Third and final day in Berlin at the 3D Printshow

After a hectic day of scheduled interviews yesterday, Day 3 at 3D Printshow Berlin brought the opportunity for a more relaxed approach to go with the flow and stop by at some of the many stands and features on the show floor, as well as dipping into a couple of the panel sessions and presentations. I caught up with the guys from BuildTak, who I first met in NYC last year and see what they were up to. Their original, easy-release build plate has been well received over the last year and the guys are soon to release another useful post-build tool for easy part removal ….           I dropped by to see RepRap BCN too, these are lovely guys that are fully enthused with 3D printing and supplying a range of single and dual extruder Prusa 3D printers. They’ve made them look really rather cool, a style that is also reflected in their Delta 3D printer. One of the developments they were really keen to show me was their progress with 3D printing pastes – in this picture it is a clay material, that they are hoping to scale up in the near future. The best hands-on demo I got today was from Scott Stevenson — he had the Micro Drone 3.0 whizzing around my head with impressive dexterity. Once he stilled the tiny remote controlled drone, deftly landing it in his hand, he showed me some of the minute 3D printed parts housing the internal electronics. More on this company to come, it’s a great application and so much fun. Following this excitement, I sat down with Industrial Designer Thorsten Franck to talk about his brilliant, thoughtful and creative work with 3D printing demonstrating both his talent and the capabilities of the FFF process on a Delta Tower 3D printer. His 7 stools in 7 days concept caught my attention last year, but it was fascinating to get his industrial backstory and understand more about his motivation for designing furniture. Thorsten’s work, past and present will feature in the next issue of Disruptive Magazine. When I left Thorsten with a host of other interested parties checking out his installation on the show floor, I was able to dip into the newcomer panel session at the conference. I joined part way through, but not too late to pick up on a hint of friction as the panel discussed whether desktop 3D printers are consumer ready. Richard Horne was hosting the panel, which also featured Alexander Hafner of MakerBot Europe (unsurprisingly pro-consumer 3D printing), Wolf Jeschonnek from FabLab Berlin, Filemon Schoffer of 3D Hubs and Florian Horsch of HypeCask & Delta Tower Europa. There were a few clichés bandied around as they compared 3D printers with everything from coffee machines, mobile phones, sewing machines and microwaves (I didn’t quite get that one, either!). But ultimately they were never all going to see eye to eye on that issue, so Rich skilfully navigated the conversation towards a more harmonious topic – that of personalisation. This is where 3D printing — whether on the desktop or high end professional platforms — will engage the consumer. Florian made the point, here, that this is where 3D printing services will shine if they are consumer facing and services utilising professional machines are more likely to offer the quality that consumers want. I can’t help but agree with that point of view. This lead nicely onto the issue of available 3D content and the role of brands — they discussed how most big brands are still keen to protect their IP and are wary of 3D printing and licensing their precious brands via 3rd parties. However, they did discuss the evolution that is taking place, citing companies that are (mostly) using this approach for marketing opportunities. I was fascinated to hear Florian’s view on this, particularly when he cited Nokia’s attempts, as a large but failing company, to harness the new opportunities that 3D printing offers. Rich, though, rounded up this part of the discussion with a word of warning, that as this business model continues to be rolled out by a growing number of companies, caution is required with regards to consumer safety. Work on standards is required to ensure the right materials are used to make consumer parts — either by the consumer themselves or any third party. At this point I had to duck out and leave the boys talking. I headed over to meet up with Diogo Quental, CEO of Bee Very Creative. And an extremely frank and honest conversation we had too — about the industry, the show, the BVC products, their growth and managing expectations. The last few years, since the company launched its stylish 3D printer has been full of ups and downs, as you might expect with a tech start-up. The greatest take-away from today’s meeting with Diogo is just how ethical and innovative this Portuguese company is. In the last few months the company has effectively split itself into two, to ensure that innovation is steady and focused while commercial operations can continue ramping up. It’s working really well, Diogo tells me, and there are a couple of new products coming on line very soon, but I am not allowed to talk about them yet. They’re being timed to coincide with BVC’s presence at the 3D Printshows in New York and London over the next couple of months. Suffice to say, education is a key target market and new partnerships on the horizon. I also got to spend some time with Chris and Anja from the Purmundus design brand, part of the industrial cirp group. We chatted for ages about the importance of design, branding, 3D printing and the links between creative and industrial activities, even while many try to keep the two disciplines wholly separate and deny the connection. We plotted and planned. The afternoon session of the conference brought together an amazing line-up of digital and creative artists working with 3D printing technologies under the banner “A New Medium for the Arts”. Nick Ervinck, whose stunning work was featured in the launch issue of Disruptive Magazine entitled his presentation Between Futurism and History: Computations Sculpture. This was followed by Bart Veldhuizen of Sketchfab who discussed the impact that new digital mediums has for artists in how they share 3D works. The original Pussykrew artistic duo were also presenting this afternoon, these guys are so modest and disarming in the way they present their work. Ewelina and Andrzej have produced some seriously impressive 3D printed works or art using Ultimakers and some hard work, and we plan to cover more about these guys soon. As the final day was closing out I was starting to collect my thoughts for this writing gig when I got a really lovely opportunity to chat with inventor and material developer Kai Parthy, whose Lay-series of 3D printing materials has (rightfully) garnered a great deal of attention. What a charming gentleman he is. Wholly devoid of any conceit and so incredibly intelligent and resolute in his determination to do good. It was a privilege to spend time with him and discuss just some of his work and future plans regarding materials (the concrete stood out for me) and intelligent 3D print heads. All I can say at this point is watch for that last one. Brilliant!! So, what has my time in Berlin brought home in 2015? Growth, expansion and investment are being discussed a lot. And education is a big topic on virtually everyone’s agenda. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, two of the big NYC companies — MakerBot and Shapeways — are taking a global approach to 3D printing in education. Bee Very Creative is backing that up here on mainland Europe, as are smaller organisations. In the panel discussion in the Newcomer conference track this morning, education raised its head a few times as a key driver for desktop 3D printing. It is so easy to overlook this message about education due to familiarity, but it is a drum we should never get tired of banging. It is all about the kids getting hands on within the 3D printing ecosystem, whether it is because they directly want to make and break things (breaking things is a really good thing in the learning process!) or whether it supports any or all of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) curriculum. As the skills gap bites deeper, and may do for some time yet — the only way to climb out of it is by teaching our children how to fill it — and make it something they WANT to do. And on that note, I shall say farewell to Berlin for 2015 and head on home to my own children to regale them with stories of 3D printing people in Germany and catch up on what they’ve have been up to which will likely have absolutely nothing to do with 3D printing! But that’s ok — I’m at information overload stage anyway. PS - this is one of my fave pics from today. Just because I love polar bears :-) Printed by filament from Fiber Force Italy. And this one had me in a "geep of higgles". Yes, I may have lost the plot at a couple of points throughout the day!  Flo with an art piece by Pussykrew. 

About Rachel Park

Rachel is a passionate advocate of additive manufacturing/3D printing technologies and the industry that has sprung up around it. However, as the hype and hyperbole has gathered momentum, her aim is always to offer a reasoned voice in the midst of inflated expectations and to cut through the noise in order to provide a realistic outlook of how things are.