Additive Manufacturing AutomationEditorials

Janne Kyttanen: what 3DTI and popsicles can teach us about automating factories

Janne Kyttanen has been involved in pioneering the 3D printing industry for over 20 years with ambitious products, such as fashion, interior design and his most recent enterprise, 3D printing delicious popsicles.

So how was Janne able to put 3D popsicle manufacturing on the map? With innovative technology, known as 3DTI (3D thermo injection).

We were able to catch up with Janne to learn more about this incredible technology and the vision behind how this actually is the future of 3D manufacturing.

A lot of terms have been introduced to describe technology that creates objects using layers—Rapid Prototyping, Rapid Manufacturing, 3D printing or even Additive Manufacturing. What are your thoughts on the these terms and where do you see the technology going as a result?

These terms pretty much all tell the same story but based on the output, I might even call the tech “Additive Part Making.” You still need to manually feed the machines, take the parts out one by one, clean them, put them in a box etc. So there are still way too many manual steps to even be considered a 21st century style manufacturing process.

This is precisely the reason we developed 3DTI in order to create a modern day industrial manufacturing process that integrates 3D printing in a way which reduces the manual steps involved. 

Kyttanen 3DTI
Example of an automated factory

How do “3DTI” and “Additive manufacturing” differ from each other?

3DTI (3D thermo injection) is a fully automated system within a factory setup, where the output is ready packaged products from the end of the line in any common material you can think of.  3D printing is just one small part of the process. We use 3D printing as a clever tool and not necessarily as the means to an end.

In fact, with 3DTI, we have gone steps ahead from a  typical injection molding process, where you still also need to clean parts, snap off extrusion points, perhaps do another assembly step and then put the products in a nice packaging. With Additive Manufacturing, most companies are still trying to find their marbles and are excited to be able to repeat the production of just a handful of parts. 3DTI is a fully self contained manufacturing process with proven repeatability, whether you wish to make 1 or a billion products, so you can imagine how many steps ahead we are.

What are the limitations of 3DTI?

3D printing is great for making expensive and complex parts slowly. 3DTI is great for making cheap and simple parts fast. We can’t make undercuts, nor very deep and narrow cavities. We can make 3D shapes in all directions, but with ice pops, as a start we currently only have flat backs. Who knows how the next 3DTI application will look.

Kyttanen 3DTI

What does a 3DTI factory look like and how does it compare to other similar factories in terms of cost?

The image above is an example of how a frozen confection 3DTI factory setup looks like. Even though it was complex to put together—it took about 4 years—the end result is very interesting compared to typical investment costs for a similar sized factory. As an example, capital investments for this particular 3DTI factory are approximately 10 times less than a usual frozen confections factory setup. In addition, this 3DTI factory example consumes about 8-10 times less energy than a typical factory where costs would generally be around $10k/month. These numbers would make any CFO happy. And being able to mass produce any shape with tiny investments is the extremely sweet icing on top of the cake.

Are there other companies trying to integrate 3D printing as a manufacturing tool like what you are doing?

Not that I am aware of but I wish there was so we would not need to pull the sleigh uphill by ourselves. There are a number of companies now who are also realizing that 3D printing by itself is not the answer. It’s a far more complex game to integrate robotics, furnaces, cleaning, packaging, assembly and whatnot into one linear process. Not to mention that each material or end product would most likely require somewhat of a different environment for the entire process.

Good examples of companies working on full automations are Additive Industries and 3D Systems on their Figure 4 system.

At the end of the day, you want a setup that doesn’t have people in it at all. According to Mckinsey, by 2030, 800 million jobs will be lost due to automation. I fully welcome this change. Human beings should further enhance the asset, which cannot be automated by robots: creativity.

Your factory setup looks like a massive industrial operation, how are you funded?

We are currently fully self-funded. Sweat equity is the one that pays off in the end and keeps you laser focused. I believe that raising too much capital too early, in many cases, will only bite you in the ass later.

Kyttanen 3DTI

Tell us more about your team and any tips on leading startups.

Our team is global. We currently operate in three different locations: Amsterdam, LA and India. Although this can be challenging with such large time differences, we have had to quickly learn the importance of effective communication, which has not always been one of my best assets, but I do think it is one of the most important ones! Luckily, there are many free tools available on the web which can help facilitate this process. One example is Asana, a great project management tool for startups to help ensure teams are aligned on the same priorities and deadlines which have many interdependencies. If you are interested in other tools we found useful to help foster a global team, feel free to reach out.

And if you are like me and communication is not your strongest suit either, my last tip would be to surround yourself with people that are stronger than you, especially where you fall short. If it weren’t for the great minds and voices around me, I would probably still be eating frozen pizza on my couch, which was also my first office space.

Tell us something about yourself that not even your greatest fan (or wife) would know about you?

I may seem very calm and collected on the outside, but my brain is actually like a nuclear explosion. Ideas are constantly coming at me, making it hard to shut off as a result. This has its pros and cons. And believe me, my wife is fully aware of that, I can’t hide anything from her!

That is also why I am listening to audiobooks like “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle. I admire the essence of being still and the act of doing nothing. If anyone has any tips for me on this area, I would appreciate the insights!

For anyone looking for more info on 3DTI or wanting consulting on 3D solutions for their company/industry, what is the best way to reach out?

Reach out to me by email.

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Janne Kyttanen

Janne Kyttanen is a visionary and pioneer in the 3D printing industry. As founder of Freedom of Creation, he became one of the first designers to commercialize 3D printed products, including light fixtures, footwear, furniture, and much more. When Freedom of Creation was acquired by 3D Systems in 2011, Kyttanen took up the mantle as the company’s Creative Director, an influential position which he thrived in for 4 years. Now, Kyttanen puts his 3D expertise to another use, as co-founder and CEO of What the Future Venture Capital, a VC firm dedicated to designing tech startups specializing in cutting-edge technologies. One of the first companies, Pixsweet, was created as a pilot for Kyttanen's latest invention 3DTI. An innovative technology which solves all the challenges Kyttanen grew frustrated with in 3D manufacturing - high costs, low speed and lack of scalability. With an abundance of invaluable experience in the 3D industry, Kyttanen is in a unique position to guide and bolster innovative new companies in the field. He is available for consulting, investing, advisory and speaking opportunities.

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