?” Because the WHO is the most important piece.

John—That’s why you stress prototyping and the lean canvas.

Mike— I agree with the agile, lean startup mentality, because we want to validate in the real world. I think Steve Blank got it right. I think Ash Maurya is spot on.

John—I thought that all came from Alexander Osterwalder.

Mike—Actually, I think it all came from Boyd John Boyd—brilliant man—military_strategist—fascinating guy—I highly recommend reading up on him. There’s one book in particular called BOYD.

BOYD

See it on Amazon

Iteration

Boyd was a Marine pilot. Top Gun was his idea. During the Korean conflict, he became fascinated by a practical question—why certain pilots succeeded and others didn’t. If you think about air-to-air combat skills, during WWII, they were very good, but in Korea, MiGs with Russian-trained Chinese pilots were taking out American planes. Our military was trying to figure out why it was happening. It’s interesting and has ramifications for most any competitive pursuit.

The Air Force at this time believed that the best pilots were the smartest pilots. They were recruiting these guys from Harvard and from Yale. They were saying, “We’ll get the most educated people.” And what John Boyd identified very quickly was that what made the best fighter pilots actually had nothing to do with decision quality. It had everything to do with decision quantity.

John—You’re saying that paralysis by analysis is not a good thing in real time, whether it’s in a dogfight or in business.

Mike—Exactly. If you’ve heard of an  OODA loop—that’s Boyd—Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

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OODA loop - Boyd - courtesy Wikipedia

OODA loop – Boyd – courtesy Wikipedia

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What he found was that the best fighter pilots weren’t the smartest or the best classically trained. The best were the ones that could make the most decisions fastest. His maxim was that decision quantity trumps decision quality.

As it pertains to a startup, what I found firsthand was this: If we designed a product that didn’t work, we pivoted. As I’ve told my teams in the past, and I ardently believe it: “Speed kills when you don’t have it.”

John—That’s a great quote. The way you state it makes me stop and think.

Mike—NOT making a decision IS a decision, and the more decisions you make, the greater the likelihood that you’re going to get to the right one because every decision, if you’re doing it right, is based on a hypothesis. You should seek to prove or disprove that very hypothesis.

What makes the lean model exciting is using data to make those pieces actionable.

Michael Pollack

Michael Pollack

When you think about the customer development process, you want to put things in place that enable those OODA loops. Are the entrepreneurs able to make a decision? Because every decision should yield more data. More data means more decisions—more decision quantity. Again, when you’re in a dogfight, quantity trumps quality.

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The MVP

John—So you’re making a minimally viable product for your client, then you’re going out and testing it, and you’re asking the customer to react, and you’re changing the product and repeating the process…

Mike—Exactly. And so part of what we’re doing is giving a startup the infrastructure to do just that. We can deploy software in ways that you couldn’t ten or fifteen years ago. In our business, we want to bring that capacity to entrepreneurs. Then we actually teach the lean process along the way.

Increasingly people are asking us to do online marketing for them because people assume, “Hey, I’m not getting customers—I must have a marketing problem.” Just because you’re not getting customers doesn’t mean you have a marketing problem.

  • It could be that you don’t have product/market fit.
  • It could be that your customer development was insufficient or you didn’t ask the right questions.
  • It could be that the product doesn’t work. There could be all sorts of elements there.

We talk to a lot of startups. We put them through discovery and they get jazzed by our process and we get excited by it, too.

  • What is the need?
  • What should we be selling?
  • What is the market missing that we can deliver better?

Don’t tell the market those things. Test your hypothesis. Let the market tell you.

John—You let the customer respond to your MVP. You rebuild it to the need and keep discovering new needs and filling those needs that the customer never thought to ask at the beginning of the process. The customer doesn’t know how to do that. Most people aren’t thinking in those terms, they’re thinking marketing studies, focus groups, surveys.

Mike—Exactly. Henry Ford has a great quote in which he said: “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Innovation is an iterative process. We’re trying to figure out the gaps in the market.

Our methodology is agile. Agile gets thrown around a lot and I think it’s kind of hollow at times. What agile means to us is this: We’re going to iterate with you. And we’re going to help figure out the problem. We want to spend time with the people feeling the pain because that’s what you need to know in order to build thoughtful solutions.

Modern-Day Venice.

Make it Stick 

As I ride back in the water taxi and gaze at the gleaming buildings it feels like a slice of some modern Venice.  A few quotes from the interview turn over and over in my head. I’m sure Pollack doesn’t lay claim to them all, but these strike me as significant:

ON VISION—“People have a hard time separating cause and effect. You can’t fix effects, but you can treat causes.”

ON INFRASTRUCTURE—“Good infrastructure is a platform. You build on it, just like software. The highway system provided the platform on which McDonalds could provide roadside dining. Hilton and Marriot could build massive hotel chains.”

ON COLLABORATION—“If I’m the smartest person in the room I know I’m in the wrong place. As the dumbest person in the room, you work harder, you think harder, you prepare for every question, and you do your homework even deeper before going to that meeting, so you can over-deliver.”

ON DISCOVERY—“Where’s the pain in your business? Once we do the whole inventory, it’s just like taking something apart. What’s working and what’s not working?”

ON MARKETS—“I never knock the competition because I’m sure they’re doing a great job. Competition helps. It creates a market. If I see inefficiency, I want to challenge it and do better.”

ON INTEGRITY—“My firm and adamant business philosophy is that I sincerely and always want to under-promise and over-deliver.”

ON EXECUTION—“A lot of entrepreneurs have an idea, but don’t know how to execute it. Even if the idea’s great, it comes down to execution. There were fifty facebooks before there was Facebook and they were all good ideas, but Mark Zuckerburg out-executed them all.”

ON THE PIVOT—“Speed kills when you don’t have it.” Ω

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BACK TO PART 1

Contacts

Rocket Fuel Labs

  • Specialties – Startups
  • Industry – Computer Software
  • Type – Privately Held
  • Company Size – 1-10 employees
  • Founded 2013
  • Expertise – Web Development & Deployment, UI/UX, Online Marketing, Product architecture, E-Commerce.
  • Headquarters – 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza #1212 Chicago, IL 60654 United States
  • Website – RocketFuelLabs.com
  • Email – Info@RocketFuelLabs.com
  • Phone – 855-4FR-LABS
  • Fax – 312-620-9655

Photos courtesy Wikipedia, Amazon, John Boyd, The Hammer Source, Michael Pollack

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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