Friday, 20 December 2013

Michiel van der Kley of ProjectEGG talks to #3DPM

"It started with me wanting to do something really new."

Michiel van der Kley, the Tilburg based product designer agreed to give us an interview.  Michiel has received many accolades for his work designing office furniture, but found himself wanting to step away from the lime-light, and seeking something more true to himself.  In his journey of self-discovery, he eventually found himself at the doors of 3D printing.  In his own words, "it was a design language that I could really understand".  Along that journey Michiel has come up with ProjectEGG.

ProjectEGG is a 3D printed space to be made up of 4760 'stones'.  Each stone is individually designed by Michiel, however rather than have a traditional manufacturing process - in this case outsourcing to a 3D printing bureau; he took a different route.  Anybody can adopt a 'stone', which will be printed by Michiel in his studio, alternatively people are sent the .stl files and the basic instructions to print their own stone with their own unique features.  ProjectEGG is to receive its debut at the Milan Furniture Fair in April 2014.  It will then take a tour around the world.  The use of 3D printing in construction, and how it can revolutionise logistics, is of interest to many stake-holders, and it's also excited us at #3DPM.

#3DPM's founders have been advocating using 3D printing to generate skills and to revolutionise every aspects of our lives.  Michiel's vision realised via the new language of 3D printed design, direct to the people that want the design; is exactly the democratising change we want to inculcate into our workshop and education programmes.  Together #3DPM and ProjectEGG are working towards furthering our mutual aims.   #3DPM in collaboration with BCP Labs, are working with ProjectEGG to collect all the U.K. printed stones, in time for Michiel to pick them up and give a talk through us in February 2014.  More details for this will follow into the early part of 2014.

In this inaugural end of year interview for #3DPM, Michiel van der Kley talks to us about ProjectEGG, where his design inspirations have come from, and the work process that he's had to go through in order to realise his creation - "to give birth to ProjectEGG".

"I was afraid of taking up an invitation to talk at a school, I didn't think they'd enjoy it.  I am now not afraid after your workshop experience, I think they'd gain from it.  I have three sons, and they're not afraid of this (3D printing) at all.  I'm of a generation that just wants a book that tells us what to do, kids aren't scared and they just go for it...."

So what made you get into product design....

Originally I wanted to be a history teacher, and thats actually the only qualification I have.  I was teaching, and the kids didn't really get it.  The kids thought "the old people are dead, why should be go on about it?".  I thought what I needed to do was connect the kids with how people in the past would talk about their future, so I looked for poetry, architecture, furniture, music.  I came across the 'Hill House' chair by (Charles Rennie) Mackintosh, and I was fooled! It said 1906, and I thought that's a misprint, it should be 1966.  How come there were chairs that I don't know about?  So I went back to school and showed them (the kids) the relationship between the past and the future, but I got stuck with the chairs.  I went into a furniture shop and it would be the same as any other shop, and I was shocked when I saw a lot of rubbish; and I thought fine I'll do it myself.  Then I got lucky, and  a year after that, a gallery/art space wanted to sell my furniture.  I showed off my stuff, and it sold really well. I then decided to leave teaching behind, and I decided to do it all myself; but I found I'm not good at selling things.  For the next five years everything went through commercial distribution.

So why office furniture....

It started with all kinds of furniture, I've done beds, chairs, then I got known for certain kinds of furniture, like the Globus chair, that really made me known around the world.  People said it was too expensive, too silly, but then all of a sudden it was world-famous.

...after a break, into 3D printing, then into the egg?

For about five years I was at the top of being a 'rock-star' designer, but the lifestyle wasn't my cup of tea, and I wanted to find something really new.  I thought even if I could design the nicest couch you've ever seen, it's still a couch that'll simply replace another lovely couch. I thought I'd like to do something really new.  I think like a history teacher sometimes, and I thought of this, over the ages there's been a shared language.  It's always been driven by some means of production.  In the past they learnt how to bend wood using water, and it gave us chairs that are world famous now, but they simply weren't there in history before.  Now we see that with the tube chairs or cantilever chairs, and then we see in the fifties and sixties when plastics arrived - so what was the material of today?  So there are new materials, but they don't really add up to a new language.  Well we had the computer, so I said I wanted to do something in this new language.  Then I saw 3D printing, and I got really excited.  I could see that we had this new technology, and if you don't mind me saying so, most people were producing the same stuff we've seen before? Nothing new, and not really using this technology to create a new language from 3D printing.  I didn't know what it would be be, so I took a year off or two, and I tried to find out the limitations.  I tried the old way, and I designed something and went to a shop and asked them to print it for me, but thats the old way.  I bought one, and I said the same as everyone else, "yes you can print anything!" - it's not true.  Printing is not just pressing a button, and waiting - you have to adapt and improve your skills.  I designed something without knowing what it was.  I just made structures that I liked.  If it didn't work, I improved the model to make it better to print, and I tweaked it not knowing what it (the printer) would produce.  

Was the printer in the shop different from the one you purchased?

Yes they used powder.  They didn't have to deal with gravity as much as we do with FDM (FFF).  I just thought we could do anything (back then), but it all (horizontals and bridges) dropped.  Then speaking to the printer manufacturers, they said you needed supports, then tried to to find the methods, then I got it, then the supports were rock solid, making any model unusable!  This was the 'old days', I'm saying the 'old days', it was only two years ago.  Then, there was new technology, new software, and things are (now) much better.  I wanted something in the end that could be printed in an easy manner, but still have the features I wanted.  

There was a morning when I was sat in the sun with a product of mine, it was like a farce.  I was trying to attach a structure to it, and then trying to find out if the structure could be the object itself.  I thought O.K., I would try and think of something that could be as large as a person, large as I could make it.  That was the start of the idea I am working on now.  One of the limitations of the printer is it's size, so I thought I'd see it as an advantage.  I'd try and find a language that relates to be only able to print small parts.  I've always been inspired by many esoteric things, so it came from there.  The preliminary design was an open stone, which I then had to find out if it was strong - I'm a designer, not an engineer.  I got help from an engineer who analyse it using a programme.  It made me laugh actually, she had worked on it for three days.  She should have just said that you could use the design, but she said "the building will bend through 4.9 millimetres".  I said "centimetres", she was still in shock and replied "no, millimetres" - so I was fine with that! is structurally sound, so can you tell us what impact 3D printing has had on your design thought processes?

I was actually just thinking about that before this interview.  When you design, you still have to relate to the production methods.  Now I can think in a different way.  Now I just think, "how do I print this?".  I can now just do it straight away, I don't allow others to prototype.  I mean people can open shops of their own stuff, but I see it (people designing and building their own things) might happen more.  In the 'old days', you had a design and you needed a public company to make it happen, and they filtered your creativity.  Now I can reach out to my public, just like that.  This is a big change.  Another thing is, something I'm doing now, with the birth of desktop 3D printing.  I can now just send the print to someone else's printer, and now I don't need a boat, a plane or a truck to send a whole made piece. In order to make it (the 3D printing revolution) work, this is what nees to happen, we can all think about changing the world.

In history, the first cars looked like carriages without the horse.  It took ten to twenty years to develop different design ideas.  This will happen for 3D printed things.  In 2008, they weren't ready for new furniture.  So now this is what I want, to design something completely new.  So when they asked me to print a chair, I said I don't want to do that.  I wanted to do something new, like the 3D printed space. Then I can let other people decide what it is.

What have you seen so far that you can't do with 3D printing?

I've had problems with supports (supporting structures to aid prints), I don't like them much, I hated them.  So I'd always have to ask myself do I need support structures?  I now try to design something that uses the support structures as part of the object, so you're saying that it doesn't really need support structures as it's part of the object itself.  Another limitation is the size (of the printer).  Some people try to build large printers.  In Italy there are 3D concrete printers to build houses.  I decided to turn it (the size) into an advantage.  Other limitations are the look.  I really like the 'skin' on 3D printed objects, but I know a lot of people see it the other way around.  They want it (their printed objects) to to be shiny, or like a plastic product, printing at 0.4 mm to get the 'shiny' skin.  That's one way of looking at it, but I turned it around.  I heard someone suggest that we should look at it like it was wood.  It has unique grains.  So show 3D printed lines as the grain.  Then you can change your design to make the skin look really lovely.  You can just design something and print it to be a copy of something manufactured, or you can design in the language of 3D materials.
I've found dealing with the smaller 3D printing companies, you always get an answer.  The larger corporations don't answer.  Now the communities around these 3D printer companies react, and this feeds-back to the companies themselves.  Smaller companies are seeking out answers from the communities that have grown up around their products and services.  

Did you end up having a technical specification for your brick?

That was a bit of a challenge.  I usually send people the design, and tell them how I printed it. I tell them to print it themselves, as they choose.  Some people will print according to my instructions, and then some people tweak it by printing how they want.  A printer from New York told me that the screw attaching each stone to each other would transmit the physical forces of the structure.  The whole of projectEGG would weigh 600 kgs and all it has to deal with is its own weight, the majority of which is below the middle line.  Some architects are really following this process, as they want to understand how 3D printing would be involved in future constructions.  The difficulty engineers have with this structure is that each stone was built using individual layers of material, and the overall stone is not a solid material structure.  It has a layer by layer construction, so how are the forces working? So ultimately I don't have too many specifications and I see where it leads.

Are you getting enough interest in this project?

I started the project out on Facebook and I didn't know what would happen.  I've been amazed by the social media reaction.  Still, I had a few nights where I couldn't sleep when I realised we had to be finished by April.  Some groups in North America are interested. Some larger 3D printer firms are interested, but I'm not sure at this moment what sort of collaboration they want.  Ultimaker have leant me five printers for the duration of the project to print out more bricks.  So between current adopters of stones, individual printers and the sponsors, I'll be able to fulfill the tally.  It's been great, as some participants want to bring the stones to me and want to see the build.  I've asked people to make a stone and to take a picture of that stone in an interested place, and then to send it back to it's designer.  It's so lovely to see the picture and to see the people all over the world taking pictures and taking part.

Do you have any 3D printing aims post ProjectEGG?

First, I've learnt how to push design aspects out to others.  So whatever it is, it will be a co-designed 'thing' as my next step.  I could also go for a 3D printed car, but to be honest I haven't made up my mind yet.  I do know that I want to stay involved with the 3D printing language.  I'm not interested in the technique per se, although I've developed an understanding of the technology now.  I actually think a lot of people involved in 3D printing enjoy it when the printer is not working.  That's not my cup of tea, but I do want to get involved with where the printer will take us - it's democratising.  It helps to connect all kinds of people too, I love that.  I love that it's freeing in some way.  I like that you make a design, but instead of being paid through sales royalties; it won't work for 3D printing.  You don't give away your idea, but you spread it and develop new ways to get paid.  I still have other furniture commission, but it's the old world, even though I still love doing it.  However the new world really appeals to me.

The music industry is an example of where we might go.  In the past they would litigate to stop online music distribution.  That was until iTunes came along.  3D printing may be moved along the same way.  

How long do you think it will be before your paid commissions will be for 3D printed items alone?

I think it will be sooner rather than later.  I've been thinking of ways to commercialise this.  I think that maybe someone pays me a one-off fee, then a group of people can print as many of these units you like.  So long as they don't open a shop for example.  You could end up sending people the .stl and then they spread it.  I mean come on, it will definitely end up all over the internet, but you know what? I don't care! It's going to happen, lets work with it.  (Editors note: The day of the interview, news of '' came to light - a proposed method to distribute for a small royalty licenced designs).

There is also something else of interest.  In terms of recycling, I know some guys who are trying to develop machines where you can recycle your PLA.  I'm told it's not as good as you think, but I now collect all my old PLA waiting for that to come true.  Then I can say, print what I like, then when you're fed up with it, you recycle it! It's interesting to see how that would change society!

#3DPM wishes each and every one of you, 
a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Monday, 16 December 2013

#3DPM@FACT Liverpool 7th & 14th of December 2013

3D printing continues to impress no matter where we go, visibly lighting up peoples faces, be they 7 or 70 years old; and it's truly rewarding.  We at #3DPM want to take it further. We don't want to wait for the schools to integrate 3D printing into the school's curriculum, then ten years down the line watch former students begin the revolution for their generation.  We want it to happen now!

Vive la revolution!

#3DPM has developed and run a 'free at point of contact' workshops for children and families to develop the thought and imagination process required to turn your ideas into 3D printed articles.  #3DPM's first workshop did this by allowing people to draw items related to a theme, taking that idea through the design process; then moving on to the chance to have your design printed.

How to bond families with 3D design

The essence of the workshop? To plant the seed of a child-like curiosity and imagination.  Yes, the workshop participants may hit the limits of current technology, but we must instil the notion that anything may soon be possible to fully realise the 3D printing revolution.  These limits will dissipate as the technology and design tools improve, but the imagination process remains and flourishes.

Mark and I worked with Anna at FACT to deliver two workshops to the general public and one to a group of veterans through 'Help for Heroes'.  With the help of Keith and Joanna we delivered the workshops with a lot of positive feedback.  We had so many people turn up, we had people turn up the second week to try it again and see their designs they did at home (after sampling Sketchup the first week).

FACT have asked us back to work on new projects in the new year and in 2015, so we'll be back in Liverpool soon. You'll also see news of new workshops and courses in the new year.  So, this is definitely us in terms of events for 2013! We've a few more blog posts to come - in particular the interview with Michiel van der Kley! So keep coming back to check us out, merry Christmas and a happy new year!

FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology)

#3DPM at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) we had a good time!

3D-printed skull mimics feel of brain surgery

Reproduce yourself with a 3D printer...

Friday, 13 December 2013

BCP Labs & #3DPM at the South Manchester Radio & Computing Club

Last night #3DPM in collaboration with BCP Labs, found itself giving a talk about 3D Printing to the South Manchester Radio and Computer Club (SMRCC).  Dave and Bill (Erstwhile members of the SMRCC) had booked us to give a talk and demonstration, months ago, and they had the dubious honour of being the first to ask us to do so.

Keith setting up with Mark and half (just half!!) the SMRCC looking on!

Mark, Keith, new-member Joanna, and myself went along with two BCP-01 FFF/FDM-like 3D printers, went along to talk, answer questions and show off 3D printed items.

A BCP Labs 01 FFF 3D printer and a 3D printed bust of Barbirolli from the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester
Around 30 members of the SMRCC turned up, and we were told that they had one of the most enthusiastically received talks and demo's in recent meetings.  A great time was had by all, and lots of interest was garnered.

SMRCC old guard & committee flanked by a BCP 01
Watch this space for future co-run meetings between #3DPM and SMRCC sponsored by BCP Labs.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The 3D Printing Industry (2013)

I think some of you will be interested in this overview of the 3D printing industry...

Monday, 9 December 2013

Updated Meetings & Events

Just to let you know "Meetings & Events" has just been updated; looking forward to the "South Manchester Radio and Computing Club" and FACT events :-)

#3DPM & ProjectEGG

Sunday, 8 December 2013


7th of December saw #3DPM run the first of a new workshop programme developed to bring 3D printing to children and adults simultaneously, whilst showing the basic thought processes that enable 3D printing to bring a social revolution.

We had 100 people turn up over four hours and one couple were so interested, they were there for the entire time! Really good to see, and a full blog post with pictures and audio will be posted after the next workshop at FACT Liverpool, which is on the 14th! Check their website for details, and meeting events on our blog!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

#3DPM gets a permanant office!

So with the next round of group meetings not set until January, we've set our minds to where we could get a workshop and teaching space outside of when MadLab generously accommodates us! Seek and ye shall find!! Or at least Mark did!

Our future teaching space and office!

#3DPM operates to get people interested in incorporating 3D printing in their business model from the ground up. To this end, we've secured office, teaching and workshop space attached to a bona fide market place, JWRetailing in Farnworth.

A future electronics workshop!
From January 2014, #3DPM will continue their 3D printer meetings at MadLab twice a month, but we'll also have one group meeting on a Saturday every month. This will allow you to get your hands on a 3D printer and the skills and tools you need to build your own or work on your own.

Monday to Saturday, you'll be able to come down to learn how to use a 3D printer, see one in action, or get your own and the consumables. #3DPM continues to be the number 1 forum of 3D printer knowledge exchange in the north west!

We're planning on running courses for everyone to learn all the appropriate skills, and to this end we'd love to hear from people who want to intern with us and learn and teach some skills! We're looking, so get in touch!  If you feel you want to take our business model forward, get in touch and we can talk!

What's more, if you end up spinning out your own business in 3D printing, then you'll have a ready made pitch in the surrounding space to use. A perfect place to keep in touch and build your own marketplace.

It's not much to look at right now, but we'll be ready, and we hope you'll be ready for us into 2014!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

#3DPM Video Log 2013 Mark's Cut

I thought I would spice up Sam's vlog about #3DPM 2013 activities. Sam had laboured tirelessly, until 6 in the morning creating his master piece. Not only did I upset Sam by ripping off his hard work, but I also upset Google, Buena Vista Social Club and its copyright lawyers. I think I have got away with a warning this time, so I will be more careful in the future. Okay if you can do any better lets see it :-)

Here is my attempt ... #3DPM Vlog Mark's Cut


Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Last Meeting of 2013 - #3DPM 25th November 2013

#3DPM has come to a natural end for 2013, and it's been a great journey for all of us involved. Our founding year has seen us take 3D printing and turn it into a successful way to inculcate skills generation in the north-west.  We've moved from our initial founding after a chance meeting at Tech-Hub, to MDDA's offices, to our current residence - MadLab.

Along the way, we've met so many people, some who've become regular group members, and some who haven't.  However everyone who has been involved has always left with a deeper knowledge of 3D printing and what it could do for them.

We've spun out a company that designs and builds 3D printers - BCP Labs, and we're all set to go from strength to strength in 2014 with workshops, and educational programmes based on our group principles.

We're going to be running the first of #3DPM's workshops at FACT Liverpool on the 7th and 14th of December 2013.  So we'll see you all the mean time, to celebrate our founding year, we've taken pictures from all our meetings and events this year, and set it to some audio from our last meeting this year at MadLab on the 25th of November 2013.

Thanks to Joanna, Martin, Keith, Mark, Alice (and her editor) from UCLan's Orbis student magazine, and MadLab who have our thanks for hosting us for making the last meeting of 2013 a great one!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

London 3DPrint Show 7-9 November


I took a few days off work and went down to "the big smoke", to Angel Islington specifically. (That's the blue one on Monopoly isn't it?). The Business Design Centre was holding the second 3D Print Show - obviously I wasn't tuned into 3D printing last year (2012) 'cos i missed that.

I am really glad I went it is a huge hall reminds me of GMEX and it had over 50 exhibitors. With printers ranging in price from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands, and ranging in size from very small desktop footprint to the largest enclosed cabinet extruding machine I have seen- almost the size of a little coffee shop. The base plate's smallest dimension was 1metre it had the name (Aroja on it but I don't see it on the web site).

The first person I spoke to was the owner of a kickstart business with simplicity in mind- his business card reflected the minimalist attitude with "PB printrbot" in bottom corner and other side the web site "". He had on show 2 wooden based printers - one he claims must be the cheapest in the world at $300. Apart from the 3Doodler pen he must be right. and yes the founders of the 3Doodler kickstarter were also there - they had a couple of tables set out and invited people to try it out for themselves. I think this is the first thing I heard about relating to 3D printing - one of those distractions on youtube.

As with a lot of the exhibitors they were either kickstarters or prototypes or had no UK distributor's and so you could not walk away with a device from the show.

The most eye catching display was not an actual inventor or supplier of 3D printing device but a commercial customer- and from my favourite hobby topic is from the movie effects industry, it was LegacyEffects -they brought with them large amount of props from Film and TV commercials that they have been involved in. IronMan, Real Steel, Pacific Rim, Avatar, Thor. They had a little cinema set up showing a youtube video with the narrator explaining they could not have down these projects in the time scale without the use of 3D printers. - I would have loved to question further if there was someone actually from LegacyEffects to speak to. Because one of my biggest concerns at the moment is the fact that 3Dprinting takes so long for anything of a substantial size. So the 8ft Noisy Boy robot from Real Steel could not have been done in a couple of days- I assume that the 3dprinting process provides a base structure which is used to apply shiny coatings and finishing before it is ready to go in front of a high def 4K camera. In fact there was a specific stand showing the 3 phases of the model of Thor's hammer from the first plain matt grey plastic to multi material version to the final coloured leather bond version- all behind display screens of course.
Actually I am getting distracted just by looking at these URL links I have added to this blog. Saw that LegacyEffects did the spectacular diorama used in one of the Halo commercials. I did wonder how they got those models so life like.

Back to the exhibition... I got to meet Sam one of the founders of Formlabs kickstarter the domestic SL printer which uses there own specialist resin - again I could not walk away with a model even if I had the money. You can order one and it will have to be shipped from America. It wouldn't be too bad as a one off shipping cost but as you can only get their raw material from them AND in 1Kg bottles this could be prohibitively costly.

There were lots of services based industries there and CADventure was one I wanted to speak to because they provide the SLS full colour print outs as a service and they are based in the UK.

This does tend to be quite an expensive option per model but it seems to be one of the few UK companies that I am aware of.

The alternative is via an machine from MCor which provides the cheapest full colour print out around. However they don't have a service as yet in the UK - they just want to sell you the product.
Which is £35K I think. But they have been doing a deal with Staples in the Netherlands as a pilot- which I am looking forward to- when/if it comes to the UK. It uses an ingenious method of normal laser printed A4 sheet -i.e. you print the slices of your model at the thickness of the paper - it takes each slice across and glues to the previous page and then cuts out the layer using a blade that just cuts to a depth of that one sheet thick.

Another exhibitor I wanted to see was EuroPac from Crewe who are a 3D services company who have been providing a service to engineers for quite some time. But they seem to have set up Quod a separate scanning company- who were also there providing a £250 scan and print service during the exhibition.

A few of the companies including a research department of Nottingham University were showing of the various materials that can be printed. But I was really taken by the ingenuity of WASP which used a huge Delta Tower to print a clay based beehive- so there was some using a mixer for the clay and fed that into a hopper which pushed the material down a nozzle and formed a beehive -excellent however the resolution is crude and I don't think I could use it for a sculpture- but it was fit for their purpose. They also had a printer that had interchangeable heads- i.e. change it for a drill and use it as a CNC milling machine- it carved into wood pieces. They could change to a laser that could cut vinyl for lettering, also a syringe could be filled with liquid ceramic and the printer would just press on the plunger. Its not clear from the associated web site but I thought this was very versatile way to go.

I am not going to be able to list everything I saw here (here is the full list) but I think Sam P. would have like to have seen the dedicated medical stand which had a scientist Alan Faulkner Jones using a makerbot to squeeze out stem cells- I couldn't get to chat with him as he literally had a queue of camera crews lined up or should I say jostling to have the next interview with him.

I definitely came away from the day satisfied that this is the thing that will dominate the future gadget market.

Hope you I gave you something to consider and follow the links. I think we should be able to set our own exhibition in Manchester soon. What do you think? What about a magazine lin the form of "which 3Dprinter"?

I might come back and update this post with photos. let me know.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Next Meeting at MadLab Monday 11th November!

Our pioneers are getting more ambitious now they are understanding what #3DPrinting is really about.
This time we are going to have a Xmas theme and print decorations you guys design or find on the internet, as well as the usual activities.

Come along anyway, and if you can bring a laptop with Google Sketch-up installed. We're now a space for designing and optimising your 3D print designs and finished items, and a general forum of 3D printer advice and exchange!

#3DPM is in the process of being officially recognised as a charity and we have already helped build new businesses. #3DPM is setup to inform and motivate local Manchester companies, schools and individuals to develop their interests in this technology.

We are Manchester's centre of excellence for all things #3DPrinting. We are the real deal, real people with real ideas! So if you are looking to get involved you are welcome to join us.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Twenty First Century Manufacturing Renaissance

#3DPM the #3DPrinting network of Manchester is pioneering the early twenty first century manufacturing renaissance. Why? Because we care and want to, and we have a viable strategy to make things happen.

For too long our mealy mouthed political leaders have sold the country short, wrecking the economy by corrupting our money, buying votes with debt rather than investing in its future.  Fortunately we have been gifted with the power of the internet, and before this asset is also stripped and access denied to all but the privileged few. We will use it to liberate technology for the masses; to build a better future from the ground up.

3D Printing is doing great things and has the potential to change all our lives for the better. Together we are spreading awareness and explaining the realities of this technology; and helping our pioneering members’ gain skills and get access to 3D tools; for personal edification and if inclined to, to develop 3D printing as part of their business ventures. The future is bright, the future is 3D.  

Monday, 23 September 2013

My First's

     This is my first visit to the MadLabs and first visit to the 3D Printing network group in Manchester, but also my first ever blog entry. Sam invited me to contribute.
So bear with me while I get my head around this blogger and I will try to enter my personal views of my adventure into 3D printing and 3D modelling.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

MeetUp at MadLab Reminder! Mon 26/Sep/13

Just a quick reminder of our next meeting on Monday 26/Sep/13 and the reasons why we are doing this. Also, Sam you need to put a link/message at the top of this blog :-) for easy access to information about our events!

FYI: see

Our Operating Principles     

1. To establish regular meet-ups that share and develop interests concerning 3D printing.
2. #3DPM encourages the cross-pollination of ideas and development of expertise not bound by commercial interest.
3. To establish a modest operating fund; paid for by all members to cover costs of meeting places, communication and group projects; transparent and openly accountable to all members.
4. #3DPM seeks to bring together in one venue enough printers and resources for members to explore ideas, learn skills; and to develop the venue as a permanent 3D printing resource and local forum of exchange.
5. To actively promote #3DPM, members are encouraged to post content and links directly and indirectly related to 3D printing.
6. To develop #3DPM as a professional charitable organisation with lobbying strength to further the network aims in 3D printing.
7. Members will periodically (at least every year), democratically review #3DPM operating principles, expenses, procedures, rules, organisation, codes of practice, and other issues.

Friday, 13 September 2013

#3DPM@MadLab 9th September 2013

So another meeting rolled around, as the little summer we've had in Manchester is also drawing to a close. We started this meeting a bit late as an entrepreneurs organisation had booked the venue for a one-off 'Dragons' Den' style business pitch competition and they were running over.  So we finally got started and set-up with the help of group members old and some new - a big thank you to everyone for pitching in!

Every meeting ends up taking an interesting turn, as we get a printer or two going, set it off, and then everyone gets their laptops and imaginations out. Where the three hours goes is anyone's guess. This time, we ended up with a few milestones for the group.

Our largest cross-section of ages and backgrounds, our first sale of a 3D printer to help fund the group's long-term ambitions, and helping yet another business take-form through the group.

#3DPM'ers at it again..
The featured printer that we're providing through the group is the BCP 01 from BCP Labs.  This single head printer is one we've talked about in the past, and we've started offering this one as we're already familiar with it, and as we'll show, it'll produce results as good as any printer on the market currently.  So yes, Steve put in a deposit for an '01', duly putting in some money into our coffers, and some into those of MadLab; our illustrious hosts.  He should be getting his by the next #3DPM meeting!  More about what Steve wants to do with it later in this blog, but before that #3DPM are looking to host other printer manufacturers, so bring it! We'll offer your products too if they're good enough!

Wild Bill sits down to learn Sketchup Make!
Bill is one of our new members, who's also a member of a north west amateur radio user group. Through him, we're going to be making a 3D printing presentation in December, which has been advertised in the nationally published almanac.  Also joining us for the first time was a 10 year old from Longsight, who had dragged his father along to a 3D printer group at MadLab as he'd heard about it at school! Decades separated both Bill and our new member straight from his tea, with his father in tow; but they both took to Sketchup with aplomb.

Over the coming weeks we'll be helping build everyone's skills using 3D design software (including my own), and we'll be testing out our designs on the club's BCP 01.  This contributes towards the groups goals of skill generation.

Steve helping us through the installation of Sculptris
Steve introduced the CG software Sculptris to the group. It's the less sophisticated sister to Z-brush, but appears to be a really good piece of CGI type software to add interesting effects into sketchup.  We'd like to see whether we could put these effects and have them printed successfully. We'll let you all know over the coming weeks!

Steve's 'thing'
Steve put down a deposit for a BCP 01 so he could prototype and build more these gadgets. We were all amazed that in PLA we could get the size of overhang in one print, in one go without repeat.  The gadget is part of a larger manufactured gadget, and Steve says it was perfect!

The next meeting is on the 23rd of September 2013 at MadLab in Edge Street, Manchester. Come one and all, everyone is invited, and it's still free to come and enjoy.  Feel free to contact us, especially if you're interested in the big art project, or want to commercialise your 3D printed products!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Sam went to iMakr..

I got involved with 3D printing in any substantive sense earlier this year. However it was two or three years ago when I briefly investigated using a 3D printer to develop the embryo implantation system I was working on during my doctoral studies.  I wanted to develop an accurate (down to the micron-scale) PLA or other polymer based system in which surface morphology could be directed to influence and understand embryo development (all in the lab setting).  Ultimately 3D printing at the time wasn't going to work, and I achieved success using another method.

I mention this, as now I'm properly involved with 3D printing, I get to think about what I'll do with my printer once it's built  (the building of which is a subject of a future set of blog posts).  My mind often wanders back to science, and needing better resolutions, and what I could do scientifically with a 3D printer now.

To that end, I was in London, and wanted to see the type of printers available on a shop floor side-by-side at iMakr's store.  I was particularly interested in the Felix 2.0, a printer supposedly able to go down to 0.05 mm resolution, or 50 ┬Ám resolution in different 'money'.

They didn't actually have it on show, but I did get an eye-full of the MakerBot Replicator 2X. I can confirm, it does look good, but I'm not convinced its worth nearly £2k!  They had a few other printers on show, but ultimately the star was their MakerBot.  I shall stick with the printer I'm building, and see how I can upgrade the resolution!

All in all I found the iMakr guys enthusiastic, and the London crowd likes to watch printers making 'things' as much as the Manchester passers-by do too.  This gives me a chance to plug the MadLab shop that's being developed as we speak. #3DPM are looking to have our shop space at least once a week on the corner of Edge Street in Manchester.  We'll be offering printers, consumables and 3D printed wares from local makers for sale. Watch this space for that!

Sam :)

#3DPM@MadLab 26th August 2013

So our bank holiday meeting went really well. Yet more new members, this time from a local ham radio club. We did end up sharing the space with the Sanctuary Gamers, who were having a bank holiday building sized meeting!  We started the night with quiet focus, and finished the night with the gamers getting a touch raucous! They couldn't help but look at what we were doing though, 3D printers attract everyone, from ardent RPG'ers to passers-by who couldn't help but look on - beer in hand :)

#3DPM had three events going on during the night:
1. BCP Labs showing off their highly modified and rigid model - the 01
2. The launch of the #3DPM 3D printed art installation
3. Our usual problem solving, skills building and general 3D printing japery!

BCP Labs are a new 3D printing outfit headed up by founding members of #3DPM. Their printer is as good as the MakerBot replicator 2, comes with one years warranty, and is available in any colour you can see in Faberdashery.

Keith the chief engineer of BCP Labs (they've got a materials scientist, electronics guru, and coder extraordinaire on board too), has re-engineered a Mendel to make prints faster, quieter and smoother.  He says that this means his printing is more accurate and repeatable, and he has run his printer 24/7 without breakdown for over fifteen months.

 He'll swap out any broken parts for a year of purchase, and any of the plastic parts, he'll offer good will for a much longer period.  We here at #3DPM were happy to let him show off, as for every printer he sells, we get £50 into #3DPM coffers. This would go some way to cover the cost of plastics and other consumables we go through, not to mention being able to give something back to MadLab for their hospitality.

BCP Labs will have their website up and running as soon as possible, and they're setting up their printer to be sold as a kit as well. You can contact them by emailing: until they're website is up and running!

Big P.S. to all! We're open to any other 3D printer makers to come along and show off their wares!

Keith of BCP Labs showing off 3D printing with a cup of tea on the BCP 01

We here at #3DPM@MadLab have been looking for our huge group project to really move the group forward, so cue drum-roll......

Just do it! Get Involved!

Our group spent some time brain-storming, what could we do? Something that would stretch our Sketch-up skills, and our 3D printing skills! What to do?! Well, it hit us like a brick wall! Theo Jansen's 'Strandbeest' was our inspiration. His work has been to take the natural physical forces mediated through organic and inorganic materials to create new 'species', that react to the world around them, powered by the wind.  This we can do! We are going to create a wind-powered kinetic structure that hangs suspended between the roof-tops in Edge Street, Manchester.

We've emailed Theo Jansen to see if he can give us some idea where to start, and we've emailed all the local art colleges and engineering departments to get them in on the action! Time to get this out there! Next session we'll begin work on what we want from the design, and perhaps if we've time start to think about how we'll achieve it through design and printing!

A brief moment in between art project brain-storming to trouble shoot Steve's .stl to print problem

Steve (another new member) came along. He designs components that make manufacturing processes more efficient, and he came along to see what 3D printing could do for him. By his own admission he was really happy, and he left with tips, tricks and software to help him achieve more of what he wanted. This is what the group's about, advice exchange and to support members' hobbyist and commercial ambitions!Next meet is the 9th of September, at MadLab, from 6 to 9 pm! We're going to see someone else show off their wares for sale, work on the art installation, and be there for all with their 3D printing problems!
See you all there! 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Manchester Mini-Maker Faire at MOSI

  It was an easy decision to make a visit to MOSI on Saturday when I heard that #3DPrinter’s would be among the exhibits, it wouldn't have be hard to make a visit in any case because for me it’s such an interesting and inspiring place.  My objective was to find out if there were any great developments in the technology; but that was actually a bit of a disappointment, because I didn't see anything that I haven’t already got in my current printer the ‘Mendel90 Dibond’ or what we have already decided to build into our next machine.

   However, it was far from a lost cause because I had other reasons to be there. Talking with Chris who sold me the Mendel, I was able to get more insights into how my machine can be developed further. Also I had in the beginning issues of printed parts not adhering to the bed correctly, a common problem Keith helped me resolve using PET tape and Hairspray, but this hadn’t been a problem for Chris, who printed directly onto glass and was getting a superior finish.

   Patrick Fenner of is developing the TLRN Trilateration a wire supported delta robot; it is an obvious concept for large scale #3DPrinting, we discussed how the printer head would be stabilised to apply for example concrete, and it’s so simple it will be coming to a building site near you soon.
It is okay you are seeing a levitated cardboard box, it is one of many demonstrating the process. Just think of them as bricks; sorry I didn't take many photos.

   For new types of sensors and printer heads, David & Benjamin from have expressed interest in helping #3DPM, I am expecting them at the next meeting. Jim from, Andrew & Chris of and others are potential pioneers

   Barry showed us his human sized #3DPrinted robot in action but one of the arms was disabled by those damn pesky meddling kids, who were all over the place learning, screaming and having fun. Barry is one of the Hackerspace-rs who were there in force doing what they do best, hacking!

   I met Tom, one of the BBC’s technology advisers doing research; along with his kids who were having a lot of fun, poor Tom :-)

   Competition for local entrepreneurs was in the form Sculpteo who are a French company doing a bureau service similar to Shapeways; they had some good products and I got a mini alien. I asked Rachel of how she would decorate similar mono-coloured plastic creations.

   The process of developing a group such as #3DPM is not an easy task, just ask Sam. I was looking for ideas to take us forward faster and may have found it in the way of Ugo (see top photo) the co-founder of the restart project; people who want to find ways to economically fix those items like TV’s, fridges, i-pads, i-phones etc,  made by companies to be difficult for your average Joe and Josephine to access and hack.  

   Afterwards I walked around the shed where they keep the big steam engines, to remind myself how Manchester has kept up with technology and often been the centre of great world changing events.

   I personally want to see #3DPM be at the heart of a new maker revolution, there is no doubt that we have access to the talent; we have a direction in the form of new manufacturing; we are getting  organised; and there is passion, you can see that at MOSI.

If you want to know more? Then get down to our meetings at madlab!

Best Regards
Mark the #3DPrinter of


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

#3DPM@MadLab 29th July 2013

Our latest meeting was really pleasing for me, and the other co-founders of #3DPM (Mark & Keith).  The fourth meeting in as many weeks was qualitatively different in tone to previous weeks.  We got our first repeat offenders: James, Craig, together with Richard who'd visited us back when we used to meet at Tech-Hub.  This was a great sign that we were getting something right, and that #3DPM was offering enough for people to come back week after week.  We've also begun to attract interest from commercial interests as well hobbyists, in the form of Peter Holden from Holden and Sons creative communications agency.

I kick-started the evening by beginning a group discussion about what people from different backgrounds would like to see in a series of formal 3D print-courses to be run by #3DPM@MadLab.  We got some great feedback, and these will be presented soon for members and non-members of the group from anywhere to attend.  Details will follow, so keep checking the blog and the MadLab site!

Keith and Mark started to discuss aspects of basic and advanced 3D printing to the assembled masses of newbies and not-so-newbies. Everyone seemed rapt, and everyone seemed to have learnt something new! I know I did! There's still so much information going around, that everyones doing their best to soak it up.  It's important to us that we get as much as possible into the first iteration of the #3DPM 3D printing course.

MadLab will soon be opening a store to support the sales of various accoutrements related to the various groups that make it their home. Rachael from MadLab asked us to be part of the 3D printing offerings they're considering hosting, in collaboration with the 3D print guys at HackSpace.  We're going to eventually offer a place to buy 3D printers, consumables, and come for consultancy and expertise care of #3DPM. Watch this space for when we go live!

So far so good, we're building courses to get the message and skills out there, and we're organising a physical presence to cement 3D printing in Manchester. The only one we know of outside of London!  So what are we doing with #3DPM?  The group has matured in the space of four meetings at MDDA and MadLab (see our previous blog posts!).

From now on in, we'll be asking all attendees to bring along a laptop with a downloaded and installed version of Google Sketch-up (other dl sites are available other than the link!).  #3DPM is supporting this as we know we've got in-house advice and experience to give on this software. You're free to use any other 3D modelling software, but we can't guarantee that there will be expertise to help you in advance.  This will change as time goes by, as we're looking to expand on this!

Wrought iron signs used to be ubiquitous - perhaps 3D printed signs will take their place?

The whole point of getting people to bring a Sketch-up loaded laptop, is that we're enthusiastic about giving members the chance to work on their own designs, or the #3DPM group project of a 3D printed art installation that will join, at roof-top level, MadLab to Holden & Sons building (opposite each other on Edge Street, Manchester).  The art installation was inspired through a chat between myself and Peter, and my memory of wrought iron signs across the north of England.  Wrought iron signs were more than just a device for communication, with aesthetic design cues, the signs would project what these companies stood for and what they could manufacture for you. #3DPM will get all interested group members to contribute towards a 3D printed art-installation that will cement our area in Manchester, as the birth-place of a manufacturing revolution.

We've so much going on now, and we're always looking for people to volunteer their skills, or just come along and see whats going on. All are welcome, and we're here to get everyone involved, so see you at the next meeting on the 12th of August at MadLab!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Just put my first item on

There is a first time for everything and my first 3D mashup is now available to the world; first of many I hope.
FYI: visit 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

#3DPM@MadLab 22nd July 2013

Firstly a huge thank you to MadLab for hosting #3DPM and making us feel so welcome! MadLab is really interested in making our widening participation objectives happen, and together we're going to achieve something really special for 3D printing in Manchester!

Whilst the ground floor was the scene of mass permaculture, #3DPM had the top floor to house the 3D printers provided by Mark and Keith.  As I bundled into MadLab fifteen minutes late (thank you traffic jams), I found a room full of new faces - I wondered what new directions the group would take this week!

Keith kickstarting the event introducing the 3D printer to all the new faces!

Today Keith set about explaining how to set up his modified Mendel with ABS plastic.  Much the same as with PLA, but he used Kapton tape to prepare the base for the printed item to sit on.  He also began to explain Google Sketch-up, the free design tool supported by Google.

An example of a model designed on 'Sketch-up'
This week, the group began to fluidly switch between groups working on basic and advanced projects, the possibilities of 3D scanning, and discussions about where the group was heading and legal implications of 3D printing and OEM parts.  Part way through the meeting, Dave from MadLab dropped in to see how we were getting on and to talk about a survey they were putting together to see how all groups inter-connected.  At #3DPM has plans to begin projects with the groups of programmers and DIY biologists at MadLab.

Dave captivating an audience!
After Keith had run through the basics of 3D printing from the printer set-up to design, we set them to it to design something for themselves that could be printed and taken away with them. James stepped up to the plate and designed something akin to a small church!

The 'modernist' church!
However in an object lesson of how things can go wrong when you don't check to make sure all the lines are closed and attached to something else, this was perfect.  The bottom half of the printed object corresponded to the design, darker with higher density of plastic, with a high resolution recess where required.  However the top half was not properly joined up in design and the result was mostly supporting 'in-fill' plastic. This looks less black due to its lower density.  What would have been found if we etched away the in-fill, was that the designed structures were buried inside.

A valiant first effort!

Mark came and brought his 3D scanning tool, which is his own effort using a Kinect originally from an Xbox console, and available software called ReConstruct Me.  This software allows you to scan anything into an object that can be converted into a printable file. Using Craig as a guinea pig we had him pose whilst Mark rotated the camera around him for the scan.  We then watched as the software quickly reconstructed what it had seen after a quick, less than optimally stable scan.  We even had a little red printed model of a scan Mark had done earlier, and it left us wondering why it looked like Max Headroom, and more importantly what we could each do with this kind of technology. Especially as with the arrival of Xbox one and the improved Kinect this Christmas, high-end scanning was at the tips of our fingers!

We had a really fruitful discussion about intellectual property, and the hypothetical situation of wanting to recreate an OEM engineered part using a 3D printer.  Would the designer of the part decide that they would litigate to protect their R&D investment? We all began the discussion, which brought everyone up to speed about what intellectual property (I.P.) was, and what it meant for the user on the street - the war between Apple and Samsung recently a case in point.  It became clear to us that the we wondered whether there could be dispensation from usual IP if we were making a copy for ourselves on a private basis. I.e. would our printed items be treated as a cassette tape copy, which we could make freely; or as a digital MP3 which was not legally allowed to be copied.  In the future we'll try to bring in an I.P. lawyer for a brief discussion of of their opinions.

There was some progress on other projects, but we'll discuss them when we've more to say!  Our next meeting is on the 29th of July, and we'll be meeting fortnightly after that. We'll post the dates in each weeks blog, but check out the MadLab site to get the low-down on future dates.  So until then, come one and all, all new members are welcome!