Deelip Menezes is in a fascinating position — he has served the 3D software market for 13 years and is renowned as a passionate and vocal advocate of innovation and development within this arena. His companies Sycode and Print3D were acquired by 3D printing giant, 3D Systems, last year as part of the company’s drive to democratize 3D content-to-print technologies for everyone. This was just ahead of the launch of the Cube — the first 3D printer targeted at consumers only. Since the acquisition, Deelip has perhaps been 3D Systems’ strongest proponent of putting 3D printers into the hands of consumers — together with a vault of consumer-friendly 3D digital data to boot. This is backed up by the fact that he is not just talking about it but doing it himself. Deelip purchased a Cube 3D printer for his own personal use, and he doesn’t mind talking about it….
3D Printing Industry: Let’s start with the Cube 3D printer, when did you purchase it?
Deelip:The instant it went on sale on Cubify.com! My team has built the Cubify platform. The Cube went on sale on Cubify.com on 10th April 2012. As soon as I flipped the switch I logged into my Cubify account and placed the first order. 😉
3D Printing Industry: Why did you purchase it?
Deelip: I would like to believe that I have a decent amount of theoretical knowledge about 3D printing, especially when it comes to 3D data. After all I have been writing software related to 3D printing for more than a decade now. However, the irony is that I had never operated a 3D printer in my life. I wanted to change that and $1,299 was an amount of money I was prepared to part with to make that happen. I now have my own personal 3D printer — in my bedroom.
The other reason I bought the Cube was for my kids. I have two boys, Reuben (8) and Russell (4). I wanted them to experience the joy of creating things and personalising them. It’s one thing to go to a toy shop and pick something. It’s quite another to see it grow in front of you and be a part of its creation.
3D Printing Industry: How many parts have you printed on it?
Deelip: I have lost count. I know that I have used three cartridges. So I guess that makes it at least 50 prints. Mainly toys for my kids.
3D Printing Industry: Tell us about your experiences of printing with it — can you, hand-on-heart, tell us it prints what you want, when you want, every time?
Deelip: Whoever invents a 3D printer that can print whatever you want, whenever you want, every time should be given the Nobel Prize. For the next five consecutive years! Let alone a consumer level printers like the Cube, even a million dollar 3D printer will not be able to print anything you throw at it. You give me a 3D printer and I’ll design something that will make it fail spectacularly.
However, I can tell you what the Cube can do because I have done this over and over again with my boys. This is how we print toys at home. I point my browser to some 3D content web site and my boys point to pictures of 3D models that they like. I download the 3D model and send it to the Cube to print.
Sure my kids point to unprintable things with thin walls and features which no 3D printer on Earth would ever print. I let them know that but download the models nonetheless and send them to the Cube. When the print fails they learn a lesson. Now my boys have reached a point where they argue between themselves whether something will print or not just by looking at an image of a 3D model. They can even pin point the exact location where the print could fail. And they are slowly beginning to get it right most of the time. It’s truly amazing. I’m teaching them stuff without uttering a word.
3D Printing Industry: You have your children on board with 3D printing — do you have any stories that stand out?
Deelip: Put a four year old next to a 3D printer and things can get very interesting.
I remember the first time I printed a toy for Russell. He stood next to the Cube for the entire forty five minutes watching the print head lay down layer after layer. One time I designed a stand for my iPhone and personalized it by putting my name on it. When Russell saw the stand being printed on the Cube his jaw dropped. He looked at me and said, “Dada, the Cube knows your name.” Russell used to thank the Cube after it was done printing his toy. When I asked him why he did that he replied, “Mama said that if anyone gives me something I want then I should say thank you”. Reuben was quick to clarify that she was referring to people, not machines, after which he stopped!
On Cubify.com we have point and click web apps that give the power of 3D creation and personalisation to anyone with the ability to use a mouse. When my company was acquired by 3D Systems, the CEO, Abe Reichental, gave me a mandate to go build something that enabled eight to eighty year olds to indulge in 3D printing. The other day Russell (he’s four remember) used the Cubify ring app to design a ring for his mother by clicking a mouse in a browser while sitting on my lap. The Cube printed the ring flawlessly and he proudly gifted his creation to his mother. It looks like we have exceeded our own goals. I am extremely proud of my Cubify team as well as the Cube engineering team. This is truly the beginning of a revolution and I’m ecstatic to be a part of it.
3D Printing Industry: The Cube is unique in that it is targeted at consumers only — ie not makers and not professionals. What is it, in terms of usability and results, that differentiates it?
Deelip: One of the reasons I bought a Cube was to see for myself if 3D Systems had succeeded in making a 3D printer that was truly for consumers. I can tell you that the Cube is truly a plug and play device. Or maybe I should say plug and print device. After unboxing my Cube I had it printing in minutes.
While the Cube was being engineered I was part of a few Engineering conference calls since Cubify was involved with the Cube’s activation and stuff. From what I heard I got the impression that 3D Systems was placing huge emphasis on user experience. They knew very well that this was a device meant to be used by consumers and not makers. Nevertheless, when my Cube reached my home before unboxing it I fished out my toolbox from the garage. After I printed my first part I realized that I hadn’t even opened my toolbox. That should tell you a lot about the plug and print nature of this wonderful device.
I haven’t used any other 3D printer. So I really cannot compare the user experience and print quality with that of others. But from what I read about how people need to spend hours to assemble some of these 3D printers, set them up, calibrate them and stuff, it is obvious that they are not designed while keeping consumers in mind.
3D Printing Industry: In your opinion, how does the consumer market differ from the maker market?
Deelip: Consumers are interested in enjoying the end result of 3D printing, not so much the process itself. In fact they are not bothered how stuff gets made. As long as it gets made. On the other hand, makers get a kick out of the process of 3D printing and how they can mess with it to alter the output. These are two very different kinds of people and their needs have to be addressed very differently. People stopping by a fish market are interested in buying fish. There is no point in trying to sell them fishing rods.
3D Printing Industry: What is your opinion of the “prosumer” target market?
Deelip: Prosumers are an interesting bunch. I am in touch with a few Cube owners who are prosumers. I am absolutely amazed to see the kind of stuff they have done with the Cube. I keep telling them that they are using the wrong device. But they often silence me by showing me how they pushed the limits of the Cube and got stuff done. My opinion of prosumers and that market is still a work in progress.
3D Printing Industry: 3DS repeatedly uses the phrase “colouring book simplicity” — does the Cube actually achieve this?
Deelip: Take what I said earlier about getting my Cube to start printing in minutes. My kids pointing to stuff in a browser and getting it printed before their very eyes. My four year old son designing and personalizing a ring for his mother by clicking a mouse in a browser. Hell yes, the Cube and Cubify achieve the “colouring book simplicity” that 3D Systems is talking about.
Remember that this is the first attempt, the first version. A lot has been done. But a whole lot more needs to be done. Things are only going to get better from here.
3D Printing Industry: The Cube is by no means the end of the story — 3D data is just as important as 3D printing. Can you tell the 3DPI audience about Cubify?
Deelip: The tag line we have at Cubify is “Express yourself in 3D”. This expression can be done in many ways. But the underlying idea is to be creative and have fun while doing it.
3D content is actually where 3D printing starts. So if you are skilled enough to create 3D content you can create an account at Cubify.com and start uploading your content to it. You can offer it for sale to others who have 3D printers. For those who don’t have 3D printers we offer a Cloud 3D Print service through which we print 3D content for them and ship it to them or someone else they want it shipped to. If someone chooses to Cloud 3D Print your 3D content you will get paid a royalty. So there is second revenue stream while you have fun.
Then there is this whole concept of making your own 3D content using the many Cubify web apps with “colouring book simplicity” (sorry, couldn’t resist).
If you want to simply shop for stuff we also have world famous brands like Freedom of Creation and Freshfiber that offer their high quality 3D printed products for sale on Cubify. Some of them can even be personalised.
Remember that Cubify is not even a year old and we have barely laid the foundation of the platform and thrown in a few bells and whistles. There are absolutely fantastic things coming down the pipeline. I’m itching to tell you more but I’m afraid you will have to wait and watch.[nggallery id=11]