Interview with Cathy Lewis on Bringing 3D Printing to the Masses: Part 1

In a previous post we introduced Desktop Factory, and the fact that their 3D printer will be less expensive then the first desktop 2D printer when it was released.
Desktop Factory logo
We also mentioned Cathy Lewis, CEO of Desktop Factory who will be presenting at the First Annual MIT Smart Customization Seminar to be held on November 10th. For those of you who are not able to attend Cathy has been generous with her time to answer a few questions
Cathy Lewis
Just to get a little background, before becoming part of the Desktop Factory you were General Manager at Siemens Information Systems and Vice President/General Manager, Xerox Corporation, what brought you to be involved with desktop factory, 3d printing and personal fabrication?

“The Desktop Factory board of directors launched a search for a CEO with a background from the 2D printer / copier industry. When contacted I was intrigued by the technology and the audacious plan for this young start-up but I needed to look beyond the obvious analogy to the explosive growth of the traditional printing market. When I was able to factor in the treasure trove of 3D content on the web today and the pent up demand for mass customization so evident in the DIY trend – I was hooked. The opportunity to lead the desktop 3D printing revolution was just too compelling to miss.”
desktop Factory printer
Desktop factory is looking to seriously disrupt the 3d printing market with a unit priced under U$5000, who do you see as being your initial market of early adopters and what use do you expect to see them put to?

“This is an important question with a response that continues to evolve. Initially we targeted higher education and designers and engineers who were either employed by small to mid size business or running their own companies.

Now we know that education is a much richer market for us. Starting in grade school these technologies will help demonstrate complex math and engineering principals while in high school they will assist in the completion of designs for robotics and Formula 1 car programs. Beyond the elite design and engineering schools 3D printers will contribute to retraining and adult education programs in technical education and night school. We see a shortage of engineering talent in many Western countries today and tools like 3D printers are key in teaching science, technology, engineering and math which are now referred to as STEM.

Our customers who are designers and engineers will use this technology to prove out a design, check for form and fit. In some cases they may even test function as long as there isn’t too much pressure or torque placed on the object. Imagine how efficient you can be when you print out a newly designed product overnight and hand it to a focus group that morning. Within that same day you can iterate the design to leverage the feedback from the first focus group and have an improved design for the next group late that day.

Architects have become interested in our technology recently as well. They realize that the build envelope is smaller than they typically require but because the larger units can be cost prohibitive many will create their models in pieces and assemble them after the fact.

The early adopter surprise for me has been gamers and visual artists. Who knew that people would want to print out their virtual avatars? Did you know that it is not uncommon for game developers to use prototypes of the characters and their weapons to “act out” the games as they are creating them? And imagine how costly a mistake can be for a sculptor who is working in marble. Desktop Factory provides the opportunity to “preview” an object before committing to that expensive stone.”
3d object

What do you see as the most exciting aspect of personal fabrication?

“I see two very significant opportunities for personal fabrication. First of all we will unleash creativity and innovation in a way never seen before, enabling anyone anywhere to invent and / or customize object, toys, crafts, etc. Second, but perhaps even more profound, over time we have the ability to disrupt the manufacturing value chain as we know it today. Rather then relying on low cost geographies for the manufacture of millions of items, sometimes with questionable quality and safety standards, which are then transshipped globally to warehouses, then trained / trucked to stores where we drive to pick them up — we can literally download a replacement part from the web and print it in the comfort of our homes. While this may only impact 10 -15% of what we buy today, the ability to save time while reducing waste and our carbon footprint is exciting.”

More Cathy Lewis interview in next post. Or check out the Desktop Factory & the MIT Smart Customization Seminar site to read more about these exciting developments.

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