Thursday, May 9. 2013
Why I do what I do. Part 1. Posted by Erik de Bruijn in Energy/sustainability, Linux / (K)ubuntu, RepRap, Science, Tech & Internet, Ultimaker at 22:01
My personal goal is to really impact global wealth in a positive way.
Often people are surprised when I say I studied economics and now develop and sell 3D printing technology. This could not be a more conscious decision. In the following blog posts I will explain why I do what I do.
It is my belief that a great way to contribute to the world, is through technology. Technology is perhaps the single most powerful driver towards a world of abundance.
My approach is twofold, I've been working on understanding the theory from an academic background through research (my masters thesis' PDF) and on the other hand I put whatever I've learned and 'test it' within the context of my work in practice. When I started, this used to be purely volunteer work in an amazing 3D printing community (RepRap.org) and more recently, as an entrepreneur and founder of a leading 3D printing business called Ultimaker. Back in 2008, building a 3D printer was pretty hard. Today, you don't need to know much about 3D printing to benefit from it. I'm glad that in 2008 I was naïve enough to think I could get it working quickly and start printing soon, because now our company leads in making 3D printing accessible without compromising performance. But it wasn't just the shared frustration that motivated me and my co-founders. It was the potential to empower many people to create real physical things.
To understand technology's impact on progress, see also an interview with myself and Peter Diamandis in the documentary in the previous post, where we argue that when a physical object has a digital counterpart, its design can be changed and improved by anyone with a laptop and internet access. The ability to manufacture that object with a few clicks of a button is becoming widely distributed as 3D printers become more accessible. The very act of 3D printing liberates what is 'only' virtual and makes it real. The value is materialized into the real world that we live in. This changes everything. And that's not just my crazy personal opinion.
Diamandis frequently refers to Moore's law in this context. Because technology typically has the ability to increase its capacity at an exponentially rate, this could be the most significant source of increase in global wealth. Peter Diamandis isn't the only one who thinks so. Notably, Peter Thiel, billionaire and philanthropist mentions that the synthesis of the real and virtual world are where the most significant opportunities lie. He mentions that the computerization of transportation like with Google's self-driving cars is probably the biggest improvement in transportation since the development of cars in the first place, over a 100 years ago.
Click here for Thiel's full talk on technology as the most significant driver of progress.
If the biggest improvements to an entire industry are expected when it becomes computerized, the computerization of manufacturing is probably the biggest thing to happen to our real world. Are digital technologies really so important when they start impacting the real world? It's perhaps appropriate to remind you, that you are in fact the product of a digital manufacturing system, your entire body is constructed based on digitally encoded information (T, G, A and C instead of 1 and 0). The DNA code is replicated and distributed globally. Without digital code, there would be literally no life. Today we have the internet to distribute digital representation of physical objects. On the one hand we have 3D design and 3D scanning tools to create the files, on the other hand the 3D manufacturing tools to make things. Even though the tools of today are rudimentary compared to future versions, it is for the first time that they become accessible to the masses. I'm highly excited to contribute to this through my company Ultimaker.
If the ideas for the things around us can can from anywhere, don't expect things to stay the same. Not only will we see more useful things, we'll see entirely different things (e.g. the long tail of things). We will see radical innovations by small groups of passionate tinkerers outpace the one-size-fits all products of big corporations. If innovation is function of the amount of conversations going on, as Diamandis puts it, digital manufacturing is what harnesses the power of the internet and makes it impact real, everyday lives.
I completely understand why Chris Anderson quit his job as editor in chief of Wired magazine. He believes that 3D printing is going to be bigger than the web. I think he could be right, since the majority of our economy still concerns real, physical things. Currently the market of bytes, the virtual economy, is about 20 trillion dollars. By contrast, the market of physical bits (actual things) is 130 trillion dollars, much more significant. But imagine if the strengths of the two were combined...
In the comments, please let me know your thoughts on abundance, exponential growth and progress in global wealth. In the next post I will continue to explain how 3D printing is becoming a significant driver of progress.
Tuesday, April 2. 2013
We were lucky to be featured in Tegenlicht. Tegenlicht are exceptional documentary makers who go in depth into major issues of humanity.
The part where I'm being interviewed starts at around 34 minutes. Most of it is in English, but our interview is in Dutch, possibly there will be a translation/subtitled version made available.
The documentary displays an optimistic view of the future where global energy, food, healthcare are abundant and affordable, and even physical goods can be manufactured on the spot in your own home.
"The the rate of innovation is a function of the amount of conversations that are going on."
- Peter Diamandis
3D printing democratizes the ability of ordinary individuals to create physical solutions, to solve transportation problems by never producing more stock than is used, to produce more personal objects and efficiently, with much less waste. The future is here! I'm thankful that we get this opportunity to have so much control over the physical things around us, and the ability to go from your imagination to a real thing, in minutes!
Tuesday, December 4. 2012
Big News: Ultimaker is now selling ... Posted by Erik de Bruijn in RepRap, Ultimaker at 22:47
I'm really excited that our company has just started offering fully assembled Ultimakers in addition to the kits!!
Don't worry, we won't drop the kits from our offering any time soon! We're still great supporters of the hacker community. Also... we keep on innovating and won't leave early customers with a 'legacy machine' empty handed. Specifically, we provide the opportunity to upgrade your Ultimaker to make sure you enjoy the benefits of those who bought the latest version of the Ultimaker. We've done this through upgrades such as the UltiController, the new Hot-end, an extruder drive upgrade, etc.
Monday, December 3. 2012
Ultimaker @ Codebits 2012! Posted by Erik de Bruijn in RepRap, Ultimaker at 22:19
At Codebits, an amazing event organized by Sapo (an awesome, innovative Portugese company) a lot of nice stuff was happening. Besides a 48 hour programming contest, there was a hardware hacking den. This is where I met Mitch Altman again and lots of cool Portugese people who were making awesome code and awesome things! Also had a nice talk with Rob Bishop, a smart and down-to-earth guy who revolutionizes computing by making the Raspberry Pi into a global hit 'from the comfort of his bedroom'.
See my Google+ footage of the event here...
Besides printing stuff that people designed all throughout the event, I also gave a talk and several workshops on how to 'code pysical objects'. A recent development (found after the talk) that I'm really excited about is CoffeeSCad! You should check that out, too!
For a video of my talk, have a look here or click the image below.
Again, I'd like to thank the many volunteers, in particular Pedro! He and his many friends made the visit to Portugal a very nice one. Also, Celso, who was main instigator of the whole Codebits experience, which really is something to whiteness before you believe it! It was also amazing to meet Nelson Neves and Dini Miguel who were doing awesome projects of which I'm sure you'll learn more.
Ultimaker was proud to be listed among the the sponsors of the epic Codebits 2012 event!
For those of you who know your Portugese, Ultimaker was mentioned on TV station RTP, here.
Can't wait until Codebits 2013 arrives!
Wednesday, May 23. 2012
Trip to Switzerland Posted by Erik de Bruijn in RepRap, Ultimaker at 13:00
Beautiful view of the river in Bern
With al the busy-ness at Ultimaker I haven't traveled much. Finally I had a nice trip to Switzerland, to give a talk and meet our friends from the FabLab Luzern, who also give workshops in building the Ultimaker.
I met Roman Jurt in real life and he showed me the FabLab, and added UltiControllers to their Ultimakers. He showed me around Luzern, Zurich and Bern.
Later I met Ramun Berger, also FabLab manager and director of 89grad in Bern. These are great guys doing very interesting stuff, and sometimes they open up their company's workshop to be a FabLab. They have two Ultimakers in the lab and used it to make some really nice prototypes for their customers. One of the 89grad-lab visitors, Thomas Staub, was working on a quadcopter for his employer, DFRC.
It was nice it see how 89grad works on very diverse but innovative projects and how they open up their lab to others!
Later I had the opportunity to give a talk at "schule für gestaltung bern und biel-bienne" or the design school of Bern/Biel. The subject was mass-customization (slides here). The subject isn't my expertise but I had read a whole shelf of books which touch upon the subject, so I could give good examples. Also, I put it into practice by printing bracelets with the visitor's names on it. It was a funny surprise to see my name on posters around the school's main building and to see that the press was attending the talk. It's great to see the subject will become better known in Switzerland, and this may contribute to it.
Thanks Marc Zaugg for inviting me, and thanks everyone for making me feel welcome!
Friday, April 20. 2012
New developments at Ultimaker! Posted by Erik de Bruijn in RepRap, Ultimaker at 15:44
We've been really busy with many developments at Ultimaker! Most notably: the Ultimaker Controller, reducing lead times, adding individual 3D printer parts and lowering the overall shipping costs. Also, we're releasing an improved version of ReplicatorG. Test versions are available at software.ultimaker.com/beta.
Together with Julius, I made this cool video of the UltiController:
Sunday, March 18. 2012
Just playing and 3D printing! Posted by Erik de Bruijn in RepRap, Ultimaker at 16:19
Usually, during the weekend I spend my time working on Ultimaker as a company, or I have social obligations. For this weekend, my wife surprised me in an original and heartwarming way. She said she had planned a little trip, but instead the surprise was that I could do anything I wanted, EXCEPT work. So I spent the entire weekend just playing with my Ultimakers instead of improving them or improving the company. A whole weekend of 3D printing!
I was pretty emotional because of her altruistic gift! Funny, I feel like I already have everything that I could wish for. The only thing I can't have enough of is time!
These are the results, so far:
I'm really fond of how the lion turned out! It was a 5 hour print at high detail setting (sub 0.1mm layer height).
Sunday, October 30. 2011
[Presentation] 3D printing event, ... Posted by Erik de Bruijn in RepRap, Ultimaker at 12:47
Last week was the 3D printing event in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Ultimaker exhibited there together with about 20 other Ultimakers, shown by their proud operators (see this Ultimaker blog post). There were also RepRaps, milling machines and LeBigRep was printing on site with their HUGE printer. A lot of bioplastic was consumed!
At the event, I was asked to give the first presentation. Below are the slides and recorded video.
3D Printing Event: The Home run of 3D printing, Erik de Bruijn
View it via direct streaming link or the event page at OpenWebCast.nl.
Tuesday, June 28. 2011
Bernhard, an Ultimaker power-user at MetaLab Vienna, has gotten the Sprinter firmware working on an Ultimaker. Sprinter is written by Kliment and Caru, based on
Inspired by his impressive results, I've also experimented with this a bit more. The travel speeds you can get out of this are a little better. Without accelleration the max speeds are around 333 mm/s (FiveD firmware) and with accelleration they were up to 533mm/s (Sprinter firmware). Somehow the firmware doesn't seem to step the motors any faster. When you set the FiveD firmware at travel rates above 333 mm/s it actually goes slower than at 333mm/s. So somehow there's some microcontroller congestion or it's possibly a bug. The benefits of smooth acceleration are especially important for machines with a lot of moving mass. The Ultimaker isn't the most spectacular example for acceleration because it already can reach the high speeds without software acceleration. For the Ultimaker, the biggest benefits of Sprinter firmware are expected to result from an increased buffer size.
Anyway, to show you the speeds we're now talking about, this is the result:
With the help of Bernhard we finally made a few discoveries as to what causes a less smooth print at higher speeds (becoming noticeable at 70+ mm/s). When using ReplicatorG, the print results were not really much different, except when fillet is enabled in Skeinforge. Fillet is meant to smooth out sharp turns, but it turns out that it smooths out any kind of line segment also lines that nearly have the same orientation. Perhaps this behavior should be change with an angle limit. But Fillet causes the buffer to run dry because there are too many small pieces of G-Code that succeed each other in a very short amount of time. About every two visible segments, four lines of GCode are actually sent. This is, not coincidentally, also the firmware of the FiveD software.
All Sprinter prints were done from ReplicatorG, which now also has an Ultimaker Sprinter machine profile in the newly released ReplicatorG version at: http://software.ultimaker.com/. Note that: This Ultimaker release is not a fork of the normal ReplicatorG, it just undergoes some more testing and has the latest, tested Ultimaker drivers. All Ultimaker commits are publicly visible and offered for integration upstream.
Saturday, June 25. 2011
3D printing from abundant sources: ... Posted by Erik de Bruijn in [NL] RepRap, RepRap, Ultimaker at 12:42
You should see this amazing solar powered 3D printer that sinters ordinary sand into glass. Both the source of energy and material are pretty much unlimited. I wonder if you could one day print entire sand castles, that you could actually live in! Of course we need to be able to 3D print those fresnel lenses out of sand... Plus we need to move the lens, not the castle (unless you're Mohammed). Perhaps that can be achieved in the way I proposed here.
Given that with Ultimaker I've got my hands pretty much full. I figured I'd blog something short that I stumbled across (via Forrest Higgs!) that I've been fascinated about for a long time.