Category: Site Visits

Shapeways

Questions

1)Are there any possibilities for food-safe materials to be 3D printed and offered by Shapeways?

2)In what ways does Shapeways highlight its community members’ work?

3)Do you envision Shapeways building more facilities worldwide as the company continues to grow, or expanding the two existing spaces to accommodate for that growth?


Visit

When we arrived at Shapeways’s location in Queens we were introduced to community and outreach manager Eleanor Whitney. Eleanor gave us a tour, first showing us the office space where a team of designers were working on prepping user submitted files for printing. Eleanor gave us an overview of the tools the team uses and the process from user submission request to final shippable product. We then toured the factory first seeing the industrial grade nylon and plastic 3D printers. Eleanor discussed the ways in which desktop 3D printers differ from the industrial grade printers found at Shapeways. We then moved on to a larger room with more 3D printers and got to see the machines working up close. After that Eleanor directed us to the next room where finished batches were taken apart, cleaned off, and organized for either shipping or dying. Finally we returned to the office space and lounge area to further discuss how the company has evolved over the years as well as Eleanor’s own responsibilities as community and outreach manager.

 

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Samples of 3D printed materials from Shapeways

 

Reflection

What I found personally interesting about Shapeways was their growth and evolution as a business. As Eleanor Whitney explained the company started in the Netherlands. Very recently the company expanded by acquiring its factory space in New York by attracting investors looking to create manufacturing and tech jobs locally. In that way it was interesting to learn about a startup that was able to expand internationally yet still keep a small ecosystem of under 60 employees. It was encouraging to hear that a creative/tech company could gain the kind of attention Shapeways did to help invest in the growth of their company.

Links

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/23/shapeways-raises-30-million-to-bring-3-d-printing-mainstream/?_r=0

http://www.fastcompany.com/3002303/shapewayss-new-3-d-printing-factory-brings-manufacturing-jobs-tech-scene

Girls Learning Code – Roman’s perspective.

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Instead of going to the field trip to New York, several people, me included, stayed in Toronto and volunteered at the Girls Learning Code camp. This is a special independent organization that helps children and adults to get familiar with various technological concepts, such as programming and web design. This particular camp was all about helping girls, from eight to thirteen years old, learn basics of web design in form of learning HTML and CSS.

Girls Learning Code

For me the camp started on Sunday before the first day, when I was going to the briefing and tutorial for volunteering mentors. I arrived about one and a half our earlier due to early departure because of unfamiliarity with the area and absence of traffic on Gardiner which is the scourge of my existence during rush hours. Therefore I was able to help with the setup of the camp which took about an hour.  There I met the camp coordinator Laura Plant, camp lead Kathryn Barrett and Lindsay Fry also one of the leaders. Then I and other three mentors, received rules and regulations forms explaining everything on how not to accidently sexually harass anyone, as well as some directions on actions during stressful situations. Particular point that attracted my attention was “Mentors are prohibited from… <other points> eliminating snacks.” I was quite curious what meaning did elimination mean in this context, total annihilation by eating or willful extermination using flamethrower – I did not know, but hesitated to ask Laura. Then Laura answered some general questions and we departed, anticipating the following first day.

On the first day I arrived half an hour early, at 8:00 AM to be there on time and meet everyone first. To do so I had to wake up at 5:00AM and take one of the earliest trains. On the spot I met few other mentors who were five to seven years older than me and long time working at different companies. Then the rest of the mentors arrived, the 80% of mentors who were FreshBooks employees and conveniently volunteered for half day while also being near work place. By 9:00AM first girls started arriving with their parents and one of the exceptionally extraverted mentors, whose name was Tyn, took them for a tour of the study area. After everyone was there Kathryn explained to girls the purpose of mentors such as myself, and a bit on corporate ethics – the trend was called “Warm Fuzzies” a bag where people could donate notes with positive feedback about the owner of the bag. As well as discussed several other formalities, such as general directions of the camp and learning outcomes. Then was the time to learn. I was assigned to a group called JavaScript, which I was proud of because some of the others were Python and Basic. The team started with generating the idea for the website. Due to my lack of educational knowledge I tried to not interfere with the process and only help with general directions, such as writing points out while brainstorming and voting for the best idea. Even though the cancer cell of “Endangered animals” was present in our group, all girls voted for the original idea of free WiFi. I call the topic above the cancer cell because 5 out of 8 groups were doing that topic, which does not mean it was bad, but rather rapidly growing in the closed society. As soon as the topic was selected, which took half day we went to have lunch. After lunch girls designed the logo for the team in Pixlr, looked at some basic ways to modify a website and studied some general structure of web pages. I was quite exhausted so I left as soon as my shift ended at 4:30PM.

The next day I volunteered was also the last one. Friday, was the presentation day, when girls showed their websites they made throughout the week to their parents and it seemed, the entire personnel of FreshBooks. I was very curious as to how my team managed throughout the week and what is the final version of what they planned looked like. This day Chris was also there so it was better and more cheerful than Monday. When I finally got to my group I discovered that they still were halfway through the task from last day. They inquired as to where have I been during the week, which surprised me, because I didn’t think they would remember me. So we had to rush through the Thursday assignment of making video using Mozilla Popcorn – web based video editor and to make things worse, also implementing it into the Mozilla Thimble – web development app. Since girls were relatively new to the software even with my help they were not doing that fast. Thankfully Kathryn came to rescue and helped the team. After lunch was final polishing round then girls went through the website practicing the presentation. And then the presentations happened… and it was over. Not much to say about presentations since parents were the target audience. Then everybody grabbed their Fuzzy Bags and left, while me and Chris stayed a little longer to help with the takedown of the camp. We helped to pack everything up and deliver it to the van, which took it to the mysterious place called – “The Lab”. Then me and Chris parted ways on the crossroads in front of FreshBooks building, I went north while he went south. Thus our bizarre adventure has ended.

Reflection: The experience received from this activity was probably incomparable to the New York one yet it was valuable. Girls were especially bright and picked up everything right away. As Kathryn wisely noticed – she learned all that in university, while kids can already get a hand of such advanced technology at such a young age. But personally the most important experience for me was to see the insides of a company such as FreshBooks which does financial advising for startup businesses and some promo-advertising. While mentoring on the first day I had a chat with a guy called Jeremy who is doing promotional video for FreshBooks and it was quite interesting to see how people use familiar to me technology to achieve such distant goals. Therefore as the conclusion every experience in life is valuable, yet some are more valuable than others and this one was definitely one of the important ones.

New York Times Research and Development Group

Questions

1)Much of the work done at NYT labs seems to share a common thread of socially conscious design. Can you speak to the significance of transparency in your design process?

2)In your experience working with NYT labs do you feel that is important to have a single expertise or to have a more generalized set of skills?

3)A lot of your work is open-source. Can you speak about the lab’s interest in making these tools available to the public?


Visit

During our first visit in New York City we toured the New York Times Research & Development Group’s office. There we met with Noah Feehan who introduced us to the space, as well as some examples of the work he and his colleagues do for the Times. Noah explained that the Research & Development Group deals with imagining trends and technologies that will emerge within the next three to five years. Noah first showed us the Kepler project, a visualization of metadata published by The Times since 1913. Kepler ambiently displays connected topics of interest written by the publication and combines each topic with relevant data referencing the audience’s activity on The Times website and Twitter.

Noah Feehan at NYT labs

Noah Feehan demoing Kepler

 

Noah then walked us through the office resting first to speak about the Cascade project. Cascade is a realtime visualization of readers viewing The Times web or mobile sites. This project helps The Times recognize and understand pathways in which their readership are taking through their online portals.

 

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Project Cascade – Photographed by Karina Kurmanbayeva

 

We then moved on to briefly speak about other tools that the Research & Development group have actually created to assist their own work. One example Noah showed us was Streamtools, an open-source toolkit for working with live streams of data.

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Streamtools interface

 

Noah then showed us The Listening Table, a very different kind of project from the rest we had just viewed. The Listening Table is a semantic listening device that looks to explore the relationship between recorded data and real human understanding.

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Noah demos The Listening Table

 

Lastly, Noah showed us project Madison, a crowd-sourced archive of advertisements that have appeared in The Times. This project explores collaborative publishing and how human archival techniques compares to digital archival tools.

Reflections

One important theme that stood out to me when touring the New York Times Research & Development Group’s office was the social consciousness evident in their work. Each project not only considered what the emerging technologies are but also how these technologies will be embodied in our day to day lives. There was an emphasis and understanding of the human element in each project that I really appreciated. As Noah Feehan discussed we are already recording data signals in many ways but it is important moving forward to change the way we listen to those signals, and what meaning truly lies within them. This visit in particular really inspired me to think more critically about my design process and how it can become more transparent and socially conscious.

Links

http://nytlabs.com/

http://makezine.com/2015/03/11/new-tech-times/

http://blog.nytlabs.com/2015/03/20/video-recent-projects-and-research/

Upverter

Summary:

Upverter was the first trip we had after returning from New York. Located inside a residence house, this start-up company was full of surprises and smarts. Upverter is a company that have built CAD software, which had simplified the process of creating printed circuit boards. Our tour guide Michael Woodworth and Adam Gravitis, gave us excellent insight into the company’s purpose and showed us small demos of their product. They had started the company by making a prototype and joining an accelerator in states. They claimed all the software out there that performed similar tasks are out-dated and terrible to use. Then they lead on explaining that companies creating complex circuits spend thousands of dollars behind hiring engineers that can create these circuits. Also there is almost 0% chance that the circuits these engineers create will function in the first time. It takes couple of revisions for the circuit to function properly. Which can be financially taxing. Their software doesn’t guarantee the circuits will function in the first go, but it provides feedback for errors to make the process of circuit design more user friendly. The software also had a real time collaboration feature; so multiple people can work on one design at the same time. It was like the Google Docs of circuit design. They had said that no other company has ever done that. They had put a lot of thought into User Interface design and were constantly improving it.

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Reflection:

The thing that stood out to me the most was the dedication these people had towards their job. It was very inspiring. They had basically invented a solution for a problem they were personally having as hardware engineers. They looked highly frustrated with the software that existed out there and developed a way to fix that, which seemed really cool. Despite having amazing software I thought they lacked a little in terms of marketing. If they involved their selves more in maker community and promoted to people that are starting to learn circuit design, they might have more success. Because new learners don’t have biases towards different software.

Questions:

  • You are up against big competitions, and established software that people use already. So how is your business model adjusted that you can take people out of their comfort zone of using that software and guide them to use yours?
  • Have you created simple projects and tried to promote them within the maker community using something like Instructables, to get people to use the software more or to familiarize them with it?
  • What are some plans you have to advance this project in future? What sort of tools and projects you have in mind that will enhance this tool?

The Office For Creative Research

Summary

The location and context of this place was highly contradicting and ironic. Located between 2 shops in Chinatown with a sketchy looking door was the Office for Creative Research. It made me chuckle when we entered this weird looking building, and saw an amazing Microsoft screen with beautiful visuals on them. After the weird first impression, this place made up with promising projects and presenter. Office for Creative Research is a multidisciplinary research group that makes interesting projects with the use of given data. Jer Thorp, one of the artist and creator at O-C-R explained his processes & projects they have worked on. The first one on the list was, a data visualization project for Microsoft called Specimen Box. This project took botnet data and turned into a gorgeous detailed visuals and audio interaction. It presented clear data on what was happening with botnet data and was very intuitive. Through this data observation they were able to figure out a small error pattern that had occurred with Microsoft’s servers. Their outlook on data was very unique and unusual. They understood data as a creative tool, more than specific numbers, they saw them as tool to recognize patterns and present them in a very creative manner. He also showed us some other projects they had worked on with NYT and MoMA. When we visited NYT Labs, I was captivated with the installation in entrance space, later to find out that OCR had worked on it. Jer also strongly highlighted that the amount of skills they had to learn and how important multi-disciplinary thinking was to them.

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Reflection:

This place made me remember the phrase “Don’t judge the book by its cover”. Despite being in a silly looking building, this place had done work that was extra-ordinary. It took me a while to sync in all of the information I had witnessed there. I felt out of all the workspaces we had visited, this place justified in right means, what it means to be multi disciplinary. Despite having background in a different area, Jerr was able to function and work on many different varieties of projects with different mindset. This place made me question my skills, but also gave me many inspiring idea that I wanted to incorporate in my own projects.

Shapeways

Questions: 

  • The process sounds complicated and delicate to produce these 3D models, does that mean there is a high chance of failure and material waste? If so, how does the company deal with the wasted materials?
  • What are the policies against potentially dangerous printing jobs (ie. Swords, knives etc…)? What is your process for deciding between objects that are dangerous opposed to ones that are not?
  • If the submitted models have flaws, is it sent back to the consumer? Or the company makes slight adjustments to fit the guidelines?

 

Summary:

For our visit on Thursday, we had taken a water taxi to get to this big factory like place called Shapeways. Hidden inside a maze like path, Shapeway is a company that does high quality 3D printing & laser cutting of artist and community work. Anyone can submit a 3D print or laser cut job request and it will be accomplished with range of materials to select from. The Community outreach officer, Eleanor Whitney gave us a tour of the place.

She started the tour by taking us to a small narrow area with medium sized 3D printers. She explained that the process of taking print request to materializing is very delicate and has high chances of errors. Once there are enough print requests, the designers at Shapeways try to fit the models tightly inside a box to minimize risk & material cost. “It’s similar to playing “Tetris” “-she says. Once all of the guidelines have been met, the models go to the printer for printing. The way printers handle these jobs is, in all the negative spaces of the box, a layer of wax gets put to create supports and increase the printing accuracy. All of the printers there were all very high maintenance and required regular cleaning and upgrades to improve the efficiency. She then took us to more of a factory looking room with many huge 3D printers and laser cutters doing complicated looking tasks. She mentioned it takes somewhere form 24-48 hours to complete one printing job in those machines.

Once the factory tour was over she spoke to us about some key values that the company held. She said, the company constantly works with some reoccurring artist clients and promotes and supports their work. They believed in highlighting these communities through different means and encapsulating creators to keep the company running.

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Reflection:

Personally, for me this trip was really interesting and fun. We had previously visited Hot Pop Factory, which was loosely a smaller version of Shapeways, and it was cool to see how these 3D printing tasks functioned in a big scale. It was very educating to know how exactly these printers worked, so if I ever wanted to do a project I could do it with more efficiency. I was also very impressed by their involvement and respect towards the 3D printing community, and how successfully they had managed to make it part of the company values. Also the presenter Eleanor was very enthusiastic towards her job and did a great job presenting the company.

 

Links:

http://shapeways.tumblr.com/

http://www.shapeways.com/

Hack Lab (Hakka Lab)

Q:How does the community inside Hack Lab work and are there any corporate ethics involved?

Q:Have you considered any other ways to keep the Lab running, beside monthly subscription?

Q:How does the degree of creativity in people change as they work and experiment in Hack Lab?

 

Sumaranai: Hack Lab is a studio made specifically to assist people, with ambition in programming, wearable technology and any kind of technological innovation, in reaching their goals. The studio itself is an apartment-like set of rooms, each with different purpose. Firstly there is the room with the entrance where presumably most of the coding is done. Programmers also share this room with several 3d printers and a laser cutter. During our visit we were greeted by Eric Boyd, one of the creators of Hacklab and we had a little tour around the space. Firstly my sub-group has seen the kitchen, where nice Asian lady told us all about the secrets of testing new recipes on unsuspecting co-workers. Then we visited the workshop, where Eric shared with us how much hacking has been done to ensure than not a single Ampere passes through the power cords unnoticed, and of course the pride of the Hack Lab – the air filtration system to ensure that human casualties after laser cutting are minimal. After that we visited the resting area with a small sniper nest and Breaking Bad level chemical setup with unidentified substances, which as have been described by Eric – “Are used by other two people for unknown to him purposes”, most assuring. At the end of the day the kind Asian lady offered us some food and everybody got some, except me – I read a lot of Grimm brothers’ tales in my childhood and know better.

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Reflection: The experience in Hack Lab could hardly be called distinctive, a nice giant workshop made for any imaginable work with hardware and software. The sense of community purchased for fifty dollars does not sound so appealing, but rather cheesy. The needs of Lab to maintain itself are clear, yet the membership in this fine establishment does not sound as tempting and non-membership and fifty dollars in the pocket. I presume it is only because I have yet to run into a project where my life would depend on air filtration system after some heavy laser cutting. The Lab looks like a “done and gone” type of place where you abandon the ship as soon as your month runs out. Personally I found it pretty hard to identify the target audience for a place like that, since I always assumed that new entrepreneurs are looking for a way to earn and not spend money, yet this lab seems full of people willing to pay fifty dollars per month for the access card on the front door.

Upverter

Q:As a startup company what would you recommend, in terms of strategy, to attract sponsors?

Q:How does the company deal with malfunctioning circuits and is there a return policy?

Q:What would be the best way to organize a hierarchy inside the company?

 

20150324_151255Upverter is a company that specializes in creating CAD software for creating a digital blueprints for chips and circuit boards .It started off from the idea of creating a custom CAD program because all existing ones were not satisfying the founders Michael Woodworth and Zak Homuth so they decided to make a new one that would be more professional and have better and more intuitive interface. Therefore the idea developed into a full product and the company was built around it. As of late the company provides their software for several major companies in addition to directly building circuits for some customers.  We were greeted by Mike, who showed us the office space and took us to the basement where the “conference room” was located. There demonstrating prototypes of the circuit boards on the screen he showed the kind of business the company was doing. He passed around a few prototypes a circuit board and a robot, which were made using Upverter app. He talked about the company, the development trends, startup problems and overall tendencies in the field, as well as mentioning competitors such as Eagle. After we finished with the presentation we received Upverter badges and visit cards.

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During our visit at the office of Upverter it was surprising to see it located at one of the living houses, especially offsetting was the office layout inside the house and the work space where all the developers sat. The overall experience was interesting, it was interesting to see how a successful startup began, what problems it had in the beginning and how these problems were resolved, this kind of experience would definitely help should I decide to start my own company. As for the actual software that Upverter releases, I have barely touched any circuit design therefore it is hard for me to judge whether it is better or worse than Eagle.

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