New York City has many faces and it is home to some of the biggest names in maker companies – MakerBot Industries, Adafruit, and a company that I have wanted to visit for ages: Shapeways.
As Blair Baumwell, Head of Communications at Shapeways, took me on a tour of the Long Island City 3D printing facility and warehouse, she used the phrase, “the factory of the future,” to describe the space and the business. It is a phrase that makes sense when you think about the frequent news reports we all hear about what 3D printing is doing in a variety of industries. The idea resonates for me.
Shapeways is a leading 3D printing service; both a marketplace and a community. With freely available tools, you can create an object and have it printed in plastic, nylon, metal, ceramic, just to name a few of the materials available. Once it is made, you can market and sell it within your own Shapeways store, if you choose. Etsy for the 3D design crowd, but it is far more than that.
The staff and the community members call themselves Shapies. And as I think about that, it seems much more appropriate language – shaping the world versus changing it. So on Wednesday evening, I had the privilege of talking with 15-20 Shapies – designers, inventors, creators, makers. Blair and I had been on the phone a week or two before and thought it would be great to gather a few people together and talk 3D. And talk we did.
It was an engaging evening filled with fast-paced conversations about how 3D offers new opportunities for just about anyone. I overheard people jump from one small group to another as they heard something that piqued their interest and went around the room meeting the movers and makers of this new economy. I listened as people shared how free software, like 123D Catch, or another app had changed their business or approach.
The Laser Girls make 3D printed fingernails. Not your everyday, garden-variety nails, of course, but bad-to-the-bone metal nails with incredible patterns and dragon heads. Niche market, for now, but I think they are going to hit it big. They do fast scans with the free Autodesk app, 123D Catch, to customize designs to a person’s hand and fingernails. Dhemerae Ford, and her partner Sarah C. Awad, got their start at the 3-D printing lab at New York University.
Sadi Tekin makes Monsters of New York – this fun looking monster that also doubles as an iPhone charger. The mouth holds the square plug and the arms cradle the phone. Smart. He has 57,000+ likes on his Facebook page.
Carla Diana wrote a book, Leo the Maker Prince, aimed at kids, but I found it a fascinating and fun read. Leo talks her through different robots and the people who use them to 3D print. She makes the different characters and objects freely available via online downloads.
Lucas Goossens runs LucasPlus Jewelry and is wearing this modern-day version of Michelango’s David, but pixelated for our digital world. Elegant.
Ryan Kittleson is a designer and sculptor who is about to do his own 3D nomad journey. He shows me this keepsake ring – the square box looking one in the photo gallery – that allows you to hold a small object. Really cool. Ryan teaches classes through one of my favorite online learning hubs: Lynda.com. From Autodesk Maya to 3DS Max, Ryan can get you up and 3D modeling in no time.
Melissa Ng is a 3D printing artist, but that’s only if you must label her. She does far more than "art" and runs Lumecluster, “wonderlands for the entrepreneurial mind,” and has done some impressive and generous work – doing a prosthetic leg for Natasha Hope Simpson that is simply stunning. She starts on paper, and then builds a 3D model from scratch. Her tribal masks are wonders.
Ashley Zelinskie is one part 3D artist, one part 3D mathematician, one part 3D coder, and if I might be bold, one part 3D philosopher. She created a hexadecimal sculpture as a re-creation of Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chair” art piece. To say the chair is elegant, hip, and cool just doesn’t cover it. Take a look at it on her site.
As we ended the evening, I felt that Shapeways’ idea of the factory of the future was a big and excellent vision. More so, my sense was that they are cultivating the “mindset of the future” which was and is bigger than any factory if the imaginations and potential of just the small handful of people that I met were any indication of the future. A community, a tribe as Melissa Ng would say, that are set free and on a path to shape the world in 3D and every dimension they possibly can.
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