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10 Questions With...

10 Questions With... Erik De Brujin

21 November 2016

At the Eastman Innovation Lab we look to our fellow design and materials experts for inspiration, community, and expertise. In order to get to know them and their projects better, we created a column called Ten Questions With...

Erik co-founded Ultimaker, now the leading desktop 3D printer company. He hopes to bring powerful technologies to the masses, enabling them to create anything they can imagine. He has a passion for helping out projects like e-Nable, and developing YouMagine, a platform (by Ultimaker) that shares and develops 3D designs.

What is your company known for?

Ultimakers are the 3D printers that enable businesses, creators, and schools to create real things that were an idea only moments ago.

What is the next project or product that you would be most excited to explore?

Increasingly, factories are using Ultimakers to produce real end products and tooling out of engineering materials. They need reliable printers that can print engineering polymers that are cost effective, but also offers the freedom to change things. We give people the freedom to adjust any part of the printer or the workflow which enables these companies to integrate it into a factory environment.

What are themes that you find yourself addressing over and over again?

Making good prints require constant collaborations between materials, software and hardware engineers, but even this isn't enough. We can also benefit from a community that explores and finds new applications for 3D printing or find greater user cases for certain materials.

How do #materialsmatter to you?

It's great that you can 3D print in many shapes, but having tough materials that don't warp after sitting in a dishwasher is important. 3D printing is evolving from PLA as the main materials that people work with to more advance engineering polymers.

Who is doing work that you find inspiring?

Neil Gerschenfeld is the founder of the FabLab concept and focuses on the convergence of digital and physical world. FabLabs are places where people can find digital production tools that allow people to not just share knowledge, but also useful design files that can be replicated in FabLabs across the world. Innovate together in a FabLab and building on work in the RepRap community has served as the starting point for Ultimaker. We now contribute back by having tinkering friendly 3D printers and an ecosystem where people can share digital designs, called YouMagine. The idea of creating a Wikipedia-like platform, but for physical objects really fascinates us.

What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

Start a company around your passion! However, I would tell myself it’s going to be easy, since otherwise I might not have started it. Now I am very glad that I did and found great people around me that know how to continue building a company.

What technology gets you excited?

3D printing of function materials combined with regular materials; for example, conductive traces, combining flexible and rigid materials in design.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you deal with it?

We try to not just create a machine, but also software and a sharing platform. The combination is especially powerful. This only leaves 3D design tools out of the equation, but we need these tools to allow design for 3D printing. However, at Ultimaker we cannot do everything by ourselves and still develop the best products. So we're now working with the 3MF Consortium to create a 3D Manufacturing format that allows people to get more out of the highly capable 3D printing process. We do this by creating a 3MF standard that every CAD (design tool) maker can adopt and which gives you more control over the design and manufactured part.

What’s something you want to get better at?

I have great access to many 3D printers, so I want to get better at designing objects for 3D printing. Mostly, I have experience in one CAD program (OpenSCAD), but want to learn another one to make more elaborate designs quickly to solve everyday problems with nice objects.

What’s your go-to reference book?

It used to be Democratizing Innovation, by Prof. Eric von Hippel, however I didn't need to re-read it, because I know it by heart. Now von Hippel is publishing Free Innovation, which is really insightful and talks about creating a powerful combination of a company and a community. This is what Ultimaker is known for and where we want to excel.

SPEED ROUND

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. And lots of it.

Droid or iOS?

Android, hands down. However I admit I like my MacBook. It made me more productive even after using Linux for the desktop for over a decade.

Kindle or book?

Kindle.

Sketch or build?

Sketch and then build!

What are you reading right now?

I was lucky to be allowed to proofread Free Innovation! It will be released shortly for free!