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Regular listeners to the show will know how much of a futurist I am, so this is an exciting episode as I discuss 3D printing with Kevin Koekkoek and how authors can use it right now. Fun!
In the intro, I mention the launch of The Successful Author Mindset, Nook announce print-on-demand service, Amazon announces Page Flip, and Renegade Writer has a post on how one author lost thousands on a book launch with a paid service. I also mention the recording of my first Facebook Live Q&A, if you want to check it out.
The corporate sponsorship for this show pays for hosting and transcription. This podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna
Kevin Koekkoek is a designer and 3D printmaker. He runs 3DKEV, focused on 3D printing, making and digital manufacturing as a tool for makers, designers and artists. He's also the author of 3D printing projects: 20 design projects for your 3D printer and runs workshops in London.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- Kevin's background as an architectural model maker.
- The types of 3D print technology available and the rate of change in the industry.
- Examples of uses for 3D printing, and Kevin's process for going from design to printed object.
- How to get design ideas printed in 3D even if you don't have a 3D printer, and how this is like the print-on-demand technology used for books.
- The wider applications of 3D scanning and printing, including those for museums who want to preserve copies of artifacts.
- Tips on how to start with your own designs for 3D printing.
- Creating designs from book drawings, ideas for where to find designers to do this, and cost involved.
- On the ethics of 3D printing and whether 3D printing is disrupting traditional manufacturing.
- Cutting edge uses for 3D printing, including 4D printing, where the object has the ability to change shape.
- How to find a ‘maker space' near you.
You can find Kevin at www.3DKev.com and on twitter @3DKev
Transcript of Interview with Kevin Koekkoek
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepen.com, and today I'm here with Kevin Koekkoek. Hi, Kevin.
Kevin: Hi Joanna, how are you doing?
Joanna Penn: It's lovely to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.
Kevin is a designer and a 3D print maker. He runs 3D Kev, and focuses on 3D printing, making and digital manufacturing as a tool for makers, designers and artists. He's also the author of “3D Printing Projects, 20 Design Projects for Your 3D Printer,” and runs workshops in London. So I'm super excited about our chat today.
Kevin, why don't you start by telling us a little bit more about you and how you got into 3D printing?
Kevin: I'm a London-based maker and I started professionally 3D printing about two or three years ago. Before that I was an architecture model maker, something that I still do. So I already had a bit of a taste of 3D printing and all the different kinds of software packages that you need to create 3D information.
I was already a bit aware about the whole technology, and funny enough it was because a friend of mine. I worked freelance at a model making company in Amsterdam, or architectural company. My friend was the workshop manager, and he said, “If you want to keep on board with us you really need to look into 3D printing because that's the new thing.” And I also purchased a big industrial 3D printer.
From that moment on I started to do a bit of research, I started to make my own non-architectural based designs, and then I really enjoyed it. It's like, wow! I want to jump on this whole new thing. So that's how it started.
Right now, what are the types of things that you're doing in 3D printing?
Kevin: Now I'm really focusing on training and workshops. I really like that. I make really small bite-sized designs. And the cool thing of 3D printing is my students or participants of the workshop, after the workshop I always give them a small print and my latest designs are jewelry pieces as well.
I make some 3D printed jewelry pieces that are on Etsy. But I really like the whole making process than the whole retailing process.
Joanna: I think my audience can agree with that. That's fantastic.
Just in case anyone doesn't know, what is 3D printing? So that people can kind of visualize it.
Kevin: Basically a 3D printer makes objects. And there are three different kinds of main 3D printers on the markets, one that works with powder and with a laser, that's a big industrial machine. So the machine lays down a layer of powder and then with a laser it melts layer of powder and then the machine lays on another layer of powder and so on and so on and so on.
Another industrial machine, but there are some desktop versions available now that work with a liquid and again a laser. So the laser solidifies liquid, it's photo-sensitive material. So if it's exposed to light it gets solid.
And the most common 3D printer, that is an extrusion printer. I have a few of those printers as well, and they work by, there's a big roll of plastic… I call them spaghetti printers because they look like spaghetti. So imagine this is plastic, there's a big spool, like a kilo of the spaghetti is on that spool. And then the spaghetti goes into a nozzle that's about 200 degrees Celsius, and then the nozzle moves around, and layer by layer it creates an object.
For example, I made this foam stand. It's probably really hard to see for people but I can see that they're like really small layers. Something like this takes like 20 minutes. That's 3D printed.
Joanna: That's really interesting. I've tried the 3D printing with the spool of spaghetti type thing, and it was probably two years ago. Maybe 18 months ago now. You just said it took 20 minutes, and even a year ago I think it would have taken much longer, wouldn't it? And the lines were much fatter, and it seems to be getting more and more detailed.
How fast is this technology growing?
Kevin: Yes, it gets more detailed, so 20 minutes for this one would be if it is indeed like a fat one. But because those printer, they melt plastic and the plastic goes through a really tiny hole, there are some restrictions of physics that you can't really force it. There is a limitation of speed with this kind of 3D printers.
Joanna: I think I saw Hewlett-Packard just put out a powder one.
Kevin: That's right. Also those powder ones, they print, so the print takes also a while, but then also the powder needs to cool down. If you take the print straight out of the powder, then the print is hot because it's made with a laser. Then it will start warping. If you make something with a powder 3D printer, the whole process can take up to 20 hours.
Joanna: I've heard people say that. But one of the biggest things is the 20 hours thing. It's like yeah, that's a long time, but people are using it as you said for architectural models and prototypes that, in the past they would have actually have to get manufactured.
Is that the prime reason for using 3D printing, is that prototype?
Kevin: Yeah, exactly. I think you just nailed the hammer on the…I don't know how you say it.
Joanna: Hit the nail on the head.
Kevin: That's right. Yes, you're right, it's like oh yeah, 24 hours that's a while, but you're right. If you need to do something by hand, it takes a while. And I work with ceramic artists and jewelry makers, and for my own jewelry designs, I can make a prototype. If I think that's a bit too thin, I can easily on the computer make something a bit thinner or thicker and I print it again until I'm happy with it.
Maybe for the ceramic artist, maybe normally it takes a week to model a vase maybe, by hand to sculpt it. And if he's not really happy with it most of the time you need to start from scratch. But with 3D printing you can just go back a few steps and you can just print it again until you're happy with it.
Joanna: That's really cool. I have so many questions. My first one is, what materials? Like you mentioned there, ceramics, but doing a prototype, but you also said jewelry.
What are the materials that people can actually 3D print in? Because it's not just plastic, is it?
Kevin: There are 3D printers on the market that could print in gold or stainless steel, also with the powder and a laser. For jewelry for example, like my wedding ring is also made with the help of 3D printing, but they 3D print it in wax.
They printed the ring in wax and they gave it to the jewelry maker, and the jewelry maker embedded the wax in liquid plaster, and the plaster was set, the whole unit goes in a kiln. Melt out the 3D printed wax ring, and then pour in silver. When the silver's cooled down, they break away the plaster, and then the ring can be polished.
Joanna: That is awesome. That's the way people have cast bronze statues for all of history, that's basically what you're saying. You've actually made the wax model with the 3D printer.
Joanna: Then you've done the old school creation. Oh, that's so cool. I love that, and that kind of leads into my next question which was, you call yourself a maker and you make jewelry. You're clearly a creative person. You're making lovely things. I went to a museum near here recently and saw some gorgeous 3D printed stuff.
But when people hear “computers,” and you mentioned the software, and we'll get into that in a minute. But when a lot of people think computers, oh, that's just not very creative.
How does your own creative process work from kind of ideas in your head to the computer and the 3D printing through to the finished object?
Kevin: I start with the most basic tool available in the world; pen and paper. That's how I start off. I make a few sketches and then I pick the nicest one out if I'm really working on a targeted design, and then I bring that into the computer. And then I 3D model that on the computer, and at first I make some printouts just on plain paper, because on the screen it's really easy to get lost in detail because I can zoom in on the detail, but maybe it's so tiny.
I reference the scale again. That's why I print it on paper. And then I will make some changes and then probably print it in 3D, if I'm happy with the outcome.
Joanna: Your creative process now just incorporates using the computer and it doesn't take you out of a creative zone as such?
Kevin: That's right. I just start with pen and paper, and sometimes I start in the computer but then sometimes I also go back, just make a scribble. Rarely I just start straight in the computer. Normally I always have some sketches and I just go from there.
Joanna: Okay, so then what are the technical requirements? Because we've talked about, and the actual printer is like a physical box, like a box that things are layered up in.
What are the things that people need if they want to do 3D printing?
Kevin: There's a website called “Shapeways” where you can order designs that are in 3D printed already. Then there are great online tools available that you can yeah, tweak existing designs.
So you can really have a taster of 3D printing without going into really difficult and technical 3D modeling packages, and I think that's the great thing of the Internet. There's also a great website called “Thingiverse,” and there you can download 3D files.
And if you don't have your own printer, there's an online community called “3D Hops.” You can then upload a file that you downloaded to 3D Hops, and then there are people locally that have a desktop 3D printer, and then they can 3D print that object for you and then you can pick it up.
Joanna: That to me is how I see the it's going to be more likely. Because even though people can afford 3D printers right now. It's not that expensive anymore but they're not very good.
If you want, say, some jewelry printed it would be better to, as you say, download the design and then upload it and get it printed.
Kevin: Yeah, or even for my designs because I don't have a big industrial wax printer, I always send my high detail prints out. I make my, call it sketch 3D prints for jewelry on my own machine.
Joanna: That's super-cool.
It's kind of almost like print on demand that we have with books.
Kevin: That's right.
Joanna: You don't even really need to touch it.
As someone who sells, if so if you get an order, you don't print it yourself and send it to the customer. It's all outsourced?
Kevin: That's right. With the website that I mentioned before, Shapeways. I have some designs there as well for a phone case. A friend of my contacted me, like, “I bought this telephone but I can't find cases for it. Can you design one?”
Yeah, no problem. I was still living in Amsterdam that time, but I was already traveling up and down to London, and I was thinking, “How am I going to do that? How can he have access to that phone case?” I put it on Shapeways when the design was finished, and then I noticed that I had an order.
I asked my friend, “Did you order the phone case?” “No, not yet.” Then suddenly it's just starting to sell, and then I made a few more designs, and once in a while I get the email from Shapeways that yeah, you sold something in your shop. You made like, I don't know, two or three Euros. But yeah, that's quite nice.
Joanna: That's awesome. Well, which begs the question, how much one sell designs for? Is it like an e-book?
Is the cost is generally quite low? Or would it depend on how complicated the design is?
Kevin: The cost of 3D printing is mainly based on the volume that it takes in the machine or how much material they use for that 3D print. The telephone case is I think around already in the materials around £15 or £20. And I can set my own commission.
So I can say “You know what, this is a really nice design, I spent lots of hours on it, so I want to make at least I don't know, 20%.” And maybe you made the design and yeah, you know what, I just want people to share it, and there you can set also like non-commission.
Shapeways, they do all the handling. They 3D print it, they ship it off to people, so yeah.
Joanna: So it is literally just like CreateSpace, which tells you how much your book will cost to produce, and then you add on your profit on top of that.
Kevin: Yeah, that's right.
Joanna: Okay, that's really, really cool. So yeah, so some things would be super-expensive.
I guess it would also depend on what type of printer you use. Is that all included in the specs?
Kevin: Yeah, you can choose different materials with Shapeways. You can even select silver, like my wedding ring, I did that through that same process. So my wedding ring, maybe in plastic would be, I don't know, €10, but in silver €90.
You have lots of settings for your shop. You have a small, personal shop in Shapeways that you can set your pricing, your materials.
Joanna: Another interesting thing is that you talked about tweaking existing designs. Let's talk about copyright first, because I'm really interested in this.
Your design for, say, that phone case, is there a copyright on the design itself?
Kevin: I'm not really worried that. Because my designs, people can only get the physical product.
Joanna: Oh, you're not selling the design?
Kevin: Exactly. So if someone goes through the effort to buy a case and to copy it, then yeah, I'm not really too worried about that.
Are people selling just designs? Or only the finished product?
Kevin: I can't really come up with the name, but there are websites, instead of selling the physical object, you could sell the design. Or the website such as Thingiverse that you upload a design and then people can download it. But with Thingiverse you can't charge money.
But there are other websites that you can put that, and you can price your products. But for me, like also in my book, I have several designs. I upload the designs to Thingiverse so people can download it.
Then I was thinking no, I like the making aspect, I want to give people the making experience. So people can make everything out of my book. Those are all my designs but I made them for educational purpose anyway.
Joanna: Because you have a lovely Dutch accent, but just for people, the site is “Thingiverse.” Like “universe” but “thing” at the front, right?
Kevin: Yeah, that's right.
Joanna: Just checking everybody got that. No, that's really cool.
The other thing I read is that there are museums now scanning with some kind of 3D scanner, like a chair from a period of history. Then people can use that design to print a chair in the same way that that chair was, to look like that original design.
Is that something that you're seeing more of? That sort of scanning aspect?
Kevin: Yeah, funny enough, once I went to a meet-up and there was a lady from the National History Museum. They were scanning artifacts. Also you can download it from the website, so you can download maybe an old bone from old dinosaurs that I scanned in.
I think that's a great tool I can imagine for universities and schools. Because maybe a university on the other side of the world can now download that file, from an old bone from a dinosaurs, and 3D print it. Then all the students, they can have a look at it. I think that's a great use of 3D printing.
Joanna: Yeah, I really like that.
Although again, I know in the maker community and everything, people aren't worried about it, but the stealing designs.
If someone did want to steal your design, they would order the print, then they would put it in the scanner, and then they would scan that to a design. Right?
Kevin: Yeah, but 3D scanners, there's lots of touch up to do. To 3D scan a face, I don't know if you ever saw a small mini-me, it's in color, but the details are really bad. So if I want to 3D scan let's say my wedding ring, for a start, most of the 3D scanners will have problems because it's a reflective object. So you will need to give it a special bit of coating.
Then when the 3D scan is finished, maybe the 3D scanner missed some parts. Then you will have holes in your 3D scan. A 3D printer doesn't like holes in files, so you need to make sure that the object is completely closed.
3D scanning is not really “plug and play”.
Joanna: It's not as easy to pirate as an e-book?
Kevin: No, exactly.
Joanna: Yeah, which is super. So you have this book. Just so people can kind of think about different things that they could potentially do starting out – your book is “20 Design Projects for Your 3D Printer.” So you get people to do, presumably, a small project.
Kevin: Yeah, that's right.
Joanna: What are some of the things that people might want to start with or do with their kids or something, to get people into it?
Kevin: I think generally if you start on your own designs, just start with something small, what's really easy to 3D model, so you don't get demotivated. The learning curve is quite steep for 3D modeling. So just start with something really small.
Maybe something like this? This is a coaster.
Joanna: Coaster, yeah. And you can stick your finger through that, right?
Kevin: Yeah, this is all open, yeah.
Joanna: Or a keyring. A keyring?
Kevin: A keyring, yeah, that's a good idea as well. So just something really small. The smaller, the easier to 3D print.
Joanna: And square or rectangle or something.
Kevin: Yeah, that doesn't really matter. Just keep it small and simple and then you can go from there. Because if you design like, “oh, you know what, I want to make a Swiss army knife with moving parts, and with a teaspoon from plastic and lots of crazy stuff,” yeah that's quite cool, but you're just going to struggle with it.
Joanna: I must say that when we tried it, I took my goddaughter and we went, and there was lots of pulling things out to scale things. As you say, you have to turn things, and you can't leave any open spaces. Which actually you think sounds quite obvious, but when you do it, you realize that you've left all these open faces on different sides. So it was a really interesting process.
I saw an app on the iPad called “Gravity Sketch” which looked like a really simple 3D design. What do you think of that? Or are there any other easy tools?
Kevin: Funny enough, I went to a small focus group with several other designers, so I tried the application. I was thinking yeah, it's good for people who just want to have a taster of 3D printing. But those applications are also a bit limited because you can't really work with dimensions.
I think it's a good starting point. Absolutely. And also now with the internet, that lots of tools are available. Most of the tools are free or low cost. I think your imagination is your only stopping point.
Joanna: Exactly. I've talked about it on the podcast before, I wanted to get the key to the Gates of Hell 3D printed as part of my novel, “Gates of Hell.” I went to get it designed, and I wanted to get it 3D designed so that it could be printed. But it turned out that getting a 2D design turned into a 3D design was more complicated than I thought it was going to be.
If I have a 2D design, the key is quite difficult, it's quite complicated. It's got a little skeleton on the top.
But if say, children's authors have 2D sketches from their books, what would be the process to turn a 2D sketch into a 3D printed design that you could then order?
Kevin: There are some tools available that can create extrusions from single line drawings. I know that a big 3D printing manufacturer called Ultimaker, in their software, maybe they removed it, but in one of their old software versions. And it's open source software, so people can just have a look at it, it's called Cura.
You can import a picture, a JPEG, or a bitmap, and then you can extrude information. But like you said, if I will use a picture of me…
Joanna: It doesn't work.
Kevin: …you can see my back. It is quite limited, but it's a good starting point.
Joanna: If I or someone else wanted to hire somebody, where would be the best place to find a 3D designer or modeler?
Kevin: People can always just drop me a line, because that's what I do for ceramic artists. I'm the in between for people, and for people outside. A woman just tried to find a local 3D printing bureau because most of the time have a really dedicated CAD team.
Is there any marketplace like 99 Designs or that type of place to find 3D designers right now?
Kevin: You can find for example designers on the website of Shapeways. I think they have a forum or something like that that you can quote designers. And of course a website such as People Per Hour.
Sometimes I do some CAD work also for people through People Per Hour. That's a good place to look.
Joanna: Do you have any range of costs?
Would it cost somebody hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars to get something done like that?
Kevin: Tt depends really what people want. Also because it's done digitally, it doesn't matter if something is really small.
Joanna: Yeah, it's the same thing.
Kevin: …or really big. It's the same amount of work. And also if I'm designing something for someone, they have the digital file so they can make one or a million 3D prints. But yeah, cost-wise, it really depends.
Let's say a vase for a ceramic artist; that costs £150 or £200 for the CAD work.
Joanna: Okay, so that's like $350, $400.
Kevin: Yeah, that's just really a rough ballpark.
Joanna: That's great, because I thought that I would include a design within the book that then people could then use to print themselves. But now I'm thinking what I would do is include a link to Shapeways, and say, “You can actually buy the key to the gates of Hell as a 3D printed object here.” Then have a link to it.
That's definitely something that would be quite cool for books, isn't it?
Kevin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. There's even a children's book called “Leo the Maker Prince.” I never read it, but I think they used 3D printed objects as the characters for the pictures. Also in the book there are links for the characters, so you can download the characters from Thingiverse and then 3D print it as well.
Joanna: Oh, that's awesome. When it becomes much more mainstream and faster, and people have them at home, I don't know, I would love to have clues. People could solve clues by using those objects or something like that.
I think there are lots of ways that we could include 3D printing into story or non-fiction. If you think like a health book, or like you mentioned about printing bones.
If it's a medical textbook or things where the physical object will help people learn, it seems really obvious, doesn't it?
Kevin: Yeah. That is quite exciting.
Joanna: Yeah, I'm excited too.
Okay, so I have a couple other questions. Most people will have heard of the 3D printed gun that the guy in America did.
What are the thoughts around the ethics of 3D printing, and what does the maker community think of that type of thing?
Kevin: You mentioned the gun that's printed in America, where you can buy a gun in the supermarket. I think the people who are really scared of it is probably the weapon lobby, but that's just my own theory.
Joanna: Oh, I see what you mean. That they've made it into an anti thing because they don't want people to do that. They want them to buy them.
Kevin: And if you think okay, yeah, I mentioned before you can 3D print in metal. That means you can 3D print a gun in metal. Probably the gun will cost like, I don't know, $6 or $7,000 US.
Joanna: You can get one a lot cheaper down the road.
Kevin: I never buy guns, but I'm sure that the gun is way cheaper like that. Also a 3D printed plastic gun, you don't really want to use it because I think it just explodes.
Joanna: Right, so…
Kevin: Don't print a gun.
Joanna: Don't print the gun. The thought is this is just ridiculous to use that, and it's a scare tactic.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly.
Joanna: But everything else we're talking about is really, really positive. I guess it's like any technology, there are always people who are going to use it for things that people don't agree with. Fair enough on that question.
My other question is also about the maker community. In the same way as the self-published author community, the indie community, people in the media say, “The self-published authors are responsible for Amazon's dominance, for traditional publishing losing sales,” all of these things.
Do people in traditional manufacturing treat the maker movement, the 3D printing guys in the same way? As in are you disrupting the manufacturing way of doing things?
Kevin: I think it really helps manufacturing. Especially let's say manufacturing maybe for spare parts. Let's say my small battery lid breaks off my remote control, maybe in 10 years. I contact Samsung, I say “hey, my thing broke.” And instead of stocking lots of battery clips they say, “You can download the file or we can just send you a 3D printed copy.”
Also for mass production, it's way cheaper to injection mold parts than to create it. Also injection molded parts are more durable than 3D printed parts. I don't see that 3D printing is pushing away standard manufacturing.
I think it just helps standard manufacturing with prototypes and for spare parts. I don't think it's a real threat.
Joanna: It's not a disruptive technology as such?
Kevin: No, I don't think it's going to push away standard manufacturing. It's all quite new, but for small productions it might be worth it to 3D print. Let's say I designed an enclosure for an electronic device. If I only need 10 enclosures, then I can 3D print it.
Maybe one print is, I don't know, £50, but because it's a small production run it's okay. If you're going to make thousands, then I can go to injection molding because it costs a few pence.
Joanna: So it's more enabling entrepreneurs who want to do physical goods. In the same way, as we mentioned, CreateSpace enables authors to do print on demand, we don't have to do a print run of 2,000 books anymore. We can just upload our files.
If I'm speaking somewhere I'll just order 10 books. But I won't ever do 2,000. I wouldn't order 2,000 books from CreateSpace, that would be crazy.
So it's probably more enabling the smaller creatives and manufacturers than disabling the big ones.
Kevin: Yeah, because like I mentioned before, websites like Shapeways. I made a phone case for my friend in a durable 3D printing plastic, and I just upload it. He could order it whenever he wanted.
Before 3D printing for a telephone case, I need to make an injection mold. And to make it cost effective I need to make like 2,000. So yeah, I think you're right with that. It's really good for individuals who want to design or make stuff.
Joanna: Do it that way.
Kevin: Do it that way.
Joanna: People who listen to the show know I'm a bit of a futurist and I get excited about these technologies. Some of the edgier things happening in 3D printing are some organs, people printing organs. Synthetic bones to be put into bodies.
Dentists, particularly I saw synthetic jaws and things to go in people's mouths. And the other one we saw was 3D printing in space, because it would be cheaper to print in space than to take heavy things out of orbit. So better to actually manufacture them in space.
These are some of the cool things I've heard about.
What are some of the cool things that you've heard about, or that you think are coming? Cutting edge stuff in 3D printing.
Kevin: What I find really cool about 3D printing, and it's just day one, and it's just so personal that you can change the designs and you can make custom-made objects. For everything. I think that's also the power of 3D printing, it's customization, especially for medical technology.
I think that's also one of the big things that are great for 3D printing. Like yeah, great, I can download a Mickey Mouse and 3D print it. But it's more exciting that people could get from a prosthetic heart to maybe hopefully at some point maybe delicate organs. Where normally people need to wait for a donor, and that could be 3D printed.
I think that's the most exciting thing. The medical use.
Joanna: Definitely. As you say, there might be a design for a limb, but the end of the limb would need to fit whatever injury the person had. So that's what you could change and then just print that one.
At the moment, they have to mass produce these prosthetics for veterans, and now they can actually print them for the individuals. That's really cool.
Kevin: Yeah, it is. It is. Also yeah, if for whatever reason you break your prosthetic, you can just get another one, because the data is already generated. I think that's also another strong thing of 3D printing, is yeah, you don't need to reinvent the wheel every time.
Also talking about prosthetics, there's one company specializing in making really beautiful designed shields that click on a prosthetic leg. So instead of having an ugly black one people can get like the most amazing designs.
Joanna: So you can have a tattoo one day and you can have a pair of fishnet tights another day?
Joanna: That's awesome. I think that's the point. This customization is so important, like just people's glasses for example, people could print a new pair of glasses to match something. I think as you say, it will kind of make this customization a normal part of people's lives rather than you have to buy what is exactly there on the shelf.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah, that's the great thing.
Joanna: I just saw a presentation on 4D printing. I wondered, do you know about that? Or what is that?
Kevin: I had a quick look last week. 4D printing is basically they 3D print something, and then that could reshape itself. They 3D print let's say a flat bag of books. I don't really know how it works, but then at some point maybe with liquids or with heat, the flat bag folds itself to an object.
I was thinking like that's really nice. It's like yeah, of course, maybe for medical use that would be great. Maybe you need to put something and you don't have much space. You need to make an incision really small.
Or maybe even inject something, and then with the 3D printing technology it unfolds to something. I don't know.
Joanna: We're definitely getting ahead of our imaginations here, aren't we?
Joanna: In terms of what we can imagine. But it's a really interesting presentation. I'll link to it in the show notes, or people can just Google “4D printing.” Because when you see it, he shows a little prototype on the video and it's like, “Whoa, that's really weird.”
But as we said, that type of thing in space, when you can't necessarily have somebody there to build it. But I think what's very cool is so much of this technology is going to enable our imaginations to do more stuff all the time, which is super-cool.
Before we finish, I want to ask you about where you work. So you work at, it's actually called Create Space, which is not the Amazon company that prints books. It's a kind of maker community space.
Tell us a bit about what goes on at this type of maker space, and if people wanted to go and find one locally, what can they expect?
Kevin: I'm a member of Create Space London. It's located in Wembley in my case. It's the 11th floor of an office building.
It's a bit mad. You just come in in a standard office building, there's reception downstairs and you need to sign in or with a key fob you go into the elevator. I'm located on the 11th floor, and you just come in and then you're just in, yeah, our studio / maker space.
At Create Space there are three big, physical workshops. There's silk screen printing, woodworking, ceramics, then there's a small hackers and computer lab. Now recently Create Space London, they have acquired another floor, 12th floor. So there's also a classroom where I give workshops, and there are lots of small offices.
I'm having one of those small offices as well, so yeah, there's my computer, my 3D printer, and I'm looking out over London so I can see the skyline, the Shard and all the other highrise buildings.
There's a mixture of different people. It's really from ceramic artists to 3D print designer to screen printing artists. One of my colleagues is a robotics designer.
Joanna: Oh, cool.
Kevin: So he makes robots. Everything is there. It's really cool.
Joanna: I love that idea.
At the moment there are more of these spaces sort of growing, aren't there, in cities?
Joanna: So people should just Google “maker…”
Kevin: Maker space.
Joanna: “Maker space” and their city, or a nearby bigger city, and they might be able to go use these. Because of course as you said, some bigger printers, people can't afford those unless they are collectively acquired. Which is what these spaces are doing, which is so cool.
Kevin: Yeah, that's really cool. I remember the first day that I came in. I didn't really know which direction I was going for two years. I came in, and like, people really do stuff, and it was so buzzing, and you just want to make stuff and create. It's a really good atmosphere. It's really cool.
Joanna: Yeah, I love it. I think authors listening are probably going, “Oh, but we just have to sit on our own and type and it's so lonely.” It really attracts me to this type of space, and it makes me want to do physical stuff.
Because as authors now, we don't need to do physical stuff. We just write and the books can be printed or whatever and sent to people. But I love this idea of doing physical making. And if people have kids, kids are a great excuse, aren't they? To say, you can take your kid along like I took my goddaughter to try one of these workshops, for example.
If people are in London and they come along to one of your workshops, is it a whole day or half a day? What can they expect in a workshop?
Kevin: They're around two, three hours. That is from beginning to the end. At the end, the two, three hours is also including some snacks and refreshments afterwards.
I realize that for me personally as well, because doing stuff at the computer is quite intense, and I think two, three hours is really the sweet spot. Because then you're just like “oh, too much information.”
Joanna: And they come out with a small 3D printed something?
Kevin: Yeah, afterwards, it takes a while to 3D print something. So later on I will send them the 3D print or they can pick it up at the studio if they're a member of Create Space. Or else I can send it to them.
Joanna: It's very, very cool. I'm very excited about this technology. I think more people should be doing stuff with that.
Where can people find you and your workshops and all your work online?
Kevin: I have a website, 3Dkev.com. And then people can follow me at @3dkev, and if people want to know a bit more about Create Space, just Google “Create Space London.”
My workshops are, I still need to update my website a bit, but I'll make sure that's done when people see the video. Yeah, my workshops will be listed on my website.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Kevin. That was great.
Kevin: Thank you.
The technology is another great way for entrepreneurial endeavour and the interview really struck a chord with me. I hope you don’t mind but I thought I’d share the reason why. My nephew is 17 years old and has Aspergers. He has always been mad on steam trains and has started a business designing scarce model railway engines and carriages on 3D software called Tinkercad. He uploads the designs to Shapeways and sells the products, which are 3D printed for model railway enthusiasts. His condition means he has an amazing ability to create the design schematics with high accuracy and from memory. I always thought an online career could suit him, but he’s done this completely off his own back. Over the summer holidays, I’m helping him build a website (and email list!) so he can move beyond Facebook and he’s started working on a YouTube channel. I am so enormously proud of him and feel his story is a brilliant example of how the digital world and technology are breaking down barriers for anyone who has the motivation to embrace the opportunities.
Joanna Penn says
That’s awesome to hear, Kerry! The online world means so many more people can make a living in new and unusual ways. I was just saying to my husband the other day how glad I am to be away from open plan offices, which are a killer for introverts 🙂 You’re welcome to post a link to your nephew’s website when it’s done so people can see his designs, if he wants 🙂 Thanks!
I took the dive into 3D prototyping by designing and printing a model of the ship in my writing. One aspect of 3D printing you did not touch upon is the finish of your model. Between the printer and medium used for my model I ended up with a product that has a rough to the touch finish and a few dimples where the printer failed to extrude plastic. It would have been nice to have a segment discussing how your guest get around this problem with his own products.
3-D Printing is a topic that is very interesting to me, so I found this interview fascinating. It’s amazing to hear what kind of things you can do with a 3-D printer, and how quickly the technology is growing. Thank you for sharing!