Two cents blog

The 3D experiment

by Dwayne Smith on 12 March 2014

3D printing is a technology growing at an incredibly rapid rate. We believe it will make a significant impact on the consumer landscape and the marketing and communications business. Always keen to stay at the forefront of new technologies for our clients, BCM have dipped our toes in the 3D waters and purchased our own 3D printer. We think we might be one of the first agencies to be experimenting with 3D printing.

In a series of posts, we’ll be sharing our ‘warts and all’ experiences experimenting with the new technology and enjoying all the trials and tribulations that go with it – coming to grips with the 3D modelling software, the different types of filaments used for 3D printing, etc.  Already we’ve been amazed by what’s possible.

Week 1 – ‘Diving into the murky depths of an emerging technology’

Why ‘murky depths’ you might ask, rather than ‘giddy heights’? Because this was only Week 1 of our 3D Experiment. Even with a reasonable amount of research and preparation, jumping into 3D printing is done with a substantial amount of concrete attached to your ankles. And the descent is rapid, with an accelerating sense of panic. But all that comes later.

Our initial experience was one of excitement — especially because the ‘present’ that was delivered, ready to unwrap, was a big one. An impressive large wooden crate — containing a printer that’s only 500x590x530mm in size. The guys at Leapfrog, based in the Netherlands, sure know how to make a good first impression.

Once unpacked, the second impression was also … well … impressive. The Creatr is a seriously solid-looking piece of machinery. Sturdy laser-cut aluminium frame and metal side panels integrated into a beautifully curved design — very nice. And when you turn it on it gives off a funky blue glow, completing the ‘space-age’ effect.

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The Creatr was delivered towards the end of our working week after its long journey from The Netherlands, so we only had a limited time to play with it. Most of our initial time was taken up with troubleshooting — partly because the machine wasn’t quite as well calibrated as we were expecting, and partly because we really had no idea what we were doing.  Is that noise just a part of the printing process? Does the way that thing is moving look right? How noisy is this thing really supposed to be?  How does this whatsit fit into that thingamajig? No, really, does that noise sound right to you? 

Initially the extruders (the thingys that melt and lay down the plastic material) ‘crashed’ into the print bed.  We overcame this with a minor adjustment in the printing software. We also experienced some issues with the print bed not being quite level. Out with the trusty Allen keys. Our rudimentary method of using a piece of paper to manually measure the distance between the extruders and the print bed at key positions got everything successfully back in line and seemed to work okay. Then it was time to print.  Suddenly a small crowd gathered around my desk. There was much ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’.

Here’s some of our Week 1 handiwork.  Join us next week for more of our 3D printing journey.

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Dwayne Smith is a Finished Artist at BCM.

- Rob Davidson on March 19

Congrats Paul and BCM. This is a great sign of an agency that will stay at the leading edge in the race to relevance. Technology is such a threat and a tool for all of us. Particularly 3D printing which has the capacity to change our landscape and lives far more than most imagine. It's pretty cool to see you guys being prepared to lead the way. Buy a printer, see what happens and publish your findings. For reasons I am struggling to articulate, this is a really powerful message to all in business today. To me, this says: - play at the leading edge - don't just read about it - get involved - experiment - who knows where it leads Subliminally, this sends a great message to the market. Can't wait for the next installment. Rob

- Paul Cornwell on March 13

Nice one Dwayne. I guess what comes with being in there early with new technology is that we're learning as we go, making mistakes & stumbling around in the dark a bit. But to me, that's the fun bit. Keep experimenting mate.

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