Tag3d printing

3D printing in the pets toys and food industries


Wednesday and Thursday I was in Amsterdam for a talk at PETS Global Forum, a big annual gathering of the pets toys, accessories and food industry. They had hired me to talk about the impact of new technologies (mainly 3D printing, but also the internet of things) on the pets industry. It’s an industry I knew very little about going in — before starting to prep for the talk — so I was very interested to learn more while I was there.

In a packed ballroom at gorgeous Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky smack in the center of Amsterdam, the 200 or so attendees were the decision makers of that industry around the globe.


The winter garden of the hotel doubled as expo hall.


Turns out that pet-related industries are largely immune to external market crises: People spend money on their pets, no matter what. In fact, throughout the global financial crisis over the last few years, the pets industry has been constantly growing.

That said, obviously if you’re in the business of selling plastic and metal products as well as prepared food, technology is kind of high on your agenda – hence the interest in 3D printing and related technologies.

What I tried is to look beyond the hype of 3D printing and give an honest view on the kind of impact — and the market opportunities — that 3D printing might have on these industries. No hand-wavy futurism and 3D print utopia, but very down-to-earth estimations and advice.

Here’s what I came up with:


The slides were made, by the way, with the Deckset app I mentioned on this blog before.


Of course I’m always happy to look at the impact and opportunities emerging technologies have at various industries. If you’d like to have me speak, the best way is to contact Tessa over at The Next Speaker (who represent me for these kind of gigs), and if you’d like to take a closer look at your company and its strategy, get in touch about an advisory role.

Recent reading (5 links for March 10)



Irregularly, I post noteworthy articles I recently read. Enjoy!


Startup of the Week: Fabsie
Fabsie allows furniture designers to upload ready-to-assemble furniture designs that are CNC-milled at a maker near you. They’re really on to something, and it resonates strongly for me, as the general approach isn’t that far from what we’re building with Makers Make. Wishing the Fabsie team to rock their Kickstarter. – by Wired.co.uk Staff (link)  


3D Printing takes the Faux out of Fake Leather
Modern Meadow claim they might be near printing leather, and later potentially food-grade meat. What would a world be like if you could remove the ecological and ethical issues around eating meat? And what other issues would arise? I’m deeply fascinated by these questions. – by Juho Vesanto (link)  


Forget creepy Intel: SHORE unlocks your face at a glance, and it’s already in use
Fraunhofer’s new, super powerful face recognition system isn’t just impressive/creepy, it’s also already in use out there. A glimpse five minutes into the future. – by Chris Davies (link)  


On Early Warning Signs / Seedmagazine
The author makes a strong case for embracing a more complex, systemic understanding of how the world works, and some careful pokes at how to see early warning signs across domains. – by George Sugihara (link)  


The No-Limits Job
The NYTimes on the abusive culture of serial internships. As someone who’s done a fair share of unpaid internships (but nowhere near this scale or general level of suck) I’m convinced that a four week free internship is fine (but useless for businesses), but anything beyond should be paid work. Simple as that. – by Terry Wayne (link)  

Obama on 3D printing and Space Age style research

Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America. If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.

Fuckyeah. (Obama in his State of the Union 2013.)

Foo Session: New interfaces for making things


Over the next couple of days I’ll try to write up a few Foo Camp sessions that I participated in and that particularly resonated. More notepad for myself than anything else, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

MIT Media Lab’s Jennifer Jacobs and Sean Follmer invited us to a session about personal fabrication, 3D printing, laser cutting, mass customization, and more generally: making things. What works, what’s (unncessessarily) hard, implications etc.

While I haven’t really done much with the available tools so far, I’ve been following what’s going on pretty closely. In this group, there was a huge amount of experience and in-depth knowledge about techniques, history and visions about the future of personal fabrication.

As Jennifer pointed out, it feels like the field, as vaguely defined as it is, is at a point where there’s a window where the rules of the game are being negotiated, and that window is now. And we don’t know how long it stays open, so let’s not waste time and help build an environment that’s open, inclusive, innovation friendly and allows for a healthy mix of non-commercial and commercial activities.

On one side we see an (in the best sense of the world) amateur DIY culture with knowledge transfer, peer learning and openness at its core. The product may not be perfect, but they are yours and you can change them. On the other side we see a highly controlled, commercialized production chain. Imagine an Apple iPrint 3D product store where you can one-click buy gorgeous, highly functional and completely DRM-crippled printouts of other people’s designs.

Both sides have something going for them, but I’m not going to pretend I equally like them. There’s room (need, even!) for highly professional printing services, just like in 2D printing. You send a file according to certain specs, you receive a small run of printed items shipped to your house a few days later. There should also be room for the tinker-oriented, mostly pre-commercial sphere where the process is the goal. That part is largely about empowerment. And I sure hope that we can find a good balance between the two.

One problem to be solved on the way there is big one: How to narrow the huge gap between the first steps of a newbie (download a file, print it) and actually edit or create an object (needs coding skills etc etc). That gap is still huge today. In my view it’s not very different from web making in the early days, where commenting on a website was super easy, but building a website was tremendously intimidating for most. By now, a whole slew of services and initiatives like Codecademy and Hackasaurus have emerged that help move beginners along and up the ladder to web maker. That took time. I hope similar groups and mechanisms will emerge around the maker scene, only slightly faster. I’m confident that they will.

Another problem to solve is much more concrete: File formats. There’s still a plethora of file formats and a distinct lack of interoperability. In other words: file format hell. Exchange formats are super important. Again, this can be done, and I expect it will emerge sooner rather than later.

Let’s go build a future where we can all tinker freely rather than just download a glossy piece of Apple-produced plastic. This starts with teaching kids how to make things.