Designer Janne Kyttanen was among the very first to envision the world of 3D printing as we see it today – almost 20 years ago when he was a design student and had pick what he wanted to do for the final exam. He created an augmented reality platform, fused with 3D printing, with tactile products made in a closed loop ecosystem in the future with 3D printers. This lead to him founding Freedom of Creation, later acquired by 3D Systems, and the first attempt to take AM to the mass market.
A lot has changed since and, while many of Janne’s original ideas – from consumer 3D printers to 3D printed food – are becoming reality, a new paradigm shift is necessary to further expand the reach of additive technologies. This is what his venture capital company, What the Future (WTFVC), is aiming to do with its first startup – Pixsweet – and an entirely new way of serially manufacturing custom products through AM. Kyttanen called 3DTi: 3D Thermo-injection.
Launched in 2016, Pixsweet was conceived as the pilot to test the-first-of-its kind 3D thermo injection (3DTi) technology; an autonomous 3D manufacturing technology which enables translation of an image directly into a packaged 3D product.
“For over 2 decades I have been in the 3D printing world, and every 3D printing company has struggled with at least 7 challenges in the manufacturing space: speed, scalability, repeatability, material properties, ease of creation, labor and price. 3DTi technology solves all 7 challenges across a variety of industries!”
Janne Kyttanen, co-founder of WTFVC and 3D printing pioneer.
The seven challenges
By 2020 the 3D printing industry is expected to grow to over $10B, but this math is still based on the limitations of several major challenges and does not account for new technologies like 3DTi.
By combining injection molding, packaging technology, laser cutting and 3D printing; 3DTi technology addresses and solves several challenges that limit AM today. The first is clearly speed: by injecting directly inside the product packaging, 3DTi achieves speeds comparable with large batch injection molding. The second is scalability. By adjusting width and length of the films used during the process production can expand on an exponential scale. In terms of repeatability, the process of exploding air pressure into a cavity is based on a simple and highly repeatable 7 second cycle.
In addition 3DTi technology enables use of all different types of materials which are challenging to 3D printing using traditional AM technologies. These include all liquids, gels, pastes and powders. The fact that we are already referring to extrusion, powder bed fusion and stereolithography as “traditional AM” is significant in terms of the speed of evolution in the AM sector. The software infrastructure around the 3DTi process also assures ease of creation, with automatic 2D to 3D translation, as well as minimal labor requirements, with no post processing. Products come already packaged off the line. The issue of price-efficiency is also dealt with through sourcing off the shelf, low cost materials.
Pixsweet’s achievements include proven commercial verticals for 3DTi with a test pilot of 3D custom ice pops. Launching customers have included Google, Disney, WB, Instagram and Twitter, as can be seen in the video below.
Learning by eating
Created as a case study for 3DTi technology, Pixsweet uses a material that everyone can relate to – food. Currently Pixsweet mass produces custom 3D ice pops at a speed of 1.3 seconds per pop; enabling consumers to turn every pixel on the internet into something sweet. Hence the tag line, taste the internet.
So what is next for Pixsweet? “The better question is what is next for 3DTi – says Kyttannen. “We have spent over 3 years in technical development and now the time has come to branch out and find as many collaborations as possible. We are experts in the technology but we are now looking for experts in the materials we can process using 3DTi, including liquids, gels, pastes, ceramics and even metals. A mentioned, the same process can be applied to a variety of materials. One of the major benefits is that we can use off-the-shelf materials and ingredients which drastically reduces the historically expensive 3D manufacturing process.”
WTFVC is open for collaborations on many different uses for this technology. A few examples which have already surfaced include bioinks, chocolate, polyurethanes, soap, metals, and ceramics. The company stands out as a non-traditional investment fund. Co-founders, Eduard Zanen and Janne Kyttanen, are passionate about designing new companies at the speed of designing new products. They believe the magic is at the crossroads of nanotechnology, 3D printing, biotech, virtual reality and machine learning. They invest more than half of their funds into their own ideas, building companies from the ground up and hiring kickass CEOs to run with them in return for equity.