Thursday, January 26, 2012

Be Surrounded By Geniuses

Recently, through an innovation initiative at my day job, I had the privilege to meet Alan Gregerman, a fascinating author and speaker.  His latest book is called "Surrounded by Geniuses" and if you want to really soar in life and work, I heartily recommend it.

Beyond his books, he also publishes a blog.  On his blog I learned he is also a big fan of Derek Sivers!  Timely, isn't it???  :)

In the linked blog entry, Mr. Gregerman explains how he became sold on the CDBaby experience!

Beyond Expectations, October 12,2009

Alan Gregerman's conclusion says it all...

"We win in business when we imagine the most remarkable customer
experience--an experience that captures the imagination of those we have
the privilege to serve.  Maybe it's time for you and the geniuses
around you to let your imaginations take flight.

While it may not be obvious yet, since is still in development, I fully expect that ALL Cubify members will realize, in short order, that ALL of us are surrounded by geniuses simply by being a part of such a creative community fostered by such a creative company.


I'd like to recognize one of these geniuses now,   The Cubify user name of the designer is Sidnaique.  I find their designs elegantly simple and immediately useful! 


Some other interesting designs by this designer are... an escalator sign.. 

An elevator sign... 

And, something completely different... 

Yep!  This is going to be a fun adventure and one in which we are surrounded by genius in every direction we look!  And, that is a GREAT position in which to find one's self.  Nice job Sidnaique!

By the way, I believe that Sidnaique is from Goa, India.  (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

Cubify isn't even fully operational yet and example after example of our world-wide collective genius is already shining through.

Alan Gregerman is RIGHT!

It IS great to be surrounded by Geniuses!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Make Your Own Future - Rise Above the NOISE!

We talked about the fact that Cubify Fans are destined to be the vanguard of a massive movement of epic proportions.  Experts expect that 3D printing will be as great a Disruptive Technology as the original printing press.  Those in the field of Supply Chain Management are taking the implications very, very seriously.

Normally, we think of something "Disruptive" as a bad thing.  But, as in the case of the printing press, the word "Disruptive" simply means that it will result in completely new ways of delivering product.  It will disrupt the old ways and replace them with new ways.

Any time there is this kind of disruption, there are opportunities for creative and innovative people.

In the case of the Cubify community, there will be opportunities for designers to offer their designs to an ever growing network of 3D printer owners.  To be sure, the numbers at first will be relatively small compared to what they will be in the future.  But, wise people will recognize that gaining experience early in the game should pay big dividends in the future.

First, any design that one uploads to is probably going to be available for a long, long time.  On a personal level, at my age, I expect any items I design that fit the criteria for usefulness to be available for my entire lifetime.  And, over that lifetime, the opportunities to sell will continually grow as the number of 3D printers inevitably grows.  So, while we can't expect a huge return early on, there is some reason for optimism over the long term.

If you are a writer or software designer that has ever been fortunate enough to enjoy royalty income, you know exactly what this is like.  Royalty checks are a bit like having money fall down from the sky.  The money keeps coming even though the work that produced the royalties is long past.  It seems to show up like magic!

Bringing this back to, it means that we work on a design today and upload it.  At first, we may not see a big response because of the initial numbers of 3D printers will be relatively low as people become familiar with what they can do.  But, if we are patient and if our designs and marketing efforts are worthy enough, the income should gradually increase.

Think of what this can mean to us.  If we get sick, we could still have income.  If we lose our skills due to the ravages of age, we could still have income.  All, based on the efforts of the past where we diligently used our minds to design objects that others could use and enjoy.

It won't be true of everyone.  But, that does not mean that the opportunity is not there.

Remember that I mentioned CDBaby in the last blog article?  It is a site where any musical artist can upload their music and CDBaby facilitates making that music available through a wide variety of distribution channels.  Some artists are wildly successful.  Others barely make a blip.

Those that fail usually do so because they rely on the music or the wide distribution opportunities to sell their album.  Big mistake.  They fail to take into account the "Noise" of so many choices.  So, they fail to promote their album so that it rises above the noise.  CDBaby is NOT going to make a budding musical artist a star.  It's simply going to give one a means of fulfillment, that is delivery, of the music once it becomes known to the public.

It is up to the artist to plan how to rise above the noise and shine above the clutter.

And, the same will be true for designers that hope to sell their work on  Just as we must be creative in coming up with our designs, we must also work equally hard at being creative about helping those designs be found by standing out above the noise of, potentially, tens and hundreds of thousands of other designs.

It begins with doing little things, like creating a blog that not only highlights your own work; but, provides information of value to the broader community.  Those who give to the community will be embraced by the community.  A few other ways to help bring attention to your work are:
  • Making sure that a full description of the design and its value are included
  • Making sure that accurate and complete tags are available to search engines
  • Making sure that a hierarchy of categories precisely lets searchers drill down to your work.
We don't yet know precisely how's final categorization and classification system will work.  But, it is up to us to make sure that, where we can, WE provide the information to the search engine in a way that ensures that those looking for an object like that we've designed will find ours.  It's every bit as important as making sure the item is the best of it's kind out there.  For, it doesn't matter how good your item's design is if potential buyers can't find it.  And, the more items available on, the greater the "NOISE".

Rise above it!

Catch the Opportunity!

What can the Cubify community learn from a former clown?

A LOT!!!

Especially when the clown in question is Derek Sivers, the founder of CDBaby, a hugely successful site where thousands of musicians sell their music.

Consider this short talk titled "How to Start a Movement"

We are about to embark on a movement.  A HUGE movement.  A REALLY HUGE movement!  And, if we are to be leaders in that movement we need to recognize that every person in that movement is critical to its success.  You can't have a crowd without participants as witnessed by this video!

I hope you realize that if you are reading this blog, that you are going to be able to look back twenty years from now and proudly point out that you were there at the beginning of a wide open opportunity for untold numbers of people and you were smart enough to be a part of it.

Few things could validate your genius more than joining the community and then encouraging others to join.  As our numbers grow so will the enthusiasm and realization of the full scope of the importance of what we are doing in a way that I doubt any of us can appreciate just now.  But, as author Malcolm Gladwell explains so well, at some critical moment the Tipping Point will be reached and an explosion of creativity and opportunity will be unleashed.

That is what this blog is all about...  helping each of us realize the incredible opportunity coming our way through both a new technology and our new peer-to-peer community. 

I urge you to subscribe to Derek Sivers by going to his site.  His marketing observations will be a big help to you as you come up with 3D designs to offer to others in our community.  His CDBaby experience will be invaluable to you.  Reading "The Tipping Point" is another great way to prepare as we wait for the release of the Cube and final version of

Finally, I love to see and point out the work of creative people.  So, I'd like to urge you to create your own blog where you can highlight your work and make contact with your own fans.  And, please  send me a link so that I can enjoy it as well!.  Working together is what a community is all about.

I met Denise O'Connor, the first follower of this blog, through the blog that she writes about paper crafting. She's new to 3D printing.  But, I doubt if she will be new very long. She's an incredibly talented and helpful person.  Check our her blog, Purple Paper Paradise, and see why she's a well respected leader in the paper craft field.  I'm sure you will pick up some ideas about how to make a site that people want to visit.

By the way, I fully expect Denise to be THE key person that introduces the crafting community to the wonderful benefits of being able to enhance their work through 3D printing.  I'm proud to knw her and I'm very glad that she's here.

In the coming days we will explore some other possible ways to set your designs apart from the noise as Cube owners, and others, search out items to meet their needs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Importance of Software Amply Illustrated

While we wait for more news from and the Cube, I thought it might be fun to explore some of the concepts that we are going to need to take advantage of these great new developments.

CONCEPT #1:  Software is Critically Important

This is a great example of software being vitally important to realizing the true potential of hardware.

Obviously, these objects could not do what they do without some seriously good software.  Fortunately, 3D Systems recognizes this and are actively seeking and encouraging innovative and easy 3D design applications.

But, there is another concept critical our making the most of the Cube.  And, that is...

CONCEPT #2:  You Can't Get There Without Breaking Some Things.

Innovation ALWAYS involves risks... as this spectacular footage amply demonstrates.

We can expect to have more than a few failures as we build our first objects.  Don't panic.  Failure is just a natural part of the creative process.  I, for one, am very impressed by people that learn from failure and, as these wonderful examples demonstrate, putting up with some failures is more than rewarded if we learn from them.

Nice job!  In fact, VERY nice job!

That is my kind of course work!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

CES - Some and Cube 3D Printer Videos

My granddaughters (9 & 12) and I spent some time this weekend checking out the videos from CES that show the Cube 3D printer in action.  They are as excited as I am at the prospect of being able to print real objects in 3D in their very own home and school.  What's not to like about that!!!

By the way, the Nano bracelet was a huge hit since the oldest got a Nano for Christmas.

Here are some of our favorite videos.  I thought it would be a good idea to bring five of the best of them together in one place.  The "Views" indicates the number of YouTube views that were reported at the time this entry was composed. 

I hope this is helpful to you in your quest to learn more about and the Cube 3D printer.

1..  Submitted by:  Cubify3Ds          Views: 36,900

The initial introductory video produced by 3D Systems.  Excellent overview of both and the Cube 3D printer.

2.  Submitted by:  Hak5Darren Views: 3,045

Probably the most comprehensive video thus far. It's a live interview with Cathy Lewis of 3D Systems.  You have to endure some ads.  But, it's worth it,

3.  Submitted by:  TechReviewChannel09           Views: 309

An excellent introduction to the Cube by Rajeev Kulkarni, General Manger of the Consumer Solutions Div., 3D Systems for C/Net

4.  Submitted by:   HotelGansevoort          Views: 835

Another excellent interview of  Cathy Lewis, VP International Marketing of 3D Systems. presenting an introduction to and the Cube.

5.  Submitted by:  PCPro          Views: 4,459

A short, but very clear, view of a Nano bracelet being printed.  Good video for catching the printing strategy used by the Cube printing open spaces without support materials.

Here are some links to additional Cube videos we watched...

Submitted by:  cfinley          Views: 183
A very short video by that shows a closeup of the Nano bracelet being printed.

Submitted by:  Isaiah4115          Views: 524
A very quick scan through the Cubify booth at CES 2012 showing several objects being printed.

Submitted by:  PCWorldVideos          Views: 2,454 
A more thorough look at the Cube printing a rocking horse.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

3D Chickens vs. 3D Eggs

The age old question... which came first?  The chicken or the egg?

This, in fact, has been and is a real dilemma when it comes to the success of a 3D printer for the home.  Software is critical to the success of the Cube.  But, the Cube us critical to innovation in 3D software.

Well, actually it was the potential shown by the RepRap 3D printers that probably ramped up the interest in easier 3D software.  But, the Cube and future home 3D printers will really light a fire under enterprising designers.

I have absolutely no idea what 3D Systems is planning to do about providing easy 3D software to their Cube users.  But, I do know that plenty of creative companies and people are recognizing that the future of 3D rests on people being able to create what they see in their minds without jumping through all the hoops of traditional 3D software.

One of my favorite ideas, still in Beta is 123D Catch (formerly PhotoFly) from AutoDesk.  Right now I doubt that it can be used to create a printable model.  But, at some point that will be a reality.  Their 123D Catch application turns a series of 2D images into a 3D model.  Here one of of my favorites that I created from some photos of a tree in the Georgetown are of Washington, DC.

Here is another created using a turntable and a small model of a fire truck

And, here is one created by taking photos of an actual 1926 American LaFrance fire truck that was displayed at the Montgomery County Fair.

None of these are perfect models.  But, the software is a work in progress and eventually, no doubt,  models created with this technology will be able to be converted into a form that can be printed by a consumer 3D printer.  Of course, we can't expect the Cube to produce this level of detail.  But, the mere fact that the Cube has broken open the door to consumer 3D printing has to be an encouragement to Autodesk and others interested in making creating 3D objects easier.

Autodesk is a big company.  But, it doesn't take a big company to break new ground when it comes to 3D innovation.  I'm REALLY impressed by this little iPhone app from Tridimensional!

And, it appears that this app DOES create a 3D object that can be printed on a Cube!

So, now we have BOTH the chicken AND the egg!  It's all converging to produce, we all hope, the perfect 3D storm blowing up some wild creative winds!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Apps Don't Have to be Complex to be Useful

In thinking about the possibilities related to the invitation to create and upload apps to Cubify, it dawned on me that stating the obvious might not be a bad thing to do.  

Apps will not have to be complex to be extremely useful.

In fact, having a large number of single purpose apps is probably MORE useful in encouraging home users to consider 3D than a handful of comprehensive 3D applications that might be difficult to learn.  Let's use our imaginations to see just how simple an app might be and still be, potentially, wildly popular. 

First, lets examine the output of the app.  All it would do is create a simple heart shaped pendent with a partially customized message.  We'll call our imaginary app "HeartExpressions"

The customization, in this case, can be as little as having the user enter a name.  That's it.
The user opens the app, enters the name, presses "Print" and the 3D Object could be ready to be printed.

The important thing is to remember that developers don't have to feel that they must deliver comprehensive applications that do all things for all people.  Sometimes it is the little things that mean the most.  And, I can guarantee you, that if you create an app that I can use to create custom messages in little pendents for special occasions, I will DEFINITELY buy it!

I would like to encourage app developers to ponder the many benefits of simple extrusion in creating 3D Objects that will have broad appeal to consumers.  The heart, above, is just one example.  For inspiration explore the world of paper crafting.  A good place to start is Denise O'Conner's Purple Paper Paradise Blog or Nicole Boucher's Nicki's Cardstock Creations blog both of which are full of creative projects that can give app developers ideas for some very nice single purpose apps that would appeal to the crafting community.

Why the "FAN" in CubifyFans?

How in the world could someone begin a blog announcing that they are a FAN of something when (1) they just heard about it a few days ago, (2) have never even seen one in person and (3) have no idea WHEN they will see one, let alone use one?

Good question.  But, one that I hope can be explained by years of envisioning what it would take to FINALLY be the answer to my dreams for a vehicle that can unleash a new wave of creativity across multiple generations... from children to the retired.

I have tremendous respect for the RepRap community.  They are the true pioneers of 3D printing.  And, that feat is remarkable.  It is rare to have a cross section of people working in homes, small labs and garages to start a new technological revolution.  Video recording didn't start that way. Neither laser printers nor ink jet printers were developed in that environment.  But, perfecting the concept of using extrusion to build 3D images has come from a remarkable grass-roots effort.

But, part of that development was driven by the goal of building a machine that could reproduce itself.  And, of course, this very important goal, affected the nature of the design where we see a framework  maze of rods and connecting parts.  Most do not even have a case covering the framework.

For a 3D printer to cross over from the "experimenter" community to the "consumer" community a different goal had to drive the design.  Over the years. as I pondered what this would take, some basic things came to mind.

Form should not obscure function

The best way to illustrate of this concept is to watch videos where designers and users of RepRap machines try to capture the machine building an object.  It is very clear that the framework gets in the way.  This is a case where the form of the 3D printer can obscure the function of the printer, making it appear more complex than it actually is.  Part of the initial appeal of 3D printing is seeing one's creation come to life layer by layer.

The design of the Cube 3D printer is wonderful in this regard.  Everything is right out in the open for the user to see.  And, this not only adds excitement to the process of using it; but, has another critical benefit.

Form should not be intimidating

Let's face it.  New things are intimidating enough without the structure adding a level of intimidation.  I'm not an Apple computer user because it did not exist when I first faced the hurdle of learning to use a computer.  But, had my introduction to computing come later, then I would probably be an Apple user.  A part of Steven Jobs' genius was the ability to provide interfaces and form factors that allowed people to do complex things with simplicity.

The smooth contours and clean lines of the Cube are incredibly important contributions to reducing  intimidation for first users.  Gone from site are the gears, pulleys and maze of support rods.  It draws the focus onto one little area... the print head.  To find acceptance in the consumer community lowering the intimidation level is critical.  And, the Cube does this beautifully.

Consumables should be simple to find and replace

I love the cartridge idea introduced in the Cube 3D Printer.  Sure, open rolls of plastic feedstock are perfectly functional.  But, the Cube Case concept is a far better way to deal with consumables for consumers.  Consumers are used to plugging refill cartridges into a wide variety of items they use on a daily basis.  Again, it takes away some of the intimidation factor that would be a barrier to wider acceptance in the consumer and school marketplace.

The printer design should discourage tampering

As a former teacher, I know first hand how enterprising some students can be when it comes to "modifying" classroom tools.  The fewer parts that present themselves as enticing targets of opportunity the more likely the tool will survive for more than a week.  All it takes is one creative student with a wrench to wreak a bit of havoc with most RepRap machines.  The enclosed design of the Cube certainly minimizes that potential.

The design should make one proud to own and display

In the mid-1980's I was privileged to be associated with a beautifully designed PC called the Mindset Computer.  In fact, it was the first computer to be put on display in the  Museum of Modern Art.   It is an example of a product that was an asset to the decor of the office.  For the home, my favorite example of a beautiful and functional design is the Keurig coffeemaker.

Every model of the Keurig, from the smallest personal version to the largest commercial brewer is designed to be enhance the environment in which it sits.  No one is ashamed to have one in their home or office... as demonstrated by their phenomenal success.

Take another look at the Cube with the all of the above criteria in mind...

Isn't it apparent that it's easy to be a FAN?  I think so.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Exploring the Cubify Store

Having no idea where 3D Systems is in terms of the development and testing of the Cube 3D printer, we have to look for whatever clues are available to us.

And, for now, that means exploring every nook and cranny of  It turns out that if you enter a zip code on the Community Page that it takes you to the Cubify Store.   Here is a partial screenshot of the store.

Remarkably, it's already stocked with around 450 items.

To be sure, this is going to grow well into the thousands in a very short period of time.  So, the current organization is probably going to undergo some significant changes as the offerings grow.  While there are a few bugs and bumps in the road when trying to use the store right now, it's certainly off to a good start and shows great promise. 

Currently, the basic organization allows one to search by Type, Price and Top Five Accounts.  Each of these categories has an "ALL" option.

Interestingly enough, this is very similar, on a very basic level, with the search system use by mega-successful B & H Photo, my favorite photo products reseller.  I hope this is intentional and that the designers are familiar with the search organization used by B & H Photo because, in the end they are going to need to refine their current categories if the site is to truly enable us to hone in on exactly what we want.

For now, however, the current system is a good start and quite easy to use allowing us to narrow our search well enough for the introductory period.

But, I have spotted something that I hope they fix right away.  And, that is setting some more stringent rules for those uploading items to require more complete descriptions.  For instance, the description for the very first item in the above sample screen is simply "button".  Now, that is perfectly OK if there are only a few buttons uploaded.  But, is this a shirt button, a replacement button for some electronic device or button for a weapon of mass destruction.  Once there are a few thousand buttons of various types this one is going to get lost in the noise.

On the other hand, right next to the button is an example of a model having a very useful description.  It is described as an "ElastomatiK Rubber gun firing mechanism" which in the first case is right up my interest alley and in the second case very well described with several different images breaking down the construction.

Aside from demonstrating the need for more comprehensive descriptions and a future need for more comprehensive search categories these two items also demonstrate another important thing about the Cubify experience.  One does NOT have to have a highly complex model to contribute something potentially useful to the Cubify community.  A button is an extremely useful object!  Yet, we are not limited to models having a single part.  Nor, are we limited to completely finished items.  The rubber gun firing mechanism, for instance, is meant to be an idea starter with the user deciding how that mechanism is to be used.  That's pretty cool.  And, I expect to see others contributing other parts that can be used to build a complete rubber pistol or rifle.

That is a far cry from the wooden rubber guns we put together as children that we used to shoot loops cut from automobile inner tubes!!   Ahhh,,,, but, I digress!  Back to the Store!!!

Aside from being able to download models for using in our own Cube 3D printers, the store offers images of 3D designs and products that can be ordered to be produced using professional 3D printers.  Here, for example is an $8887.00 Palm Chandelier.

Aside from the fact that most of us will NOT be ordering this particular object it does point out the wonderfully broad range of objects and products that will be available to the world through the Cubify Store.  And, THAT is a good thing.  Whether your budget leans more to the $5 items or $9,000 items, you should be able to find SOMETHING of both interest and usefulness.

This is going to be a fascinating experience.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Another Excited Fan!!!!

Take a look at what the Snarkolepsy Blog has to say.

At Long Last! 3D Printing for the Rest of Us!

How long I have waited!  And, it's finally here.  The first true consumer personal 3D printer.  The Cube from 3D Systems.

Right now, all we have to go on is a few images and some press copy.  But, as sparse as it is, it is enough for me to jump on the Cubify and Cube bandwagon with full enthusiasm.

Why?  Because I have seen this day coming for years and what I see is the first 3D printer offering that meets my definition of a true consumer product.

Now, what I'm going to say may sound like I'm trying to puff myself up.  But, that's not my aim at all.  I just want you to know that there is experience behind my enthusiasm for this new product.. even if I know almost absolutely nothing about it.

The experience I want to convey is my history at spotting trends very, very early and being a repeated early adopter in once obscure technologies that are now commonplace.

In 1968 few people even knew small format video even existed.  But, I was rightly convinced that Sony, Concord and JVC were onto something.  True the fuzzy black and white images were atrocious.  But, I was convinced that not only would it get better; but, a LOT better.  It did.

Then, sometime around 1974, I purchased my first portable color camera.  It was the Akai VTS-150 two-tube vidicon color camera.  Again, by today's standards it was awful.  Getting a color image required so much light that one had to worry about peeling the paint off walls with the heat from the lights!  But, that little camera was borrowed by ABC News to see if video could be used to replace the film they were then using.  Now, NOBODY uses film.

In 1978 it struck me that computer graphics could be used in my videos.  Starting with a little Bally Arcade game system that included Tiny Basic, I began to experiment with creating computer graphics with a whopping 160x102 resolution.  And, graduated to a ZGRASS UV-1 with a luxurious 320x204 resolution with four colors from a pallet of 256 colors.

This led to my being hired, in 1981 by Astrocade, the company that came to market the Bally Professional Arcade.  Sure, those games were crude by today's standard.  But, we would not have the high resolution games we have now had it not been for those early, and admittedly crude, introductory innovations.

By 1984 it became clear that my intuition of 1978 was rapidly being validated and I, along with Steve Bress, designed what is most likely the first professional desktop video application for the PC, the JVC Video Titler running on the Mindset Computer.  That was followed by working on the design for Pinnacle Systems very first video product.  Now look where video has come!

Oh!  And, don't forget today's animation.  We could not have what we now have without the early adopters that used what was available to push the envelope.  This crude 1985 video may represent the first Lip-Sync animation ever created on a PC in REAL-TIME and mixed live video with computer generated overlays.  Be sure to turn your sound down a bit.  It starts with a jolt!

My first digital SLR camera, probably around around 1999, was a grainy 1.4mpx Olympus D-620L.  Now, just a bit over 10 years later, my SLR is a super-clean 21mpx Canon 5D MK II.  Each advance in capability was built on the previous advance.

Now, none of this is all that special.  Accept to point out that I do have a good track record in spotting seriously cool trends very early in the game.  And, in doing so, I do not expect perfection in the first offerings with which I work.

The secret to growth has been working with each of these early tools to wring everything I can out of them to be ready for what comes next.  And, what is coming next for me is an introduction to consumer 3D printing via the Cube 3D printer and

Not only do I enjoy these ventures into the new.  But, I enjoy taking these adventures with other brave and creative people.  And, this is where you come in.  I'm hoping that we can explore and learn together so that all of us advance much more rapidly than we might otherwise.  Let's look forward to having a huge load of fun!