Custom Toys and Action Figures by Blayne

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tales from the Additive Manufacturing Underworld

While hunting down promotional codes for Shapeways, I came across a reddit thread that mentioned a blog written by a former Shapeways employee.

While it's blank now, still has it's interesting contents preserved, sans photographs for the foreseeable eternity.

It contains various observations that come across like only those of a jaded company insider could:

The winter festival consumer spending season will see many well to do moms and dads[...] delivering hundreds if not thousands of 3D printers into the hands of their overscheduled but extremely well mannered offspring. [...] Perhaps Dad (or Mom) will confiscate their new Makerbot to print cookie cutter shapes and the occasional handy widget. Also possible is that some enterprising 14 year old ends up printing up a batch of prison style shanks and selling them to his friends at school.

While hard skills are definitely a major part of the selection process, 3D Printing companies are also looking for people who “fit in” with their corporate culture.  [...] Applicants who send in elaborate press packages, complete with professionally made full colour booklets and DVDs outlining their “process” are almost always looked over and their package ends passed around the office as a laughing stock.
Why is this? Well, first of all it’s a sign they’re trying too hard. There’s nothing a 3D Printing company hates more than a candidate high on their own supply. [...] 

Being able to take initiative is a good trait for hopeful applicants to have. After all, how else will someone take credit for the work you gave up your lunch hour for? 
So if your ability to develop new processes and procedures in between the mountain of other tasks you’ll be assigned is high, as is your patience for having your work shot down and then brought up in a manager’s meeting as their own eureka moment, you’ll do just fine.

Assuming you manage to safely depowder each and every part, none of which are yet identifiable as they all just came out of many 60 pound blocks of sintered powder, and assuming none of them were lost in the 40psi hurricane of compressed air and aluminum oxide blasting medium, or fell victim to the inevitable static charge which can fling the smallest of your precious cargo off onto a floor as white as the driven snow, not to be noticed again, until someone hears the inevitable crunch under a boot or shoe as it once again crushes someone’s 3DPrinted dream, like Big Brother in some post-Orwellian rapid manufacturing dystopia. 

The thing is, although 3D printing and 3D printed product companies have been flogged about the web for the last year, their publicity machines turgid and spurting soundbites daily, very few of them are actually making any money. Sure, there’s revenue, but it’s not nearly enough to satisfy the craven desires of the open collared, wafer thin gold watch wearing, VC set.

It's certainly worth a read, particularly if you're interested in what happens between the shiny exterior of a business and the additive-manufacturing, power encrusted back-end.

Tales of the Additive Manufacturing Underworld (via