Category: Hot Pop Factory

Hot Pop Factory

Q:What is the most practical use of 3d print you encountered?

Q:Have you ever considered any means to make 3d printing more efficient?

Q:What are some possible applications of 3d printing in day to day life? Something used often and practically?

Summary: Hot Pot Pop factory is a company/ studio that makes 3d prints using 3d printers and laser cutters. During a tour given by Bi-Ying and Mathew we got an idea how the 3d printing business is organized. The idea for the company originated in Rome, the concept of creating a company that would combine various 3d design equipment and use it to assist other companies, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs with access to otherwise expensive 3d print technology. The company has been involved in many interesting projects such as Module Composed Architecture  and customized plastic Jewelry when users can write their own custom designs in processing and then print this unique piece on a 3d printer. Hot Pop factory have successfully developed the ways of marketing including the user interaction listed above, sharing experiences with people and following popular trends such as a pipe in shape of Rob Ford’s head, which resembles the recent scandal with him abusing drugs. Overall, the flexibility of demand in the field and manufacturing on demand has brought Hot Pop factory to a solid place in the creative society, where it still resides.


Reflection: My personal experience while visiting Hot Pop factory was rather educating, prior to the visit I only had a vague interpretation as to where to find an accessible 3d printer. Hot Pop factory was the first in this matter, and as of now I know where to find a 3d printer in Toronto. However the offsetting part was the price for 3d prints, where in my opinion the cost does not justify the results. Therefore it is not viable for me to incorporate the 3d prints in any of my works. The experience shared by Bi-Ying and Mathew was very valuable in terms of starting a business in a field with other players around, even if the business could seem rather unique at first glance. As well as the experience of idea development for a particular type of items was rather interesting and showed how one should adapt to the society around him to succeed in business.

Digital Futures Lecture and Field Study Series #2: Bi-Ying Miao and Matt Compeau – Hot Pop Factory


What challenges have you faced by operating in such a small space?

Are the profit margins of the business model enough to sustain and even grow the business?

How are you adjusting the business to improve revenues and cut cost?


With all of the media and social buzz surrounding 3D printing, it was great to de-mystify some of the rabble with Bi-Ying and Matt. Bi-Ying gave us a history of she and Matt’s backgrounds in industrial design and architecture. She went over some of the processes they used to design the Lansdowne Stadium in Ottawa, using procedurally generated geometry.

She spoke about some of the difficulties related to the project, which eventually led them to scale down their applications to a more approachable level and create procedurally generated jewellery designs, which they 3D printed and marketed together. Their original investment into this was only about $2500. Be-Ying spoke about the advantage of making products on demand, rather than keeping a stock of product that may or may not sell.

In terms of marketing and story, it was due in part to good timing with the media storm surrounding the practice of 3D printing that contributed to their early success. Through revealing the design process and outcomes, they created a compelling visual narrative that captured their audience.

Some of what I found very useful in the presentation was hearing about the challenges and limitations of 3D printing. For example, mass production is difficult because of the speed of production on a 3D printer. Additionally, because of the layering process, 3D printed goods are not food safe; bacteria can become trapped and grow between the layers. There are also high costs associated with shipping and distribution which have a significant impact on product price points and profit margins.

Be-Ying described some of the beauty in the practice as well, noting the design freedom. Through practices such as 3D scanning, designers have been able to “hack” the physical and “hack” monopolies. With digital design also comes agility. They have been able to keep up with and respond to media and social trends before they leave the public conscience.


I really enjoyed Be-Ying’s honest approach to describing the possibilities and limitations of 3D printing, and again for “demystifying” the 3D printing buzz. 3D design and printing can be a feasible/viable/sustainable business, but it requires attention to overall costs and an attention to the customer base that recognizes the “custom” price-point reality of the practice.

I enjoyed some of the unique projects they’ve created for their clients, particularly the Rob Ford head crack pipe including the caption, “Je ne fume pas du crack”. The combination of creativity, simplicity, humour and social relevance are what sold me on Hot Pop, and I’m following up with the company to explore the possibility of working on a project with them or interning for them to gain experience with the medium.


Hot Pop Factory

A couple weeks ago we visited Hot Pop Factory, which is located in Toronto on Spadina street. Hot Pop Factory is a creative design firm that provides fabrication services. They specialize in creative use of 3D printing and laser cutting. Hot Pop Factory was founded by two architects, Bi-Ying Miao and Matthew Compeau. They studied architecture in England, where they first developed interest for fabrication. After university they worked as architects for several projects, where they had a chance to work with 3D printers and various cutting machines creating models for a large-scale projects. When 3D printers became more affordable, they bought their own MakerBot  and started playing around with it. Later on they produced their own jewelry collection, that was captured a lot of attention for the media. The idea behind their collection was to make unique and customizable jewelry, that would be one of a kind. Using Rhino software along with the Grasshopper plug-in, they were able to create different shapes by applying algorithms and changing parameters. Every projects they work on are innovative in their own way, they always try to experimentwith new hardware and software and follow the most latest trends.

It was a very inspiring visit. They way Bi-Ying was talking about the company and their vision was very motivating. It’s fascinating how they turned into fabrication after working in architecture industry, where they realized that it is not yet ready for drastic changes and not ready for new innovative ways of doing things. Now they own their own company helping people and giving them opportunity to create something for themselves. They want 3D printing to be more accessible for anyone to use and learn. They are encouraging people to create products themselves instead of buying mass produced products. Its also amazing how they host variety of classes and workshops to familiarize people of any age and status with fabrication technologies.    Platonix Earrings

Hot Pop


Level of involvement with the artists for People’s Hive?

Synthetic polymers and environment:

Recyclability? Environmental impact or ecofootprint?

Challenges of being in the Maker industry?

Stratigraphia- jewelry line:

Other types of body jewelry or accessories in future?

Bi-Ying introduced us to Hot Pop factory, founded by her and her partner Matt Compeau. They initially started as architects who took a different approach to designing buildings. They showed us some works of theirs including the train station in Rome and the stadium in Lansdowne. Since then they started their own company using a Makerbot 3D printer. They started making and selling jewelry and expanded to make trendy items which gained them media recognition. They use programs such as Rhino 3D and Grasshopper to design their 3D creations. They also use laser cutting which in combination provides endless possibilities for the products they can make.

The ABS thermoplastic materials they use in the 3D printer are similar to that of plastic Legos. Bi-Ying explained that they are not toxic, and 3D printer production does not pose as great a risk to the environment as a factory would manufacturing a similar product.  The products are also recyclable as they can be melted down and remolded into a new product. She also explained that the success and uniqueness of goods manufactured is due to the possibilities of the 3D printer. Each product is made one at a time, and so there is time to customize each one easily in the case of their jewelry line. They used some sort of algorithm to take a 3D scan of a chair and manipulate its shape and size into a repeating pattern created some kind of abstract art sculpture which was 3D printed. I especially like the way they played around with design, with their experimental wooden laser cut shapes which were drawn in a 3D modelling program. They added to the code so that the program would automatically draw the blobby shape as a structure of interlocking wooden slots. They even used digital painting to color the wood as dictated in the program. This combination of techniques had an effective result: to realize an abnormal shape in every detail.

Hot Pop Factory

Does Bi-Ying see this being usable for wargames and roleplaying games?

Will 3d Printers ever become as ubiquitous as 2d Printers?

How expensive would it be to create a high resolution standard 28mm model?

We went to Hot Pop where we sat in confusing chairs.  Bi-Ying had a prepared presentation where she spoke at length about her and her co founders architecture backgrounds and how they felt limited by the conservative nature of their shared field.  Fed up with said limitations they started making smaller things using computers as a large part of their process.  Eventually settling on 3d printing.  They made some fascinating disposable meme art as well as some interesting miniatures as contract work.

I was mostly interested with the prospect of printing miniatures.  War gaming is currently prohibitively expensive.  I grew up playing these games that brought me into fantastic worlds and sparked my love of game design.  If there was any way to make those games cheaper and bring more people into the hobby I would love to get in on it.  Unfortunately the tech really doesn’t seem there, an individual miniature currently costs way more than a plastic so the cost for an army would be far too much.  Having a service letting people design a roleplaying character with a an easy to use 3d printer which then gets printed would be really cool.


Hot Pop Factory – March 10


(Image source)


We visited Hot Pop Factory, a 3D printing studio, and both co-founders (Bi-Ying Miao and Matt Compeau) were present to talk about their work and answer our questions, such as:

  • In what ways is possible to develop accessible and interesting products through 3D printing?
  • What materials are used for 3D printing?
  • How competitive is the modern marketing regarding 3D printing studios?


Bi-Ying began the presentation by introducing herself and Matt and talking about how they developed the idea of what is Hot Pop Factory today. As majors in architecture in Rome, they developed an interest for shapes and constructions, and used 3D modelling for many of their past projects, and still use for several recent projects. When they had enough money, they bought a 3D printer and started experimenting with it. Some of their projects were presented to us, either physically or in concept: randomly generated unique jewelery pendants, harmonograph-like shaped sculptures, and even personalized head dispensers and pipes as a special gift for a group of clients. We also saw small, delicate 3D sculptures of characters of a game, and Bi-Ying mostly talked about the progression of their work over the years and how their projects are developed, showing us several 3D models used for the sculptures and how they were generated on modelling software.



Seeing a studio so successful in an area that’s not entirely “popular” is really interesting, especially considering the background of both founders and how their interest for modelling slowly resulted in a very successful entrepreneurship. From what was presented, there doesn’t seem to be a great competition going on for 3D printing studios, which helps to establish Hot Pop Factory on a good position in the market. Still, the products are innovative enough to stand out by themselves even if they were amongst more aggressive competition. The fact that Hot Pop also takes its time to interact with clients and even send them special gifts is also something to be remembered, as it proves that the entrepreneurship still takes its time to stand out in the market and is not just comfortably enjoying their current position and success.

Hot Pop Factory

founders of HotPop

(Image of Bi-Ying and Matt. Image from:


  • Hot Pop Factory does a lot of 3D printing for jewelry, figurines, etc. Does Hot Pop Factory 3D print things that are potentially for technology? i.e.: cases for working components
  • What is the future of 3D printing? Is it something that would open to artists and non-artists?
  • A lot of places charge an expensive fee for 3D printing. Pretty sure printing materials costs a bit. What is the production for the models like?
  • Bonus Question: I got the impression that Hot Pop is similar to those who are within the Maker’s Economy. The maker’s economy makes creations by themselves, and sells the productions online or elsewhere. However, Bi-Ying was talking about the production using robotic arms. How would the robotic arms play into the idea of Maker’s Economy? Would it typically become another small factory, or would it become a hybrid of both?



When the class arrived to Hot Pop Factory, we were greeted by Bi-Ying, one of the co-founders of Hot Pop Factory. She started by presenting to us how the company started, and what their business essentially provides. Hot Pop factory is a customize production company that specifically uses 3D printers and laser cutters. They were established when they tried to use 3D programs such as Rhino to build architecture that cannot be found in daily society. They tried to create buildings that replace walls with fabric, and get eccentric shapes to form on the building. The idea was shot down by their professor, but they continued to pursue the idea, which eventually lead them to help produce a building in Ottawa that plays on that concept. The whole idea behind Hot Pop factory is to use machinery in modern day society such as 3D printing and laser cutting to create customization and art that would be opened to anyone with the interest.


Personal Response and Reflections:

Upon going to Hot Pop Factory, I went in with the mindset that the small company is the start of promotion for technologies such as 3D printing and laser cutting. I also saw them as a part of the makers’ economy, which creates art and products of their own, and sell them in the market. However, Bi-Ying expressed the idea of using the technology to create the art, and the benefits to creating a robotic arm to assemble the piece created together. In using robotic arms to assemble the art together, human labour would be manipulated. Thinking upon this idea, I do not believe that robotic arms would be a good idea because assuming that not only Hot Pop Factory uses the technology, a lot of labour intensive jobs would be cut. In a monetized world such as ours, with jobs like these being cut, and technology replacing people, the economy may crumble due to lack of income. It also makes the business into a small production factory because the robotic arm would also speed up process, making it easier to mass-produce products. Assuming that the business does not use the robotic arm to mass-produce, it is possible for the company to be a hybrid of both a factory and the makers’ group. It would be intriguing to see how Hot Pop Factory would further grow if the technology of the robotic arm is build for them.

3D PEZ dispensers

(3D PEZ dispensers. Image from:

Hot Pop Factory


1) What first inspired you to adopt the use of emerging technologies as a major part of your business model?

2) What do you believe is most important about teaching people to use the emerging technologies your business utilizes? 

3) How do you believe Toronto’s growing maker economy helped shape the way you operate your business?

The Visit

At Hot Pop Factory our class was introduced to co-founders Bi-Ying Miao and Matt Compeau. After we settled into the space the two began to give an overview of their background in architectural design. They spoke about their interest in using new technologies to design more complex and innovative structures that they could not have achieved using traditional drafting methods. Though, their interest in using new and emerging technologies was not well received in their field of work at the time. This resistance, however, inspired the two to pursue other ways these technologies can be used. The rest of the visit comprised of viewing Hot Pop’s portfolio of work, design processes, and discussions of their desire to streamline design processes to empower both the designer and the user.


I found Hot Pop Factory to be an incredibly interesting space in Toronto’s maker economy. The business’s model of operation falls somewhere between industrial design firm and hack lab; where the co-founders are continually exploring emerging technologies and how they can be contextualized within Hot Pop’s existing design processes. From my understanding it seemed like Hot Pop struck a fair balance between a traditional design firm’s ecosystem and a healthy dose of play and experimentation that could help the business remain forward thinking and progressive. I was particularly interested by their use of process within their marketing strategies which I think added an important element of transparency to their business. Overall I found the visit to be an important example of understanding, contextualizing ,and leveraging the use of emerging technologies to empower designers.



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