3D Printers

OpenCreators – An Introduction

With the Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo, South Korea right around the corner, we thought we would take a moment to introduce one of the show’s guest speakers to our readers.  Kang Min Hyuck may not be familiar to many people outside of Korea, but he and his company represent a significant force in the Korean maker movement and he was also one of the earliest members of, and served as director for, HackerSpaceSeoul.

Kang Min Hyuck is also the co-founder and CEO of OpenCreators, a domestic consumer 3D printer maker.  They aim to make available a more affordable personal 3D printer and contribute to the formation of a new type of creative ecosystem built around 3D printing. Their signature product, the “Almond” printer evolved out of the original RepRap project and recently won the 2014 Reddot industrial design award for personal 3D printers. We sat down with Mr. Kang and asked him about 3D printing in Korea, his company, his philosophy and his vision for the future of 3D printing as a whole.

OpenCreators 3d printer Kang Min Hyuck

3D Printing Industry:  How big is the 3D printing market in Korea today?

Mr. Kang:  The market in Korea is not that huge. Most people in Korea are not aware of 3D printers yet.  Once people fully appreciate the concepts and needs for 3D printers, we can expect a huge demand. Currently there are about fifteen to twenty dedicated 3D printing companies, including resellers, active in Korea, but if we include businesses that either supply or utilize these printers the number gets much larger. I once heard someone say that there are more companies (in 3D printing) than customers.  I agree that there are too many 3D printing companies for the current customer base, but time will tell which companies will meet customers’ needs and which ones will fail.

3D Printing Industry:  What do you think the future of the 3D printing market is going to look like?

Mr. Kang:  For now, 3D printers do not do a lot for us.  They take too long to print and they often have quality production issues.  Many times the hype over 3D printing, the “revolution in manufacturing,” embarrasses me a bit.  But the technology should be spotlighted because it gives each individual the opportunity to manufacture real, functional, items.  It helps to define our hopes and desires, in that even if we cannot make exactly what we want, we can still make something similar, and then improve on it.  By sharing our ideas we can then generate new ideas and inspire each other.  This is the core and driving force behind 3D printing and the maker movement.

3D Printing Industry:  What kind of company is OpenCreators?

Mr. Kang:  OpenCreators is a manufacturing company. Many people have a tendency to take the word “manufacture” too seriously; however, we do not want to only make products for sale.  Though we make 3D printers, we ultimately want to create a culture of makers, that is a “making climate” where people can use their natural curiosity and creativity. That is our vision.  OpenCreators has developed a customized 3D printer, but we are also attempting to create an ecosystem that utilizes the printers. For that reason we are developing a large scale 3D printer community and opened up the “OpenCreator’s Space” in Seoul to draw in more people and hobbyists to come together and make stuff together. We would like everyone to experience the joy of creation.

3D Printing Industry:  How did OpenCreators first start?

Mr. Kang:  We got involved in the RepRap community and built our first printer.  We were helped a lot by others and really enjoyed the experience.  Later we built an Np-Mendel RepRap, and so many people liked it, some started to ask us to build them one.  We started with just two employees, myself and my co-founder Choi Jong Eon, but quickly added several more. We now have seventeen employees and export our printers; mostly to Japan.

3D Printing Industry:  How have you tried to get more people involved in 3D printing?

Mr. Kang:  Last year we held a 3D printing contest at the COEX exhibition center in Seoul.  Each contestant submitted their original work, and we had a very difficult time deciding on a winner.  While we had a hard time judging their works, we were very happy that those works were all created on our printers.  After a long consideration period we picked 3 submissions and held an award ceremony.  It is still vivid in my mind the pleasure those awardees expressed and the joy I felt at making a contribution to their lives by encouraging them to explore their creativity.

3D Printing Industry:  Thank you for talking with us.  Any advice for those who are interested in buying a new printer?

Mr. Kang:  Yes, In Korea most people do their shopping on-line, and I would advise them to visit an off-line dealer and check out the printer they are considering in person. Watch it print something.  Some companies hype their machine’s abilities in their advertisements. 3D printing can still be intimidating for the novice, so make sure the company you buy from will provide proper after-sales service.