Chicago ♥ 3D Printing
Last night dozens of Chicagoans congregated at ThoughtWorks’ headquarters to revel in the growing connectivity in the community over 3D printing technologies. Dutch-based 3D Hubs gave us the excuse to celebrate, announcing that their Chicago operations were officially under way. The online network that connects owners of 3D means of production with those who want to use them worldwide joined forces with the popular Chicago Hardware Startup Meetup and Catalyze Chicago for the night that featured live demos with local Isis3D and ProofX. Speakers provided real world applications including JP Brown on 3D scanning and printing at the Field Museum, and Mike Vasquez, a materials engineer in sports technology.
JP Brown of the Field Museum. He says their new exhibit on biomechanics is “the coolest thing we’ve done in years.” He showed stills from the photogrammetry process of capturing a cheetah via 400 pics and also the process of CT scanning a decades-old pickled cheetah, which freaked everyone out, in a good way.
“3D printing in sports is all about functionalizing and customization,” said Mike Vasquez who worked with New Balance and Burton among others in the sports industry, which he says is a great platform for testing new materials. The main technologies that companies are using in sports are powder based, namely laser sintering, which is cheaper than tooling for injection molding. He showcased improvements to basketball player wheelchair technology, snowboard bindings, and footwear. Mike’s currently doing a listening tour for HereEast, and he invites you to get in touch.
Kendra of 3D Hubs (sporting glasses printed by the folks at Isis3D) said the company was started by two Dutch guys who realized that there are 150,000 3D printers in the world running at 95% idol capacity, presenting huge opportunity to connect.
I had originally stumbled upon 3D Hubs in February in search of a last minute printer for some seasonal hearts I set my sights on printing and stringing on pimp gold chains for an upcoming art sale at Revolution Brewery. The week before, I visited one of the gurus at Pumping Station 1 to execute my first 3D printing project, a design I found on Thingiverse. It was a pretty empowering experience that left me wanting more, and I was happy to locate one of the twelve Chicago hubs, a civil engineer named Anthony who owned a couple of machines. A couple days later, we met at a Starbucks in Wicker Park where Anthony handed off a satchel of plastic hearts and we geeked out over printers. I’m planning on getting my little brother in San Diego a PrintrBot Simple so he can open his own hub.
PEOPLE ON THE SCENE
JB Brown, the night’s opening speaker from the Field Museum who was hilarious. Some nuggets of insight from him:
- Consider CT scanning for 3D models with significant interior structure, like mummies (Got any lying around?). He recommends Drishti.
- JP voiced concern about the technology; while it is great for scaling, there are issues with permanence: “The idea that you’re going to be able to print the exact same thing (in 40 years) is naive and stupid.” Good for rapid prototyping, bad for archiving.
- They use Blender freeware at the Field Museum, and JP recommends very expensive photogrammetry software: “If you’re doing this for real Acute 3D is what you want to be using,” which apparently in comparison to 123D Catch, “blows it out of the water.” They also use Mimics.
Tom Burtonwood, whose 3D printed book project blew me away—the book he showed me was made of two printed pages (he’s aiming for 10) and features a bas relief of the Ogden Ave Bridge House. You can remove the pages from the ninja flex binding and smush Playdoh in the back to basically create your own 3D photocopy of the Scipione Del Camp original from 1932. WHAT.
David Montoya, a Colombian Thoughtworks developer based in Atlanta who saw 3D printing with his own eyes for the first time last night and was as taken as I was by it the first time.
An artist who found the event through a recommendation from his soccer Meetup
A theater props designer who uses 3D printing for modeling
Bill Fineup and Daniel Lindmark from Catalyze Chicago, a maker space with an entrepreneurial edge, gave insight on how their space not only provides tools for making but also mentorship to help seriously propel ideas into reality. Said Daniel, “We want Chicago to be a place where you can live, raise a family, work a good engineering job, and play around with science.”
Brian and Nick from Rev3Dupage, a digital manufacturing incubator like Catalyze Chicago in the burbs, that’s creating entrepreneurial effort and bringing along the communal spirit that comes with this ecosystem. They’ve managed to get Home Depot sponsorship for their projects, and it looks like their expansion is going to be making the suburbs cool (finally).
CHICAGO SECOND TO NONE
Chicago’s take on 3D printing is one that stubbornly fuses spirits of collaboration, democratization, and especially entrepreneurship. As a beacon of industrialization, it seems natural that last month Obama chose Chicago and Detroit neighbor Canton, Michigan as the new innovation hubs for new Pentagon-run operations, a federally funded boost to manufacturing technologies stuck in the Ford-era. Mike Vasquez encapsulated it best in describing applications of the technology in practical ways that are “not just something you can look at on your desk.”
The hardware “ecosystem,” as Marina of ThoughtWorks put it (who recently visited 3D printing communities throughout the Middle East), is providing a welcome platform for bonding of Chicagoans beyond neighborhood boundaries and even into the suburbs. Kendra Egle of 3D Hubs said, “For the first time in history products can be produced from the bottom up versus top down.” While there are over 3100 hubs worldwide, Chicago has 12, which will grow with the city’s co-evolution with the technology over time. 3D printing seems to be a great equalizer that has potential to uplift our city’s innovators, workers, and students collectively, as long as there isn’t another Mayor Daley.
Margarita Korol, whose bold, evocative art often illustrates Tablet stories, has been a longtime member of the Tablet family. Even when she moved to Chicago last year, she remained an important part of our extended team of collaborators. She’s written an article for Oy!Chicago that so perfectly encapsulates her spirit—fearless and hopeful even in the face of strange and unexplainable adversity—that I wanted to share it with our readers on this Valentine’s Day.
Photos from the Art Party at #IntelCHI
Over at the Intel Experience Store in Lincoln Park, party people congregated to collectively make stuff like jewelry, stickers, music, and masterpieces. A big thank you to Molly’s Cupcakes, enBeadia, Paper Source, and Intel for making this an inspiring experience. Not do it yourself, do it together.
Making a chandelier at #IntelCHI
Samantha at #IntelCHI has a keen filmmaker’s eye that saw room for a public art project of the maximal mis-en-scene fabulosity: a chandelier for the front entrance. She came to me with this great suggestion for the freshest Tech Disruptor art project.
Before: #IntelCHI’s grand entrance features a gorgeous branded blue that I admire for its boldness. However, the light fixture seemed to require equal pop treatment to properly foreshadow to the visitors the level of awesomeness that they were about to encounter.
I wanted the chandelier to be made of lightweight, salvaged parts and also to be whimsically Intel-themed. In order to establish weight without being physically heavy, I adhered the remaining black tape in the VHS cassette from last week’s “Singing Belle” art project to a measured strip of gaffer tape.
Then, to add vibrancy and variety in texture, various chords from chargers and computers did the trick. I especially enjoyed that the odd snakiness of the wires was actually a perk, adding body and POP to the chandelier along with various ziplocks.
Installing in the entranceway was a snap since the complex parts were all attached to the gaffer tape. The best part is the installation is made to be ergonomic with the space. Kind of like the buildings erected for the Chicago World’s Fair, the piece can easily be torn down and the parts reused, or it can securely remain up 4life.
My industrial hot glue gun stayed hot enough unplugged atop the ladder to help me fasten several additional components like shrink tubes, tissue paper, glitter, LED lights and batteries, motherboard slices, and an Intel Bunny Man. The effect from directly below is a view of an Intel engineer in his creative happy place, a womblike oasis encompassed by wires and film— connections to the needs and desires of Intel’s customers and collaborators.
*For a live stream of Margarita’s art projects at #IntelCHI, hang out at @urbanpopartist on Instagram.
Intel Pop-Up Shop Offers Free Events, Electronics Recycling
“Artist Margarita Korol, 27, who lives in Old Town and was voted The Reader’s best new visual artist of 2013, is also in the shop one to two days a week as a “tech disrupter,” interacting with kids as she takes apart old electronics and makes them into art.”
Read more about it, and see you all tomorrow at #IntelCHI!