Clement Moreau at TCT Show + Personalize 2014
The main stage at TCT Show + Personalize 2013 was graced by many great pioneers and orators of our industry. The man that rounded off two days of fascinating CEO keynotes was Sculpteo’s Clément Moreau with his engaging talk on Customizable Items Manufacturing, the future of 3D Printing.
Sculpteo being one of the premier 3D printing services we were keen to grab Clément for a quick chat about the how he got into 3D printing and the apps he feels will break the 3D printing levy to the floodgates of widespread adoption...
How did you get started in 3D printing and how did Sculpteo come to be?
Clément Moreau (CM): We decided some years ago that 3D printing technology was taking off. We had an FDM machine from Stratasys in my office, which is a wonderful technology but at that time it was pretty much unknown, very expensive and very difficult to use. We wanted to share 3D printing and had a choice, either we made a printer ourselves like MakerBot or we invested in a factory with some big machines and share those with the world.
We took the second option and today, I must say, I’m quite happy with that. What we have on our booth are real objects; we have useful objects, we can do ceramics, we can do silver, we can do genuine objects that you would be happy to give somebody as a gift, which is not the case for personal 3D printers.
Do you think then that this technology lies away from the home and is more suited to services like yourselves?
CM: 3D printing is not one technology it is a family of technologies, for example when printing ceramics you print with a special ceramic powder and then we have a blazing process, it goes into an oven up to 1000ºC, this is something you can not do at home, it is just not possible. If we look at the process for ‘printing’ silver, our silver products are created with wax casting. We print the shape in wax, which is then turned into a mould for the silver to be poured into. Once again you will not do that at home. This is why we think Sculpteo is on the right path and I’m very happy that we offer this service.
Mass-customisation is a phrase you hear bandied about a lot in the industry, what does it mean for Sculpteo?
CM: We do not believe that 3D printing is here to create mass-manufactured products, it is here to create unique, customised objects. I like to think about mass-production of unique objects. If you see what we are doing for iPhone cases for example, we are mass-producing iPhone cases using laser sintering but every one of these cases is different, they are all done on-demand. The amount we are making is mass-production but for unique objects, this is a new business model entirely.
On the note of the variety of objects available on Sculpteo what are your particular favourite types of 3D printed products?
CM: I really like 3D printed jewellery, I think that personalised jewellery has been a concept for a long time but I think 3D printing opens up a new area for personalised jewellery. The ability to create never before possible designs that could be unique is something new and exciting.
Many experts say the one thing that is stopping 3D printing from becoming truly mainstream is the difficulty of 3D design, how is Sculpteo different?
CM: People like to create, I’m not sure people like to design but they would like to create something. Is it that 3D tools are difficult to use? No it’s not, there are very easy-to-use tool, you can use TinkerCAD, you can use SketchUp, those are very good programmes but people will not use them. It’s the same with a pencil and a piece of paper, technically I know how to use them but I’m not good enough to sketch the idea that is in my brain. Even if you have a very easy to use tool it is difficult to get something out of your mind onto a screen, it is difficult to get it working, get it functional, you will make mistakes. It is hard and that is because it is a designer’s job and they are trained to do this job.
Sculpteo’s approach is that if we want people to create things we need to help them, we gave designers a task to create templates, templates which are customisable by the end user. We believe that this is creation, it is not only customisation, it is not only changing one parameter it is creation.
What has been the most challenging aspect in getting Sculpteo to where it is today?
CM: What we did not see from the beginning is that it is really hard to create, we thought just offering access to the 3D printer would be enough. It is not enough. If we want the mass-market to come to 3D printing we need to help people, Sculpteo tries to help people. The iPhone cases are again a good example, most people couldn’t create an iPhone case from scratch, but we give them so many options to change it and make it your own individual product that it is as easy as usual online shopping.
CM: We are working a lot on new materials; we believe that more applications of 3D printing will come with more materials. We would like to see what materials it is possible to print with.