Tag Archives: supply chain

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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Filed under App, big money, chicago, Chicago Ventures, Education, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, MIT, MIT Enterprise Forum, MITEF, TED, The City

THE TWO WHEELS OF CHANGE

Impact Engine – Part 2

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan – Investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

Impact EngineLoop Lonagan here at IMPACT ENGINE Investor Day. This is the new Chicago incubator fer companies that do well by doin’ good—and doin’ it profitably! Think of it—we’re gathered here to get richer by makin’ all them other poor slobs around the world prosper! This I like!

The keynote speaker is FK Day. (He calls hisself  FK fer short.) And he tells us a story that knocks us outa our seats. This is a real unusual chain of events that speaks about the virtues of capitalism doing alotta good by helping folks raise their own well-being.

Buffalo Bicycles

Here’s the shortlist:

  • The story starts with SRAM that makes high-end bike parts.
  • Then FK starts World Bicycle Relief—a not-fer-profit.
  • That leads to Buffalo Bicycles—a self-sustaining company.

Impact Investing

The Chase Auditorium’s packed with serious investors. Them’s the only kind they let in the place today and this hall seats over 500 of them rascals. They’s all squealin’ ‘n’ squirmin’ to get a piece o’ the action. Sheesh—I ain’t seen so much money in one room since I…well I ain’t s’posed to talk about that so lemme move on. I’m here to do summa that Impact Investing, just like da rest o’ these clowns. But first lemme get back to the keynote speaker

(Note to Editor—All that coffee I swilled down‘s got my eyes buggin’ out ‘n’ I feel a whole lot more coherent. I’m gonna give you the skinny on this thing. But I want you should cut me some slack—just in case I get something out o’ order.)

(Editor’s Note—Nobody’s perfect. I’ll print it just as you dictate it.)

Okay, so dis story starts after FK pioneers bicycle shifters ‘n’ brakes at SRAM. His stuff’s in high-end bikes AND in all the big international races. Even poor disgraced Lance Armstrong uses SRAM components so you gotta figure that FK knows a thing or two about bikes.

Hey—this is a Chicago company, okay? Don’t get no better ‘n’ that, right? Well actually it does as you’ll see in uno momento.

Bicycles WBR 1

World Bicycle Relief

Remember that big tsunami in Indonesia? FK and his wife go there to lend a hand. They’re lookin’ for a better solution than the NGO relief organizations. So they asks people lotsa questions.

Turns out nobody can earn a living or make any economic progress ‘cause there’s no transportation. Everybody’s on foot. That ain’t too efficient. There’s kids spendin’ six hours a day walkin’ to school ‘n’ back. Mothers carryin’ groceries long distance. And get this—businesmen haulin’ their wares to market 5 or 10 miles on foot.

You think da rush hour here in Chicago eats into yer day? It’s nothin’ compared to this. This is no way to do business. This keeps folks in poverty.

The Power of Bicycles 3

FK’s a bike guy, so he shows up pre-loaded with the natural solution to the problem. He runs experiments and finds out alotta things. Turns out a bicycle can increase the income of a poor family in a big way. Looks like it’s the single best way to fight poverty in these primitive areas.

So he creates the not-fer-profit organization, World Bicycle Relief, which is a real big deal. They partner with WorldVision and alotta other organizations.  They give out 24,400 bicycles in Indonesia.

Bicycles WBR 2

Africa

FK starts a buncha 9-day trips to Zambia to fight HIV/AIDS and creates a special bike for it. Bicycles WBR 10

His folks first task is to assemble their bikes so’s they can get around. Their last task, before they leave, is to turn over their bikes to the villagers.

Bicycles WBR 9 FEELING GOOD

FK gives out 90,000 bicycles this way and learns a lot more about the problem.

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By now he’s got three well-defined areas he wants to impact:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Economic development

Bicycles WBR 3

I think education tugs at him strongest.  Kids in these countries gotta travel a real long way to school and still have time to do chores not to mention homework.  With bicycles, they can get to school more often.  That builds up the whole culture by givin’ these people a future.  Givin’ ’em hope.  Summa these folks wanna be teachers, doctors, engineers.  Somethin’ as simple as a bicycle can make that happen.

Lemme get you started with a terrific video. Have a look at it ‘n’ then I’ll tell you more.

Pretty good stuff, doncha think? Bottom line—bikes carry more weight farther and faster than shoes. Bikes get kids to school, people to clinics, and they get businessmen to markets!

Bicycles WBR 11

FK tells the story of a dairy farmer in Zambia. With a bike, he can get to the co-op twice a day insteada just once.

That instantaneously doubles his income! 

Summa these guys mount homemade cargo boxes on these bikes and use ‘em like trucks.

Bicycles WBR 6

According to FK, the most powerful bike in the world is one in the hands of a mudder feedin’ her family or a fadder making a buck fer his family or a kid gettin’ an education to claw his way outa poverty. All o’ these takes transportation. And education is real important. You gotta learn readin’, ‘rightin’, and ‘rithmetic and how to speak yer language da right way or yer never gettin’ nowhere in dis here world.

Bicycles WBR 7

Buffalo Bicycles

Lemme go back to the hardware development phase. FK takes this jeep trip down them things called roads in Zambia. Whadaya think he sees? Busted bikes in the ditches ever’place he goes—every brand ‘n’ model on the planet. Says it looks like somthin’ outa The Andromeda Strain. (That’s a movie in case you fergot.)

Bicycles WBR 8These bikes come from well-meaning charities. But it’s all wasted. People in Zambia take to callin’ ‘em Chinese Junks. Off-the-shelf bikes is way too flimsy fer this kinda terrain.

So whadaya think the average lifespan is for yer typical off-the-shelf bike? 30 days! That’s it! And there’s no way to fix ‘em neither! Too many different brands. No parts. No mechanics.

FK figures what they need:

  • Standardized bicycle
  • Standardized parts
  • Real, real rugged
  • Trained mechanics
  • Supply Chain

Bicycles WBR 14 THE BIKE

The Buffalo Bicycle is a rugged design like no other. It can withstand rough roads while carrying a load o’ trade goods to market.

Here’s a video of FK in Africa riding the roads with folks:

Da Business

Charity’s a good thing.  But how do ya make it self-sustaining?  How do ya make it grow like a hockey stick?  You turn it into a business.  Business can be a helluvalot more powerful than an outstretched hand.  A little capitalism can be good fer da soul and FK’s a capitalist at heart.  

FK sells the Buffalo Bicycle to third-world businessmen at a profit.  That makes the project self-sustaining.  He trains and supplies mechanics.  And that maintenance network is self-sustaining too. So far they got 124,754 bikes out there where they can do some good. 

He shows us graphs ‘n’ charts. He’s gonna be building 100,000 bicycles in eight African-based supply chains in 2015.  This program is scalable and sustainable.

Bikes from website 2

Remember all that research I told you about? FK makes a key point about that. He learned everything he ever needed to know from the end user. We need to stay deeply in touch with these people. The answers almost always come from there.

Bicycles WBR 13 Wrigley FieldAnd to me, the amazing thing is that he went and figured out da problem and da solution ‘n’ engineered such a wonderful outcome.  He bootstrapped all o’ this starting with lotsa fund-raising drives like the annual Wrigley Field Road Tour which is a part of Chicago Cubs Charities. 

Here’s a candid video of FK thanking his volunteers after a small fundraising drive–one of many:

Next up is a company called ThinkCERCA. Meanwhile, check out summa the other articles about Buffalo Bicycles below.  Ω

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CONTINUE TO PART 3

Go back to Part 1

More Reading

Wrigley Field Road Tour

http://worldbicyclerelief.org/pages/wrigley-field-road-tour

World Bicycle Relief on Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Bicycle_Relief

Article in Forbes

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0510/creative-giving-sram-zambia-charity-armstrong-bicycle-economy.html

BBC Article in TON

http://timesofnews.co/2012/03/15/can-the-buffalo-change-africas-bicycle-culture/

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Da Contacts

FK Day

FK Day

World Bicycle Relief website  http://worldbicyclerelief.org

WBR on Facebook  www.facebook.com/worldbicyclerelief

SRAM Logo

SRAM Corp.  http://www.sram.com/

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IMPACT ENGINE website  www.TheImpactEngine.com

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[ Photos and video courtesy of World Bicycle Relief ]

Impact Engine

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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